Robert Lucas, the first governor of Iowa, was the fourth son and ninth child of William and Susannah Lucas, and was born April 1, 1781, in Jefferson valley, at Shepardstown, Jefferson county, Virginia, a few miles from Harper s Ferry, where his ancestors settled more than one hundred years ago. His father, who was descended from William Penn, was born Jan. 18, 1743 and his mother, of Scotch extraction. Oct. 8, 1745. His father, who had served as a captain in the continental army during the revolutionary war, and had distinguished himself at the battle of Bloody Run, emigrated with his family to Scioto county, Ohio, at the beginning of the present century. In leaving the slave state of Virginia, for the free embryo commonwealth of Ohio, which had not as yet been
admitted into the union, the elder Lucas generously freed every one of his adult slaves who wished to remain in Virginia, and provided for the younger ones till they became able to support themselves.
The early education of Gov. Lucas was obtained chiefly before leaving Virginia, from an old Scotch teacher named McMullen, who taught him mathematics and surveying, the latter affording him remunerative employment in the new country of Ohio.
On the 3d of April, 1810, Gov. Lucas was married, at Portsmouth, the county seat of Scioto county, to Elizabeth Brown, who died Oct. 18, 1812, leaving an infant daughter who still survives, in the person of Mrs. Minerva E. B. Sumner, of West Liberty, Muscatine county, Iowa. He was remarried, March 7, 1816, to Friendly A. Sumner, by whom he had four sons and three daughters, of whom two sons and two daughters are (1870) living, namely: Edw. W. Lucas, late lieutenant colonel of the 14th Iowa volunteers; Robert Lucas; Mrs. Susannah F. Smith and Miss Mary Lucas.
The first office held by Gov. Lucas was that of county surveyor of Scioto county, in 1803, and Dec. 18, 1805, he was commissioned a justice of the peace for Union township, for three years. His first military appointment was that of lieutenant of militia, and dated Nov. 14, 1803. His commission, issued subsequently, was as lieutenant of the third company of militia in the county of Scioto, first brigade, second division, and was dated the 24th of May, 1804. He was subsequently promoted through all the military grades to major general of Ohio militia, which latter promotion was conferred on him in 1818. The breaking out of the war of 1812 found Robert Lucas a brigadier general of Ohio militia, and as such he had much to do with raising troops and encouraging enlistments for Gen. Hull's northwestern army, then organizing for its disastrous march to Detroit and Canada. About the same time he received notice of his appointment as captain in the regular army, and afterwards (July 6, 1812), was commissioned and assigned to the nineteenth infantry, but in the meantime he had obeyed the command of Gov. Meigs, of Ohio, to turn out of his brigade twelve hundred men to march to Detroit, and for himself, with a company of men, to repair to Greenville to watch the movements of the Indians, and subsequently to visit Detroit previous to the army marching. His chief employment during that campaign was that of a spy, though we find him acting in various capacities. By the terms of his commission as captain in the regular army, he took rank from the 6th of July, 1812, and resigned his commission as such, Jan. 2, 1818, because of its accompanying duties being incompatible with affairs he had undertaken as a military officer of Ohio, in which capacity he thought he could render the country better service. His resignation was accepted, but he was very soon afterwards appointed a lieutenant colonel, and subsequently colonel, in the regular army, but again receiving orders which he conceived to be inconsistent with higher duties, he again resigned. The civil appointments to which Gov. Lucas was called by the executive, or the people of the state of Ohio, were many, and some of them the highest in the gift of that commonwealth. At the time of his second marriage, in 1816, he was, and had been for some time, a member of the Ohio legislature, serving successively in one or the other branch of the general assembly, and in the course of his legislative career, presiding over first one and then the other branch. In 1820, and then again in 1828, he was elected one of the presidential electors of Ohio. In May, 1832, at Baltimore, Md., he presided over the first democratic national convention. In 1832, he was elected governor of Ohio, and reelected in 1834, and declined a third nomination for the same office.
Under an act of congress "to divide the territory of Wisconsin, and to establish the territorial government of Iowa," approved June 12, 1838, the subject of our sketch was appointed by president Van Buren, governor of the territory of Iowa; a position which carried with it, ex officio, the additional duties of superintendent of Indian affairs. His commission, transmitted to him by John Forsyth, then United States secretary of state, bore date the 7th of July, 1838, and reached him at his residence in Piketon, Pike county, Ohio, ten days afterwards. Gov. Lucas, with characteristic promptness, wrote his letter of acceptance the same day, saying that he would start in a few days for the new territory. A journey however, from the interior of Ohio to the banks of the Upper Mississippi, was then a matter of weeks instead of hours, and it was not till nearly the middle of August that he reached Burlington. The political history of Gov. Lucas' time has already been referred to in the early part of this volume, and cannot be dwelt upon in this connection. In person, he was tall, active and wiry. Though stern in camp and council, in private life he was exceedingly gentle, pleasant and kind, an indulgent father and affectionate husband. All who knew him, even those who differed from him on question of public polity, accorded to him native ability of a high order, incorruptible honesty of purpose, and unswerving patriotism. From early youth, Gov. Lucas had been a devoted and consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. His death was not the result of disease, but from exhaustion and the weight of years. He died Feb. 7, 1858, at the ripe age of nearly 72 years.
(An Illustrated History of the State of Iowa, 1876)
Submitted By: Cathy Danielson
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