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November 9, 2022 Lucas, Kansas

North Platte, Nebraska

November 11, 2022

Below is a map of the last part of my drive on November 9th. It stands out to me as one of the loneliest drives of my trip. Not because of the emptiness, although there is an awful lot of that. Because of the sights that make you realize this once probably busy area is losing its communities. Lucas, Luray, Waldo, Paradise, Plainville -- I found it hard to see how they are slowly vanishing. Not physically -- the buildings, houses and schools are still there although many decades past needing repair. It is the life and spirit that filled those physical assets that is evaporating. I am trying hard not to speak poorly of the people that still live there; I'm sure they are great people. At some point supporting what I think of as a town is not possible with so few people. Schools close or get consolidated; businesses close because there aren't enough customers. It is devastating to see.

I used to say if someone is unemployed and can't find work, that they ought to move. I feel awful for being so superficial. In many cases, these folks don't have the means to move. No one wants to buy their house; for older people, this is home.

I'm reminded of the scene in "It's A Wonderful Life" when George tells Sam that he ought to open up his factory in Bedford Falls because half the town was put out of work. Lucas does have a manufacturing plant. But companies want to build their facilities near transportation hubs. Babble, babble. I wish I could help.

From Plainville, I turned north on US 183. I wonder if I had continued west past Plainville if I might have come to the edge of the earth, as it is so empty out there. Maybe Kyrie Irving is right.

I need to hand it to Lucas though. There is an art community there. It is not even a poor man's Marfa, but it is something.

Lucas is a city in Russell County, Kansas. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 332.


Lucas was established as the community of Blue Stem in 1877. It was renamed Lucas in 1887 after Lucas Place in St. Louis, Missouri.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Lucas has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 393 people, 192 households, and 108 families residing in the city. The population density was 786 people per square mile (303.5/km2). There were 257 housing units at an average density of 514 per square mile (183.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.7% White, 0.8% Asian, 0.3% American Indian, 0.8% from some other race, and 0.5% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race were 1.5% of the population.

There were 192 households, of which 22.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.9% were married couples living together, 2.1% had a male householder with no wife present, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% were non-families. 42.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 20.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.05, and the average family size was 2.79.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 21.1% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 17.3% from 25 to 44, 29.8% from 45 to 64, and 26.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.4 males age 18 and over.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,368, and the median income for a family was $45,156. Males had a median income of $31,250 versus $23,333 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,025. 6.7% of families and 14.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.4% of those under age 18 and 16.3% of those age 65 or over.


As of 2012, 56.7% of the population over the age of 16 was in the labor force. 0.0% was in the armed forces, and 56.7% was in the civilian labor force with 55.6% being employed and 1.2% unemployed. The composition, by occupation, of the employed civilian labor force was: 33.2% in sales and office occupations; 21.7% in management, business, science, and arts; 21.3% in production, transportation, and material moving; 13.6% in natural resources, construction, and maintenance; and 10.2% in service occupations. The three industries employing the largest percentages of the working civilian labor force were: educational services, and health care and social assistance (25.1%); manufacturing (21.3%); and retail trade (20.4%).

The cost of living in Lucas is relatively low; compared to a U.S. average of 100, the cost of living index for the community is 78.8. As of 2012, the median home value in the city was $56,000, the median selected monthly owner cost was $846 for housing units with a mortgage and $343 for those without, and the median gross rent was $419.


Lucas is a city of the third class with a mayor-council form of government. The city council consists of five members, and it meets on the second Tuesday of each month.

Lucas lies within Kansas's 1st U.S. Congressional District. For the purposes of representation in the Kansas Legislature, the city is located in the 36th district of the Kansas Senate and the 109th district of the Kansas House of Representatives.


The community is served by Sylvan–Lucas USD 299 public school district. Prior to 2010, it was served by Russell County USD 407.

Lucas High School served the community until 1977. Lucas and Luray schools then united forming Lucas-Luray schools. In 2010, Lucas-Luray was united with Sylvan Unified schools to form Sylvan-Lucas Unified. The district operates one school in the city: Lucas-Sylvan Unified Elementary School (Grades K-6). Local students in Grades 7-12 attend school in Sylvan Grove.

The Lucas High School mascot was Lucas Demons. Lucas-Luray High School mascot was Lucas-Luray Cougars. Sylvan-Lucas is the Mustangs.



K-18, an east-west route, approaches Lucas from the west, then turns southeast along the eastern side of the city. K-232, also known as the Post Rock Scenic Byway, a north-south route, terminates at its junction with K-18 southeast of the city.

Lucas Airport is located immediately east of the city. Publicly owned, it has one 2900' asphalt runway and is used for general aviation.


The City of Lucas provides electricity to local residents. Wilson Telephone provides landline telephone service and offers cable television and internet access. Most residents use natural gas for heating fuel; service is provided by Kansas Gas Service.



Each year on the Saturday before Labor Day weekend, the city holds its annual community celebration, the Adams Apple Festival. It includes an art show, a fun run, Scottish Highland Games, contests, and other entertainment. Other annual events include the Spook Parade, a children's costume contest held the Saturday before Halloween, and Santa Claus Day, held the Saturday before Christmas.

Since 1949, Lucas has hosted the K-18 Baseball state tournament. Named for Kansas Highway 18, which runs through town, the league consists of players ages 13-16 throughout communities in western and central Kansas. The K-18 softball state tournament began in 2020.

Points of interest

In 1996, Kansas Governor Bill Graves named Lucas the "Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas" due to the number of sites in the community devoted to local folk art. The Garden of Eden is a permanent outdoor sculpture exhibit built between 1905 and 1927 by local sculptor Samuel P. Dinsmoor. The site consists of Dinsmoor's home, a "log cabin" constructed of carved limestone, more than 150 sculptures representing his interpretation of the Biblical creation and world history, and a mausoleum housing the remains of Dinsmoor and his first wife. Inspired by Dinsmoor, local resident Florence Deeble constructed a rock garden around her home, using rocks acquired during her travels to construct works representing places she visited. Since 2002, Deeble's house has served as a gallery called the Garden of Isis, exhibiting works made from recycled materials by visual artist Mri-Pilar. The Grassroots Arts Center is a non-profit gallery located downtown which promotes and exhibits the work of Kansas folk artists.[25] Other folk art sites in the city include late, porcelain artist, Eric Abraham's Flying Pig Studio & Gallery, The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Version of the World's Largest Things traveling museum, Bowl Plaza, Miller's park, Fork Art Park, historical mural and the World's Largest Travel Plate.

Notable people

Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in Lucas include:

  • Samuel P. Dinsmoor (1843-1932), sculptor

  • Bill Volok (1910-1991), football tackle

  • Erika Nelson (1972-), artist

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