There is a rich history in Lebanon, one that starts with humble beginnings, much like other towns established in the early 1800s yet unique in its own way.
The landscape after the American Revolution was wild and full of opportunity for brave settlers looking for a fresh start. The local area was covered with woodlands, and here in Lebanon stood an abundance of cedar trees.
Cedar trees are strong, fragrant and versatile. They take their time while growing and the evergreen branches provide a habitat for birds and food for wildlife. They are stately trees with a lot of potential uses, both while living and after being harvested.
One of the reasons the cedar forest was probably attractive to early settlers was that the trees produce strong timber for building, which is resistant to worms and decay. King David and King Solomon in the Bible used cedar trees for building temples and palaces because of their strength and durability.
Lebanon sits at the heart of Wilson County, and as history suggests, things grew outward from a spring in the center of town.
A man by the name of Edward Jacobs, or Neddy Jacobs as he came to be known, is celebrated in local history as the first settler in the cedar forest that would soon be Lebanon. Lumbee Indians took him in after he was shipwrecked off the coast of North Carolina on his way from Ireland in the late 1700s, where he met his wife Layula. Singing of ‘Just Around the Riverbend’ or ‘Colors of the Wind’ may have happened as they travelled to Tennesse, but history is sparse on those details. He was a trapper by trade and found the spring in the cedar forest a desirable place to live.
The cabin is represented still today on the Lebanon square beside the spring that gave life to the town. It was quite literally the spring that sprang the town. All settlers used to visit the spring for water, and if there was no spring here it is likely that the town would have been built closer to the Cumberland River.
Remember, this was about 200 years ago, so the only way to get water was to carry it manually. Even today, access to water is pretty essential for establishing a place to live.
It is said that Neddy enjoyed playing the fiddle and was seen as a bit of an oddball by the other settlers that found the spring worth settling near. Nonetheless, he pretty much picked out the sweet spot in the forest of cedars. By 1800, a community began to form and plans to purchase the land and officiate the town were underway.
Wilson County was established by the Third General Assembly of the State of Tennessee in 1799, but smaller municipalities had yet to form. In the interest of creating a county seat, a commission of five men was sent out to survey the land. The men were to pay special attention to places with good water access and opportunity for building. The spring was the obvious choice, especially with the abundance of strong trees for building. Lebanon was well on its way to being an official town in Tennessee.
The spring of what we now call Sinking Creek and the cedars that are preserved in the nearby Cedars of Lebanon State Park drew settlers into the heart of Wilson County and were instrumental to the creation of the settlement that became the county seat. Lebanon.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.