Lusk, Robert Orville (1812–1875)

By: Michaelene "Miki" Lusk Norton

Type: Biography

Published: April 14, 2021

Updated: April 15, 2021


Robert Orville Lusk, veteran of the Texas Revolution, militiaman, farmer, land agent, and early settler of Leon County, was the son of George Vance Lusk and Elizabeth Harper (Lacey) Lusk. His parents were married in Livingston County, Kentucky, in 1801, and their son Robert was born in Kentucky in 1812. Robert’s grandfathers had fought with distinction in the American Revolution, and his father fought in the War of 1812, serving in Kentucky. The Lusk family probably moved from Kentucky to Alabama about 1817, when Robert was approximately five years old. His younger sister Eloise was born in Pickens County, Alabama, in 1817. According to the 1820 census in Monroe, Mississippi, and 1830 census in neighboring Pickens County, Alabama, this Lusk family and their Lacey relatives, who had also removed from Kentucky, were farmers.

Robert Lusk, at about the age of twenty-one, immigrated to Texas in 1833 and settled in San Augustine. There he married Mary A. Haley, the daughter of Richard R. Haley, in 1833. In the municipality of San Augustine on August 30, 1835, Robert O. Lusk pledged that he was a man of a family consisting of two, of good moral habits, industry, a good citizen, and friendly to the laws and religion of the country of Mexico. He received his character certificate validated by Commissioner Nathan Davis for the state of Coahuila y Texas. On a separate Spanish document on the same day, R.O. Lusk petitioned for one league and one labor of land to which he was entitled from the Mexican government as a family of two. Neither Robert O. Lusk nor his father George, who arrived in San Augustine in 1834, received the free league and labor from the Mexican government. The Texas Revolution interrupted their petitions.

During the Texas Revolution, Robert O. Lusk fought in the Grass Fight on November 26, 1835, and in the siege of Bexar in December 1835. He was an orderly sergeant in Capt. John M. Bradley’s company from the Tenehaw District and began service on October 17, 1835, with honorable discharge on January 1, 1836. His father-in-law Richard Haley was the first lieutenant.  After the Texian occupation of San Antonio seemed secure, the men from San Augustine and Tenehaw District (which became Shelby County) returned home.

In 1836 Lusk re-enlisted to be part of the San Augustine volunteers of the Republic of Texas Militia; he served from April 19 to July 21, 1836, again under Capt. John. M. Bradley. His brother-in-law Joshua S. Lacey also enlisted. In the new Republic of Texas government, Lusk’s father, George, was elected and sworn in as chief justice of Shelby County (1836–39). Robert O. Lusk served as deputy clerk in the Shelby County court from approximately 1837 to 1839.

When called to protect Texas again, R. O. Lusk volunteered a third time. In May 1838 the Texas Congress voted to create a “Corps of Regular Cavalry” for the protection of the southwestern frontier. Between June 28 and August 10, 1839, Willis H. Landrum was commander of the Third Regiment, Third Militia Brigade, while Robert O. Lusk was quartermaster. During Maj, Gen. Thomas Rusk’s expedition into Cherokee Nation, Capt. George W. Hooper’s Mounted Volunteers served from August 9–27, 1838. Lusk and several members of the Haley family served. On October 10, 1838, B. G. Adams petitioned for Lusk’s provisions of seventy-eight dollars for his horse in the August campaign against the Cherokee Indians

In the 1840 Texas census, R. O. Lusk paid one poll tax and listed 1,300 acres surveyed and  waiting for title; he declared one slave and one wooden clock. With the feud known as the Regulator-Moderator War that played out in Shelby County during the early 1840s, Robert Lusk and his family moved to the heavily-forested French settlement on Spring Creek and Willow Creek in northern Harris County. There R. O. Lusk operated a sawmill. By 1844 Robert Lusk and his father’s family and others lived in Leon County, where he operated a mill on Clapps Creek, which flowed into the Trinity River. R. O. Lusk also owned a large plantation where he raised stock. The Lusks spent their lives in the communities of Clapps Creek, Beaver Dam, Guy’s Store, Buffalo, Jewitt, and Centreville.

The 1850 census for Leon County listed Robert O. Lusk as a farmer, age thirty-eight. He owned forty acres of improved land and 960 acres of unimproved land. The cash value of his farm was $1,000, along with $175 value of machinery and farming equipment. Total land value was listed at $15,000. The census record listed his wife Mary, age thirty, and four children. Lusk’s father, George, by then a widower, lived with them.

The 1860 census on Clapps Creek listed Lusk (a farmer) and his wife, Mary, and seven children, ages nineteen to three years old—P. L. (Pulaski Lacey), Mary J. (Jennie Mary), George, E. H. (Elizabeth), Texana, Robert, and Charles. (An eighth child, Leon, died in infancy in 1853.) A mechanic and an overseer were also listed in the household. Lusk’s real estate was valued at $30,000, and his personal estate was valued at $19,706. He owned several enslaved families with members ranging in age from one to sixty-three years. Lusk later sold his plantation to attorney Robert F. Lacey.

In the 1870 census Robert, Mary, and their family lived on Clapps Creek, where Lusk Mill, a steam sawmill located ten miles from Centreville, advertised pine lumber. The older sons were farmers and stock raisers, while the younger children attended school. Beginning in 1870 Robert Lusk received his $250 yearly pension as a veteran of the Texas Revolution. During his life he received land from the Republic of Texas as well as acreage for his military service. He sold all his land certificates, which totaled 5,565 acres, then purchased land in other counties. Patents received by Lusk are outlined on the 1847 and 1880 Shelby County maps.

Although he was affectionately called “Colonel Lusk,” it was not an earned military title. He was a surveyor in Leon, Waller, and Grimes counties. The letterhead on extant stationery from 1874 lists “R. O. LUSK, 40 Years’ Residence in Texas, General Land Agent, Jewett, Texas.”  He donated three acres of land on Clapps Creek to the New Salem Baptist Church, which later enabled the expansion of New Salem Cemetery.

Robert Orville Lusk died in 1875. He was buried at the St. Charles Cemetery located in Gordon Sullivan pasture near Clapps Creek, 4.5 miles from the Guy’s Store Community. His wife died the same year.

Houston Post, October 27, 1914. Leon County Historical Book Survey Committee, History of Leon County (Dallas: Curtis Media, 1986). Leon County News, September 14, 1983. Stephen L. Moore, Savage Frontier, Volume II, 1838–1939: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2006). Gifford E. White, ed., The 1840 Census of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Pemberton, 1966). Gifford E. White, Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas (1985).

Categories:

  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Plantation Owners
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Pioneers

Time Periods:

  • Mexican Texas
  • Texas Revolution
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction

Places:

  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Michaelene "Miki" Lusk Norton, “Lusk, Robert Orville,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/lusk-robert-orville.

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April 14, 2021
April 15, 2021

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