Historic Sites > Plum Grove Historic Site

Kids' Tour Guide

The Times

Before Iowa became a state, it was a territory. Robert Lucas, former Governor of Ohio, was appointed in 1838 by the President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, to serve as the first Governor of the Territory of Iowa.

Iowa in 1838

When Robert Lucas arrived in Iowa in 1838 only twenty-one of the present day counties had been created out of the Black Hawk Purchase, the Half-Breed Tract, the Keokuk Reserve, and the Second Black hawk Purchase. Look at the map and draw the counties that were present in 1838 on the map of Indian Land Cession of Iowa.

Who Lived at Plum Grove?

Plum Grove was the home of the first governor of  the territory of Iowa 1838-1841. Robert Lucas had eight children. With Elizabeth Brown, his first wife who died, he had one daughter, Minerva, who married and had children by the time he and Friendly moved to Plum Grove. Robert and Friendly had seven children: four sons and three daughters. The two oldest sons, Sumner and Robert, died as children. When Robert and Friendly moved to Plum Grove in 1844, their eldest daughter, Abigail, had her own household. Their remaining tow sons, two daughters, and a grandchild lived with Robert and Friendly at Plum Grove in the 1840s. The children were old enough to help with the farm and the household chores.

  • How many people lived at Plum Grove in the 1840s?
  • List the farm chores that needed to be done on an 80 acre farm in the 1840s and 1850s.
  • List the typical household chores for the same time period.
  • What would a teenager do for fun in the 1840s and 1850s?

The Grounds of Plum Grove

Robert and Friendly Lucas decided to spend the remainder of their lives in Iowa. They purchased 80 acres of land in March of 1844. Plum Grove was a working farm raising livestock and grain crops. Today Plum Grove stands on four acres of land. The original farm would have been 20 times as big as it is now. Take a sheet of paper and fold it so you have five strips (four folds), now turn the paper and fold it in half and then in half again. When you unfold the paper you will have twenty squares. In 1844, the entire sheet of paper would represent Plum Grove. Today it is only as big as one sqare.

From the time the Lucas family built Plum Grove (1844) to the time the State of Iowa bought it (1941) almost 100 years passed. In order to find out more about how the people lived at Plum Grove, archaeologists are studying the site. Archaeology is the study of the material remains of the Indians who lived in Iowa. Visit the archeological excavations and exhibits on the Plum Grove site.

  • What is a territory?
  • What does a territorial governor do?
  • What was the political process of moving from a territory to a state?
  • Who were the other Iowa territorial governors?

The House

In 1844, Robert and Friendly Lucas built a red brick Greek Revival style house. The house, surrounded by plum trees, was named Plum Grove. The Lucas family sold Plum Grove in 1866. It changed owners several times until purchased by the State of Iowa in 1941. The house was restored and furnished with 150-year-old furniture reflecting the Lucas residency during the 1840s -1850s. The seven room house does not have closets. In 1844, closets were considered rooms and property taxes were based on the number of rooms in the house. More rooms meant higher taxes. Not counting closets, how many rooms are in your house?

Plum Grove was altered after it was sold by the Lucas family. People who bought Plum Grove remodeled it. The State of Iowa restored it to its original condition. Look at the photographs of the restoration of the house. Walk around the outside of the house and look for signs of the remodeling and restoration. The break in the pattern of the brick shows where the basement door was located from the mid-1870s to about 1970. The cellar door was moved back to its original location in 1970.

  • Use a sketch pad and draw a picture of Plum Grove.
  • Using your camera- take a picture of Plum Grove.
  • Step off the length and width of the house.
  • What is the length and width of the house?


Robert and Friendly Lucas were prominent citizens who received important guests in the parlor at Plum Grove. If you were a guest, where would you like to sit?

Horsehair Sofa Comes from Ohio

The black shiny horsehair sofa came from the Lucas' former home, Friendly Grove, in Ohio. Horsehair is the hair from the horses' mane and tail used for upholstery and stuffing furniture. The couch is late Empire style. Rectangular bigness, swelling curves, and the use of heavy fabrics characterize this style of furniture.

Swan Head Carved into Chair Armrests

Empire style furniture included forms such as graceful swans. Swan heads are part of the armrests of the rocking chair in the parlor. Do you see the swan heads?

  • Look around for electric lights. Do you see any?
  • What other fuel was used for lighting?

The couch came from Ohio with the Lucas family about 1840.

  • How long has the couch been in Iowa?

The melodeon is similar to a harmonium, accordion, or pump organ. To make sound, the pedals must be pumped drawing air into the bellows and through metal reeds.

  • Look under the melodeon for bellows.

Camphene Burner in Parlor

Camphene lamps provided light for the Lucas family. Camphene is an explosive mixture of turpentine and alcohol. The burner design keeps the flame away from the fuel container.

  • Can you buy camphene fuel today?

Mantel Clock

Mantel clock has unique Reverse Painted Design

The picture on the clock is painted on the inside of the glass, the glass panel was painted in reverse. First the foreground and then the background was painted.

  • Sketch the picture that is on the clock on the back of this page.

The Hall and the Entry

A copy of the deed to the land on which the house is built is displayed on the wall. Notice that the deed is in Friendly's name rather than Robert's. Putting property in the wife's name was unusual in the 1840s.

Notice the stairs are cut at an angle. This technique creates the illusion of the stairs sweeping into the hallway.

  • Look back down the stairway when you go upstairs.

Low Mirror

The marble-topped side table has a low mirror. A quick glance in the mirror would assure the women that their petticoats were not showing.

  • Bend down and look for the mirror. When standing upright, can you see your stocking tops or shoes?

Grandfather Clock

The grandfather clock came from Ohio to Iowa in a covered wagon. Does your family own a grandfather clock?

The Dining Room

The Lucas family ate in the dining room. The gate-leg table lets the leaves drop, making more space in the room.

Chelsea ware, a porcelain made between 1743 and 1784 at a factory in Chelsea, England is prized for it Rococo style. Rococo comes from the French word rocaille, meaning bits of rocky decoration. Can you tell why this plate is called a Rococo style?

Porcelain Fruit Bowl

The porcelain fruit bowl was made in France. Why do you think so many dishes were made overseas in the 1840s?

Folk Art

Mourning art was a form of folk art. It was a way of remembering the dead. This picture depicts two women at the graves of loved ones. In the area below sketch your own mourning art picture.


Each room has a fireplace. The fireplaces were the primary heat sources when the Lucas family lived at Plum Grove.


This carpet style, a reverse-weave with a summer-winter pattern, was used in the mid-nineteenth century. The light summer side reflects sunlight out of the house. The darker winter side absorbs light and warms the room. The carpets were woven in strips. The strips had to be sewn together.

  • Look for the seam line on the carpet.

Chair Design

The chairs are similar to those of horsehair fabric.

  • Look at the design of the fabric. Does it make you think of a horse mane or tail?

Library/Back Parlor

The 1852 portrait of Robert Lucas was modeled after a daguerreotype (an early photographic process). Compare this picture with Lucas in his Ohio militia uniform.

  • Which picture looks more like a Territorial Governor? Why?

Library and Family Sitting Room

The library, or family sitting room, is less formal than the parlor. The white mahogany desk belonged to Robert. He worked at the desk. The bookcase contains some books from his personal library. Place a check mark before the title when you see the book in the bookcase.

__ Journal of the Senate, Ohio 1832 and 1833

__ Tactics and Regulation, 1836

__ Andrew Jackson, 1834

__ Infantry, 1834

__ Laws of Ohio, 1813

__ Statutes of Ohio, 1831

__ Legislative Documents, Ohio 1835

Wallpaper in the House

These wallpaper styles were used in the 1840s. In which room are the patterns of paper located?

The size of the room made it usable as a parlor, library or bedroom. During colder months, it was not possible to keep a house of this size comfortably warm using only fireplaces. Rooms not in use were closed off. The doors between rooms were removed when the house was renovated for tourists.


As a farm wife, Friendly Lucas was busy with the usual activities of cooking,

processing food, sewing, washing, ironing clothes, cleaning houses and entertaining visitors. Friendly was barely five feet tall with dark hair and an apple and cream complexion. Her reputation for good cooking was well known in her family.

Check the Items as You See Them

__ China Hutch

__ Dough Box

__ Copper tub for washing laundry and making soap

__ Candle molds

__ Wood box

__ Gun

__ Sad irons (check weight)

__ Butter churn

__ Cast iron cookware

__ Tea pots

The 1842 stove used wood or dried corncobs as fuel. The oval piece above the stove is a warmer oven. This oval is double walled so smoke goes around the oval and out the vent without going through the oval.

Notice the sink does not have any water faucets. The basin of this dry sink (the blue cabinet) caught water that sloshed out of the bowl. Water was hauled from an outside cistern or well. Children often had the job of carrying buckets of water.


The Betty Lamp holds a small amount of fuel and hangs on a finger. It was used for lighting the way upstairs to bed.

  • What other lamps and lanterns are used at Plum Grove?

Things to See in the Kitchen

  • Ask to see the inside of the reverse painted clock.
  • Look for the drop-leaf tiger maple table that belonged to Robert Lucas. Why isit called 'tiger' maple?

The pantry (now office) stored all kinds of food, lard, preserves, and salted pork.

  • Look at the floors. They are made of untreated white oak with uneven widths and lengths. They are similar to the floors originally found throughout the house.

Master Bedroom

The Bed

The cherry wood four-poster bed dates from 1816. Look for the acorn finials on the tops of the posts.

The bed and cedar chest belonged to Robert's sister.

The Silk Dress

The silk dress lying on the bed is a woman's formal gown from the 1840s. It was a light green color. Dyes made from plants were sometimes called phantom dyes because they faded.

Wash Stand

The walnut wash stand belonged to Robert and Friendly Lucas. It holds a set of bedroom china. Identify the purpose of each piece of 'bedroom china'.

Small Horsehide Trunk

On top of the cedar chest is a small horsehide trunk that belonged to Robert Lucas's first wife, Elizabeth Brown. She died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1812 after two years of marriage. Robert and Friendly married in 1816. Robert Lucas may have used the trunk as luggage or for important papers.

  • Look for Elizabeth Brown's initials studded into the top of the trunk.
  • What plants may be used to produce dye for clothing?
  • Do people have four-poster beds in their homes today? Explain why or why not.
  • What was the purpose of a four-poster bed?

Boys Bedroom

The Lucas's two sons, Edward and Robert Sumner, lived at Plum Grove. This bed is a typical rope bed. The phrase "sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite" referred to rope beds. Sleeping tight means the rope is pulled tight. A loose rope lets the bed sag down. Look at the knot in the footboard. Using a tool called a bed key; the rope is pulled out and twisted into a tighter knot.

Bedbugs were the bugs that came in with the straw used for the mattress. Bedbugs inflict irritating bites; they are not known to cause disease.

The lower mattress is filled with straw, and the upper one is a soft feather mattress.

With no indoor plumbing the pitcher and basin served as a sink. At night the pitcher was filled with water to be used in the morning. Wastewater was emptied into a large slop jar on the floor.

At night, the chamber pot served as the toilet. It was then put under the bed, and emptied in the outhouse the next day.


The needlework hanging in this room was called a sampler. Note the tiny stitches, and the age of the girl who made it.

  • How cold was this bedroom at night in the winter with no heat anywhere in the house?
  • Can you think of some phrases or cliches other than "sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" that people say today?
  • What could you do for fun in this room?
  • Did stitching a 'sampler' have any purpose?

Warming Devices

The threat of a house fire was too great to keep a fire burning while sleeping. The brass bucket held water or sand to put out the fire at bedtime.

There were tools designed to warm people. Hot coals were placed in the bed warmer pan and the hot pan slid between the sheets to warm them. The copper tank footwarmer was filled with water and placed near the fireplace. Feet were warmed by heat from the hot water in the foot warmer.

Girls Bedroom

Two of Robert and Friendly's daughters, Mary and Susannah, and one granddaughter, (Susannah's daughter) Florence, lived in this house. The bed is a Dolly Madison style spool bed. Notice the doll bed is the same style. Doll furniture was very elaborate because carpenters made salesmen samplers of furniture they wanted to build for customers. Then the samplers were used for doll furniture.

  • Note the examples of women and girls' everyday dresses. Do you see any jeans or slacks for the girls to wear?


Quilting is a needlework technique used to hold a layer of insulating or padding material between two outer layers of fabric. To prevent the interior layer from shifting, numerous runs of stitches are worked through the sandwiched layers.

Quilting is still used for making bedcovers because quilted materials retain warmth better than do single layers. Look at the stitches holding the two layers of fabric together.

China Doll Belonging to Lucas Grandchild

There are two china dolls in this bedroom. The doll on the small love seat has a porcelain head but the rest of her body is made from stocking and leather. The doll on the dresser has arms, legs, and head made of porcelain. She is wearing a silk gown with a lace covering. This doll belonged to one of Robert and Friendly's granddaughters.

  • How is this doll different from dolls today?
  • Where would you store your clothing if this were your room?
  • What could you do for fun in this room?
  • Look at the quilt noting the fine stitches. Explain why the three layers of cloth would be warmer than a single layer.
  • Tell the difference between the doll furniture in this room and doll furniture available for purchase today.

Answers to questions found in the Kid's Guide to Plum Grove.

Page 1 - The Times

What is a territory? Territory is the name given in the United States to partially self-governing section of the national domain that has not been granted statehood. Iowa was organized as a separate Territory by an act of Congress approved on July 12, 1838, but it was not until 1844 that steps were taken to secure admission into the Union.

What does a territorial governor do? The territorial governor upholds the Constitution, maintains territorial treaties and settles boundary disputes. He makes recommendations to the Territorial Legislature about education, criminal codes, organization of the militia and financial matters. The governor organizes and holds a constitutional convention so the people of the territory can write a constitution to submit to the U. S. Congress for admission as a state.

What was the political process for a territory to become a state? People living in the territory form a constitutional congress, write a constitution, have the people of the territory vote on the constitution and finally request statehood from Congress.

Who were the other territorial governors? There were three Territorial Governors by Presidential appointment. They were Robert Lucas 1838-1841, John Chanbers 1841-1845, and James Clarke 1845-1846.

Folding the Paper

Page 2 - The House

How many rooms are in your house? The answers to this question are individual and will vary.

What is the length and width of the house? Main part of the house is about 30 x 30 feet with a one-story kitchen 14 x 14 feet in size. There are seven main rooms, four downstairs and three upstairs.

Page 3 - Parlor

Where would you like to sit? The answers will vary, ask the students why they chose a certain place.

Do you see the swan heads? Answers may vary, if the answer is no, point them out.

Can you buy camphene fuel today? I don't think so. This question lends itself to a simple research project for the students. The students could call local service stations to see if they sell kerosene and then ask about camphene. Kerosene was not on the market for the pioneer until 1863 or 1864. (Parker, 1940).

Do you see any electric lights? No, there are no electrical lights at Plum Grove.

What other fuel is used for lighting? Sources of light are the open fire from the fireplace, candles, camphene, whale oil, and kerosene. Students may supply other answers that are acceptable such as burning sticks or glowing coals held in braziers, and illuminating gas.

The couch came from Ohio in 1840 - how long has the couch been in Iowa? This is a math problem; the answer will vary depending upon the current date.

Page 4 - the Hall and Entry

Can you see your stocking top or shoes? The mirror is in a place where the students may have to get close to the opposite wall to see into the mirror. Have them bend down to see their image.

Does your family own a grandfather clock? The answer will vary. If someone in the group has a grandfather clock in their home, ask about the history of the clock. Students may be interested in the fact that the clock came to Iowa in a covered wagon. This is a good place to talk about the Conestoga or covered wagon. Most students do not know the name of the wagon originated during the early 18th century in a region of Pennsylvania occupied by American Indians of the Conestoga nation.

How many people lived at Plum Grove in the 1840s? This is a math problem; there were five children and two adults for a total of seven people living at Plum Grove.

List farm chores that needed to be done on an 80-acre farm in 1840s and 1850s. Animal cares including food - water - shelter. Land work such as planting crops, harvesting, and weeding the crops and family garden. Cutting and stacking wood for fireplaces. Many more answers can be accepted.

List the typical household chores for the same time period. Cleaning, chopping wood, carrying water, carrying out ashes from the fireplace, emptying the slop jars, cleaning lamps, refilling fuel for lamps, trimming wicks, cooking and preserving food and sewing clothing.

What would teen-aged children do for fun in 1840s and 1850s? Winter sports - sledding, horse drawn sleighing, ice fishing, ice skating, parlor games, dancing. Summer - picnics, fishing, swimming in river, ice cream socials, box socials. Visiting with each other. Athletic games and tests, marbles, wrestling, and running.

Page 5 - Dining Room

Why is the plate called Rococo style? The decorations stand up away from the plate. Lightness, delicacy, and elaborate ornamentation characterize Rococo style of 18th-century. The Rococo period correspond roughly to the reign (1715-74) of King Louis XV of France.

Why were so many dishes made overseas in the 1840s? There were few porcelain or pottery factories in the US at this time. In the United States the Rookwood Factory (1880, Cincinnati, Ohio), the Grueby Faience Company (1897, Boston), and the Pewabic Pottery Works (1900, Detroit) were among the earliest pottery factories in the United States.

Does it make you think of a horse mane or tail? The answer given will depend upon how many live horses the group has seen. Answer should be yes.

Page 6 - Library/Back Parlor

Which picture looks more like a territorial governor? Why? The students are most likely to think that the formal portrait after a daguerreotype looks more like a territorial governor because Robert Lucas looks stern, older, and not in uniform. This method of photography, which used metal plates, was the earliest widely practiced form of photography.

Where is the wallpaper? The wallpaper is located throughout the house.

  1. Hall- 2. Back parlor/library 3 - Master Bedroom - Parlor

Page 7 - Kitchen

What other lamps and lanterns are used at Plum Grove? Other types of light used at Plum Grove included whale oil lamps, camphene lamps and candles.

Why is it called Tiger Maple? The wood used to make the table has a wood grain that resembles the stripes of a tiger. Many woods have prominent annual rings, which is why the age of the tree can be calculated. The trunk of a tree does not grow in length, except at its tip, but does grow in width.

Page 8 - Master Bedroom

Identify purpose of each piece of bedroom china. The basin served as a sink, the pitcher held clean water, the slop jar collected waste, and the chamber pot was the toilet.

What plants may be used to produce dye for clothing?

Dying was practiced in Egypt, Persia, China, and India thousands of years ago. Before 1856, natural materials derived from insects, plants, shellfish, and minerals were the only known sources of dyestuffs. These sources included the root of the herb madder for red dye and the indigo plant for blue dye. Other important sources of natural dyes included quercitron, weld, fustic, brazilwood, safflower, and indigo plants. Commonly used dyes for experimentation by children includes onion skins, marigold flowers, and walnut hulls.

Do people have four-poster beds in their home today? Most bedrooms are not large enough to have a four poster bed. During the 12th and 13th centuries virtually all castles were equipped with beds, which steadily increased in size and luxury. By the 15th century, beds, notably those used by royalty, attained enormous proportions. Immense canopies, suspended over the beds from the ceilings or walls, became popular. Subsequently, the canopies were attached to columns affixed to the corners of the bedsteads, a modification that led to the four-poster of later times.

What was the purpose of a four poster bed? In the 15th century, beds attained enormous proportions, Immense canopies, suspended over the beds from ceilings or walls, became popular. Before long, the canopies were attached to columns or posts affixed to the corners of bedsteads. Because servants slept in the same room as the Lord and Lady the curtain around the bed provided privacy. The columns on the corners of the beds led to the four-poster bed of later times. As time passed, many four poster beds were designed only for style and fashion.

Page 9 - Boys Bedroom

How cold was this bedroom at night with no heat in the house? The room temperature approaches as cold as it was outside. However, without a wind there was not a chill factor. Some heat would be contained within the house for a small amount of time, but usually the houses were not insulated.

Can you think of some phrases or cliches other than "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite: that people say today? The answers will be varied. Some phrases are "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise", and "Spare the rod and spoil the child".

What could you do for fun in this room? Answers will vary but include reading, making scrapbooks, playing card games, playing marbles and some handcrafts such as woodcarving.

Did stitching a sampler have any purpose? Yes, the purpose of the sampler was to teach fine stitching and to occupy time of young women. Samplers served both as ornamental objects and as instructional tools whereby girls learned the alphabet and numbers as well as their embroidery stitches. The sampler in the room was stitched by a 12 year old girl.

Page 10 - Girls Room

Do you see any jeans or slacks for the girls to wear? No, jeans are apparent. Girls did not wear slacks or jeans in the 1840s-1850s.

How is a doll different from dolls today? The doll is an 'adult' rather than a 'baby', the clothing is very formal. The head and body are made of different materials than are used today. Virtually all dolls had been designed as adults up to 1710. In 1865 the first American doll-manufacturing enterprise was founded, and at least ten similar operations were functioning in the United States by 1900. When the century ended, the overwhelming preference had changed from "lady" dolls to "baby dolls". Such dolls resembled human infants but lacked certain human qualities.

Where would you store your clothing if this were your room? The answer is in the drawers. Note: This is a good time to explain how few articles of clothing each person owned. The well-to-do-women had a black silk dress for formal occasions; a black dress of other material for church or visiting; a gray wool dress for winter wear; a white muslin dress; and then gingham's for house wear.

For winter, men had a heavy coat, a vest or waistcoat, woolen or corduroy trousers, drawers and undershirts of heavy red flannel, thick woolen shirts, woolen socks and mittens. For summer men would wear very little or no underclothes, a cotton shirt, trousers and light thin denim and straw hats.

What could you do for fun in this room? The answer will vary but might include such things as playing with dolls; visit with friends, sewing on a sampler, playing with cut-out dolls.

Why three layers are warmer than single? Quilts trap air and creates a dead air space. Quilting is a process of stitching together two layers of fabric filled with some soft substance (usually cotton) to form a kind of textile sandwich. This quilted fabric is most often used for a bed covering called a quilt, but is also used for clothing, upholstery, and decoration. The first quilts in America were brought by Dutch and English colonists and were made by applique. It was the patchwork quilt, however, that reached its highest artistic development in the United States. As a result of scarce sewing materials and a need for artistic expression, pioneer women lavished great attention on ingenious geometrical designs. Many quilts were signed and dated. By 1883, handmade quilts were on three-quarters of the beds in the country.

Tell the difference between doll furniture. Doll furniture in the 1840s and 1850s was well constructed. The furniture was larger than the piece made today. The construction was of wood, not plastic. The furniture more closely resembled real furniture.

Reference for some of the answers

Parker, G. F, (1940). Iowa Pioneer Foundations, Vol. II. State Historical Society of Iowa: Iowa City, Iowa

Activities for Visits to Plum Grove


Reverse painted clock - Have students do reverse painting on Plexiglas. They must paint the foreground first and then the background.


Introduce the concept of folk art. Folk art is the art of the common people - typically peasants, fishers, and rural artisans - as contrasted with fine art, the art produced by professionally trained artists. Folk art differs from commercial decorative art in being a traditional form created by rural populations.

Folk art may include: wood carving, metalworking, textile work, basketry and pottery making, painted or woven wall hangings, brightly painted furniture, lacework, embroidered peasant blouses, flat-woven rugs and tapestries, embroidered samplers, quilts, engraved designs on whale teeth, whalebone, and walrus ivory (Scrimshaw). See "Iowa Folklife," The Goldfinch, magazine published by SHSI.

Have students identify folk art. Using any of the above examples of folk-art have the students reproduce an example of some type of folk art.

Numerous embroidery styles and techniques have been developed. Among the more distinctive stump work (a padded type worked on satin), tambour cloth ( a chain-stitch technique worked on fabric stretched on a drum like frame and from which evolved crochet and rug hooking). Cutwork ( a kind of openwork that developed into needle lace), crewel work (using wool thread), and Spanish blackwork (worked with black thread on linen) are also examples of embroidery. Needlework samplers evolved for the purpose of recording and practicing stitches. Important stitches include tent stitch (petit point), feather, chain, cross-stitch, satin, herringbone, tete de beouf, ladder or buttonhole, blanket, and Gobelin.

Have students study three pictures hanging at Plum Grove - Select the one they like best and write a short story about it.

Some possible story starters……

Does the person look sad, stern, happy? Why do you think they look this way?

What is the person doing? Why do you suppose they are doing that activity?


Have students make butter. Butter is made from milk fat, to which salt may be added. Cream, the concentrated fat from milk, is the basic constituent of butter. When chilled cream is agitated in a churn, the protective membranes of some individual fat globules break and the liquid fat that is released helps cement other globules together. Globules and free fat become granules, which lump together to form a semisolid mass in the liquid buttermilk. The butter granules are washed to remove the residual buttermilk, and the mass is then kneaded, or worked, until the remaining moisture droplets become minute and evenly distributed. During the kneading process salt may be added. Well-wrapped, refrigerated butter will keep several weeks, and frozen butter, several months.

Have students make soap. Soap is a natural cleansing agent produced by the reaction of an alkali,such as sodium hydorxice (lye), with animal fat or vegetable oil.

Soap was invented to solve a problem with textiles: wool as it come from sheep is coated with a layer of grease that interferes with the application of dyes. The first reference to soap as a cleansing agent as well as a medical product appears in writings of Galen, the 2nd-century Greek physician. Try http://members.aol.com/oelaineo/soapmaking.html for directions.

Make candles. A candle is a source of illumination made of a slow-burning solid material such as wax or tallow (animal fat), usually cylindrical in shape and enclosing a fiber wick. Beeswax candles were used in Egypt and Crete as early as 3000 B.C. In medieval Europe, cheap but smoky tallow candles were made by repeatedly dipping strands of yarn in tallow and cooling them. Pouring melted beeswax over a suspended wick produced more expensive wax candles. By the 13th century, craftsmen with wax and tallow manufactured candles.

Have students make candles by dipping.


Grammar: Suggestion. Have students create a very short story about Plum Grove, or the people who lived there and write the story without using any adjectives. How does the story sound? Now revise the story adding just FIVE adjectives. What do you think of your story now? Does your story need more adjectives? Why or why not? Can a writer use too many adjectives?

Idioms: Idiom: A phrase or expression whose meaning cannot be understood from the ordinary meaning of the words in it such as "Sleep tight…(in today's world). An adage is a wise saying that has been much used such as "a new broom sweeps clean."

Examine some idioms. Have students write an idiom and then draw a picture indicating the literal interpretation of the phrase - then a second picture indicating what the idiom really means.

Spelling: Have students create a spelling list from the new words they heard at Plum Grove

Find a study buddy and learn the words. Together students might:

  • Make a song or cheer to help remember how to spell the words on the list.
  • Play spellman (alias hangman) using the words on the list
  • Use the words on the list to create a crossword puzzle with complete sentence clues.
  • Write an essay about a specific topic in which each spelling word on the list is used and spelled correctly.
  • Write a dialog between two characters in which each spelling word on the list is used and spelled correctly.
  • Play Charades where you have to guess the word as well as spell it correctly before you can go on to the next word.

Writing: Study the rules for writing a cinquain poem and the rules for writing a haiku poem. Then, write a cinquain poem or a haiku poem. Remember to tell the students that words empower an author, so they must be selected wisely.

Teach students to use a Thesaurus. Examine each cinquain poem for mood - are they happy, sad, powerful? What mood is created with the words?

Rules for Cinquain poem= has 5 lines having respectively 2,4,6,8 & w syllables - a form originated by the American poet Adelaide Crapsey. Example:

He is (2)

First Governor (4)

The wilderness beckons (6)

Duty calls…Life begins anew (8)

He serves. (2)

Rules for Haiku poem. Very brief Japanese poem of 3 lines and 17 syllables (5 in line 1, 7 in line 2, and 5 in line 3). Example:

Plum Grove trees growing (5)

A thicket of sweetest fruit (7)

for Friendly Lucas (5)

Ask students to write about the most amazing things they learned at Plum Grove. Their story could be called Tales of Plum Grove. Once the tale is written the student might:

    • Write a different ending for the tale
    • Retell the tale to a classmate and enhance it with appropriate music selections.
    • Illustrate the tale


Friendly Lucas had a reputation as a good cook. There is a recipe I the June 1992 Palimpsest for Friendly's Plum Butter given by her great-granddaughter Margaret Henderson. The recipe is as follows:

"Plum butter or jam. Sneak up on plums & get as many as you can. Wash well

(a few worms give it a meaty flavor so do not be squeamish). Cover with boiling water and cook till tender. Take potato masher & mash - skins & all. If you are short of plums and want to use all of the bulk available - put the skins in a colander - use potato masher and mash mash mash. Take pits out by your fingers. "Put through as much of the skins as you can. For each cup of pulp you have use 2/3 cup sugar. I cook mine in over-slowly-testing for consistency. A small portion in a saucer - put in refrigerator will tell you when the jam or butter is just right. "Put in jars & seal. Call an armorured truck and take to your safe deposit box before anyone becomes aware that you have such a treasure in your possession."

Using internal and external criticism help the students examine this recipe. Internal criticism involves examination of the reliability of the document. Were there armoured (armored) trucks in 1840? Were there safety deposit boxes? What did she mean by refrigerator? External criticism is to determine the validity of the source material. The researcher needs to know where, when, and who wrote a document. This may involve verifying the handwriting or determining the age of the paper. Are there two sources for this recipe? How was Margaret Lucas Henderson (the great grand-daughter related to Friendly? (The external criticism may be more difficult to establish. Probably limited to two sources for the recipe)

Try the recipe and see if you get a plum butter or jam.

Social Studies. Use the map provided in the Kids Tour Guide to identify the rivers of Iowa. Have students locate major towns. Using references have the students draw in the Principal Meridian line. Identify county and township lines. Have students identify the number and location of towns in Iowa when Robert Lucas was appointed as territorial governor.

Use a deed to help the students read land locations typically referred to in a deed.

Look at Census Records for 1850, Johnson County, Iowa City. Find Robert Lucas and his family. Have students identify what they can find out about Robert Lucas and his family from that census record.

Robert Lucas is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. Visit the cemetery and note the death year on the stones around his burial site.

Note the ages of deceased on the stones (this information could be put on a graph and compared with today's statistics for an epidemiological study).

Note type of stones - designs - materials.

Examine stones for wear. Note effects of weathering.

Examine stones for lichen. Identify different types of lichen on stones, trees, and other vegetation.

Create your own archeological dig. Bury bones (chicken), broken pottery, seeds, buttons, pieces of partially burned wood and other items similar to those that may have been used in the 1840s and 1850s. Have the students do a dig. If possible observe a dig first, or have a guest speaker talk about how an archaeological dig is made. Each find must be 'mapped' as to its location.


These materials will help you find out more about the Lucas Family, Plum Grove, and the Iowa Territory.

Goldfinch (Iowa History Magazine for Young People)

Beautiful Looking Prairie. September, 1987

Capitals and Capitols. Vol. 5, (4), April 1984.

Homes in History. Vol. 15, (1), Fall 1993

Indians of Iowa. February, 1992

Settling on the Prairie: Hard work and Hard Winters. November 1985 (pg. 12)

The Iowa Territory's 150th Birthday. Vol. 4(3). February 1983.

The Shape of the State. Vol 4 (3) February 1983.

Toys and Games Through Time. Winter 1997

Williams, B. M. Homes in history. Spring 1996 (pg. 13)

Williams, B. M. Making a community a home. Winter, 1995 (pg. 5)

Books and Articles

Allen, A. B. (1992). Friendly's frontier: Images from the life of Friendly Lucas, Iowa's First 'First Lady.

Palimpsest 73, 18-31.

Chalton, T. H (1984). A Guide to the Exhibits, Plum Grove Farm 1844-1943: 100 Years of Live in a Changing Society. Iowa City: University of Iowa.

Petersen, W. J. (1963). Iowa in the days of Lucas. Palimpsest 44, 221-84.

Sage. L. L. (1974). A History of Iowa. Iowa State

This is Iowa: a cavalcade of the Tall Corn State. (1982). Midwest Heritage Publication.

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