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Born in New Woodstock, New York, Ainsworth attended the public schools, and the Oneida Conference Seminary, Cazenovia, New York. After studying law, he was admitted to the bar in Madison County, New York, in 1854. He moved to Belvidere, Illinois, and commenced practice the same year.
In 1855, he moved to Iowa and continued the practice of law in West Union. He served as member of the Iowa Senate from 1860 to 1862, representing Bremer and Fayette Counties. During the Civil War entered the Union Army in 1862 as captain of Company C, 6th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Cavalry, and served three years in areas of conflict with Native American tribes in the northern Great Plains. He and his Company participated in the Battle of Whitestone Hill in Dakota Territory. After leaving the Army, he returned to West Union and resumed the practice of law. He served as member of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1871 to 1873.
In 1874, Ainsworth ran as a Democrat to represent Iowa's 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House. Becoming the first Iowa Democrat elected to Congress since 1854, he served in the Forty-fourth Congress. He declined to accept a renomination in 1876. He served from March 4, 1875 to March 3, 1877.
He resumed the practice of law in West Union, and died there on April 19, 1902. He was interred in West Union Cemetery.
- Benjamin F. Gue, "History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century," Vol. 4 (Lucian L. Ainsworth), pp. 3 (1902).
- Iowa Genweb Iowa in the Civil War Project after Logan, Guy E., Roster and Record of Iowa Troops In the Rebellion, Vol. 1
- "The Elections: Further Returns," Davenport Daily Gazette, 1874-10-16 at p. 1.
- "Home and State News," Perry Chief, 1876-04-01 at p. 1.
- Lucien Lester Ainsworth at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- "Lucien Lester Ainsworth". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2009-07-04.