Santa Cruz County History - People

A Walk Through Time: Judge Lucas Smith
by Janet Krassow and
by Randy Krassow

Judge Lucas Smith was one of the most colorful men to sit on the bench in Santa Cruz County. He lived a life that would do justice to the talents of any great Hollywood screenwriter.

Born at Wells County, Indiana, he worked on the family farm until the age of 14, after which he learned the printing business. In August 1862, before he was 17 years old, he enlisted in the 101st regiment, Indiana Volunteers, and served three years until the end of the Civil War. After fighting in numerous battles, including Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Peach Tree Creek, and Atlanta, he joined General Sherman on his famous march to the sea, and was honorably discharged before reaching the age of 20. After the war, he declined an appointment to West Point, in order to study law at the University of Michigan.

Photograph of Judge Lucas Smith's Memorial
Judge Lucas Smith's Memorial

After earning his degree, Smith moved to northern Texas where he was elected District Attorney of Fannin County, where he prosecuted the famous Ballew-Golden murder case. His work on this case got him appointed U.S. Attorney for the New Mexico territory, a position that he resigned to raise a company of rangers to fight the Apache Indians.

He returned to private practice and came to California where he eventually settled in Santa Cruz. In 1896, he was elected superior court judge of the county and re-elected time and time again. After the hard fought 1905 election campaign, in which he received over 80 percent of the vote, he waged a decade long verbal battle with Arthur A. Taylor, the diminutive editor of the Santa Cruz Surf. Judge Lucas Smith died on September 22, 1924.

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