Chapter 1: Peace and Tragedy in the Home Town -- September 1864 - October 1885


In August 1864, Thomas Lucas completed his three years of service in the First Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War, came back home and settled down in Rice's Landing, Pennsylvania with his wife Letty and their daughters Milly and Libby, who were 4 and 2 years old. Rice's Landing is near Carmichaels, where Thomas and Letty had grown up (see maps on pages xvi, xvii and 253-255). Of Thomas's two brothers who also survived the war, Jonas was still in a Confederate prison and Charles, who had returned home several years earlier on disability, worked at his store in Buena Vista, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Before the war, Charles had encouraged Thomas to borrow money from their father and open up his own store in Carmichaels, and the letters imply that Thomas did indeed retail food and other goods for a time, but it's not known whether he continued this when he returned home from the war. He was a postmaster for a while and later owned and operated a planing mill (see map on page 255). He was also very active in his church and helped establish the first Methodist church in Rice's Landing. [obituary]

Several months after Thomas came home, his father Swan Lucas left Carmichaels and moved west to Iowa with his wife Catharine and his five youngest children. The oldest to go with him was 20-year-old "Sade" (Thomas's sister Sarah) and the youngest, Ben, was 10. Another daughter, 22-year-old Susannah, stayed in Pennsylvania and was married several weeks after Swan left [Kemp, 1964].

In June 1865, when the war was finally over and Jonas was released, he was so weak and debilitated from his prison ordeal that he had to be carried off the boat when he reached Rice's Landing. He was confined to bed a good deal of the time but managed to work in Charles's store. After a few years, in May 1867, he followed his father to Iowa.

Thomas and Letty, meanwhile, settled down and raised their family. During the next ten years, they had 4 more daughters and then their first son, Charles, was born in March 1874. The mill where Thomas worked was not far from their home, and apparently the children played nearby -- the following stories are from Kate Rose Kirkhuff, daughter of Thomas's daughter Lucy:

        Grandfather [Thomas Lucas] worked as book keeper for a saw mill that had an office at the east side of Rice's Landing along the river bank. A car track came from the top of the hill down to the water's edge and also along the bank of the river with a cut off at the river bank. This was used to bring lumber or anything down from the top of the hill to load onto barges or river boats. One day grandpa had a premonition something was wrong. He went outside and saw that car coming down the hill with his youngest children in it (I don't remember which ones). He was able to get to the cut-off and turn the car onto the bank track. Otherwise it would have gone into the Monongahela River.
        One day grandmother [Letty] sent Mama [Lucy] to call Grandpa to dinner. She told him, then started back to the house. On the way was a swing for the children. She wasn't quite big enough to get in by herself so she wrapped the rope around her neck and swung out over the hill. A few minutes later Grandpa found her black in the face. Mama and Aunt Lulu seem to have been the black sheep of the family. They were always into some kind of trouble. Mama went to the barbershop one time and had her hair all cut off short like a boy's when short hair for a girl was absolute disgrace [her hair is very short in her photographs as an adult].
        The family used to cross Pumpkin Run on a foot bridge [see Pumpkin Run on the map on page 253]. One time Uncle Stub [Thomas's son Charles] fell off and Aunt Emma fished him out. He had . long yellow curls and when he came up to the top of the water Aunt Emma grabbed the curls and pulled him out.

Tragedy struck in May 1876, when Letty died after giving birth to their second son. Their infant Tommy died a few months later. After Letty died, some of their children went to live with relatives (6-year-old Anna stayed with her namesake, Anne Swan, according to Kemp [1964], and Emma stayed with her 58-year-old maiden Aunt Cass Emery (sister of Thomas's mother) according to her letter of November 27, 1944; Milly and Libby took care of the other children. Kate's stories about the Lucas family continue:

        After grandmother died, the older girls, Millie & Lib, had lots to do and Grandpa helped them all he could. On Sat. nights during warm weather he took the younger ones to Pumpkin Run and soused them up and down in the water for their Sat. nights bath. On Sundays he took them all to Sunday school. One night he took them all to church and on starting home forgot to count them. When he got home Mama was missing. He started back after her and met some one bringing her home.
        He used to go up or down (which do you say?) the river to Pittsburgh after necessities once in a while and brought back toys or pretty dishes. Pittsburgh has always been noted for its pretty glassware. On one of these trips he brought dolls for Mama and Aunt Annie. I have one of the dolls yet. Her name is Ann Swan, so Aunt Millie told me. She remembered all about it. I have grandfather's little album too with family pictures in it and also some of his comrades. Lettie [Bayard, Millie's daughter] gave it to me.
        One other story. I heard Grandpa tell this. He was in Hewitts grocery store one day when a man came in and asked for some onions. The clerk did not know what he meant and some one standing by said, "It's ‘angons' the darn fool wants."
        That's about all I remember right now.

During this time, Thomas was elected County Commissioner, and his duties sometimes kept him away from home. After several years as a widower, Thomas married Ruth Martin, and they had one son, Thomas Martin Lucas, born October 5, 1880. Within a year, Thomas's two oldest daughters, Millie and Libby, were married and starting families of their own, and their sister Lulu stayed with one of them (it's uncertain which one).

In the fall of 1885, when his youngest son was five years old, Thomas Lucas moved his family west to Nebraska to homestead and farm.

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