Rev. Charles A. Downs, Lebanon resident and former pastor of the Congregational Church, was engaged to write a history of Lebanon. His 460-page book, published in 1908, gives excellent coverage of the town’s history from 1761 to 1887.
Illegal fishing had about exhausted Lebanon’s streams of the abundance of fish of earlier days, and for the first time stocking became necessary. In 1881, $15 was appropriated for stocking the streams with brook trout, and annual stocking continued.
The Lebanon Directory of 1882 lists a wide variety of local products: scythes, rakes, slate, lumber, flour, furniture, band saws, doors, sash, blinds, machinery, tags, drag rakes, stairs, railings, sleds, wheelbarrows, castings, watch keys, woolens, mops, carriages.
A vein of copper ore was discovered off the King’s Highway on Farnam Hill, and in 1882, the Mascoma Mining Co. was organized and began working the mine. Both copper and gold ore were removed for a time, but the mine proved unprofitable and was closed. (I-6)
Steps were taken in 1882 for lighting the main streets of Lebanon and West Lebanon. The first lights were whale oil lamps and later kerosene, both requiring daily rounds of a lamplighter. The old street lights were converted to electricity in 1890.
Telephones came in 1883 when the Bell Telephone Co. connected Lebanon with neighboring towns. The preceding year two private lines had been installed, one connecting the bank and the home of its cashier to supplement his own ingenious burglar alarm.
Lebanon’s first water system was privately constructed by F. B. Kendrick. Water from a large well southwest of the village was pumped to cisterns in the attics of about 50 homes in 1883. The system later became part of the town water works. (G-7)
Granite had been quarried since very early days for local use in foundations, stone steps and fence posts. In 1884, the Freeman Quarry on Quarry Hill cut the stone for the construction of Rollins Chapel at Dartmouth College. (C-7)
The Soldiers’ Memorial Building was built using local labor and materials, and with about two-thirds of its cost raised by public subscription. Lebanon’s was the first such memorial building in the state when the cornerstone was laid on Memorial Day, 1886. (F-8)
Horace Griswold, formerly of Lebanon, invented an electrically-directed and -propelled torpedo in 1886. Torpedos propelled by compressed air or steam had been used in the Civil War and earlier, but his innovation attracted much attention at home and abroad.
Calamity struck on May 13, 1887, when fire left the heart of Lebanon in ruins. Starting in the Mead, Mason factory, the fire leveled 80 buildings, left 40 families homeless and 600 out of work. Preparations for rebuilding were begun the following day. (F-8)
After the fire, Lebanon Water Works reservoir on Kendall Hill (Reservoir Hill) was completed in 1887, and the canal and pumping station were ready to take water from the Mascoma River. This same canal still supplies Lebanon up to 1.5 million gallons a day. (F-9)
Upon the site of the disastrous fire, woolen manufacturers Carter & Rogers built a mill in 1888 to produce repellent and waterproof fabrics, and later other woven goods. Woolen textiles continued to be a major industry in town for over 60 years. (F-8)