In the storage section of the Lebanon Public Library is a crate containing an historical marker for former Indiana Governor and Senator Samuel M. Ralston, Indiana’s 28th governor. The sign commemorates Ralston’s contribution to the state and his connection to Lebanon.
Ralston’s marker is to be installed on the Boone County Courthouse lawn. It will be the first such marker commemorating Ralston. Boone County Historian Eric Spall said the marker was supposed to be installed last year, but was held up because of the construction in the downtown area.
The marker is part of the state historical marker program run by the Indiana Historical Bureau, Spall said.
The sign includes facts about Ralston’s accomplishments from original sources like newspapers, diaries or photos of the day. Ralston spent several years becoming a prominent lawyer here in Lebanon, but Spall said the marker needs to represent his contribution to the whole state.
“He became governor and a few months after that was the Great Flood of 1913 and he was responsible for providing humanitarian aid,” Spall said. “That same year there was a very intense streetcar worker’s strike in Indianapolis that actually threatened to turn violent, but he peacefully arbitrated that.
“He was elected in 1913 to '17 and that falls squarely into 1916, the state’s centennial celebration,” Spall added. “He actually created the state historical commission, which is now the state historical bureau. And probably one of his most lasting legacies, as part of the state centennial, was the creation of the state park system.”
In 1922, Ralston was elected to the United States Senate and actually was a strong contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 1924.
“Some newspapers said it was his for the taking,” Spall recounted. “Then he unexpectedly withdrew his name kind of at the last minute. He didn’t say why at the time, but he died in 1925, so we assume he had health issues.”
He was born in 1857 in Ohio but his family moved to Indiana in 1865. Through much hard work, he became a lawyer in 1886 and within six months moved to Lebanon where he lived and worked until he was elected governor in 1912. Spall said he lived on North Meridian Street.
The marker was paid for with a donation from the Boone County Bar Association. Ralston was a charter member of the association. Spall said the courthouse is an excellent location for the marker.
“He probably didn’t do a lot of work in this particular (courthouse) because it didn’t open up until 1912,” Spall said. “But he was in charge of the ceremonies for the dedication of this courthouse.”
Ralston is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lebanon.
There will be a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. July 27 at the courthouse to unveil the marker, although Spall admits it may not be installed. The Boone County Commissioners are waiting until more of the courthouse lawn is finished before designating a permanent spot.