Piketon, Ohio , United States
|| April 01, 1781
|| February 07, 1853
May 30, 2004 08:28pm
|Info||Ohio's twelfth governor, Robert Lucas, was born at Shepherdstown, Virginia, on April 1, 1781. His mother was the former Susannah Barnes, whose brother Joseph Barnes experimented with steamboats many years before John Fitch and Robert Fulton. His father, William Lucas, though a descendant of Robert Lucas, an English Quaker who came to America in 1679, enlisted in the American Revolution and, in 1781, when the future governor was only a few months old, volunteered for service against the Indians on the frontier. |
Little is known of Robert's early life, but he received part of his education from a Scotch tutor who taught him mathematics and surveying. At the age of nineteen he moved with his family to near Portsmouth in present-day Scioto County, Ohio, then a part of the Northwest Territory. T'hree years later (1803) he was appointed surveyor of Scioto County, and with Nathaniel Beasley of Adams County, ran the line between the two counties.
At this time he joined the state militia, and up to the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain in 1812, he held offices of increasing rank. During April and May 1812, as a brigadier general under Major General Duncan McArthur, he organized a battalion of volunteers from his brigade of Ohio militia. In General Hull's campaign against Canada in the summer of 1812, however, he served in several capacities, holding the rank of captain in the regular army as well as his position of brigadier general in the militia. Returning home after Hull's surrender, he found his wife very ill, and in October she died, leaving a daughter, then about a year and a half old.
In February 1813 he was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the regular army. Dissatisfied with an assignment, he resigned in June of the same year and again took up his duties with the militia, but he saw no further actual combat. In 1816 he was raised to the rank of major general and given command of the 2d militia division.
After the war Lucas turned his attention to politics. He had already served one term in the Ohio House of Representatives (1808-9), and in 1814 was elected to the state senate. He continued to represent his district, composed of Scioto and one or more neighboring counties, in the senate until 1822 and again in 1824-28 and 1829-30. He was returned to the lower house for the 1831-32 session, his last in the general assembly. As a lawmaker, Lucas actively supported legislation favoring the canals and the public school system. He consistently ad- vocated also a strong militia.
In 1816, during his second term in the senate, Lucas married Miss Friendly Ashley Sumner and at about that time moved to Piketon in newly organized Pike County. He opened a large general store in his home on the main street of the village. In 1822-23, in an interval between tours of duty in the senate, he built one of the finest houses then in southern Ohio. "Friendly Grove," as he named the place in honor of his wife, is still standing on its original site two miles east of Piketon.
By 1830 his military and legislative service had made Lucas one of the most prominent men in the state. From 1825 on he had been an ardent supporter of Andrew Jackson. He was, therefore, a logical choice of the Democratic Republicans for governor and was unani- mously nominated in the first state nominating convention in Ohio. The National Republicans announced through the newspapers the can- didacy of Duncan McArthur, friend and war comrade of Lucas. A spirited campaign resulted in McArthur's election by a small majority. For Lucas the sting of defeat was eased by reelection to the seat in the house of representatives which he had held in 1808-9. In May 1832 he had the signal honor of being elected temporary and permanent chairman of the first Democratic national convention.
Lucas was again the Jacksonian candidate for governor in 1832 and won the election over Darius Lyman, union candidate of the National Republicans and Anti-Masons, by a majority of over eight thousand votes in a contest fought mainly on the bank question. His inaugural address stressed encouragement to free public schools and the need for revision of the militia laws. His first term was largely uneventful, but he proved his ability as a competent executive and was reelected in 1834 for a second term over James Findlay, the anti-Jackson candidate.
It was during his second term that Lucas played such an energetic and decisive role in the "Toledo War." Both Ohio and the territory of Michigan claimed a strip of territory about five to eight miles wide along the northern border of Ohio within which lay the important lake port of Toledo, the probable terminus of the Miami-Erie Canal. In supporting Ohio's claim, Lucas called out the militia and led them to the border to face the forces of the acting governor of Michigan Territory, Stevens T. Mason. Only the intervention of President Jackson and his commissioners averted open war. Congress finally settled the question in Ohio's favor, but compensated Michigan with a large tract north and west of Lake Michigan.
Also during his second term, Lucas was appointed by President Jackson as a United States Commissioner to negotiate a treaty with the Wyandot Indians near Upper Sandusky. Lucas met with the Wyan- dots on their reservation in August, September, and October of 1834, but was unable to obtain their consent to a removal to the west and the cession of their lands to the United States. It was not until 1842 that the Wyandots finally agreed to such a treaty.
Governor Lucas protested the use of his name in 1836 as a candidate for a third term, but agreed to run for the United States Senate. He was defeated by William Allen and retired to Friendly Grove. Two years later President Van Buren appointed Lucas governor and superin- tendent of Indian affairs in the newly created territory of Iowa. Lucas was well qualified for the post, but his administration was embittered by the hostility of an ambitious secretary and the resentment of a legislature jealous of the governor's veto power. He was involved in another boundary dispute, this time between Iowa Territory and Missouri. He was replaced as territorial governor in 1841 and retired to his farm near Iowa City.
Again in Ohio in 1843, Lucas was induced to become the Democratic candidate for congressman in the eighth district. Defeated, he returned to Iowa City to reside for the rest of his life. He emerged from retirement to serve as a member of the convention which formed the state consti- tution of Iowa in 1844. In the same year he constructed a substanial two-story brick house at "Plum Grove." Here he spent his last years in the midst of his family, occupying much of his time in composing religious poems and hymns. He died on February 7, 1853, and was buried at Iowa City. He was survived by his wife and six children. The Ohio Historical Society