Two days before Christmas in 1803, Jonas Seaman appeared before the December term of the Warren County Court to secure a license "to keep a house of Public Entertainment" in the building which he then occupied in the town of Lebanon. The license was issued; and Seaman paid his four dollar fee. He walked down Lebanon's wide main street from the Black Horse Tavern, where court sessions were then held, to his own new log house where his wife Martha waited for him. As his sturdy handmade boots crunched through the thin crust of ice in the muddy street, he mused on his future as a tavern keeper, but little dreamed of the long adventure, the events both sad and comic, that would unfold under the Sign of The Golden Lamb.
Jonas Seaman was born in New Jersey where his father William Seaman kept a tavern at Hopewell. Jonas married Martha Forbes and came to Ohio with others of his family. Jonas Seaman brought his wife and children to Lebanon in 1803.
Seaman built a sturdy two-story log building on the lots he had bought from Ichabod Corwin that year. It was on a splendid location in the very center of the newly platted village of Lebanon, on Broadway, at the crossroads of the traveled paths of the north-south and east-west traffic.
Martha Seaman was a good cook, a thrifty housewife and an industrious woman. With a few servants to help with the weaving and spinning, the churning and soap making, the washing and ironing, she and her family set a good table and made up comfortable beds in clean rooms. The new and shining tavern soon became known as a fine place to stop for meals or a night. Its stables opened on Main Street and there were vegetable gardens, pig-pens and chicken-houses, a well, and other necessary houses, behind the tavern.
In 1805, when the first court house in Lebanon was built directly across the street, The Golden Lamb became more popular than before. It became the rendezvous for men of law and politics. Guests were served familiar pioneer food and drinks: deer, bear and wild turkey, hot corn bread and old fashioned apple butter. At first everyone was seated at a common table set with pewter, wooden and pottery dishes, but more tables were added as trade flourished, and Jonas Seaman soon had six tables set with knives and forks, glass and Queensware.
Good hot food and the inviting warmth of the great wood fires on open hearths encouraged travelers to linger at The Golden Lamb. Relaxed and well-fed, Jonas Seaman's guests talked of political and spiritual problems with the same fervor that fired the patriots at Williamsburg's Raleigh Tavern and New York's Fraunces' Tavern. Like men everywhere, they recalled - not without boasting - their own experiences in the wilderness.
Much of the news of the world was exchanged in the public rooms of the tavern, which soon became a clearing house for messages and letters as well, addressed to settlers and travelers "In the Land of the Miamis" and even "In the Ohio Country." As men met here to discuss their needs and those of their new America, the tavern became more and more important as a gathering place.
In June of 1803 Jeremiah Morrow was elected as Ohio's first representative in Congress. He came to The Golden Lamb frequently. So, too, did Francis Dunlavy, the most prominent of the early pioneers of Lebanon, who was president judge of the first circuit courts in Ohio. Both had served in the territorial legislature and in the long evenings of the early 1800's they talked over the days spent in Chillicothe, smoothing the political way for a new state.
Once a group of citizens gave a dinner at the inn for Jeremiah Morrow. They discussed a new road - an east-west road to give access to the new states which were being formed from the Northwest Territory. Morrow was already familiar with the difficulties and hazards of travel on horseback. On his way to his first session in Congress, he, with two horses, had taken his wife and their two small children to her parents near Brownsville, Pennsylvania. He knew well the dangers of swollen streams, muddy trails through the woods. And in 1808 Representative Morrow, with Thomas Worthington of Ohio and Samuel Smith of Maryland in the Senate, introduced measures which led to the construction of the great highway from the Atlantic coast. This was known as the National Road, now United States Highway 40, which today extends from Atlantic City, New Jersey to San Francisco, California.
Early in March, 1805, farmers from west of Lebanon brought news to The Golden Lamb. Three men, they said, who called themselves Shaker missionaries, had walked a thousand miles from New Lebanon, New York, in the dead cold of winter, and were preaching at the old church at Bedle's Station four miles west of Lebanon. The stories of the Shaker's peculiar costume, their strange beliefs and their effect on the congregation amazed all who listened as guests gathered around The Golden Lamb hearth. The preacher Richard McNemar had with his eloquence persuaded most of his flock to renounce Presbyterianism and take up the queer habits of the Shaker cult. The converts were all well known to Golden Lamb habitues, who found it difficult to believe that prosperous, educated men would give all their worldly goods to this odd sect. Stranger still that they would renounce love and the family in favor of the celibate, communal life.
This was a tall tale if ever one was told! At The Golden Lamb eyes widened and whispers grew more persistent. It could hardly be true. Yet it was true. The Shaker community, called Union Village, remained an important economic factor in Lebanon and Warren County for more than one hundred years.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the problems of finance beset everyone. Debts and their collection concerned all business men, tavern keepers among them.
The rising cost of living in the era is typified by the increased cost of the tavern license, for which Seaman paid $4.00 in 1803 and $10.00 in 1805. In May 1807 he advertised in The Western Star that those who owed him must pay their obligations immediately. His appeal met with little success however, and although his tavern continued to be a busy place, he was obliged to give a mortgage and finally in 1809 held a public sale to meet his own debts.
During the War of 1812, Lebanon became a meeting place for troops raised from the Counties of Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren. Four companies of riflemen, one of artillery and one of light infantry were assembled in August, 1812 alone.
In spite of all these activities and apparent prosperity, the Seamans finally gave up their tavern, and local newspapers recorded the fact that "a remorseless creditor forced a sale."
There is no known record of the time when this tavern first became The Golden Lamb, but since it was the practice of those early keepers to hang out immediately a gaily painted sign to attract travelers, it is likely that the sign was hung almost as soon as the cabin was finished. Because only about half the people could read, these signs were largely pictorial, following the English and European custom, with animals frequently chosen for illustrations. There was nothing unusual in the choice of a golden lamb-and nothing to indicate that it would reach the mature age of more than a hundred and fifty years. An advertisement in the 1820's proclaimed "The Ohio and Pennsylvania Hotel at the Sign of The Golden Lamb" thereby locating this tavern on the old site.
Jonas Seaman was a witness to the will of his brother-in-law, Aaron Hunt, in 1819, but no further record of his presence in Lebanon after that date has been located.
Ichabod Corwin, one of the founders of Lebanon, and original owner of the lots, bought the old Seaman house. He built a fine brick hostel to replace the old log tavern and thus began a new chapter in the history of The Golden Lamb.