Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Lucas Family, Part One

It's impossible to tell the story of 19th century baseball in St. Louis without an understanding of the Lucas family and their place in the city's history. The sons of James Lucas played an important roll in the development of St. Louis baseball across three decades and their position in St. Louis society, I believe, helped legitimize and popularize baseball among the elite of the city. While I could probably write five thousand words on the family and their involvement in baseball, what I want to do here is lay out a quick genealogy of the family and some brief notes of interest. If you're interested in more information about the Lucas family, I'd recommend James Neal Primm's Lion of the Valley and Howard Conrad's The Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis.

I'll begin by quoting Conrad. Jean Baptiste Charles Lucas was the "founder of a family which has been among the first in St. Louis for nearly a century..." He was "born August 14, 1758, in the ancient town of Pont-Auderner, Normandy, France, and died in St. Louis, August 18, 1840." The first J.B.C. Lucas is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. At the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, Lucas moved to the United States in 1784, with his wife, Anne Sebin, and settled near Pittsburgh. Conrad writes that Lucas, a man of "very superior attainments and active temperament," was "elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1795, and in 1801 President Jefferson sent him west on a confidential mission, the object being to ascertain the temper of the French and Spanish residents of Louisiana. In 1803 he was a member of Congress from Pennsylvania, and after the cession of Louisiana to the United States he was at once appointed by President Jefferson commissioner of land claims and judge of the Louisiana Territorial Court. In 1805 he removed his family to St. Louis...At the same time he began investing his means in lands and lots in St. Louis and adjacent thereto, and thus laid the foundation of a splendid family fortune. He was in all things a leader during the years of his residence in St. Louis, and helped to lay not only the foundation of the city, but the foundation also of the commonwealth of Missouri. He died full of years and honor, and left a vast estate to his son, James H. Lucas, and his daughter Anne L. Hunt."

The children of J.B.C. Lucas and Anne Sebin, besides James and Anne, included Robert Lucas, who was born in 1788, educated at West Point and died in 1813; Charles, who was born in 1792, was prominent in St. Louis politics and killed in a duel with Thomas Hart Benton in 1817; Adrian, who was born 1794, was a planter and drowned while crossing an icy lake in 1804; and William, who was born in 1798 and died in 1837.

James H. Lucas, according to Conrad, "the fourth son of J.B.C. Lucas, was born near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, November 12, 1800, and died in St. Louis, November 12, 1873." Like his father, he's buried in Calvary Cemetery. "He first attended St. Thomas College, in the State of Kentucky, at which institution he had for schoolmates, among others, Jefferson Davis...Afterward he attended Jefferson College of Pennsylvania, and then studied law at Hudson, New York." He settled for a time in Arkansas, where he taught school and practiced law and, in 1832, married Mary Emilie Des Ruisseau (or, as Conrad spells it, Desruisseaux). After the death of his last surviving brother, William, in 1837, Lucas returned to St. Louis where he was placed in charge of his father's estate. "To the care, conservation and development of this property he devoted the remaining years of his life, and he was also identified with many public enterprises. He was among the original subscribers toward the building of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, in which he took $100,000 worth of stock, and he was the second president of that company...He was the first president and organizer of the St. Louis Gas Company; was also a director in the Boatmen's Savings Institution, and was interested as a stockholder and director in many other financial enterprises. He was a member of the banking firm of Lucas, Symonds & Co., of St. Louis...His large holdings of real estate in St. Louis were improved during his lifetime to a great extent, and in 1872, previous to his making a division of his property, he was the owner of two hundred and twenty-five dwellings and stores."

Anne Lucas Hunt was the only daughter of J.B.C. Lucas. She was born in 1796 and died in 1879. Her first husband was Captain Theodore Hunt, a United States naval officer who died in 1832. In 1836, she married Wilson P. Hunt, the cousin of Theodore Hunt, who died in 1842. After the death of her second husband, she spent the remainder of her life managing the estate she inherited from her father and in various charitable organizations. I mention her because there is a road in St. Louis named Lucas and Hunt, which is named after her and her family.

Tomorrow, I'll cover the children of James Lucas but I'd like to point out one thing. The Lucas family was the wealthiest family in St. Louis. They were probably the largest landowners in St. Louis, with the Chouteau/Laclede family being their only real competition, and were involved in most of the largest businesses in the city. Their name and influence is all over the city, if you know where and what you're looking at. Besides Lucas and Hunt Road, there's a neighborhood and a park named after the family. Most of the prime real estate in downtown St. Louis was owned at one time by the Lucas family. The Old Courthouse, pictured above, sits on land donated to the city by the Lucas family. That's a nice piece of real estate, isn't it? And the family gave it away. That's how wealthy they were.

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