Tag Archives: early black physicians

Notable Black Toledoans – George W. TUCKER and Dr. Alpheus W. TUCKER

My research of late has shown a lot of connections between my own ancestors who were early Toledo residents and the black communities in SE Michigan, in particular our larger city to the north – Detroit.   I’ve also discovered some connections to Detroit for some of our notable 19th century black residents.

In reviewing some of the black Toledoans who were mentioned as having been involved in Underground Railroad activities in local newspapers, it was noted in the post regard William H. MERRITT, that in 1858 the negroes of Toledo held a meeting to determine who would be the delegate sent from our city to the convention held in Columbus, Ohio.  The delegate chosen, per that news article was G.W. TUCKER.

George W. TUCKER was enumerated in the City of Toledo on the 1860 census.  It was shown that he was born in Kentucky around 1812 and had four younger persons, presumably his children, in his household.  Mary W., aged 23; Georgetta A., aged 18; Alpheus W. (or Alphonse) aged 16; and Caspar M. (or Cassius) aged 14.  In 1860 George was 48 years old and listed as a “mullatto.”  He was a Barber and owned real estate worth $300 and a personal estate worth $250.

In a review of George W. TUCKER’s life, I did not find much more about his residency in Toledo, except for the note below posted in the Toledo Daily Blade on December 30, 1858.

We are advised by the receipt of the proceedings of a meeting of colored people held at their school-house in this city, recently but which are too lengthy for our space, that a resolution was passed to send a delegate to the Under Ground R.R. Convention, to be held at Columbus on the 5th and 6th of January. Agreeable to previous arrangements a mass meeting was then held on Tuesday evening last, for the election of a delegate, resulting in the choice of G.W. Tucker. The officers of the meeting were W.H. Merritt, President, and M.H. Hawkins, Secretary

Per Toledo City Directories starting in 1864, TUCKER was not listed as a resident; however, George W. TUCKER “colored” was listed in the 1858 City Directory, which can be viewed via the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s online digital archive.  He was labeled as a “barber” and located at “Locust b Ontario and Michigan, east side.”  A review of death registers for the city showed that there was a “colored” man of the same name and age of George W. TUCKER who died in 1862 in the city. It appears that TUCKER moved to the city around 1850.

A quick google of his name brought up a connection between TUCKER and famed black Underground Railroad conductor from Detroit by the name of William LAMBERT.  LAMBERT lead a group of of primarily black men in an organization he called  “African American Mysteries:  Order of the Men of Oppression” also called the “Men of Mysteries.” He and other notable Detroit abolitionists were actively involved in transporting runaway slaves from Detroit to Canada during the antebellum period.  Per the text “The Underground Railroad in Michigan” LAMBERT was interviewed by a reporter in 1886 and spoke of how 60,000 men took the “order” and became members of his secret organization whose primary focus was helping those who “self emancipated” themselves to get to Canada.  Unfortunately his records detailing those transported to freedom and those who worked within “the order” have unknown whereabouts.  In the book mentioned above, it was noted that George W. TUCKER was an agent who handled subscriptions to a newspaper called “The Mystery” founded by Martin DELANY of Pennsylvania, another black abolitionist and Underground Railroad administrator.  TUCKER handled subscriptions for this paper in the Detroit area.

Other information reviewed regarding the history of George W. TUCKER uncovered that he was one of the 9 black/colored residents listed in Detroit’s first city directory published in 1837.  He was listed as a hairdresser and a barber many times in Detroit through the 1850s.  As noted above, he was listed in Toledo with his family in 1860.  It is unknown if he was engaged in activities related to the Underground Railroad in Toledo, but his association with other known UGGR Toledoans like William H. MERRITT and his mention of him being a delegate from Toledo to the UGGR convention make this very likely to be the case.

It seems that George TUCKER died in Toledo in 1862 of “consumption.”  He was listed as being 50 years old and buried at Forest Cemetery but a review of cemetery records does not show his name and year of death.  They may not have information that far back for the online records of the cemetery.

A review of the family of George TUCKER showed that his two son’s Alpheus and Cassius lived with a couple with the surname of HUBBARD in 1850 in Detroit when they were children.  I could not find George TUCKER on the 1850 census so he may not have been enumerated that year.

George’s son Cassius TUCKER moved back to Detroit after 1860.  He was listed as a “colored” barber in the City of Detroit directory in 1864 living on “Mullet bet Hastings and St Antoine.”  He was the only “colored” TUCKER living in Detroit during that year.

Cassius later married Eliza JOHNSON a Richmond, Virginia native.  A marriage record has not been found for the couple, but I believe they may have married in the metropolitan District of Columbia area considering that their first born child Beatrice TUCKER was listed as having been born in DC in 1865 on the 1870 Census.  The rest of their children in 1870 – Alberta, born 1867; and Octavia born 1870 were listed as having been born in Michigan.

The DC connection I felt was plausible considering that Cassius’  brother – Alpheus (or Alphonse or William A TUCKER) was living in the DC area in the 1860s following the Civil War.

Alpheus W. Tucker showed up in numerous queries due to being a physician who was was an early black physician working in Washington, DC after the Civil War.  Research into Alpheus showed that he and his brother Cassius grew up in Toledo and received their early education in the city.  More than likely they attended the segregated public school system of TPS or the private Colored School administered by Warren AME church due to them being children in the city prior to the 1873 desegregation of the school system.  Alpheus later went on to attend Wilberforce College between the years of 1861 and 1863.  One of his classmates included Dr. Charles Burleigh PURVIS, who was the son of two leading black abolitionist families in Philadelphia.  Alpheus attended the Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons and graduated in 1865.   Dr. Alpheus Tucker worked as a civilian surgeon during the Civil War at Contraband Hospital.  He also had a record listed in the District of Columbia’s Freedman’s Bureau Field Office Records as receiving a disbursement/payment for work after the war.  His payment was provided on October 21, 1865.  He was paid $100 for services rendered in a department called “A. A. Surgeon.”  Research showed that this was an abbreviation for “Acting Assistant Surgeon” and that persons listed usually were employed as civilians by the medical department working for the Bureau.   Alpheus married a woman named Martha Ellen WOOD on the 24th of January, 1867 and they had one daughter – Estella TUCKER.

A review of Alpheus TUCKER shows that as a black physician, he was limited in opportunities for employment primarily due to race.  Information obtained in the reference below regarding the history of the National Medical Association, shows that he and his black physician colleagues of DC often had to work for government positions or some other job during the day and practice medicine at night.  Due to race prejudice, black doctors were not allowed admitting privileges to local hospitals.  They also primarily saw black patients and due to the black population of DC being made up of primarily newly freed slaves, opportunities for a decent living as a black doctor were limited because many of their patients could not afford to pay for medical services.  Due to this a large percentage of black physicians obtained other degrees in other disciplines in order to be able to make a decent living during the period following the Civil War.

In 1869 Dr. TUCKER was mentioned in various newspaper articles from DC where he was listed as a member of the Republican Party and gave comments regarding local elections in the capital.  He was also the cause of a controversy in the medical community when he applied for admission into the District of Columbia Medical Society along with his Oberlin classmate Dr. Charles PURVIS.  Both men and fellow black physician Dr. Alexander AUGUSTA were denied admission due to “color phobia.”  Their request for admission was deemed a part of the “Trouble of 1869 to 1872” by a history of the National Medical Association. Information found showed that:

On the 9th of June, 1869, two colored physicians, Drs. C. B. PURVIS and A. T. Augusta, were proposed for membership in the Society. At the next meeting,
June 16th, they were reported as eligible. They failed, however, to receive the requisite number of votes to elect them. June 23rd, another colored physician, Dr. A. W. Tucker, was proposed; on the 30th he was reported as eligible, but failed of election.

As a response to not being admitted to the medical association, it was noted that TUCKER and his black colleagues took action and formed their own, integrated medical society:

In response to the rejection of Drs. Purvis, Augusta, and Tucker in 1869, the three Negro physicians and their supports formed a new integrated society which they named the National Medical Society (NMS). In December of that year, amongst much publicity in the local papers, the battle moved to Congress when the NMS appealed to Congress for the repeal of the MSDC’s charter. The grounds for the repeal, according to the NMS, was that the Society was acting in dereliction of its charter by refusing admission to all physicians in the District, regardless of color.

Dr. Alpheus TUCKER was enumerated with his wife and daughter in the WOOD household  in DC on the 1870 census.  Research into his work, shows that he worked in DC as a physician through 1878.  Between 1878 and 1880 he seems to have moved to Detroit, where his brother Cassius had relocated to in the 1860s.  Alpheus was listed as having died in Wayne County, Michigan  in January of 1880.  His widow and child stayed in DC where his wife and later his daughter worked as teachers in the public school system for black students in that city.   Martha E TUCKER his widow (shown below) was mentioned in the publication “The Crisis” as an employee of the DC public schools for 50 years.  She served as a teacher, principal and as a social worker.  Her daughter Estelle also became a teacher.

Martha WOOD TUCKER from “The Crisis” NAACP publication vol 22,  no. 1, pgs 22-23 May, 1921

 

Alpheus’ brother Cassius lived out his life in Detroit and died between 1900 and 1910.  I have yet to locate his death record but his wife Eliza JOHNSON TUCKER was listed as a widow by 1910 in the City of Detroit directory.

REFERENCES:

 

Toledo City Directory 1858 (accessed via TLCPL online digital archives 12/10/2017)

“The Underground Railroad in Michigan” Mull, Carol (see link above)

Ohio County Death Records – Death of GW Tucker, colored (accessed 11.9/2017)

District of Columbia Marriages – 1811-1950, Alpheus W. Tucker (accessed 11/9/2017 – see link above)

The Black Past – African Americans in Medicine in the Civil War (accessed 12/10/2017)

The Founding of the National Medical Association (accessed 12/10/2017)

The Crisis – Volumes 22-24 (short biography and picture of Martha WOOD TUCKER accessed 12/10/2017)