"The following claim I purchased of John Knight in Febuary 1839. & I wish it registered to me as a claim made as I have not got his deed with me the same beeing the S W qr of S 14. & that part of the S ½ of S 15. that lyes East of the Iowa River – T 79 N. R. 6 W. July 3rd 1840
Handed in July 3rd 1840 Robert Lucas"
– The claim made by Lucas on the land that would later become Plum Grove, as recorded in Shambaugh’s (1894) Constitution and Records of the Claim Association of Johnson County Iowa. A footnote to the claim reads, “Robert Lucas was the first Governor of the Territory of Iowa. It is said that Gov. Lucas paid $200 for this claim.”
Robert Lucas was born in Virginia, moved to Ohio as a young man, and became involved in local politics. During the war of 1812 he distinguished himself for his bravery and skill as a general. After the war he rose through the political establishment to become governor of Ohio 1832-1838. He was appointed territorial governor of Iowa in 1838, a position he held until 1841. Robert Lucas was well known for his temper, as governor of the state of Ohio he once came close to bringing Ohio to war with Michigan over boundaries, and as territorial governor of Iowa he almost brought Iowa to war with Missouri during the "Honey War", again over boundaries.
Lucas built Plum Grove in the country south of Iowa City in 1844, and
lived there with his wife, Friendly, and several children and grandchildren.
While Robert Lucas aspired to return to the political arena, he had largely
fallen out of favor with the political powers in Washington. Lucas died
at Plum Grove in 1853, and his family moved out by 1866. A son, Edward
W. Lucas, went on to become a well known Iowa politician and businessman.
|Only one image of Plum Grove survives from the Lucas era, a plat map
made by J. H. Millar in 1854 (north is at the top). Plum Grove appears
as a simple rectangle, the writing on the map reads, "Plum Grove / Ex.
Plum Grove was then occupied by the Hoyt family, abolitionists who also came from southern Ohio.
View a reconstruction of Plum Grove from 1850
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