"The union miner cannot agree to the acceptance of a wage principle which will permit his annual earnings and his living standards to be determined by the hungriest unfortunates whom the non-union operators can employ."- John L. Lewis
(Asked about the number of communists and other radicals he had hired as organizers for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee) "Who gets the bird, the hunter or the dog?"- John L. Lewis
The Birth of Lucas, Iowa
Lucas was named for Iowa's Territorial Governor, Robert Lucas.
Lucas Station was platted in 1867, as the Burlington Missouri Railroad was constructed across southern Iowa, and incorporated in 1868. This was the same year that the post office was moved to Lucas from a stagecoach stop two miles northeast of the new settlement. The original town was three by four blocks in size, with the present Division Street as the east boundary and the railroad depot on Front Street as the prominent feature.
Copyright 2009 John L. Lewis Commision Inc.. All Rights Reserved.
The town boomed after the first of the coal mines was sunk just a mile east of town in 1878. It was known as Cleveland #1 or the Whitebreast Coal & Fuel Co. #1. The coal camp of Cleveland grew up around the mines, flourishing until 1891 when the three large mines in that area closed. In the meantime, the coal fields had been developed in and near Lucas where two large mines were within the city limits.
Visitors have been known to experience problems in locating addresses in Lucas. The additions of the town differ as to width of streets and alleys and size of lots, according to the whims of each developer. One result has been that the east-west streets of West Lucas join the east-west alleys of East Lucas!
A hundred years ago, Lucas was a large, self-sufficient community, but with the loss of the coal mining industry, it soon declined. The last coal mine to be closed was the Iowa-Nebraska Mine in 1923. It was located in what is now the Lucas Unit of the Stephens State Forest just southwest of Lucas.
The first electric light bulb to be used in the state was in a coal mining office in Lucas. Lucas resident George Bennard was inspired to write the now famous hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" after attending a revival meeting in town. The first woman postmaster in the state of Iowa was Lucas' postmaster Ida McCauley. She served from 1936-60. John L. Lewis, famous international labor leader, was born February 12, 1880 in the mining camp of Cleveland just east of Lucas.
The highest population was 3450 with 2000 of those being miners. It is believed to have been higher in 1890 before the Cleveland mines closed. Though there are no working coal mines left, the mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks through town with hundreds of cars loaded with coal. Today it is a small town, population of 250, with a colorful past and a growing business district with good community spirit.