Francis William (Frank) Tucker (1843–1924)

Francis William (Frank) Tucker came to Arkansas from Massachusetts, first settling in Lawrence County, where he managed (and later co-owned) the Clover Bend plantation. He later moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he became chair of the state Republican Party and served as U.S. Collector of Revenues.

Frank W. Tucker was born on December 3, 1843, at Canton, Massachusetts, to Francis William Tucker and Prudence Hoyt Tucker. As an adult, he went by the name Frank and also appears in documents as Captain or Colonel F. W. Tucker.

In August 1862, he enlisted in the Fiftieth Massachusetts Infantry. His daughter Ruth wrote in her unpublished biography of family friend Alice French (an author who wrote under the name Octave Thanet) that during his Civil War service, Frank Tucker spent time in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and decided to settle in the South after the war.

Tucker moved to Arkansas in 1870, settling in Lawrence County at Powhatan and then Clover Bend. He initially managed Clover Bend for John Henry Dowell. Before his death in 1879, Dowell sold the 5,600-acre plantation to William L. Allen and Henry M. Mandeville, civil engineers engaged in railroad building. According to Ruth Tucker, it was when the Allen and Mandeville Co. was constructing the Cairo and Fulton Railroad in the early 1870s that Allen first saw Clover Bend and decided to buy it. Allen acquired a third of the plantation and Mandeville the other two-thirds, which he sold to Frank Tucker.

Like Frank Tucker and Alice French, William Allen was a Massachusetts native. Both the Allens and Frenches had moved from Massachusetts to Iowa prior to the Civil War. In 1883, French visited Clover Bend to see her widowed friend Jane Crawford, who was Allen’s daughter. French then decided to join Crawford during winters. For two decades, her stories focused primarily on a fictionalized rendition of Clover Bend.

In 1896, Frank Tucker sold French and Crawford five acres next to his, and they built a cottage, Thanford, there. The two households developed a close friendship that continued after the Tuckers moved to Little Rock in 1903 and French and Crawford moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1909. F. W. Tucker and Co. conducted Clover Bend’s business on behalf of its owners up to 1918, when the plantation was sold to Slayden Brothers of Tuckerman (Jackson County).

Prior to Alice French’s arrival at Clover Bend, Frank Tucker had returned to Massachusetts to marry Helen M. Wilkins in 1882. She was a daughter of James and Julia Wilkins of Peabody and a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. The couple had five children, all born at Clover Bend: a stillborn infant (1886); a daughter Prudence Evelyn who died at four months in 1889; and three daughters who lived to maturity—Ruth (1889), Mary (1892), and Frances (1894).

In 1901, Frank Tucker was made U.S. Collector of Revenues for Arkansas, a position he held twelve years. After the family’s move to Little Rock in 1903, they lived at 2320 Louisiana Street until Ruth’s death in 1945. Articles in the local press show them maintaining ties with Alice French and hosting receptions for her over a number of years.

As his Arkansas Gazette obituary notes, Tucker was active in Republican politics and chaired the Arkansas Republican Committee. A friend of Theodore Roosevelt, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention several times from 1892 to 1912, and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress in 1896 and 1904, losing both elections. Frank Tucker died at home in Little Rock on March 13, 1924.

Helen Tucker died on June 4, 1932. The family members are buried in a family plot at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock, with the exception of the two children who died at Clover Bend and are buried in the Clover Bend Cemetery.

The three Tucker daughters had impressive educational attainments and, in the case of Ruth and Mary, distinguished careers. Mary Tucker graduated from Mount Holyoke and Bellevue Hospital Training School in New York. Her social work career included being city health nurse for North Little Rock. Mary died on March 4, 1941, in Little Rock.

Frances graduated from Wellesley College and received a master’s in classics from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). In June 1921, Frances married John R. Batchelor of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where the couple lived until she was diagnosed with tuberculosis following the birth of a son, George Tucker Batchelor, in August 1922. She then went to Agnes Memorial Sanatorium in Denver, Colorado, and as her health failed, returned to her parents in Little Rock, where she died on May 18, 1924.

Ruth graduated from Abbott Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and Columbia University. In 1920, she was hired to edit the women’s section of the Arkansas Gazette. She remained on staff for over twenty years as one of its first female journalists. Ruth (who, like Mary, did not marry) died in Little Rock on November 4, 1945.

For additional information:
Batchelor Family Collection, 1898–1945 (MSS.07.40). Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas. Finding aid online at https://arstudies.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/findingaids/id/2972/rec/1 (accessed February 21, 2020).

“Capt. F. W. Tucker, Pioneer, Is Dead.” Arkansas Gazette, March 14, 1924, p. 1.

Gatewood, Willard B. “Theodore Roosevelt and Arkansas, 1901–1912.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 32 (Spring 1973): 3–24.

Ohlander, Marcus. Little Rock and Pulaski County, Arkansas, Illustrated. Little Rock: Ohlander, 1908.

Schwitalla, Alexis Wade. Who’s Who in Little Rock. Little Rock: New Era, 1921.

Sewell, Rebecca. “Clover Bend Plantation.” Southwest Review 21 (April 1936): 312–318.

Shinn, Josiah H. “Miss Alice French of Clover Bend.” Publications of the Arkansas Historical Association 1, no. 2 (1906): 344–351.

Tucker, Ruth. “Octave Thanet, a Biography of Alice French.” Alice French Collection at the Newberry Library; a copy is on microfilm at Mullins Library, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

———. “The Scene Changes Again at Historic Old Clover Bend.” Arkansas Gazette, July 21, 1940, p. 8.

William D. Lindsey
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated: 02/21/2020