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Robert Lucas
Lucas as Ohio Governor
12th Governor of Ohio

In office
December 7, 1832 – December 12, 1836
Preceded by Duncan McArthur
Succeeded by Joseph Vance
Personal details
Born April 1, 1781
Mecklenburg, now Shepherdstown, then part of Virginia
Died February 7, 1853(1853-02-07) (aged 71)
Iowa City, Iowa
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Brown (1810), Friendly Ashley Sumner (1816)
Children George W., Napoleon B., Minerva, Sumner, Abigail M., Robert, Susannah
Residence Piketon, Ohio; Iowa City, Iowa
Profession Surveyor, military officer, farmer
Religion Quaker, Methodist

Robert Lucas (April 1, 1781 – February 7, 1853) was the 12th Governor of the U.S. state of Ohio, serving from 1832 to 1836. He served as the first Governor of Iowa Territory from 1838 to 1841.[1]

Early life

Lucas was born in 1781 in Mecklenburg, now Shepherdstown, a small community along the Potomac River in Virginia located in far eastern West Virginia. He was the son of William Lucas and Susannah Barnes. Lucas came from a Quaker family whose roots stretched back to 1679 in Pennsylvania, though the family had recently relocated to Virginia. Lucas' father, an American Revolutionary War veteran, owned slaves and large amounts of land. According to family legend, Robert's uncle, Joseph Barnes, built a steam-powered boat long before Fulton's invention. Robert received some early schooling in mathematics and surveying, skills which would prove invaluable to his future work.[2]

Around the age of nineteen, Lucas moved to the Scioto Valley of the Northwest Territory, now Ohio.[3] He was preceded by other family members, including two older brothers and a cousin. One brother would later become a general, while his other brother and his cousin would become Ohio legislators. The family bought large parcels of land; eventually the nearby town of Lucas was named for them. For his skill in recruiting troops for the Army during the increasing hostilities between England, France, and the U.S., Robert Lucas was made Captain in 1807. He was elected to the Ohio General Assembly for the first time in 1808 as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He was married to Elizabeth Brown, his landlord's daughter, in 1810. Lucas and his wife had a daughter, Minerva, in 1811. Through complex political maneuvering, Lucas was made a Brigadier General in 1810 or 1811.[2]

War of 1812 and rise to power

Friendly Grove, Lucas' house near Piketon

Lucas served in the War of 1812 and was famous for his resourcefulness and calm in an increasingly chaotic campaign. As one of his contemporaries stated, "As a spy he was productive and brave — as a soldier he had no superior."[4] Lucas rose to national prominence during the court-martial trial of General William Hull. Hull was accused of incompetence in the loss of Detroit and the Michigan Territory to the British in June 1812, and the journals Lucas kept during the campaign were used as evidence to convict Hull.[5]

Lucas' political career blossomed and in 1818 he was named Speaker of the Ohio State Senate. He was the Ohio Presidential elector in 1820 for James Monroe.[6] In 1822, he lost the State Senate election to his former brother-in-law and political rival, William Kendall. Shortly after, around 1824, Lucas built a large brick house two miles east of Piketon, named Friendly Grove, which became an epicenter of local political activity, and still stands today.[2]

Lucas regained his State Senate seat in 1824, and actively campaigned for Andrew Jackson. He was an Ohio Presidential elector in 1828 for Andrew Jackson.[7] Lucas again lost his senate seat in 1828 to Kendall,and Lucas was part of the electoral congress that elected Jackson President that year. Lucas won his senate seat back in 1829, in a special election after Kendall resigned; again, he was elected Senate speaker. In 1831, Lucas ran for the state assembly and lost, but he quickly rebounded.[8]

Ohio Governor, 1832-1836

As an ardent Democrat, perhaps the highlight of his career was to serve as the chairman and president of the 1832 Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party's first national convention. Lucas was also nominated the Democratic candidate for governor in 1832, and won after a vitriolic campaign. Lucas County, Ohio, was established and named for the governor during his second term, in defiance of the Michigan Territory, which also claimed the land around the mouth of the Maumee River – thus provoking the almost-bloodless Toledo War.[9]

Iowa Territorial Governor, 1838-1841

Lucas in Iowa

During his tenure running Iowa, he again showed his tendency towards conflict with other states, starting the Honey War with Missouri. Technically, Lucas was not the first acting governor of the Iowa territory. William B. Conway, appointed territorial secretary by Martin Van Buren, arrived in Iowa six weeks before Lucas and thus assumed the duties of acting governor. Friction developed between Lucas and Conway over some of the decisions Conway made in Lucas' absence, and led to an acerbic relationship. Lucas was often at odds with the territorial legislature, his liberal use of absolute veto power and his condescending rebukes of legislators often made him the target of acrimonious exchanges. Conway complained to Van Buren that Lucas committed "vexatious, ungraceful, petulant, ill-natured and dogmatic interferences" with the legislature.[10] Van Buren and the U. S. Congress responded by limiting the territorial governor’s veto power and his ability to make appointments. Lucas served for only a few years as territorial governor, from 1838–1841, and spent those years mostly in Burlington, Iowa and Muscatine, Iowa (then called Bloomington), as there were only provisional accommodations in Iowa City for the territorial legislature.

Death and legacy

Lucas was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, Iowa.[11]

Lucas' retirement house in Iowa City, Plum Grove, is maintained by the state as a monument to Lucas.


  1. "Ohio Historical Society | Ohio Governors". 2005-07-26. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Parish 1907
  3. Petersen 1952a:314-315
  4. Verchères de Boucherville 1940:314
  5. Gilpin 1958; Parish 1907; Petersen 1952:241; Verchères de Boucherville 1940
  6. Taylor 1899 : 102
  7. Taylor 1899 : 145
  8. Lucas' political rise is documented in a number of sources, including Peterson, Parish and Ryan
  9. Ryan 1912:440-447
  10. Petersen 1952a:317-318
  11. "Robert E. Lucas". Find A Grave. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 


  • Gilpin, Alec R. (1958) The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest. Michigan State University Press, Lansing, Michigan.
  • Parish, John C. (1948) Iowa in the Days of Lucas. Palimpsest 29:13-18.
  • Petersen, William J. (1948) Robert Lucas. Palimpsest 29:1-12.
  • Petersen, William J. (1952) The Story of Iowa: The Progress of an American State. Lewis Historical Publishing, New York.
  • Ryan, Daniel J. (1912) History of Ohio: The Rise and Progress of an American State. Vol. 3, Century History Co., New York.
  • Shambaugh, Benjamin F. (editor) 1906 Executive Journal of Iowa 1838-1841: Governor Robert Lucas. State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.
  • Swisher, Jacob A. (1948) Plum Grove. Palimpsest 29:19-32.
  • Taylor, William Alexander; Taylor, Aubrey Clarence (1899). Ohio statesmen and annals of progress: from the year 1788 to the year 1900 .... 1. State of Ohio. p. 102. 
  • Verchères de Boucherville, Thomas (1940)War on the Detroit: The Chronicles of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville and the Capitulation by an Ohio Volunteer. Edited by Milo M. Quaife. Lakeside Press, Chicago.
  • Wright, Luella M. (1944) Robert Lucas in Verse. Palimpsest 25:234-248.

External links

Wikisource-logo.svg "Lucas, Robert" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography 1900