History of Lisbon, Indiana

Lisbon, Indiana, once a bustling commercial center and trading post, in 1950s was a small village with a lone store and about fifty inhabitants. Historically significant as the highest point of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River, Lisbon was notable for its strategic location where rainwater flows in four directions. Established in 1837 by Asa Brown, the village featured two schools, several stores, including a drugstore, and amenities such as a plank road, board sidewalks, and street lamps. Brown’s Tavern, a prominent establishment, served as a hub for stagecoach travelers. Lisbon’s prominence waned after the Lake Shore Railroad was built two miles north, leading to the rise of nearby Kendallville and reducing Lisbon to a quiet crossroads with a rich historical legacy.

Written by Myra Herrick

Allen Township, 1893
The 1893 Allen Township map shows Lisbon, Indiana near the center of the township

Historical material reveals that the village of Lisbon, with its now lone store and some fifty inhabitants, is credited as being the highest point of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Mississippi River, the place where the water runs in four directions when it rains. It was the largest town in Noble County, thriving as a commercial center and trading post. There were two school buildings, several stores, including a drug store, a plank road, board side-walks and street lamps. It was the place where Mat Billings, the horse thief and counterfeiter, who, with others infested the northern part of the state, was captured and later brought to justice. It was this same big house, now only a part of the original structure, that was used as the tavern, where people drove for many miles to eat famous chicken dinners and the people danced the old year out and the New Year in. This was the notable Brown’s Tavern, one of the first buildings to be erected after the town came into being in 1837. Here the stage coach drivers stopped for refreshment, to stay over night and to change horses on their trips from Sturgis to Ft. Wayne. As many as twenty-seven teams have been sheltered at one time in the stables adjacent to the Tavern.

The east and west road through Lisbon known as the Albion Road, was the Famous California trail, used by the travelers who went west in search of gold. In those days it was unsafe to travel alone, and those people who had no wagon in which to ride, were glad to pay others who had, for the privilege of walking back of their wagons. To-day the hitch-hikers do not pay, and certainly they do not walk far.

Asa Brown was responsible for the laying out of the village of Lisbon and received his land grant from the government in 1837. The deed reads as follows:

Deed Record 5, Page 361. The Town of Lisbon is laid out and situated upon section 9, in township 34 N. Range 11 E. in the County of Noble and State of Indiana, and the south-east corner of Lot number 11 bears north 45 degrees, west 46.66 ft. from a post in the center of the Ft. Wayne and Lima, Auburn and Augusta State Roads, where they cross on said section 9, the lots in said town, except lot #11 are 132 ft. in length by 66 ft. in width and the streets are 66 ft. and the alleys 20 ft. in width. Said Albion Street running east and west and Main St. runs from said post south 35 degrees, east and north 27 degrees west and the lots are laid out at right angles with the Main Street.

(Signed) Asa Brown This deed was recorded in the following manner:

State of Indiana, Noble County, SS:

Be it Remembered that on this 30th day of October A.D. 1847, personally came before me, Recorder of said County, Asa Brown, known to me as the proprietor of the said Town of Lisbon, and acknowledged this plat and description of said town to be his voluntary act and deed for the uses and purposes therein specified.

Given under my hand and seal.

(Signed) H.H. Hitchcock, Recorder N.C. Recorded Pct. 30, 1847 at 2:000’clock P.M.

As proprietor of the town, he operated the Brown Tavern and made much money out of his business. But this was not enough, he was eager to try his fortune in still newer country and left Lisbon and his many rich acres of land to go farther west. After a few years of casting about he returned to Lisbon a pauper. His friends and old neighbors wished to show him a proper welcome and thereupon tendered him a public reception at which a big barn dance and chicken dinner were the features. Tickets were sold for one dollar each and the money which amounted to about four hundred dollars, was given to Mr. Brown to help him in his later years.

The Lake Shore Railroad was put through two miles north and Lisbon was doomed. Kendallville spread up rapidly and many are the changed time has brought. Lisbon, then the greatest commercial center in this part of the country, now a mere four corners with its general store. There is no school; there is no post office. Hundreds of cars pass through the village weekly, enjoying the fine highway, but little realizing they are in the midst of the most notable exciting territory, historically in Northern Indiana.

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