The Luster family made its way into the wilderness that was Fayette County before statehood. At the head of the clan was Archibald Luster, who with his wife, Malinda Yarbrough, lived in the southwestern part of the county.
Some of their sons moved across the Kaskaskia River and settled in the Pinhook area, about four miles southeast of Vandalia. Archibald and Malinda were parents of nine children: Henry, born in 1778, Chana, William, Josiah, Malinda, Catherine, Mary, David and Philip, the youngest, born in 1801.
Helen Luster, who currently lives in the Pinhook community, and I have corresponded for 10 years now. In the past, she had written how much she enjoyed the story where Philip and Henry Luster harvested numerous turkeys by getting them drunk. She then shared with me some Luster stories from the family her late husband, Vaylord.
The story I’m about to re-tell appeared in my first book, ‘Fayette County Chronicles – Volume 1,’ under the title, ‘Early Days In Bowling Green, Loudon Township.
William Lane Carson, for whom Carson Township was named, was the original source of the ‘drunken turkey’ story. Carson submitted his memories to the editors of The Vandalia Union, and they, in turn, published them in the July 1, 1908, issue of the newspaper.
Carson wrote, I will close this article with a story related to me in the early ’40s by an old pioneer, Henry Luster. Wild turkeys were very numerous, and in the fall the gobblers would gang together. Old Henry and his brother, Phil, learned where a gang of 40 roosted.
They went in the night, and under the tree scattered three pecks of shelled corn. In the morning, the turkeys would get down and eat the corn. They did this for some time, as corn was only a picayune, or six and a half cents, a bushel.
The week before Christmas they got three gallons of whiskey and put the corn to soak until all the whiskey was absorbed. They then put it under the tree, as usual.
The next morning they secreted themselves and awaited results. After the corn was about all consumed, one big fellow commenced to strut and gobble and promenade around the stick. He was soon joined by others, and at last they all got to gobbling and strutting and mixed up like an old Virginia Reel.
Soon a fight got up, and the feathers and leaves flew the like he had never seen. They ran up, clubs in hands, and began to murder the drunken gobblers. At last they had them all killed but one, and he came at them with all the vengeance of an angry devil. After quite a fight, they got him, too.
After resting a while, they brought their Dearborn wagon, loaded them, took them town and sold them getting groceries enough to last them over the holidays.
Now, for Helens Luster family stories:
Vaylord spent a great deal of time with his grandmother when he was small always told him that Abraham Lincoln used to stop and spend the night with his grandparents, Philip and Francis Haley Luster, and ate a supper of mush and milk. The Luster farm was on the Salem Road.
One of the Kirkmans also told us that, as children, they were told that Lincoln used to stay all night with the Lusters.
Philip C. Luster and Mary Catherine Gensler Luster gave the land for Luster Chapel Methodist Church. A Kirkman, Robert, I think, gave the land for Pinhook Cemetery. The Kirkman and Luster land adjoined. They say that every time the Luster boys and Kirkman boys met on the road, they would get off their horses and start fighting.
The neighborhood boys liked to go hunting in a group. One of the boys had a little brother who wanted to go with them. He always followed, and they got yelled at for taking him. So, one day he was following and wouldnt go back. The big boys lowered the top rail of a rail fence down on his neck in such a way that he couldnt get loose. They left him there until they got back.
This story is from the 1930s. The Pinhook boys, Vaylord Luster, O.J. Luster (Orla), Forrest Smith, one more, maybe Gerald Bethard, decided they wanted a before-bedtime snack.
It was a bright moonlit night. They went to Mr. Stufflebeams melon patch. Before they did much looking, bullets were whizzing by their heads. The boys went to a nearby stream and picked up rocks.
They hid behind a haystack and began throwing rocks at Mr. Stufflebeams tin roof. Five of them were throwing in such a way that by the time one landed they had another in the air. They all lived to grow up.
Our last story is from the 1960s, and involves yet another Luster.
While stationed in Taiwan, Jim Luster and his friends decided to go into Taipei and have at some of the bar owners who were unkind to the U.S. military.
Jim took his pet snake, six to eight feet long, wrapped it around his waist under a loose shirt. They would go into a bar, order beer, act normal and after awhile allow the snake to crawl out on the bar a foot or so. Then panic would set in and the bar would be empty. They did this to three or four bars before the Military Police got them.
Helen concluded, It is in the genes. Jim Luster is the great-great-grandson of Philip Luster I, who got the wild turkeys drunk so he could hit them in the head. The rock-throwing cousins are great-grandsons of Philip I.