- 12th Governor of the State of Ohio -
The name of Robert Lucas is indelibly impressed upon the pages of Ohio history. A strong, self-reliant personality made Robert Lucas one of the most esteemed pubic servants of his day. Although he was a man of strong impulses, he was also a man of strict integrity. He earned the respect and confidence of the people of Ohio as well as the people of Iowa.
Robert Lucas was born at Shepherdstown Virginia (now West Virginia) on April 1,1781. He was the son of Susannah (Barnes) and William Lucas. William was a Revolutionary War veteran and had accumulated some wealth. This enabled Robert to be educated by a private tutor. He learned mathematics and surveying.
By 1800 William Lucas had become dissatisfied with the institution of slavery. He freed his slaves, made provisions for them, and moved his family to Scioto County Ohio. Ohio did not permit slavery.
Robert Lucas found work as a surveyor. In 1803 was appointed surveyor of Scioto County. In this position he helped determine the boundary between Scioto and Adams Counties. Lucas was also appointed Justice of the Peace and became an officer in the Ohio Militia.
Lucas became interested in politics. In 1808 he was elected to a term in the Ohio House of Representatives. In 1814 he was elected to the Ohio Senate.
On April 4, 1810 Lucas married Elizabeth Brown. Elizabeth died in 1812 leaving him with an infant daughter. On March 7, 1816 Lucas married Friendly Ashley Sumner. Together they had seven children.
By April 1812 Lucas had risen to the rank of Brigadier General in the Ohio Militia. While serving under Major General Ducan McArthur, he organized a battalion of volunteers to fight in the War with England. Lucas accompanied General Hull’s army in crossing the Detroit River and the invasion of Canada. During this time he kept a diary. In 1906 it was published as The Robert Lucas Journal of the War of 1812 edited by J. C. Parrish.
In February 1813 Lucas was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He resigned in June of 1813 to return to the Ohio Militia. In 1816 he was promoted to the Major General and given command of the 2nd militia division.
In 1816 Lucas and his new wife moved to Pike County where he opened a general store in Piketon. He built one of the finest homes in southern Ohio. It was named “Friendly Grove” in honor of his wife.
After the War Lucas returned to politics. He was elected to the Ohio Senate. He served from 1814 until 1822 and from 1824 until 1830. Lucas served another term in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1831 to 1832. He supported legislation on the canal system and the public schools. He also supported a strong militia.
By 1830 his military and public service had made Robert Lucas one of the most prominent men in the state. He was nominated for Ohio Governor. In the election, his friend and War of 1812 comrade, Ducan McArthur, opposed Lucas. McArthur won the election by a narrow margin.
In 1820 and 1828 Lucas had been chosen as one of the Presidential Electors of Ohio. In 1832, Lucas became the chairman of the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, which nominated Andrew Jackson for a second term as President of the United States.
The election of 1832 saw Lucas once again as candidate for the Governor’s office. This time he was successful. He was re-elected in 1834. During his administration a question of the boundary between Ohio and Michigan arose.
Ohio and Michigan both claimed a strip of territory along the northern border of Ohio, which included Toledo. The dispute almost led to a war. Lucas called out the Ohio Militia and personally led them to the border to face the governor of the Michigan Territory. President Jackson intervened, Congress settled the question, and war was averted. To honor his actions, Lucas County was named for Governor Lucas. Lucasville was also later named for him.
In 1836, Governor Lucas declined to run for a third term. However, he agreed to run for the United States Senate seat from Ohio. He was defeated and retired to his farm in Pike County.
President Martin Van Buren appointed Lucas the Governor and Superintendent of Indian affairs for the new Territory of Iowa in 1838. Lucas and his entire family moved to Iowa shortly thereafter. As Governor of Iowa, he became involved in another border dispute. This time it was with Missouri. In 1841, President Harrison replaced Governor Lucas. He retired to his farm near Iowa City.
Governor Lucas spent his last years devoted to the causes of temperance, and public education. He encouraged railroad projects and was active in the Methodist Church. He died on February 7, 1853 and is buried at Iowa City.
Robert Lucas was a man of practical common sense and seasoned wisdom.
In the face of difficulty he maintained his position without sacrificing
his self-respect. His experience in the War of 1812 helped make Lucas
an exceptional leader. His stern and unbending in his policies made
him an excellent statesman and governor of not one, but two states.
“Lucas, Robert,” A Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Men, with an Historical Sketch, of the State of Ohio, Cincinnati: John C. Yorston & Company, 1879. (p. 71)
Keyes, James, Pioneers of Scioto County, Portsmouth, Ohio: 1880. (pp.83-90)
“Lucas, Robert,” The Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery with
an Historical Sketch of the State of Ohio, Volume I,
Cincinnati, Ohio: Western Biographical Publishing Company, 1883. (p. 135)
Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812, The Adjutant General of Ohio, 1916.
“Robert Lucas,” Ohio’s Progressive Sons, A History of the State, Cincinnati, Ohio: Queen City Publishing Company, 1905. (pp. 201-202)
Malone, Dumas, “Lucas, Robert” The Dictionary of American Biography, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933. (pp. 487-488)
Smith, S. Winifred, “Robert Lucas,” The Governors of Ohio, Columbus:
Ohio Historical Society, 1969.
“Lucas, Robert” Ohio Biographical Dictionary, Wilmington, Delaware: American Historical Publications, Inc. 1986. (p. 207)
Ohio Veterans Hall
Last update 23 March 2005