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Contributed by Karen Weiss
NOTE: The following letter was written by Frank Tucker on July 25, 1930, and was addressed to Mrs. William H. Sciple (Elva Tucker Sciple) his niece.
The spelling is as he wrote it, whereas some of the punctuation is mine for purposes of clarification. Some of the misspelled words I have followed by correct spelling, (in parenthesis) for easier reading. Bob Pollock's signature was here. KLW has corrected the spelling on this copy.
Willow Brook, Cal. July 25, 1930
My Dear Niece Elva:
It is with much pleasure your dear Uncle Frank writes you a few lines that you may know I have and hold in the temple corridor of memory still, those days that has gone by. I often set in my old rocking chair on my ivy covered back porch, all alone. The only companion is my little dog, and think of those days that has gone, and of those dear ones that has gone to the land of rest. Also, of you as a child. Also I trace back to those pioneer days, of the camp fire when your father and I, with our covered wagon and a big span of iron gray horses, spread our white sails to the breeze, and entered up on that long cruise from Wis. to the Mississippi River, and crossing at Prairie du Chien, by a ferry boat to Iowa. Then turning direct West with that vast, broad, and far reaching prairie and broad plains, far reaching toward the Western setting sun. Once the home of the Indian, also the buffalo, the elk, and the deer. But the day of the Indian and the buffalo had passed in history so we had none of those to fear, although they left their marks that was plainly to be seen. There was lodge poles set up on end, as it would be our May pole. With a hard trodden circle around it, beaten with the feet of the Indians in their circle dance, and great piles of bleached bones of the buffalo and dear. Your child’s eyes saw all of this that I speak. There was plainly to be seen scattering graves to be seen of the Indian or the white man. But it had been so long since they had been laid to rest. None but God could answer who, red or white, that had pushed their way fair beyond the lines of civilization, to open the lines and path way that we could follow. Trials and hardships and danger was not lacking. Many fell by the way. Still more succeeded. I was the guard of that little band of 2 wagons. I was walking most of the time, off on 1 side of the trail or other. I would go to the little mounds that would attract my eyes. I always carried my rifle with me. I never shall forget, after breaking camp one morning, the little train was moving along over the rolling prairie slow, as the road was rough, and I had wandered out from the trail about 30 rods, and I came upon 7 graves. I stopped and looked them over and over. Walked around them 2 or 3 times, with my rifle laying a cross my arms, asking myself if they had dyed in battle or in peace. I stood there alone, with the dead lying at my feet in silence. There was a light fog still hanging over the prairie, as the sun had not raised high enough to drive it away. And in that mist and silence alone, but with God, there was a wonderful shudder came over me of fear. I set my gun down on the ground and spread my arms out toward the East and West, for there was sorrow in my heart, and my face turned to the Heaven. And if I ever prayed, I sure did there and then that the Almighty bless those dear soles. And I do believe that there was some guiding hand that led me to that spot. Say what you may, or think what you will, I felt some wonderful influence with me. Why should I shudder? Do you realize? I DO. The atmosphere that surrounded them was still there. The fear that was in their hearts at the time they fell, lingered there. Perhaps, with no doubt in mine mind, I came to the rescue in spirit after all those years. God knows best. I say it is a mystery, and many signs I would find that looked to me very strange. The next morning, after we had left Fort Dodge City, Iowa, we camped far out in the prairie in a little valley where we had plenty of water and good grass for our horses and there had been a large pasture there and many head of cattle.
And this camp was on Saturday, I remember, because we did not get up Sunday morning very early. So in the morning we was disturbed with a very large bull that seemed to keep hanging around, pawing up the dirt, bellowing and looking for a fight or trouble. So I got a little uneasy about his way of performing. So I put a few shotgun shells in my pocket and picked up the old double barrel shotgun, and worked my way around him, keeping out of sight as much as I could, until I got behind him. He was too busy a pawing dirt and bellowing to look back, and he was telling us what he was going to do to us and the wagon and horses. Your Mother had put you kids upon the wagon, and you was looking out the front. While the 2 wagons stood about 20 ft apart, and the horses was tied behind the wagons, and your father and the man that was with us, was sitting on the wagon tongs. The old bull was close enough and I was pretty close to him, so I jumped up and let him have one right square in the hind end. Oh boy, how he did jump and blat. Oh boy I sure did surprise him right, and he started straight for the wagons, and I let go the other barrel. 0h Lord how he did blat, and kick, and they way that tail twisted and here that bull came. So, your Pa and Mr. Sharp thought that bull was going to get both of them. If ever you saw two men move, and move quick, it was those 2 men, and me coming as fast as I could run so I could give him another one. Leaving his card as he run, he went between those wagons. We had 2 boards for a table between the wagons, and Mr. Bull put them and every thing out of commission. Upset the coffee pot, and scared the women and you kids, and the horses raised cane. I never saw that bull any more, and we named that Bull Hollow Camp. You just bet that Mr. Bull never came back to tell us what he would do to us any more. I never did believe a animal could make that speed that he did. And laugh. Oh boy all along our trip, by our camp fires, we would tell the story over and over and laughed. There was many things that would happen in many ways that kept life pleasant. We had an old lady with us, and one morning she said, I do wish we could have a good mess of Prairie Chickens. I said to tell her I will go over to that grassy knoll and see what I can get. So I went and came back in a bout half hour with 4 fine big birds. Now that dear old lady was happy, and she watched me shoot them.
There was in the party 2 wagons, 1 big span of iron gray and a span of bays. The men, Mr. G. H. Tucker and F. W. Tucker, Mr. J. Sharp and wife, 2 little boys and mother. G. H. Tucker and wife, 1 little boy and a little girl. F. W. Tucker and wife and 2 little girls, making 3 little girls and 3 little boys.
The end of the journey for the Tuckers was Phillipsburg, Kansas. Mr. J. Sharp born in Saginaw (Saginaw), Mich., July 19, 1854. Mr. G. H. Tucker born in Milwaukee, Wis. (May 16, l854). F.W. (Frank) Tucker born in Milwaukee April 19, l857. (According to Rubye (Tucker) Greathouse, the wife of George Henry Tucker was born in Mauston, Wisconsin. Her name was either Ruth Anna or Ruthanna.) (According to Verna (Tucker) Pollock, George Henry Tucker had been married before, and had two daughters born of that marriage. No one knows what happened to that marriage, nor to the two daughters.)
The life of the wanderer, does it pay or does it not? There is many differ on this question. There is much to gain as well to lose. To stay in one place you have but 1 chance, and that is the commencement of life. To stay in one place, stay with your first calling, let it be farming or any thing you may choose. But suppose you fail in your first calling, then what? Your first chance has failed and you are lost. You have grown old and your opportunities are shut off by the young that has grown up while you are growing old. And that leaves you to pick up a new calling and fail. If you are a wanderer you learn tricks and trades and become a thief and a robber, which is called business. You must robe your neighbor or they will robe you.
And after all of those experiences I still hold a longing, more Western adventures. Philipsburg was the end of the trail for your father and family. There he settled in the Photograph business. Hoping to grow up with the town as it was a very hard struggle for him as the country was new and remote. In those days of hard struggles, there is much credit due to that class of men with honor and the highest ranks of honor. In all coming years, as I set alone, my mind is not at rest. I glance back and read the trail of those years that has gone. Like a mighty river can no more return I could not be contented. As the sun would disappear in the West it seemed to create a longing in my heart to follow. And so I did. I went to Boise City, Idaho, and there I hired with a company to go to the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon and built a big Saw mill there for the Co. While there, I was taken sick with a very bad cold, and was so sick that I thought my time had come. For 3 days and nights there seemed no hopes, then came a change for the better. I had no doctor. Only 3 men and 2 women, my wife and the boss’s wife. I was 12 miles from any settlement and no doctor could be had. Had I passed away, there would be a lonely grave, unmarked, in the foot hills of the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon of which you never would heard of or known. There would have been 1 broken heart left to tell the story. I was there for 3 months.From there I went to Portland, Oregon. (Note: In the margin of this letter, in Verna (Tucker) Pollock’s hand writing is the notation--Uncle Franks wife named Grace, fiery temper, brown eyes, French extraction.)
There I bought 3 lots, and built a room house. Sold that, making clear profit of $1000, and built 2 more and sold them making a profit on each $800, total $1600.Then I continued. My next move was to Aberdeen Wash., and engaged in the same business and done well. With a nice bank account, I left Aberdeen, Wash., on account of bad winters, too much rain. Going to San Francisco, Cal. After looking around for a week I went to a little town that was booming close to San Francisco, by the name of Baden. And there I went to work at the carpenter work. As I and my wife parted in Portland and she chose the family doctor instead of me, and then and there we divided the blanket. She took 1 little girl and I the other. Cora was the baby, so she took Cora, and I took Laura. With a broken heart, it seemed more than I could stand to think of loosing my dear black-eyed baby that was the apple of my eye. My heart was filled with overflowing sorrow. More than I could stand. After deeding her some very valuable property for the support and her education, I took my dear little one in my arms and snuggling her to my breast, I started on a ocean voyage. With that little one that I had saved from the family wreck, and landed in San Francisco, Cal. A new world to start life all over anew. I dried the tears from my eyes, and drove the sorrow from my aching heart, got down on my knees and asked God help in my struggle for the right. And God granted me every thing I asked him for.
I went to Palo Alto, Stanford University, and placed my dear with a family of 3, 1 old maid and mother & dad. So she had her school and good training music, singing lesson, my sorrow and grief ended so.
I went to that town ofBaden and it was a sure frontier town if there ever was one. Saloons, gambling, cow boys, dancing and a plenty of gunmen. I am here to tell you I was among strangers. I knew no one nor no one knew me. I was a long way from being broke, although no one knew it. I possessed 1 pair of overalls and a jumper, 2 hand saws, 1 hammer, and 1 little
6x 8 tent. My hat had the top half torn off. My face was not clean nor shaven. I secured work the next day and got my boss to go good for my week’s board and borrowed $5. And you see I was sitting pretty, and I went to work and said nothing, only watched the game. If any of the boys said beer was on hand for my drink, and I was free with my $5 as long as it lasted, making myself a good sport with the boys. I never would gamble, because I was always broke. I always had .25c for beer or a smoke. After a little while I made the acquaintance of a painter that had a little shop that he kept the paint in. So I said to him lets put up a little room on 1 end to sleep in. So we did, and the roof was just a few old boards. We had plenty straw and I did not have any use for my tent, so it would make a good cover, and I had then a plan to make me a workbench for odd jobs that I could pick up.
And I got along fine. I was to get $4.00 a day. On Saturday, the boss paid me of at 5.00 a day. I asked him about it and the answer was yes he knew it. Well I paid him the 5 and my meal ticket and bought another 1. The foreman told me to be sure and come back on Monday. Yes, I was there. So things went on fine. I slept fine and the town sure was booming, and I was saving as I could be. As always I was broke most of the time. It would not be so well if those tuffs had any idea that you had any money on you. So the painter and I had picked up a set of horseshoes to pitch quoits with. In the meantime I had picked up a list of town lots and a few corners. But had not bought any because I was broke. One Sunday Jack and I was pitching horseshoes, and there was a mighty fine looking man walked over to us and said to us, "Will boys, who is the winner". Jack answered it was a tie, and I asked him to throw of his coat and come in with us. It was agreed, and then we plaid for the beer. As it happened, I was the one that had to pay. It happened our new friend was a fine hand at the game. We went over to the corner, got our drink and went back. Well, he put it all over jack and me. Well, we played all the afternoon. I got funny and wanted to know who he was and where he was from. I took a liking to him because he would speak plain and was full of fun, and Jack and I had him go over to dinner with us. So I asked if he was thinking of coming to the town. Yes was the answer, so I got busy and made him a price of a corner and 3 lots, making him 150 ft front at $39.00, and he told me to fasten them for him, and he handed me $25. Oh boy there was a start, and I was to have 5 percent. I went to the party and paid down the 25.00 and laid off to meet the boy. True to his word, the deal was made, and at once up went a bank on the corner, and stores, and a big apartment house over head. He was the headman for the Merriam Cammet (Cement) Co. of Chigo. (Chicago, I think) and they was to take over a great track of land and plot it for a town site, and at once the bee commenced to buzz in my bonnet. I was just waiting for some thing like that to start, as I kept my self in the background. And I was looked on as just a carpenter, working all the time, and lived with the painter over in the shop.
I created many friends among the men that I worked with. Never said any thing a bout my self. No one knew me, nor cared for me. I was alone among strangers. Was very careful not to offend, but treated ever one with respects that I came in contact with. Never dressed up. Always kept my place as a common workingman. Made it a ruling to use good language, no matter where I might be.
This man’s name was F. M Persinger, and my name was F. W. Tucker. Mr. Persinger and Mr. Tucker become the closest of friends. Not by the puff dress and my callings, but the language that I used he saw at once that there was something behind it all. Mr. Persinger told me that he took a liking to me from the start. After the building was up and the bank had its doors for business, I ordered $1,000. to be sent to the new bank of South. San Francisco as a checking account to the credit of Francis W. Tucker, from the McDonald Bank of San Francisco. And when that money was received on the Wells Fargo & Co. the next morning, I was across the street at the paint shop, with my old friend painter. I was the largest depositor and did not seem to think I was any different. Well, Mr. F. M. Persinger was living over the bank, and called his wife down in the bank, showing her the money that was received for me. And he and the Mrs. could hardly believe it. It was a complete surprise to all that knew me. And the old Wells Fargo & Co. man did not know what to say because I had fixed doors and put up shelves for his office. And the news soon spread, and I was surprise to receive the many shake hands. By time I would feel embarrassed. There was a desk for a notary public for the bank of which I accepted. Also was placed in charge as head of the real estate. Business was good. The bank prospered. Deposits increased each day. I was increasing and swelling my bank accounts. My Daughter had grown to become a beautiful young lady, accomplished in her studies and music, and I once more was a proud father.
But there seemed to be a gathering ghost storm rising all over the land. A strange turns of fate revealed its self. The country went in to a slump. Business stopped. Banks closed their doors, and a panic followed. The McDonald Bank of San Francisco failed and busted our bank. (This was the panic of 1893.) We was lost and broke. In the meantime, I had branched out a little and bought a block of land, subdivided it, and had 30 lots to commence life anew. Fixed up a little real estate office in Palo Alto Stanford’s University Cal. and started selling lots at $300.00 each. I soon was on my feet. Happy, once more, with a few hundred dollars in the bank of San Jose, Cal.
I picked up my paper one morning and in big head lines the Bank of San Jose closed its doors, and 2 women commit suicide by shooting, 2 others jumped over the cliff in to the ocean at Santa Cruz, and I went spinning down the road to destruction. My heart was broken and so my pocket was empty. Only $75 dollars in my desk. Times was hard. No way to turn. All avenues was closed. Nothing for me. What to do? I did not know. I soon got hungry, and I was looking for something to do, and was a tramp, sleeping in different barns as night over took me. I got down to just 1.5c piece, and in a little grocery I bought a loaf of bread and set by a little ditch. Soaked my bread in the water and eat it. That was my day’s ration. I was tired and hungry. I had forgotten that I ever had a home. I was to proud to beg, so 1 day there was 2 tramps lying under a tree by the side of the road. I went over to them and lay down with them, and in silence I said the Lords Prairie. I looked them and could see no difference as we lay on the ground 3 of us. In our talk, one of them said he used to have a home, a wife, and a baby, and said no more. I had nothing to say, so I wandered back to San Jose, and with the help of a man that I knew when I was in business, picked me up and took me to the Russ House in San Jose, paid for my meals and a room.
Inside of a week I went to work as a porter for $15.00 a month and staid there for 2 years. Then went back to the carpenter work, but never could get another hold on my line of real estate. I never could gather enough to start at a day’s wages. So drifting down the river of time I have become an old man of 74 years. My hair is white. I try hard to hold myself together. Living in my dearest daughters home datching trying to make the best of life, holding on to that thread of life, which will soon break. And in my, lonely hours, with pleasure I recall all of those days gone, never to return.
Just like a mighty river, rolling on from day to day, men and vessels cast up on it, lost and passed away. Then do your best for one another, making, life a pleasant dream. Help a poor and weary brother, pulling hard against the stream. Yes, my dear loved ones are gone to that home that waits for us all. In those silent hours of night I dream of some one of the family, will come to me, and it seems real. Then in my waking it is only a dream. Yes, God only knows how I would love to have someone that I could look upon as a friend, to cheer me in my last days, of which will grow shorter day by day. It is sad to say, but true. I must watch the setting of the sun alone. With love to you both. I should dear love to see you. I have given up the idea of ever coming to Denver, as my income is only 20.00 a month. So you see it is impossible to ever think of the trip.
Please excuse the poor scribe, as my hand is not as steady as it used to be. It has taken me a month to write this. I do hope you will be interested in it, as I have not written half I want to say as I will ever write any more. But those old days hold a dear charm for me. I should be pleased to hear from you if you care to write. With many, many blessings to you, I am as ever, your uncle Frank W. Tucker. P.O. Box 435, Willow Brook, Cal.
Yes dear Elva, I am sure you never received such a letter, and as many pages as this one. There should be many more. You see I had to cut it short and in part. If you would like a short scratch of your dear Mother’s life: From her early life, from her childhood up to the time of her marriage to your father. I will try to make it as plain as I can, as we was children together, and was school mates in the log house on the banks of Bear Creek in Northern Wis.
With love and many best wishes
as your loving
Whose race is near run. Then I will pick up the trail and follow those that has gone a head of me.