By MARY WEAVER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, Dec. 7, 2020 – One hundred forty-eight years ago, there was another highly contagious disease that brought sickness and death to Greene County residents. One known victim was Nancy Tucker, the great-great-great-great grandmother of Doug Tucker of Jefferson. The cause may have been “henfluenza.”
Stories about that have emerged as Doug’s wife Jean Tucker has been doing careful research into Tucker family history, sometimes finding facts that have corrected decades of folklore passed down through the generations.
“An explosive fatal epizootic (widespread in an animal population) in poultry, prairie chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, occurred over much of the populated United States between 15 November and 15 December 1872,” documents from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health tell us. “The epizootic spread very rapidly in association with a well-reported panzootic (pandemic in animals) of equine influenza (horse flu) that had begun in Canada during the last few days of September 1872.
“The rapid spread was associated with rail transportation, as the disease moved quicky from Canada to New York, and Michigan and throughout the Midwest. The disease present was about 100 miles either side of the railroad.”
Nancy Bradford Tucker was born March 27, 1781, to John Bradford and Johanna Regina Shrout. Eventually, Nancy and her husband, James P. Tucker, moved to Ohio and later moved to Tippecanoe County, Indiana.
Nancy and James P. were the parents of 10 children. The 10th child appears to have died in infancy.
James P. Tucker’s father was John Tucker. John and his four boys came to America and settled in West Virginia. Jean Tucker has been unable to document where they lived prior to traveling to America.
She further states the Tucker family story about four brothers coming to America is “hearsay,” but two of the brothers, John Jr. & James P., have been documented as sons of the father, John Tucker, as they are both listed on early tax lists. It was not unusual to give the first-born male child to be given the same name as their father.
Nancy’s husband, James P. apparently died around 1839 (as he was not listed on the census records in 1840). Deeds recorded in 1846 show the children then having 1/9th interest in the farm. Following her husband’s death, Nancy rotated living with her sons, and came to Iowa with her son, William, as she is recorded in the 1856 Greene County census.
She died on February 27,1872, at age 91. There seems to be some dispute regarding her age, as the community thought she was 104, but the birth and death records obtained by Jean Tucker through her research indicates her age at 91 at the time of her death.
There are several nostalgic, even romantic stories in the Pleasant Hill Church area history, but, as a result of Jean’s research, some of those stories now have to be considered folklore.
One is that Nancy Tucker “was the first White buried in Greene County,” but Jean indicates this is untrue, as there are settlers’ graves older than 1872 in the Pleasant Hill cemetery.
Secondly, verbal history given by Nancy Tucker’s great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Charlie (Dollie) Thompson, relates that an Indian who claimed to be a doctor, helped care for Nancy Tucker when she had the “plague.” He dug roots, boiled them and gave her the liquid. The story continues he also contracted the disease, and three days after her death, he also died. They were buried beside each other on the hillside. Her grave is reported to be under the fence by the gate west of the Pleasant Hill Church, where you can walk into the cemetery.
So sorry, but through genealogical research, Jean Tucker has learned that Nancy Tucker died at the home of another of her sons, Isaac Tucker, in neighboring Carroll County. She was returned for burial in Greene County.
Jean found an excerpt from the diary of Thomas Terrill, an early Greene County settler, written March 1, 1872, stating: “Chored etc, chopped stove wood Hitch to wagon and went to Tuckers to the funeral. Did not go to the graveyard. She was said to be 104 years old —Grandmother Tucker. Came back and chopped stove wood Cloudy N.W.”
While Pleasant Hill Church history has it that Nancy Tucker is buried near the gate to the cemetery, the diary excerpt regarding the graveyard indicates others had been buried there. So that’s more folklore.
Thanks to Doug and Jean for relating this story and sharing family genealogical information about the Tucker family.
Dates to remember while reading:
–The Revolutionary War started in 1775 and lasted until 1783.
–Iowa became a state in 1846.
–The Truman Davis family came to Greene County in 1849.
–The Western Stage Company, which had a route going through the Pleasant Hill Church property, was established in 1854, allowing people to travel from Des Moines to Sioux City aboard stagecoaches.
–Pleasant Hill Church was erected in 1881, although services were held earlier in the homes of the settlers.
–The railroad came to Greene County in 1867.
You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The author, who lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Historical Society.