Have you heard of Amos Lucas? Mr. Lucas was born a slave in Virginia and is thought to be linked to a plantation owned by Edward Hamilton in Loudoun County. As a young man, Lucas became a clerk or assistant to Dr. John J Henshaw, who was a physician in the area and served the plantation. After the Civil War, Lucas accompanied Henshaw and his family to Mechanicstown (now Thurmont) in 1868. He is known to have lived with the Henshaw’s for some time and is listed on the 1870 and 1880 Census records as a boarder there. For 30+ years, Lucas served our community as a barber, beginning in the 1870s. He first occupied space on Water Street (above the flour and feed store); subsequently he moved into rooms in the Osler building on the corner of West Main and Church Streets, which he decorated with curios and relics he collected. He lived in the rooms, too, for over 25 years. At least for some of his time in the 1880s he operated a pool room above his shop.
Lucas was known as “Tup.” He never learned to read or write, and he never married. He stopped advertising his barbershop in February 1905 although he apparently stayed active at least a couple more years. News reports suggest his eyesight failed in 1914, and he became a patient / resident at Montevue Hospital in Frederick in 1915. It’s impossible to determine his age; in the 1870 Census he is called 25, but ten years later in the 1880 Census he’s only seven years older. In the 1900 Census he is 20 years older (52) than in 1880, but ten years later in 1910 he is listed as 60, only eight years older. His obituary claims he was about 69 at the time of his death in 1917. The report of his death also indicated that Lucas was “always polite and obliging,” and Thurmont’s former historian, George Wireman, shared that his own father remembered Lucas as someone who would do anything for anyone, including handing pieces of candy to children who walked by his shop. Lucas is buried in a plot adjoining the Henshaw family in the Weller cemetery.
We’re bringing Mr. Lucas to your attention because he is an interesting, long-standing part of Thurmont’s history but also because during his 50 years living in our community Lucas was the only Black person in the entire county election district for at least half that time. It’s not easy to be an “only,” but Lucas appears to have succeeded.