Illustrated Atlas Map of Menard County, Illinois 1874|
Published by W.R. Brink & Co., of Illinois
Among the names of those men whose bone, muscle, and brain have made Menard County what it to-day is, -the garden of Illinois, -none is more prominent than that of the subject of this sketch.
Gregory Lukins is the third son and sixth child of Peter and Ann (Rector) Lukins, and was born in Fleming County, Kentucky, May 11, 1811. In regard to his paternal ancestry, he is of Germano-Hollandic descent. Peter Lukins, his grandfather, was a native of Germany, and came to England during the reign of George III., and while in the prime of life emigrated to America, in a colony under William Penn, and settled at Trenton, New Jersey, prior to the Revolutionary war. At the beginning of the war, although Quakers, he and three brave sons took their lives in their hands and joined the patriot army, under General Washington, serving during the entire war, and escaping unharmed, though they were engaged in many of the hardest battles that marked the Revolution. His family occupied a house on the field of Trenton, in which he and three sons were engaged, and Peter, the father of Gregory Lukins, then a lad of thirteen or fourteen years, while witnessing the battle, received a very severe saber-cut across the head, at the hands of an English officer, who had often partaken of the hospitality of the Lukins family. But that cut was his last, for the next instant he fell from his horse, pierced by many balls. Mr. Lukins carried the mark of his saber to his grave. General Washington, for a considerable time, made Mr. Lukins's house his headquarters; and many a night did the father of Gregory Lukins spend at the camp-fires of his body-guard, -the famous "Yellow Jackets." Mr. Lukins's maternal ancestry is of Celto-Hollandic extraction, and came to the United States and settled in Fauquier County, Virginia, while it was a colony of Great Britain. From this family has arisen some eminent men, among whom is General Rector, of the recent war, a cousin of Mr. Lukins, as is also Ex-President James Buchanan, with whom Mr. Lukins was intimately acquainted.
Peter, the father of Gregory Lukins, was born at Trenton, New Jersey, about the year 1763, where he passed his childhood and youth. He afterward went to Philadelphia, where his relatives still reside. Soon after Ohio became a State he came to Ross County, near the present site of Chillicothe, and settled; but his family all getting sick, he moved to Fleming County, Kentucky, where he resided till his death. Here his wife died, also at the advanced age of eighty-four years. And here Gregory Lukins, the subject of this biography, was born, and here he resided till September, 1831, when he came to Menard County, Illinois, then a part of Sangamon, and, with his brother, Peter Lukins, rented the farm now owned by James Miles, near Petersburg, but long before the town sprang into existence. Peter Lukins, after whom the town was named, purchased, at $1.25 per acre, all of the present site of Petersburg; and many a magnificent crop of corn and wheat did the strong and sturdy Greg plant, cultivate, and harvest from it, little dreaming of the scenes that would there be enacted, -the firm business blocks, the temples of worship, the beautiful homes, the wealth and beauty of the inhabitants, the busy multitudes that would throng the streets of the future city.
He hewed the timbers and rived the clapboards to construct the first house ever built in Petersburg, which probably is sill to be seen there. In 1832, at Old Salem, Mr. Lukins first saw and became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln; and for many years did he work, eat, and sleep with the youthful Abe; and during that time the warmest friendship, an almost fraternal intimacy, sprang up between them, which was never interrupted till the death of Lincoln. In 1834 Mr. Lukins was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Ritter, by whom he had two children, both sons, who are still living in Menard County. On the 10th of August, 1855, Mr. Lukins sustained the greatest bereavement of his life in the death of his wife, who, for almost a quarter of a century, had endured with him all the toils and hardships of pioneer life. About a year after the death of his wife he was again married to his present wife, Jane Scott, a very excellent and hospitable lady, by whom he had three children, one son and two daughters. After various speculations in land, in which he was very successful, Mr. Lukins, about 1850, removed from Petersburg to Sugar Grove, where he bought and improved 270 acres of as fine land as the sun shines upon. Since coming to Illinois Mr. Lukins has been extensively engaged in farming, fruit and stock raising, and shipping, in which he has been very successful. In social life Mr. Lukins is characterized by frankness, good humor, and affability. He has a liberal, generous nature, and dispenses the honors of his board with genuine Kentuckian hospitality. He is a warm friend, a generous neighbor, and an excellent citizen. When Mr. Lukins came to Illinois, in 1831, his entire stock in trade consisted of an Indian pony, on which he rode, and a solitary quarter of a dollar; but by a long and systematic course of nice economy, steady industry, enterprise, and rare good judgment and business tact, he has amassed a handsome fortune. He is a perfect specimen of a self-made man, and is a gentleman whose character has never been tainted by the slightest breath of dishonor. No one can justly charge him with a mean or dishonorable act. In his dealings with his fellow-men, he is above reproach.