Ichabod Corwin was an expert at tavern building. In 1798 he had built the log cabin which Ephraim Hathaway bought and operated as The Black Horse, Lebanon's first tavern. In this same inn the first county courts were held, and from it Jonas Seaman obtained his own license in 1803. Because such illustrious visitors as Bishop Asbury praised the stability of this community, Corwin felt secure with his handsome new brick tavern.
The early taverns had bells which were used to call guests to meals. Morris Birkbeck, an English traveler who came to Lebanon on June 22, 1817, wrote that before they entered the town they heard "the supper bells of the tavern and arrived just in time to take seats at the table, among just such a set as I would have expected to meet at the ordinary in Richmond - travelers like ourselves, with a number of store-keepers, lawyers and Doctors, men who board at the tavern and make up a standing company for the public table."Ephraim Hathaway, A. Hill and several others operated the new tavern for short periods, until finally this advertisement appeared in The Western Star:
"Private Entertainment. The subscriber respectfully informs his friends and the public generally that he has opened a House of Public Entertainment in that new and commodious brick building on Broadway, adjoining the public ground, and nearly opposite the Court House, where those who may favor him with any call may rest assured of being accommodated in the best manner.
Early in 1820 Mr. and Mrs. Henry Share came from Dauphine County, Pennsylvania, and became the proprietors of this already famous hotel and operated it very successfully together until the death of Mr. Share in 1830; then Mary Share stayed on alone for seven years.
The tavern had by this time become virtually a house of public entertainment. Early advertisements announce animals, acts, freaks and plays to amuse the people of the town and county.
The earliest entertainers were players who gave readings or acts. The advertisements in local papers grew from a few short lines to occupy full half pages, while the small handbills became huge placards in a few years.
Since Lebanon had no stage and few public buildings in which entertainments could be produced, the tavern became the town's first theatre. At The Golden Lamb a stage was constructed by William Wiles, a local cabinet maker, and the play was on.
Patriotic holidays were celebrated with elaborate programs in those early days, when settlers still held fast in their minds the hard-won war for freedom.
On July 4th superb dinners were prepared by Jonas Seaman, Henry Share and others and served on the public square. These affairs frequently ended in brawls, and on July 4th, 1804, one of the guests attacked Jonas Seaman with his sword. Seaman brought charges against the man, Francis Lucas, who was a guest at his hotel. The charges read that "the guest Francis Lucas, with sword, staves and knives, force and arms, assaulted the said Jonas Seaman and did great damage against the peace of the State of Ohio." In the October term of court the jury decided that there was no way to collect damages but that "the defendant should go hence without delay."
There was always a parade, and an orator for the day would be chosen from one of the array of brilliant young lawyers from the community: John McLean, his brother Nathaniel, George J. Smith, Thomas R. Ross, or one of the two favorite speakers Thomas Corwin or J. Milton Williams, each of whom spoke many times.
On the 4th of July, 1823, Nathaniel McLean said: "We witness every day the evidence of our independence in the workmanship of your hands. How many manufactories have recently been established and produce a sufficient supply of articles for home consumption, for which, a few years ago, we were indebted to an eastern market. Let your town be a witness on this subject."
The parlors of The Golden Lamb saw the inception of plans for Ohio's canals, for good roads, for railroads and bridges. Political rallies and celebrations were frequent occurrences.
In 1822 honest old Jeremiah Morrow, the last and best of the governors of the pioneer race, was elected Governor of Ohio. A delegation was organized in the hotel to notify him of his election. Among these was the erratic cabinet maker, William Wile!k.
Tradition reports that they found Morrow working in his mill pond, looking more like a wet rat than a gubenatorial nominee. Wiles was so distracted by the appearance of the governor-elect that he never did recite the speech he had rehearsed all the way from Lebanon.
The largest gathering of distinguished men came for a dinner in honor of De Witt Clinton in July, 1825. In addition to Clinton, Father of Canals and Governor of New York, other guests were General William Henry Harrison, statesman Henry Clay, Governor Ethan Allen Brown and Jeremiah Morrow.
Governor Morrow and other prominent persons had joined De Witt Clinton at Newark on July 4, 1825, when the first spade of dirt was dug for the canal system in Ohio. On July 21st a similar ceremony at Middletown marked the beginning of the Miami Canal.
Preliminary surveys had been made for a branch canal to connect with the Miami at Middletown, so the entire party came on to Lebanon. They stopped at the Shaker Village on the way to observe that curious sect in its daily life and the proposed site of the canal through their community.
Many other distinguished visitors stayed at The Golden Lamb. Three of these, the Earl of Derby, then Lord Stanley, later Prime Minister of England, with Lord Demnan and Lord Dennison, all members of the House of Lords, visited for one week in 1827. They went hunting while here and met and visited with Jacob Grigg, a distinguished English teacher who had a school in Lebanon at that time.
An obituary in The Western Star on June 27, 1829, records the tragic stay of Judge Charles R. Sherman. Sherman, the father of General William Tecumseh Sherman, died when this son was but nine years old and had yet to learn that "War is Hell."
It was the custom in those days for a young man who had completed study with a practicing lawyer in an office to apply for admission to the bar. Thomas Corwin and A. H. Dunlavy had completed their work in the office of Judge Joshua Collette and had applied for admission to the bar at the May term of the Ohio Supreme Court in 1817. It was then the practice of the court to examine applicants themselves, though they frequently called upon members of the bar to take part in asking questions.
After an adjournment of the court the entire company came across the street to The Golden Lamb where a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen had come to witness the examination. The applicants, of outstanding reputation as law students, were subjected to a strenuous examination which they passed with triumph. Corwin went on to become one of the nation's leading statesmen.
For many years after the court house was built on the corner of Broadway and Main Street, there was a lively rivalry between The Golden Lamb and a frame hotel directly behind the court house, on Main Street. This tavern was called The Indian Chief; William Ferguson was its proprietor.
These taverns contended for the stage coach stops and for many years neither was satisfied, for when the coaches from Sandusky to Cincinnati stopped at The Golden Lamb on Broadway, those from Lancaster to Cincinnati stopped at The Indian Chief on Main Street.
From the time of William Ferguson's death in 1831, The Golden Lamb was recognized as the first hotel in the town. As in the previous years, trades and professional men located their places of business by it.
Mary Share continued to operate The Golden Lamb for seven years after her husband's death, finally selling to John and Aaron Pauly, who kept it for only a short time.
The Golden Lamb continued to beckon famous people to enjoy its charm and hospitality.
The Western Star of Friday, June 21st, 1833, records the visit of that great orator, Daniel Webster: "Mr. Webster participated in a public dinner at Cincinnati on Wednesday last. He arrived here last evening and left this morning on his return to the east."
When William Henry Harrison spoke here early in the famous presidential campaign of 1840, the hotel seethed with campaign excitement. It was a big year for Lebanon. By happy coincidence Tom Corwin, the Wagon Boy of 1812, was a candidate for governor and the Commander of the Army a candidate for president.
One of the biggest events in the taverns' early history was the elaborate dinner prepared to celebrate the arrival of the first canal boat on June 9, 1840. This was the Commerce, with Captain Porter in command. It came from Middletown, loaded with distinguished visitors, and landed at the new warehouse at the foot of Mulberry Street.
The Commerce was a freight boat with a small cabin accommodating half a dozen passengers. Two or three hundred citizens of Lebanon and vicinity were taken aboard and treated to a ride down the canal a few miles and back.
On Thursday morning Captain Porter left the basin for Cincinnati with some 200 barrels of flour and whiskey and three or four lady passengers. The local papers began at once to carry advertisements of merchandise brought by this and other canal boats.
Stage coaches rumbled through town almost daily. Some were driven with four galloping horses, some with six. Drivers were showmen, jealous of their reputations, eager to impress bystanders with their ability to manage the charging beasts.
There were three stage trips a week to Columbus and two each week to Lancaster. Of the enormous traffic and travel over the National Road, a large portion of that destined for Cincinnati passed through Lebanon. More travelers came from Sandusky on Lake Erie, following the short route and taking advantage of the good road from Cincinnati to Lebanon.
People took great interest in the stage lines. Some of the coaches were handsome affairs painted and decorated on the outside and lined inside with soft plush. The now-famous Quaker Artist Marcus Mote fed his growing family for several years by decorating stage coaches.
Six cents a mile was the usual charge for passengers. The coaches stopped about every ten miles to change horses; the travelers dined at taverns along the way.
On a raw day in April the great English novelist, Charles Dickens, arrived in such a coach, and took dinner at The Golden Lamb, which was then called The Bradley House.
Tradition relates that he was a little man, wearing a beaver hat and a brown frock coat, that he had a huge fuzzy scarf wrapped around his neck to ward off chill spring breezes. He alighted from the top of the stage immediately after its arrival.
Followed indoors by his wife, her maid and his secretary, he demanded a drink. Calvin Bradley informed him that this was a temperance hotel. Dickens recorded his dissatisfaction with the visit in his American Notes:
"We dine soon after with the boarders in the house, and have nothing to drink but tea and coffee. As they are both very bad, and the water is worse, I ask for brandy; but it is a temperance hotel, and spirits were not to be had for love or money. This preposterous forcing of unpleasant drinks down the reluctant throats of travelers is not uncommon in America, but I never discovered that the scruples of such wincing landlords induced them to preserve any unusually nice balance between the quality of their fare and their scale of charges; on the contrary I rather suspected them of diminishing the one and exalting the other, by way of recompense for the loss of their profit on the sale of spirituous liquors. After all, perhaps, the plainest course for persons of such tender conscience would be a total abstinence from tavern keeping.
After dinner the famous author received the calls of a number of leading citizens, among whom was Judge George Kesling, then took the coach again on the way to Columbus.
Tradition also relates that after Dickens had asked for his drink which was not available, he walked down the street to the tavern of William Wiles where these two short tempered gentlemen clashed in an argument.
These incidents could be true. Judge Kesling was a regular boarder at the tavern for many years, and William Wiles did have a tavern, The Henry Clay House, a few doors south on Broadway. This tavern was operated in turn by Wm. M. Wiles, the eccentric cabinet maker; William Wiles and E. A. Wiles, who was the manager of The Golden Lamb at one time.
Calvin Bradley had leased the hotel in 1839. His card appeared in The Western Star in May of that year:
"Golden Lamb Hotel, Corner of Main Street and Broadway, Lebanon, Ohio. The subscriber has taken and fitted up this well known stand, and is now prepared to accommodate all who may favor him with a call. General Stage House for Cincinnati, Columbus and Wheeling. Also for Lancaster, Circleville, Hamilton and Dayton. Hacks Carriages, Horses and Coach furnished at a moments warning.
May 10, 1839 C. Bradley."
In February 1841 Isaac Stubbs bought the building for $3150.00. He sold it to Calvin Bradley one month later for $6700.00.
The new owner was a fine host. The memories of his splendid dinners prepared for visiting dignitaries were written of by state journalists for more than forty years after his death.
Accounts of celebrations mention the fine food prepared, the splendid banquets served, or the gracious hospitality of the hotel's genial host, Calvin Bradley, again and again.
Calvin Bradley moved to Cincinnati and opened the Western Hotel on the southeast corner of Court and Walnut Streets in 1846. He continued to advertise in the Lebanon papers.
Isaac Stubbs repossessed the building and he and his heirs owned it until 1914.