Learning Through Places – Rural Town: Lebanon
November 2, 2018
Chapter 7 Read Along
November 5, 2018

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Rural Town: Lebanon, Connecticut

The Country Town that Fed the Troops of the American Revolution

Where’s Lebanon?

Can you find it on the map below? Is it near the ocean or a big river?

New London County Map, 1848, Library of Congree

Look at this photo of Lebanon. It is an aerial photo. An aerial photo is taken from the air.  

Do you see many roads or streets?

Do you see forests?

Are there any large cities nearby?

Does it look like there are farms?

Do you see space for a few farms or many farms?

Let’s Learn About This Place!

Lebanon is a country town in eastern Connecticut. It is known for its town green. Lebanon’s town green is a mile long!

Lebanon has lots of farms and a small population. It was an important place during the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783). But Lebanon stopped growing after the war. It didn’t start growing again until 150 years later.

More than 10,000 years ago, Paleo-Indians camped in the area. Later, the Mohegans hunted and fished there. Between 1665 and 1692, the first English settlers came. They got parcels of land from the Connecticut Colony or from the family of the Mohegan sachem Uncas.

The English settlers moved there for good farmland. They would clear the land of trees, and build a house and a barn. They would dig a well for fresh water and plow their fields. Farmers grew lots of kinds of vegetables. They grew beans, peas, squash, turnips, pumpkins, and onions. They planted fruit trees such as apples. Some farmers owned enslaved people to work their farms.

Joseph Trumbull settled in Lebanon in 1704. He was a livestock farmer. Livestock includes cattle, sheep, mules, and hogs. These animals were raised for meat and as work animals.

By 1720 Lebanon was a successful farming town. Farmers sent cattle, pigs, and horses to market. They sent barrels of beef and pork, too. These animals and goods were sold in the ports of Norwich, New London, and East Haddam. This helped to make Joseph Trumbull’s family wealthy. His son Jonathan was governor of the Connecticut Colony during the Revolutionary War.

Where is Lebanon’s Green?

Haying on the Lebanon town green. Lebanon Historical Society

Lebanon Green, 2020. Milton Levin, Levin Aerial Works LLC, used by permission

Many colonial towns had a town green. At first the town green was set aside for everyone to use. A meetinghouse was built on the green. A meetinghouse was used for church services and for town meetings. People built homes around the green. Schoolhouses, jails, and animal pens were also built on the town green.

Lebanon’s green is very long and narrow. At first it wasn’t a green. It was a highway. But not the kind of highway we have today. The town set aside a strip of land 30 rods wide. The middle was very wet and rocky so people used the outer edges as roads. Some of the land was used for a meetinghouse and schools. Some was used for militia training. Over time the wet parts were drained and filled in. Farmers used it for pastures and hay fields. Part of it is still used as a hay field. It’s used for community gatherings. You will find the church, town hall, and public library on the green.

Aerial map of Lebanon, 1934, showing the location of the green, Governor Trumbull’s house and the War Office. UConn MAGIC

The War Office

During the American Revolution, Lebanon was one of the colony’s largest communities. It was an important place! The governor lived there. Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. was a friend and supporter of General George Washington. George Washington became the first president of the United States.

Governor Jonathan Trumbull House, Library of Congress

Governor Trumbull was a successful farmer and politician. His large house faces the green. His office and store were close by. It was built around 1758. It is now known as the War Office. During the war Governor Trumbull used it as his headquarters. The Council of Safety met there. Trumbull and the council planned the defense of the colony.

Trumbull also helped to send food and supplies to the Continental Army. Thousands of pounds of food were needed every week to feed soldiers and horses. Connecticut became known as the “Provisions State.” Trumbull’s house and office are both museums you can visit.

Governor Trumbull’s War Office where he planned for the defense of Connecticut during the Revolutionary War. Library of Congress

Lebanon’s Revolutionary Green

France sent troops to help the Continental Army fight the British. The troops landed in Rhode Island. To get to the fighting, they marched across Connecticut. Governor Trumbull let them camp for the winter of 1780 – 1781 in Lebanon. He was certain he could provide enough food for them. The French cavalry camped in the fields west of the Lebanon green. Officers lived in homes around the green. The troops built ovens on the green to bake bread every day for the soldiers.

A Revolutionary War reenactment on the Lebanon green. Lebanon Historical Society

Lebanon Today

Farming is still the main way people in Lebanon make a living. It is no longer an easy way to get rich. But people still love to farm. Lebanon has dairy farms, family farms, and a large business that grows plants for sale. Using state and federal laws and programs, more than 5,000 acres of farmland have been protected. That means the land will always be farmland. You can see farms on almost every road as you drive around Lebanon. Does your town have farms? Is there a farmers market where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables?

Listen to a song written by Lebanon 4th graders and Sally Rogers: “Haying the Lebanon Green”

Read about the Himmelstein family farm HERE.

On Your Own

  1. Create a replica of the War Office using boxes and art supplies. Find more pictures by searching for images on Google.com. The replica should show how the actual building looks, including its shape, and details such as doors, windows, and chimneys. How is it different from a store or office building today?

  2. How do places change? Make a poster of activities that happened on the Lebanon green in the 18th century and the things people do on the green today.

  3. Find out more about why some people want to save farmland. Visit the website of Connecticut Farmland Trust at ctfarmland.org. You’ll find information about why farmland needs to be saved. Write down three reasons. You’ll also find a map of all of the farms they’ve saved here: http://ctfarmland.org/site/protected-farms/. Are any of the farms near where you live? On the site, you’ll find pictures and stories about farms including what they grow, raise, or make. Take a screenshot of pictures you like, save or print them out, and make a poster or Powerpoint about why this organization is working to save farms. Do you agree with their work? Have everyone share their Powerpoints or posters to see what your classmates think.