HARRY HAZLETT SUPPLIES INTERESTING DATA CONCERNING COL. LUCAS; PAYS BEAUTIFUL TRIBUTE TO A FRIEND
Col. W. V. Lucas, author of "Pioneer Days in Bremer County," gave to the readers of the Democrat, in a series of letters, an interesting account of early days, in which he took a very prominent part; but when asked to give a sketch of his own life, he very steadfastly refused, much to the regret of his host of friends. This gap in the narrative has been bridged by Harry Hazlett, of Sioux Falls, S. D., who was a personal and very close friend of Col. Lucas, and noticing the absence of mention of the author, he has kindly supplied the following narrative, which now makes the story complete.
* * *
I have read with much interest and gratification the series of articles under the heading of "Pioneer Days in Bremer County," written by Col. W. V. Lucas. They are written in a free, easy style, so that one who reads may easily understand. My boyhood days were spent in Bremer county; therefore, I am in a position to say that his references to the yesterdays are absolutely correct. He touched on nearly &very phase of pioneer life, and the pioneers of that day— I mean those who are now living—who "bore the heat and the burden of those days," will bear me out in the statement that his pen pictures are true to life. His incidents of "by flood and field," the hard times of '67, personal mentionings, anecdotes and musings, make a lot of us feel as tho we were growing old, and about to "cross the harbor bar." But as the old adage has it, "one is never older than he feels." Col. Lucas is now well on his 83rd year, yet he is able to do straight ten hours' work a day, practicing law and writing from one to two columns of matter for a newspaper at Santa Cruz, Calif. In addition to this work, he is a member of the exemption board, which has to do with the slackers and liars. So, you see, he is a young old man, and a mighty worker. I am in my 67th year, and at present writing am in the best of health (please knock on wood), but I could not do the work Col. Lucas is now doing, and few younger men can.
In writing up his personal experiences, he neglected to say anything of a vainglorious nature about himself, but that is very characteristic of the man; so, with your permission, I will ransack my memory and see what I can dig up regarding this remarkable, self-made man.
William Vincent Lucas, the subject of this sketch, was born in Carroll county, Indiana, July 3, 1835. His first landing place in Iowa was in Marion county. In April, 1856, he moved to Bremer county. His first work upon reaching the county was at a lime kiln in what was known as the "Big Woods," where he labored for about two months, after which he became a mortar "jackey" until fall for good old John Tyrrell. In the winter he cut and split rails enough to fence forty acres of land, and, in addition, cut 20,000 feet of basswood logs for S. H. Curtis. In the spring he took possession of his small farm in La Fayette township, after having helped to drive the Indians from Spirit Lake. He wrote a complete and comprehensive history of that uprising and published it in the Mason City Republican. I well remember when the only female survivor of that red-skin uprising came into the office, which resulted in the Colonel "taking his pen in hand" to write up the revolt. He was very bitter against "Inkpadudah," the leader of the Indian outbreak. After that the boys in the office always addressed him as "Inkpadudah." It was great fun to see. him squirm, but he had to take the gaff.
While on the farm, he was elected town clerk, the first office he had ever held, and in the fall of 1859, W. W. Norris, having been elected treasurer of the county, offered him the deputyship in the treasurer's and recorder's office. He had not expected such promotion coming to him without a note of warning. He accepted the place, and at the close of Mr. Norris' term of office, he returned to his farm, where he remained until after the breaking out of the war between the states.
In the meantime he was married to Sophronia Lowe, of Illinois, and at the outbreak of the war they had three children. At the first call for men he did not go, but on the second one, he did, leaving his wife and children on the farm. Old pioneers will tell you what kind of a woman Mrs. Lucas was. No better or heroic woman ever lived. I remember her with veneration and kindness, as I was a member of the household for a long time. She was a kind and considerate woman, and a mother to us all. When her husband talked over with her the matter of going to war, she said, "I believe it is your duty to go; I can manage the farm." And she did, with a profit, for when he returned, a captain, from the southern battlefields, he found a nice little bank account awaiting him. He enlisted with Capt. Richard Currier, and when the company was organized he was elected first lieutenant. The company was assigned to Col. W. T. Shaw's 14th Iowa infantry. Col. Shaw was known and recognized as "fighting Bill Shaw" and the boys learned that his name and fame were no misnomer, for he gave them plenty of "hot stuff." He was immensely popular with his men, notwithstanding that he was a very strict disciplinarian and, at times, a martinet. Currier resigned before he reached the front, and I might say here that he was a slacker and a coward, resigning on the eve of battle, that is to say, when marching forth to meet the enemy. The boys then elected Mr. Lucas captain of the company, which position he retained until the close of the war. There is one thing that I might say right here, and that is that he is proud of the fact that he did not have an enemy in his company, nor did he have any pets or special favorites in all their service; and to this day all are his close friends. Pretty good record, that!
On his return home he opened a little grocery store, and later on T. C. Aldrich became his partner. In the fall of 1865 he was elected county treasurer and served six years, and at the expiration of his term he purchased the Waverly Independent and became a newspaper man, which calling he followed until 1888. In the meantime he sold the Independent and in company with Will Tyrrell bought the Waverly Republican. In 1876 he sold his interest in the Republican to James Fletcher and bought the Mason City Republican, and kept that until 1883, when he sold it to Leo Chapman, who, later on, married Carrie Lane, who, after his death, married Mr. Catt. She is now the leader of the national female suffrage propaganda, taking the place of Susan B. Anthony. She was a Mason City girl, and is one of the brainiest women in the nation. I had the pleasure of meeting her on various occasions. To sum up, I think she is a splendid politician, and one that "gets there."
While editor of the Mason City paper, Mr. Lucas was elected chief clerk of the Iowa house in the legislature, serving two terms, the 17th and 18th assemblies. In 1880 he was elected auditor of state, to succeed Buren R. Sherman. At the close of one term, he declined to be a candidate for re-election, having decided to remove to South Dakota, at the time when the tide of immigration was flowing there in a tremendous stream. I had nearly forgotten to say that in 1875 he, with this writer, purchased the Shell Rock News. I was the resident member of the firm. After putting it on its feet, we sold it. After having established himself in Charles Mix county, Col. Lucas started the Castalia Republican, and subsequently gave it to his son Fred. He located at Chamberlain in the latter part of 1883, and in 1888 was elected county treasurer of Brule county. During his term the governor appointed him secretary and manager of the board to build the state soldiers' home at Hot Springs, which position he accepted, and for want of an acceptable commandant, when it was ready to be opened for service, he accepted the responsibility to start the enterprise, the result of which was he gave up the treasurer's office and remained with the home three years. In 1863 the republican state convention met at Madison on the east central side of the state, and because of a deadlock, he was nominated for congress. He was at the soldiers' home five hundred miles away by railroad, and was not thinking of going to congress, but it seems they pushed the right man to the right place. He was notified by wire and asked to accept, which he did, of course. He took the field and canvassed the state all over, and was elected over his opponent, who was a fusion candidate of the populists, the free silver party and the democrats. For a second term the fusionists defeated him, and returned to political, power. After his defeat he was called back to the soldiers' home for the third time, where he remained until his health gave away, in 1903. He then resigned and left for California, where he regained his health, and is now in better fettle than at any time for the past twenty-five years.
But the proudest thing the Colonel thinks of is being mayor of Mason City. When he went there in 1876, the town was a railroad center. Three division headquarters were located there and the town was over-run with saloons and disreputable places, so much so that the place had a very bad reputation abroad. He attacked these conditions in the Republican, and waged a vigorous war upon the liquor traffic without any sort of compromise. At the spring election he was forced to make the race for mayor. It was a red-hot campaign, full of thrills, and all sorts of means were used to break down the influence of the Republican. The strongest and most daring of the saloon element was Denny McMorrow, who operated the biggest and most popular billiard parlor in the town. Denny was sleepless in his efforts to counteract the Republican, and had one of the three papers openly in line for him, and the other slyly and covertly gouging the Colonel and his Republican. On a press day Denny sent a boy to the Republican office with an ad, couched in the most plausible language, and a check for fifty dollars, with the request that the ad be published two weeks in one-fourth column space. The boy was told to go back and say to Mr. McMorrow that there was no space for any new advertising in that issue. In a half hour Denny in person appeared in the office with his ad and his check, and demanded to know why he could not have space. He was then told that he did not have money enough to get his ad in the Republican, but for the Colonel's price he could buy the paper and publish what he liked in its pages. He stormed and roared until he was told to clear out of the office, which he did, and lively, too. At the election Col. Lucas was elected, with two dry aldermen and two wet. All the time it was a tie vote on the liquor question, and as the Colonel cast the deciding vote, they made the town bone-dry and suppressed bootlegging to a minimum, and to this day Mason City has remained dry, so far as open saloons are concerned, by putting bums and drunks on the stone pile. By their work, two blocks in the city were paved or macadamized, and my information is that the plan then adopted has been followed up so that the city is noted for its good streets to the present day. It was the trial of his life to go thru the fight, but by a lot of courage and the loyalty of two men they won out. Colonel Lucas, in talking over this matter at one time, said that he is prouder of his official life in Mason City than of any other one thing.
It may not be out of place to say something about the school affairs of Waverly. He was on the school board for six years and thru a hot fight to establish the ward system of schools. Squire Matthews and Jesse Leverich stood on one plan, while George R. Dean and Rev. A. T. Cole stood on the other, the latter advocating a centralized system of schools.
And now, as I remember it, President McKinley appointed the Colonel as registrar of the U. S. land office at Chamberlain, which he held two years, when he resigned to return to the soldiers' home at Hot Springs, as commandant.
Mr. Lucas has his permanent home in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he lives with his second wife, happy, in the midst of fruit of all kinds and a congenial climate, and surrounded by a mighty host of friends. He is in the practice of law, which practice extends to Washington, D. C. His son Briney is at New Meadows, Idaho, and among the many things he does there is to publish "The Eagle" and he does it well. Briney has two sons in the service: Parker, the elder, is in the aviation branch, a lieutenant, and Briney, Jr., is a petty officer on a warship. (Which reminds me that I have three nephews in the aviation branch of the service, and I shall look to them to do all my fighting.) Fred, the Colonel's youngest boy, lives at Bonesteel, in this state (South Dakota). He is one of the food, oil and gasoline inspectors, with headquarters at Yankton.
That William Vincent Lucas is a remarkable man cannot be questioned. I think that I know him thru and thru. I know that he is one of the most kindly and considerate men I have ever known. His deeds of charity have been many, but never advertised to the world. He has helped many a man who was "down and out" to become a permanent bread winner, a useful man and a good neighbor. It will be noticed that he has held many offices. In all of them he made good. As a statesman he ranks near the apex. As a newspaper man, none push a more trenchant quill than he. In all his editorial work, none ever found virulent criticism. As a soldier, no braver man than he ever drew a sword in defense of his country. As a citizen, he was and is of the best. No one in trouble ever appealed to him and went away empty-handed. He always favored improvements, a clean town and clean citizenship. He is a churchman, but not a bigot, and, all in all, as an all-around man in every walk of life he has few equals. By his sturdy manhood he has built for himself a monument that time will not efface. And all of his old friends who read this will wish this venerable old Bremer county pioneer, as he goes gently down the hill of life, all the good things that this world generally allots to a good and lovable man.
Last updated 4/14/15
|Return to Pioneer Life Table of Contents||Next|