Family Histories

Lebanon's history has been shaped by its people. When reading through this site, many of the same family names resurface: Corwin, Dunlavy, Wright, Nixon. Within this section are the stories of Lebanon's families. Feel free to add your own.

Corwin Family

The Corwins are Lebanon's first family. Ichabod was the town's first settler, his brother Matthias served as one of Warren County's first commissioners, and Matthias's son, Thomas, represented the area at the state and national levels of government.

Corwin family record

Warren County Historical Society

Detail of the Corwin family record

Origins of the name

The ancestors of Lebanon’s Corwins had long lived in Long Island, N.Y. before moving to New Jersey, then to Pennsylvania, then to Kentucky, and finally to Lebanon.

The first ancestor to arrive in the United States came from England around 1630, but the family roots are unclear before then. David Corwin, brother to Ichabod and Matthias and uncle to Thomas, claimed that his family was of Welsh origin, suggested by the fact that there is a town named Corwen in Wales. Thomas wrote that he possessed letters which connected the family to Hungary, also suggested by a similarity in the name Corwin and that of Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus.

Visit the Corwin family genealogy Web site

Ichabod Corwin

Lebanon's first settler, Ichabod Corwin, brought his family to what would become Lebanon in March 1796. He bought a half-section of land and settled northwest of what would become downtown, where the Berry school stands today.

Ichabod was born in New Jersey in 1767, and raised in Bourbon County, Ky. It was there that he eventually met and married Sarah Griffin of Washington County, Pa.

In the early spring of 1796, Corwin cleared about 12 acres near his cabin and planted the first crop of corn grown in Lebanon. But before Corwin could cultivate the corn, American Indians — most likely Shawnees — stole all his horses.

With a family to support and mouths to feed, Corwin walked back to Kentucky to purchase a yoke of oxen. He returned to Lebanon where — with the assistance of a “Yankee” he hired in Kentucky — he cultivated his corn, which yielded 100 bushels to the acre.

Within a year of settling in Lebanon, Sarah gave birth to daughter Eliza on August 25, 1797. Eliza was their fourth child, and their first born north of the Ohio River. Eliza died 25 years later, the only one of the Corwins' 13 children to precede them in death.

Corwin built a two-story log house in 1800 on the east side of North Broadway between Mulberry and Silver Streets, where the LCNB bank is today. It was the first cabin built on land that would become Lebanon. Ichabod and his family lived there for one or two years before selling it to Ephraim Hathaway, who would open The Black Horse Tavern.

On December 8, 1800, Sarah gave birth to Lucinda in the two-story cabin on Broadway. She was the second child born within what would become Lebanon's town boundaries. Lucinda would go on to marry Francis Dunlavy's son Anthony Howard Dunlevy, and live to be 81 years old.

In September 1802, Corwin — along with land owners Silas Hurin, Ephraim Hathaway and Sammuel Manning — hired surveyor Ichabod Halsey and laid out 100 lots that would become Lebanon.

Corwin went on the build another future tavern, although this one is still in operation 200 years later. In 1815 he constructed a brick building on the northwest corner of Broadway and Main Street. This structure today serves as the foundation and lobby of The Golden Lamb, Ohio’s oldest continuously operating business.

Ichabod and Sarah's oldest son, Moses Bledso Corwin, eventually became a U.S. Congressman, representing Urbana, Ohio.

Ichabod died on October 16, 1834, at age 67 after a horse kicked him in the head. He was buried in the Baptist Graveyard, what is now the northern part of the Pioneer Cemetery. His tombstone reads:

"The deceased was the first settler on the place where Lebanon now stands—March, 1796."

Ichabod Corwin

Miami University in Lebanon?

Matthias Corwin

By Charlie Zimkus

Thomas Corwin

With a political resume that includes Congressman, Senator, Governor and Secretary of the Treasury, Thomas Corwin is arguably the most influential figure in Lebanon's history.

Corwin was born in Bourbon County, Ky., on July 29, 1794. Four years later, his family moved to the future site of Lebanon. His father, Matthias, was the brother of Lebanon's first settler, Ichabod Corwin, who had arrived in 1796.

Four-year-old Thomas was an early student of Francis Dunlavy, the first teacher in the Miami Valley. Dunlavy ran a log-cabin subscription school west of town on Main Street where the city water department is now located.

But Thomas’s formal education was short-lived. His father was poor and believed that he could support the continued education of one son. So while the oldest son, also named Matthias, attended school, Thomas worked on the family farm. Despite the lack of a formal education, Thomas learned quickly and acquired skill as an eloquent public speaker, attributes that would serve him well later in life.

By the time he was 18, Corwin began driving wagon-loads of supplies to Gen. William Henry Harrison's army during the War of 1812. Corwin did this with such success and frequency, that he earned the nickname "Wagon Boy" or “Wagoner Boy.”

Corwin studied law in the office of Lebanon's first lawyer, Joshua Collett. By 1817 he was admitted to the Ohio bar and wasted no time entering politics. The following year he was elected Warren County prosecuting attorney and served for ten years, while at the same time serving three terms in the Ohio General Assembly.

As a representative in the Ohio House, Corwin was following in his father's footsteps. Matthias had been elected to 11 consecutive terms as a representative with two terms as House Speaker.

On November 13, 1822, Thomas married Sarah Ross, originally from Chester County, Pa. They had five children: Catherine (1827), William Henry (1829), Evalina (1831), Maria Louisa (1834) and Caroline, “Carrie,” (1836).

In 1830, Corwin was elected to Congress, where he represented his Ohio district as a member of the Whig Party. While in Washington, the Wagon Boy earned a new nickname: "the terror of the house," for his spirited and witty debate. Ten years later he retired from the legislature and was elected governor of Ohio.

The Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature, making governing difficult for Corwin. The Whigs' plan for a state bank was shot down and Ohio remained in an economic downturn. After an unsuccessful bid for reelection in 1842 in which he lost by less than 4,000 votes, Corwin returned to Lebanon, where he and his wife, Sarah, raised their family in a house on Main Street built by Sarah’s brother, Phineas Ross. Corwin would not suffer political defeat again, he would return to Washington in 1845, this time as a Senator.

While on the campaign trail, Corwin became known for his eloquence and humor as a public speaker.

One example of Corwin's wit is illustrated in a story often told in the halls of Congress, although its truthfulness cannot be verified. While walking with Rep. John C. Calhoun, the two Congressmen observed a drove of Ohio mules moving through the streets of Washington. Calhoun quipped, "There goes some of your constituents." To which Corwin reportedly replied, "Yes, they are going down South to teach school."

Corwin was not one to abandon his principles, even in the face of heavy opposition. On February 11, 1847, Sen. Corwin spoke out against President James K. Polk's escalation of the Mexican War. In his speech against an appropriations bill that would supply American soldiers in the field, Corwin questioned whether the fighting was actually over U.S. soil.

Two years earlier, Congress had drawn Texas's border with Mexico at the Rio Grande. Mexico claimed that the border was 150 miles north at the Nueces River.

"What is the territory, [President Polk], which you propose to wrest from Mexico?" Corwin asked on the Senate floor. "His Bunker Hills and Saratogas and Yorktowns are there! ... The Senator from Michigan says ... we want room. If I were a Mexican I would tell you, 'Have you not room in your own country to bury your dead men? If you come to mine, we will greet you with bloody hand, and welcome you to hospitable graves."

Corwin spoke for two and a half hours and was afterwards labeled a traitor by newspapers and burned in effigy across the country.

But not everyone was offended by Corwin's pleas. A young Congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln was impressed, and delivered a similar speech of his own on the floor of the House of Representatives.

In 1850, President Millard Fillmore appointed Corwin Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held for three years. At the conclusion of Fillmore’s presidency, Corwin returned to his law practice in Cincinnati while maintaining his residence in Lebanon.

Corwin returned to Congress in 1858, this time as a Republican. While running for relection in 1860, Corwin also campaigned on behalf of another Lebanon figure: Western Star founder John McLean. After McLean's campaign fizzled before the Republican Party convention, Corwin threw his support behind its candidate, Abraham Lincoln.

In 1961, President Lincoln, remembering Corwin's sympathy for the nation, named him Ambassador to Mexico. Corwin helped the Union maintain a strong relationship with Mexico during the Civil War.

Corwin retired to Washington in 1864, where he continued to practice law.

Five days after President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, Corwin served as one of the president's 22 pallbearers.

On December 18, 1865, Corwin died suddenly from a stroke at the age of 69. He is buried in the Lebanon Cemetery next to his wife, Sarah.

thomas corwin portrait

Thomas Corwin, circa 1840

“The Senator from Michigan says ... we want room. If I were a Mexican I would tell you, ‘Have you not room in your own country to bury your dead men? If you come to mine, we will greet you with bloody hand, and welcome you to hospitable graves.’ ”
Sen. Thomas Corwin, protesting the Mexican War on the Senate floor in 1847

Evalina Amelia Corwin

Evalina Corwin was born in Lebanon on July 14, 1831. She was the third child to future Ohio Gov. Thomas Corwin and his wife Sarah Ross Corwin. Her father would be sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives that December and had just given up his seat in the Ohio Legislature and the position of Warren County prosecutor.

At the time, the Corwin family rented a home on north Cherry Street in Lebanon. In 1833 Thomas would buy the home of brother-in-law, Phineas Ross, on West Main Street in a Sheriff’s Sale. He and his family would not occupy the home until after Phineas’s death in 1839.

Evalina was the middle child of five: Catherine (1827), William Henry (1829), Evalina, Maria Louisa (1834) and Caroline, “Carrie,” (1836).

On May 20, 1855, Evalina married George R. Sage in front of the mantel in the back parlor of the Corwin House on Main Street, the exact spot where her parents (in 1822) and her daughter Carrie (in 1883) would marry.

Sage was a classmate of Evalina’s brother, William, at Granville College (now Denison University). After graduation in 1849, Sage taught at the Lebanon Academy for one year and then entered the Cincinnati Law School. In 1857, he was in partnership with Thomas Corwin in Cincinnati. The following year the firm moved to Lebanon.

In 1860, Sage also was elected to the post of Warren County prosecutor, serving for six years. In 1883, President Chester Arthur appointed him U.S. District Judge.

Evalina and George had two children live to adulthood: Carrie, born June 23, 1856, and Corwin, born May 31, 1859.

Evalina was described as “a woman of exalted, noble character and unusually high and refined attainments and accomplishments.” In the early 1850s, while in Washington with her father, she was “a brilliant and very popular society leader.”

In 1884 she suffered a stroke. Another in 1887 left her an invalid. She died on August 20, 1898, four days before he husband 70th birthday. He passed away three months later.

Evalina Amelia Corwin

Drake Family

By Charlie Zimkus

Oswald Family

The Oswalds of Oswald-Hoskins Funeral Home have had a lasting impact on Lebanon and continue to add to the town’s notoriety. Founded in 1860 as a cabinetmaking business, the funeral home is the third oldest business in Warren County, behind The Golden Lamb (1803) and The Western Star (1807).

John N. Oswald was born on May 12, 1826 in Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Prussia, a former province in what is now the state of Baden-Wurttlemberg in southern Germany. He was the second son of Peter and Apolonia Oswald. The family originally came from nearby Switzerland, but had, for the past three generations, lived in Prussia near the Danube River. John’s father died at age 44, in September, 1831,when he was only five, and his mother at age 47, in October 1845, when he was 19. He was educated in Prussia and apprenticed with a furniture maker who is said to have worked for the royal Prussian family. He traveled throughout Germany and worked for seven years in Vienna, Austria.

In 1853, John booked passage to America, arriving in New York City on his 27th birthday. That year, he worked for a furniture manufacturer in New York. He made his way to Cincinnati in 1854, and — after a brief period of practicing his trade there — moved to Warren County. He joined his two brothers in Foster, in the southern part of the county, and contributed to the cabinetmaking business they had started three years earlier.

John set off on his own around 1859, opening a cabinetmaking business in downtown Lebanon at what is now 9 N. Broadway. He moved his business along Broadway a couple of times before settling in 1866 at 110 S. Broadway, where it remained for nearly 100 years.

Soon cabinetmaking led to undertaking, because John could make his own caskets. The first recorded burial performed by John was of one Henry Seiger, age 64, on March 3, 1867. Beers’ The History of Warren County, Ohio, published in 1882, states:

“In 1868, Mr. Oswald commenced the business of undertaking, and has since buried 1,700 people, mostly citizens of ‘Old Warren.’ He was the first in the county to introduce the new styles of caskets and the process of preserving bodies. He has conducted his business with much success, and, by his untiring energy, is constantly increasing his extensive establishment.”

For much of the late 19th century the business was advertised as “J. N. Oswald, Furniture and Undertaking.”

On May 9, 1865, three days short of his 39th birthday, John married Fredricka Bobe (some sources say “Bope”), daughter of Philip and Mariah Bobe. The family was originally from the same area of Prussia as the Oswalds. John and Fredricka would have five children: three girls and two boys. They were: Maurice, born in 1866; Louisa, born in 1872; Marietta (or Mary Etta), born in 1877; Lena, born in 1878; and Lorenz, born in 1880.

On August 4, 1900, John N. Oswald died at the age of 74. With his death, the family business was taken over by his oldest son, Maurice H. Oswald. Maurice’s son, Ernest, born in 1889 and known to his friends as “Dutch,” began working in the family business while still attending school. In 1909 he received a diploma from an embalming school in Cincinnati, and began working full time with his father.

In 1916 the Oswald family stopped its manufacturing of furniture and devoted itself full time to the funeral home.

Maurice H. Oswald died in 1942 and the operation of Oswald Funeral Home was placed in the hands of his son, Ernest. After a few years, Ernest was joined in the business by his son Kenneth. Born in 1912, Kenneth E. Oswald was a graduate of Lebanon High School and the Cincinnati College of Embalming.

Kenneth died at the relatively young age of 45 on October 12, 1957. He suffered a heart attack while conducting a burial service in Westerville, Ohio, just northeast of Columbus. His daughter, Diane, is the mother of Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson, who graduated from Lebanon High School before making a name for himself in film and television. Woody is John N. Oswald's great great great grandson.

By the late 1950s the location at 110 S. Broadway had become less than ideal for a funeral home. Because of traffic on Broadway, funeral processions could no longer line up safely. So Ernest moved the business to 329 E. Mulberry, and announced the grand reopening of Oswald Memorial Funeral Home in the February 23, 1961 edition of The Western Star:

“We wish to announce that ... we are ready to serve you again at our new location opened in the memory of J. N. Oswald, M. H. Oswald, and K. E. Oswald — a fitting climax to a century of service.”

Despite the grand opening, the operation of the family business was getting to be too much for Ernest. A year or so later, he turned over the funeral home to William W. Walker from Charleston, W.Va. On February 20, 1964, Ernest “Dutch” Oswald died at age 75.

By early 1970 the 110 S. Broadway location was become a problem for the city. Vacant for three years, it soon became a target for arsonists. Four fires alone were set in March of that year. In April, 1970, the old house, with nearly 100 years of service to the people of Lebanon, was demolished.

On March 17, 1993, The Western Star published an article announcing that the funeral home was being sold to James and Joanne Hoskins. The owners of the newly named Oswald-Hoskins Funeral Home were no strangers to the business. Joanne’s grandfather had established Vale Funeral Home in nearby Morrow, Ohio.

Like the Oswalds, the Hoskins-Vale family made the funeral home business a family affair. Jim and Joanne’s daughter Jennifer Hoskins Long became a certified funeral director in 1994.

President Lincoln’s Warren County relatives

By John J. Zimkus

Ross Family

Phineas Ross and his twin brother, John, were born in New Garden Township, Pa., on May 5, 1793. They were two of four children born to Dr. John and Catherine Ross. They had an older brother, Thomas, born in 1788, and a younger sister, Sarah, who was born in 1795.

By 1820 all of the children had moved to Warren County.

Thomas, who was admitted to the bar in 1808, was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1818. He represented Hamilton, Butler, Warren, and Preble counties, and would be twice reelected.

John, like his father and namesake, became a doctor, one of Warren County’s earliest.

Phineas, like his brother Thomas, was one of the first dozen or so lawyers in the county. On December 20, 1812 he married Mary Hunt. The 1830 Warren County census shows that they had seven children: four boys and three girls. On May 25, 1816, Phineas bought land on the west side of the north fork of Turtle Creek from Ichabod Corwin, one of Lebanon’s founding fathers. He paid $138.

Here in 1818 he built what is now known as the Corwin House. The home was very different then. Examination of the foundation reveals that the kitchen of the house today was originally a separate building. The dining room, which separates the library and the kitchen on the west side of the house, was added some time after the house was built and connected the two structures.

Although he never held the important positions his brother, Thomas R. Ross, or his brother-in-law, Thomas Corwin, would, Phineas Ross served his community well. When the first bank in Warren County, The Lebanon Miami Banking Company, was founded in 1814, Phineas was chosen as its first Cashier. The 1819 roster of the Ohio Militia in Warren County listed him as an artillery captain. In 1825 he was selected as a member of Warren County’s first Board of School Examiners. Active in the Masonic Order, he served as the

In 1833 Phineas was apparently in deep financial trouble. For several weeks that summer The Western Star published the announcement of a “Sheriff’s Sale” to be held on August 6. Included in the list of properties to be sold was “about 5 acres, more or less –– taken as the property of Phineas Ross. The announcement stated that there were “several suits” against him.

The purchaser of the property ended up being Phineas Ross’s brother-in-law, Thomas Corwin. The price of the property, unusual by today’s standards, was $2,333 1/3. From that point on, the Corwin House remained in the Corwin family’s possession for more than XX years.

Phineas Ross died on January 11, 1839 at the age of 45. The Western Star of January 18, 1839 printed a simple three sentence obituary:

“DIED –– In this place on Friday last, Phineas Ross, Esq., for many years a citizen of this place. Mr. Ross was a free, open hearted and generous man, much beloved by his family and friends. He has left a disconsolate widow and many children to mourn their Providential bereavement.”