Centuries of Celebrating: How Lebanon marked our nation's 50th birthday
By John Zimkus, Golden Lamb Historian
During the early 1800s, no holiday was more celebrated in the United States than the Fourth of July—not even Christmas. This was especially true on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States of America.
The excitement was evident in Lebanon, Ohio. On Monday, June 30, 1826, a committee of five citizens was formed in the Warren County Courthouse, which was then located across the street from the Golden Lamb. It was resolved that this committee’s mission was “to make arrangements for celebrating the approaching anniversary, and Jubilee of American Independence, in a manner worthy of the occasion.” It was also resolved “that Mr. Henry Share, be requested to prepare a public dinner on the Fourth of July.”
Henry Share and his wife Mary had come to Lebanon in early 1820 from Dauphine County, Pennsylvania. They became the proprietors of an already well-known hotel in town and operated it very successfully as “the sign of the Golden Lamb.”
Share was an excellent choice to prepare the dinner for such a celebration as the “Jubilee of Freedom.” Less than a year later, Henry Share advertised in various newspapers within 100 miles of Lebanon that his hotel was “not excelled by many in the west, where Ladies and Gentlemen . . . will find good accommodation"; and that “he will endeavor by diligent attention to provide his table with the best the country affords, and his bar with the choicest liquors.”
In 1826, the brick Golden Lamb was only about a quarter of the size it is today. It was two stories high and consisted of the area that is now covered by its 20th-century porch.
At 11 a.m. on that July 4th, a large gathering of citizens formed next to Henry Share’s hotel in the public square across from the courthouse. There the Lafayette Guard was formed under the direction of 66-year-old veteran of the American Revolution Robert Hamilton, the Marshal of the Day. A procession was then walked to the Presbyterian Church at the corner of Warren and East streets, some six blocks away.
At noon “a national salute was fired,” a prayer was said by Rev. William Gray, and the Declaration of Independence was read by Milton Brown. Within a year or so, the 22-year-old Lebanon lawyer would move to Tennessee where he would eventually be elected to the U.S. Congress. After an oration was given by attorney William V. H. Cushing, “a procession was again formed and marched to Mr. Share’s hotel, at the sign of the Golden Lamb.”
A contemporary newspaper account, when discussing that meal at the Golden Lamb, stated, “a large and highly respectable number of gentlemen sat down to a most excellent dinner prepared by Mr. Share. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on Mr. Share for the elegant preparations he made for the occasion.”
After the tables were cleared, or as the newspaper put it, “the cloth had been removed,” a number of official toasts were made—24 in all. They included honors to “the day," the Constitution of the United States, the President, the Congress, the state of Ohio, and the “surviving remnant of patriots of the revolution.”
Once these official toasts were concluded, guests were invited to offer their own. They were referred to as “volunteer toasts.” One was made by future Ohio Governor, the 31-year-old Warren County Prosecutor, Tom Corwin. He toasted “The Honorable Henry Clay” from Kentucky. Clay was then serving as the U.S. Secretary of State for President John Quincy Adams. Today both Clay and Corwin have private dining rooms named after them on the second floor of the Golden Lamb.
Now, the 216-year-old Golden Lamb has been host to scores of individuals, including 12 U.S. Presidents. During that same time, it has served thousands upon thousands of guests who have aided the inn in obtaining its longtime national reputation. To this day, the Golden Lamb is still providing a “table with the best the country affords.”
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