by Captain Franklin Ellis424
New Lebanon was erected from Canaan, according to an act of April 21, 1818, which provided for the division of that town into two equal parts, thus giving the new town an area of twenty thousand nine hundred and fifty-five acres. Its name was derived from Lebanon, Conn., and was bestowed upon the eastern part of the town while yet belonging to King's district. The western part was called New Britain, by which term it is yet locally known. The town is located in the extreme northeast part of the county, in the form of a rectangle, its length extending from east to west. The general surface is mountainous and hilly, but with fine intervals. Along the eastern line is the Taghkanic range, in the form of foot-hills of the loftier Berkshire mountains, several miles distant. The hills are generally cultivated to the summit, and those having a southern exposure are very fertile. They were originally covered with a light growth of the common hard timber, birch, and occasional evergreens, and were the first settled portions of the town. The valleys, and especially along the streams, were more densely wooded, there being in some localities heavy forests of pine. They are noted for their beauty and productive nature. The soil is a clayey loam, a loam mixed with schistic gravel, or a loam and disintegrated slate. The cereals yield well, and herbs and garden-seeds are cultivated to great perfection. The principal stream is Wyomanock creek, having a general westerly course, north of the centre of the town, and emptying its waters into the Kinderhook. There are a number of brooks tributary to the creek, and numerous springs abound. The celebrated thermal spring, a more detailed notice of which will be found on a subsequent page, is in the northeastern art of the town.
A portion of the present town was included in the Rensselaerswyck, but it appears that little effort was made to maintain the claim in this direction, probably on account of the hilly nature of the country, until many years after its settlement.
On the 4th of August, 1743, Stephen Bayard, John B. Van Rensselaer, Cornelius Van Schaack, Johannes Vosburgh, and Jacob Van Rensselaer were granted a large tract of land, located chiefly in the western part of the town along the Wyomanock. No attempt was made by these grantees to enforce their claim until after the Revolution. Many settlers had squatted upon the lands meantime, and the efforts to dispossess them caused much bitter feeling and provoked some resistance. A surveying-party, sent in by Van Schaack, was dispersed by a party of settlers disguised as Indians, who destroyed their instruments. It is said that Jonathan Murdock acted as chief of this party, and that Giles Lowden broke the compass. The settlers were afterwards enabled to obtain good titles to their lands by an act of the Legislature, which authorized the appointment of Henry Oathouds and Jeremiah Van Rensselaer as a commission to adjust the claims. The unclaimed lands were sold in behalf of the grantees to Eleazer Grant, John Darling, and Samuel Jones. The deed bears date August 23, 1788. These parties in turn sold the lands to settlers at about fifty cents per acre. The "Six-Miles-Square" tract, sold by the Stockbridge Indians to Asa Douglas, in 1758, also extended into this town; but as it encroached upon former claims, it was generally regarded as invalid. Along the eastern line, extending from half a mile to a mile westward, was a tract of land claimed by the "Colony of Massachusetts Bay," the former boundary being west of the principal part of the village of Lebanon Springs.
The present line of the town was established, after some contention in the courts, in 1786. The lands lying between these bounds were disposed of by grants from the general court of Massachusetts to Charles Goodrich, Gideon King, Jarvis Mudge, and Ephraim Keyes. The latter's grant was for three hundred acres, in 1765, and was located in the fall of that year by James Lord, a surveyor, in the neighborhood of the Springs, including that property. This tract, and a portion of Keyes' patent, extending eastward, was purchased by John Wadhams. Subsequently Charles Goodrich purchased the Springs property, and subdivided it into building-lots, upon which houses were first erected by Andrew Shumway and others.