MAY 4, 1800 - AUGUST 17, 1875

John Reynolds Lucas was born at St. John’s River, New Brunswick on May 4, 1800. In 1807, the family moved to a farm on Lake Ontario in Upper Canada near modern-day Burlington. John’s mother Phoebe died when he was young, so his older sister Rebecca took care of the house. John’s older brothers and his father Clement fought in the War of 1812, beginning a military tradition for the Lucas family that John would continue. The war also brought British soldiers to his community, which sometimes caused tension with the locals. One day, a few British soldiers stole some of Clement’s leather from a tanning vat. John followed after them and took back his father’s leather from their boat when they weren’t looking. Once the soldier returned to their boat and pushed out, John emerged to taunt and pelt them with stones. He was quite fond of recounting this story to his children later in life.

In 1823 John married Elizabeth Young, the daughter of German-American immigrants who lived on a neighbouring farm. The young couple moved to Grimsby, where they rented a farm and began to save up to purchase land of their own. At some point in the 1820s, the Lucas’ purchased a farm in Nelson Township, Halton County, right by Appleby which is now a part of Burlington. John built the log house himself and began clearing the land. He also tapped the rich maples on their property, and the children fondly recalled the abundance of molasses at their table. John and Elizabeth were blessed with a large and healthy family; eight boys and two girls were born to them.

The Lucas’ were captivated by the words of the itinerant preachers who travelled from place to place in those days. In 1829, they became devoted Methodists, and followed that creed for the rest of their lives. On the corner of his farm, John Lucas built a schoolhouse and organized the first Sunday School service in their neighbourhood. Influenced by his Methodist beliefs, John became a lifelong teetotaler, long before temperance advocacy reached the fever pitch it would later in the century. He would politely refuse whiskey when offered to him, even at neighbourhood bees where heavy drinking was common and declining to partake was often considered offensive. As did the leadership of his church, John Lucas remained a loyal British subject. He was appointed captain of the Nelson militia during the 1837 Rebellion, a position which gave him great pride. Every year thereafter he and his company would hold a reunion in uniform on the 24th of May, Queen Victoria’s Birthday (or what we now call simply Victoria Day).

The success of the Lucas farm allowed them to provide for many of their ten children. In 1856, he purchased a 100-acre farm on Lot 6, Concession 2 of Nelson Township which he sold to his son William and his wife in 1859. The house on that property still stands today as the ‘Lucas House’ at Country Heritage Park, outside of Milton, Ontario. In 1865, Elizabeth Lucas passed away. Their daughter Eliza took care of the house for her father until she was married; then the house was sold to her husband and John stayed with them for the rest of his days. On August 17, 1875, John Lucas told his children he was “going to be home with mother,” and passed away.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture