Edward Randolph Lucas
Randolph "Old Ran" Lucas Tribe
The following information taken from: "Historical Collections of Virginia" author Henry Howe. This collection contains the most interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes relating to its history and antiquities, together with geographical and statistical descriptions. To which is appended a historical and descriptive sketch of Virginia and surrounding Virginia. Printed by "Babcock & Co., 1845.
"The following account of the "Lucas Family" was written by a gentleman of Christianburg, and published in the Richmond Complier in the summer of 1842. It shows in this family a depth of depravity rarely equaled:
The scenes of the lives and depredations of this notorious family is in Giles County, VA, on Doe Creek, a small branch of New River which heads in the celebrated salt pond mountain, and from its obscurity and loneliness, and the character of its inhabitants, has always been avoided by civilized man.
The father, Randolph "Old Ran" Lucas is now about 93 years of age, and is, no doubt, a hoary-headed old villain, although he has, during a long life, been adroit enough to commit no crime of which the law could take cognizance. I will give one trait in the character of this old sinner, which will suffice to show what kind of man he is. On the recent trail of his son David "Dave", when his life was in jeopardy, "Old Ran", on being asked what was the character of his son David, responded that he believed "Dave" would kill any man for twenty-five cents."
The first in this family of blood, perhaps unparalleled in civil society, was the first son of "Old Ran", as he is universally called, (His name was Randolph; but I presume he has never seen or heard of the baptismal fountain). Well, this first born of "Old Ran", named Jeremiah "Jerry", as long ago as the late war (1812), became criminally connected with a man's wife, who was in the service of his country as a military man at Norfolk. In a week after the man returned home, "Jerry Lucas" at the earnest solicitation of the fiendish woman, under pretense of friendship, invited him home from muster with him. He was afterwards found murdered, behind a log, with about two hundred weight of stone upon his body. Lucas confessed that the evening they had left the muster ground he beat his victim over the head with a club until he was dead, and went to his house and stayed all night with the man's wife. To make assurance doubly sure, he returned in the morning to see if the man was dead. He found him sitting, leaning against a tree, and covered with gore. The poor fellow begged for his life, told Lucas to take his wife, and he would leave the country as soon as he was able, and would never say anything about what he had done to him. The savage Lucas as inexorable, murdered, and concealed him. "Old Ran", his father, sat under the gallows when he was hanging, and amused himself by eating gingerbread. "Jerry's" paramour (the woman) escaped punishment for want of testimony.
"Dave", the second son of "Old Ran", the most notorious of these villains, commenced is career of crime about 1820, at the age of 19, by stealing a horse, for which he was sentenced to the penitentiary for five years, during which time he escaped, in company with another convict, to his home, was retaken, and served out his time. Not long after his return home, he robbed a small peddler of his wares, for which he was again sentenced to the penitentiary for three years. At the time of his last conviction, a cousin of Dave's, a lad of sixteen or seventeen years of age, was convicted of some crime and was also sent to the penitentiary for three years. They were discharged at the same time, and left the penitentiary together. The boy has never been heard of since; and Lucas, in some of his drunken frolics, boasted that as they came on home, he killed the boy and threw his body into the river. He told the boy's father, that when he ran his knife into him, he bawled like a calf. So it seems he murdered the boy for the wretched pittance given him on leaving the penitentiary to defray his expenses home.
On the night "Dave" returned last from the penitentiary, a large stack-yard, and a barn full of grain, were burnt in his neighborhood, belonging to the witness on behalf of the commonwealth in his several convictions, which he subsequently admitted were set on fire by him. "Dave's next exploit was at a militia-muster, in September, 1841. In a quarrel and fight with his sister's son, he killed him with one blow. He was acquitted on trial, owing to some extenuating circumstances. Since his recent confinement, he has admitted he ought to have been punished for this murder, as he had, at the time he struck the blow, a pound of lead concealed in his hand.
The next crime of which "Dave" is accused, is founded on the following strong circumstances: Some years ago, a man who had been up north with a drove of cattle, merely as a driver, was returning home through Dave's neighborhood, on foot. Shortly after he passed, Lucas was seen to follow him with a rifle, and in a few minutes a report of a gun was heard in that direction. Dave returned with blood on his clothes, and there was seen on the same day, a large quantity of blood in the road. But, as the driver was an entire stranger, no investigation was had. Very recently a man's dog, in the vicinity, came to his master with a human skull in his mouth.
Dave's last crime, and for which the world has been freed from the monster, was the murder of John Poff, a poor laborer, who had been working at the Kanawha salt-works a few months, and who, with the proceeds of his labor in his wallet, was traveling alone, and on foot, to his family and home in Floyd County, VA. Dave fell in with him in the day, and invited him to go home with him, saying he could entertain him as well as anyone. Poor Poff consented, and met his fate. Dave killed him within 200 yards of his residence, and so obscure is the place, that he lay nearly a week above ground without discovery; and what was certainly a strange infatuation, apparently no pains or care was taken to conceal the foul deed. He was tried, and found guilty by the jury in fifteen minutes from their retirement from the courtroom. There were 17 witnesses on the part of the commonwealth. The criminal had no witnesses, and refused to employ counsel. The court assigned him counsel, but his case was so plain and flagrant that the counsel submitted it to the jury without argument. He was sentenced, and hung, at Giles Court House, Friday, June 24, 1842. The wretched man died as he had lived, without any outward signs of compunction. He made no particular confession when under the gallows; on the contrary, swore when in this awful situation, in answer to something said by one of the attending clergy; and finally, while the sheriff was adjusting the rope around his neck, attempted to bite his ear. He met death with such a demonic grin, that among the many thousands present not one tear of sorrow or sympathetic feeling was manifested.
The next on the list in this family of criminals is John Lucas, "Old Ran's" third son. He also killed his man, and his full cousin too; for it seems they are like old Cain, their hands appear to be raised against their own kin. John and his cousin engaged in a fight, caused by the cousin tauntingly saying "Your brother Dave is in the penitentiary", which so enraged John that he struck him a blow with his heavy rifle, with so much force as to cleave his skull to the very teeth, breaking stock and barrel off in the middle, and causing instant death. Dave being, in part, cause of this quarrel and its disastrous consequences to John, perhaps accounts for the recklessness of his behavior on hearing of Dave's final fate, and may have been strong in his mind when he made the observation, "that it would have been to the credit of the family if Dave had been hung many years ago."
John was tried for his life (*served 9 years); but as the murder occurred, on the part of the murdered man, under aggravating circumstances, John was sent to the penitentiary. He is a very good facsimile of the Lucas Clan. They are truly a savage looking race. There are yet two brothers, younger than those already mentioned, who have not yet rendered themselves so conspicuous in the annals of crime. What their fate will be time only can tell. They promise fair to be genuine chips off the old block, and although young, are already the terror of the neighborhood. "Old Ran" has also daughters, for these ill weeds are very prolific; but they are worse than the sons-save mold, and thereby hangs another tale. But it is not a tale to be told among Christians, and we pass it over.
Published in the "Richmond Compiler" in the summer of 1842!