Little Lucas, Iowa and the labor union leader it produced

December 14, 2017

On a recent Sunday afternoon, as I was driving back to West Des Moines from Chariton, I paused for a few minutes to wander around Lucas, Iowa.

 

Like Chariton, Lucas is in Lucas County and is about an hour south of Des Moines. It was founded as a mining town in 1868 and next year, it will be celebrating its sesquicentennial (150 years). Like a lot of small towns in Iowa, the economic vivaciousness is not what it once was - but there's still a lot to love and appreciate.

Interestingly enough, Lucas did produce a famous Iowan who, in his time, was a very well known labor union activist. John L. Lewis, throughout much of the 20th century, was one of the most recognizable figures in America and was a staunch ally of powerful individuals such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I would encourage you to read more about John L. Lewis online or check out the abridged version on this plaque pictured below, which is found in the town. Incidentally, he is buried in Springfield, Illinois in the same cemetery as Abraham Lincoln.

There is a museum about the life and work of Lewis on Main Street. From the looks of things, its only open certain times throughout the year and by appointment. I will have to stop back sometime when it's open or plan ahead and make an appointment. 

 

Many of the streets in Lucas, especially where the houses are located, are actually gravel.

However, the downtown area has paved roads and there are still several buildings, including a community center, church, post office, antiques store, and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the edge of town, near the plaque for John L. Lewis, there is a park and it is near some railroad tracks and water. There is another line of commercial buildings parallel to Highway 34 that were once a place of commerce (appears to be an abandoned bank building) but has seen better days. However, there is a newer building which houses the fire department.

 

 

 

Lucas is a quaint community and I look forward to stopping back sometime in the future. I definitely want to get through that museum and see what businesses might be open. 

 

If you have suggestions for future stops on an adventure in Lucas County or elsewhere, I would welcome your ideas. Please drop me a note.

 

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