Dr. William J. Tuck1,2,3

ID# 1855, (1815 - 1859)
Adoptive fatherDr. Davis Green Tuck4,5,6 (30 Dec 1793 - 3 Feb 1863)
MotherElizabeth M. Toot6 (26 Nov 1800 - 29 Dec 1873)

Key Events:

Birth: 22 Feb 1815, Halifax Co., Virginia7,8,9
Death: 14 Jun 1859, Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee10,11,12,13
Burial: 14 Jun 1859, Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee14,15
ChartsDescendants of Dr. Davis Green Tuck
Descendants of David Dutt/Toot

Copyright Notice

Narrative:

     Dr. William J. Tuck was born on 22 Feb 1815 in Halifax Co., Virginia.7,8,9 William was born with the surname Edmondson, and he seems to have used that through his college years. But soon after he began using the surname Tuck. One source shows he had his surname changed to Tuck by act of the Virginia legislature. But no record of a legislative petition for him has been found, and the law was changed in 1839 specifying that name changes should be directed to the circuit court. A review of the order books for all the courts in Halifax Co. during that time period all found no record of such an order.3,16,17 Another source shows his given name as Joseph Jerome, one of which may have been the origin of his middle initial J.6
     He was apparently adopted by Elizabeth and Dr. Davis Green Tuck, between 1820 and 1830, when he was apparently included in their household. The adoption was likely informal, as he continued to use his birth surname through college, but as adults he and their other children referred to each other as siblings. There were a number of Edmondson families in the area, but his birth parents have not been identified.18,19,20,21,22
     William was probably one of the two males age 15 to 20 appearing on the 1830 Federal Census of Halifax Co., Virginia, in the household of Dr. Davis Green Tuck.23

Attending College --- Text Stolen from ReigelRidge.com !! ---

Old Kenyon Hall
from W. B. Bodine, Kenyon College24

     William entered Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, as a freshman in 1831.25 Kenyon is the oldest private college in Ohio, founded in 1824 by the Episcopal Church originally to train clergymen, but soon also became known as a liberal arts college.26
     While there he joined the Philomathesian Society, the literary society at Kenyon. Literary societies were precursors to fraternities, providing libraries, debating exercises, and were the principal social outlet on campus.25 Members of the society engaged in debate on issues of the day, and with many students from southern states, the tensions between North and South leading up to the Civil War produced strong conflicts between members. On 23 Jun 1832 William and other southern members resigned from the society and founded the Nu Pi Kappa society.27,28
     William graduated from Kenyon College on 6 Aug 1834, with a bachelor of arts degree. There were eight graduates, and each spoke at the commencement exercises. William gave two "orations," one entitled "The Medical Profession" and the other in Greek. He apparently returned and earned a master of arts degree in 1845.29,30,31
     He secured his medical training in the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1839 and 1840, graduating with an M. D. degree.32,33

Establishing a Medical Career --- Text Stolen from ReigelRidge.com !! ---


     William moved to the Southwest, presumably Huntsville, Alabama in 1840. He moved to New Orleans in Jan 1841, staying until August.34,35 After passing an examination on 26 Apr 1841 in New Orleans, he was admitted to practice medicine by the Comité Médical de la Nouvelle Orléans, also known as the Medical Board for the Eastern District of the State of Lousiana.36,37
     He moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in Jan 1842.4,38 A 6 Jan 1846 newspaper notice announced that he had relocated his office to Front Row, the street nearest the Mississippi River, over the book store of C. C. Cleaves.39 On 1 Feb 1848 he signed a contract with the Medical and Hospital Department of the U.S. Army to provide "medical attendance" in Memphis. He was to receive $30 per month for his services.40
     Dr. Tuck appears in the 1850 city directory of Memphis, with his office shown as under the Gayoso House, a hotel. He appears in the 1855 directory with offices at the southeast corner of Shelby and Union, boarding at the Gayoso. He had an advertisement in that issue, stating his office was opposite the steamboat landing.41,42
     He appeared on the 1850 Federal Census of Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee, enumerated 5 Sep 1850, apparently boarding, along with another physician and his family, in the household of F. S. Latham, postmaster, and his family.43

A Pioneer in Memphis Public Health --- Text Stolen from ReigelRidge.com !! ---


     In Memphis was very active in public health, especially concerning yellow fever, which was a major health issue in the city. He published articles on that topic in the Southwestern Medical Advocate in 1847 and in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal in 1854. He published four other articles on local health issues in these journals, the American Journal of Medical Science, and the Memphis Medical Recorder between 1845 and 1855.44,45,46 The Memphis Medical Society was organized in Jan 1851, and he was apparently active in it. He participated in a discussion there with two other doctors in Jun 1852, and again in Jul 1853. He was appointed the Memphis Society's delegate to the Tennessee State Medical Society in 1854.47
     It has been difficult to fully substantiate published claims that he organized the Board of Health and was first Public Health Officer in Memphis, although there seems to be at least some truth in them. A Board was first organized in 1838, several years before he arrived, but it apparently did not long remain in operation. After several efforts, a new board was established in Jul 1849 in response to a threat of cholera, and Dr. Tuck was appointed one of the six members. What role he played in re-organizing the new Board is not clear.48,49,50 He was appointed Secretary of the Memphis Board of Health in Oct 1852 and continued to serve until his death.51,52,53 He filled the chair of the Institutes of Medicine in the Memphis Medical College during the 1858-9 session.4
     Surgeons in the U.S. Army had been recording weather observations since 1817 in an effort to determine what relationship there might be between disease and climate. Apparently William and the Memphis Board of Health shared that interest. He made daily recordings of barometric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, and wind data in Memphis. It was published monthly in the local newspaper. He also furnished monthly meteorological reports to the Smithsonian Institution from 1857 until his death in 1859.54,55
     In addition to his professional duties, he was active in public service and in literature.
     William served on the Board of Visitors (later known as the Board of Education) for the Memphis City Schools for the 1857-58 year.56 He authored a book, Selections for Sabbath Reading, and Brief Miscellaneous Essays, Moral and Religious, published in 1857. It consists of quotations and short articles, with chapters on such topics as "Nature of true Friendship," "Vital Piety," "Importance of Self-Knowledge," and "Thoughts to be Remembered." A whole chapter is based on quotations from George Washington and there are brief quotations from a variety of other figures, but many of the passages seem to be his writings.57

Financial Issues, But Living Well --- Text Stolen from ReigelRidge.com !! ---

Dr. Tuck's Tombstone
photo courtesy Elmwood cemetery

     William appears to have lived well for his time, but seems to have difficulty managing his finances. On 5 Oct 1846 he signed a note due "on demand" for $344.77, for reasons not recorded, which remained unpaid at his death. His creditor was repeatedly assured it would repaid, including in the fall of 1857 when Dr. Tuck had returned from a trip to Virginia saying that he had paid off one or two similar debts there.58 A series of notes dated 1 May 1845, totaling $150 for payment of rent on his office on Main St. in Memphis also remained unpaid at his death. However his former landlord's estate owed him $459.50, suggesting part of his financial problem was an inability to collect his accounts. After his death his administrator collected this account, $336.66 owed by the city, and $1,062 in smaller amounts owed by 29 other people, apparently all patients.59
     Despite his debts, it appears he provided himself the things that were important to him. His library included 536 books, 212 of them medical texts, which sold after his death for $621. Thomas Henry McNeill, of Christian Co., Kentucky and Coahoma Co., Mississippi, husband of William's younger sister, purchased over half of them at the auction.60 He seemed to dress the part of a successful physician as well. At his death he had $233 in outstanding bills from clothiers, hatters, and boot shops.61
     His furnishing included:
a mahogany secretary
a mahogany book case
a walnut book case
an open book case
a poplar ward robe
a square polar ward robe
a table and book case
a single bed stead with shuck and cotton mattress
a walnut center table
a long square table
three chairs
a small table
an eight-day clock
a coal stove and base.62
He died on 14 Jun 1859 at the home of his sister Elizabeth in Memphis, Shelby Co., Tennessee, at age 44.10,11,12,13 He was buried on 14 Jun 1859 in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee, in the family plot owned by his sister and her husband.14,15      William's brother-in-law, Quintus C. Atkinson, husband of his eldest sister Sarah, was appointed administrator of his estate at the July 1859 term of the Shelby Co. court. He posted a $500 bond on 5 Jul 1859, having already taken an inventory of William's effects on 16 Jun. The inventory included the books, furnishings, household items, and a saddle horse. He had the books sold at an auction house, settled debts, and collected accounts due. The debts and costs amounted to $1,157, and the sale of the books and accounts collected totaled $2,650, leaving nearly $1,500 in cash in addition to the furniture, horse, and 51 shares of Memphis and Charleston Railroad in the estate.63

Citations

  1. [S1280] Wm. J. Tuck tombstone, Elmwood Cemetery, shows name as Wm J. Tuck.
  2. [S4110] W. H. Rainey & Co.'s Memphis City Directory and for 1855 & 6, pg178, shows name as Tuck, Wm J, physician, pg 233 shows name as Wm. J. Tuck, M. D.
  3. [S4461] History of the Philomathesian Society, pg 26, shows name as William J. (Edmondson) Tuck and that his name was changed to Tuck by act of the Legislature of Virginia.
  4. [S2135] Walker, Robards and Shanks, "Death of Prof. W. J. Tuck," pg 190.
  5. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 57, citing W. J. Tuck, "An Essay on Yellow Fever," New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, II, 175-191, 1846.
  6. [S2061] Macon, John and Edward Tuck of Halifax County, pg 29.
  7. [S1280] Wm. J. Tuck tombstone, Elmwood Cemetery, shows date, with year as 1815, county and state.
  8. [S2135] Walker, Robards and Shanks, "Death of Prof. W. J. Tuck," pg 190, shows date, with year as 1814, county and state.
  9. [S1519] F. S. Latham household, 1850 U.S. Census, Shelby Co., Tennessee, shows age 31 and state.
  10. [S1280] Wm. J. Tuck tombstone, Elmwood Cemetery, shows date, as 14 Jun 1859, and city.
  11. [S2135] Walker, Robards and Shanks, "Death of Prof. W. J. Tuck," pg 190, shows date, as 14 Jun, and city.
  12. [S2134] "Death of Dr. W. J. Tuck," Memphis Daily Appeal, 16 Jun 1859, shows he died suddenly Monday night [16 Jun 1859 was a Thursday; Monday was the 13th.].
  13. [S2111] McNeil et al v. Mills and Young, transcript of proceedings of Circuit Court of Shelby Co., 12 Aug 1885, pg 486, cross-examination of Richard Tuck, shows he said Dr. Tuck died in Memphis, he heard at "sister's."
  14. [S4112] Elmwood Cemetery, burial records, 1859 pg 37, shows date, lot 299.
  15. [S1280] Wm. J. Tuck tombstone, Elmwood Cemetery.
  16. [S4469] Registre du Comité Médical de la Nell Orléans,, pg 127, shows name as William J. Edmondson alias Wm. J. Tuck.
  17. [S225] A review of the indexes for order books for the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for Halifax Co. and the minute books of the Halifax County Court, and a page-by-page review of those books and the minute books of the Halifax County Court of Law and Chancery the years 1839 through 1842, all found no record of a name change order for him.
  18. [S1038] Owen Family Bible, lists Sarah, b. 1818, Rebecca, b. 1824, and Walter, b. 1824, among the grandchildren of Adam and Sarah Toot born as late as 1834, but does not include William J.
  19. [S636] Davis G. Tuck household, 1820 U.S. Census, Halifax Co., Virginia, shows no males under age 10.
  20. [S635] Davis G. Tuck household, 1830 U.S. Census, Halifax Co., Virginia, shows two white males age 15 to 20 in the household.
  21. [S2111] McNeil et al v. Mills and Young, transcript of proceedings of Circuit Court of Shelby Co., 12 Aug 1885, pg 442, testimony, of Richard Tuck, shows he responded yes to the question "Did you have a brother who was a physician in Memphis.
  22. [S4401] Pictorial Life of Benjamin Franklin, includes inscription "Christmas Present to Walter S. Tuck from his affectionate brother Wm. J. Tuck, Dec 17th 1846."
  23. [S635] Davis G. Tuck household, 1830 U.S. Census, Halifax Co., Virginia.
  24. [S4462] [W. B. Bodine], Kenyon College.
  25. [S4461] History of the Philomathesian Society, pg 26.
  26. [S1265] Wikipedia, online, article "Kenyon College" viewed Dec 2013, give college background.
  27. [S4463] KCpedia, online, article "Philomathesian Society" viewed Jan 2014.
  28. [S4461] History of the Philomathesian Society, pg 26, shows his resignation.
  29. [S4395] "Kenyon College, Ohio," Boston Recorder, 29 Aug 1834, shows date, degree as A. B., list of orations.
  30. [S4394] Committee of the Board of Trustees, Statement of Facts, pg 387, shows him in list of alumni, year, and with A.M. degree.
  31. [S4461] History of the Philomathesian Society, pg 26, shows he graduated in 1835, and received a master's degree in 1845.
  32. [S2724] "University of Pennsylvania Medical Department Matriculants", pg 20, surnames beginning with "T," shows him in 1840 and that he received an M. D. degree.
  33. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 57, citing W. J. Tuck, "An Essay on Yellow Fever," New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, II, 175-191, 1846, shows received his medical training in Philadelphia in the winters of 1839 and 1840, and summer of 1840.
  34. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 57.
  35. [S2135] Walker, Robards and Shanks, "Death of Prof. W. J. Tuck," pg 190, shows he removed to New Orleans Jan 1841 and stayed until August.
  36. [S4469] Registre du Comité Médical de la Nell Orléans,, pg 127.
  37. [S4396] "List of Physicians," The Times-Picayune, 4 Jun 1847, shows him as admitted.
  38. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 57, shows he moved to Memphis after New Orleans.
  39. [S2660] "Palmyra Village Cemetery Update", citing Memphis Daily Eagle 6 Jan 1846.
  40. [S2720] United States Congressional Serial Set, House Doc. No. 38, 31st Congress, 1st session, Contracts under Authority of the War Department, 5 Feb 1850, pg 43.
  41. [S4109] Twyman's Memphis Directory and for 1850, pg 39.
  42. [S4110] W. H. Rainey & Co.'s Memphis City Directory and for 1855 & 6, pp 178, 233.
  43. [S1519] F. S. Latham household, 1850 U.S. Census, Shelby Co., Tennessee, shows him in household of F. S. Latham, with apparently his wife and three children, Mrs. Davis, age 65, and a physician Richards and apparently his wife and two young children.
  44. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 57, describes his work in Memphis and lists the six articles he published.
  45. [S1519] F. S. Latham household, 1850 U.S. Census, Shelby Co., Tennessee, shows occupation as physician.
  46. [S2111] McNeil et al v. Mills and Young, transcript of proceedings of Circuit Court of Shelby Co., 12 Aug 1885, pg 485-6, cross-examination of Richard Tuck, shows he said Dr. Tuck was a practicing physician in Memphis, and that he understood Dr. Tuck "stood high" in his profession.
  47. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 69-70, citing Memphis Medical Recorder I:8 (1852) and II:299-312 (1854) and New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal IX:148-152 (1852) describes organization of Medical Society and Tuck's participation.
  48. [S2061] Macon, John and Edward Tuck of Halifax County, pg 29, shows he organized the Board of Health and was first Public Health Officer in Memphis.
  49. [S2132] Bruesch, "Early Medical History of Memphis," pg 47, citing the Memphis Enquirer 11 Aug 1837 [probably actually 1838], shows that the corporation of Memphis created the Board of Health on 6 Aug 1938 [no doubt actually 1838]; pg 48, shows no bulletins issued by the Board after 15 Oct of that year and probably ceased functioning; pg 58, shows earlier Board soon suspended its activities, and citing Keating, History of Memphis, (Syracuse: 1888), pg 299, shows Tuck and others appointed July 30 1850, but then recites entries from city council minutes of resolutions passed Jun 1840 and 25 Jun 1841 to form a board, 24 Mar 1848 appointments of seven physicians not including Tuck, and July 25 1849 establishing a Board of Health.
  50. [S2133] Keating, History of the City of Memphis Tennessee, pg 299, shows Drs. Shanks, Means, Booth, Hopson, Tuck, and Murphy appointed to form a board of health by Mayor Hickman 30 July, with no year, but context indicates it was 1849.
  51. [S2135] Walker, Robards and Shanks, "Death of Prof. W. J. Tuck," pg 190, shows he was appointed to the Board in Oct 1852, acting as such except for a brief intermission until his death.
  52. [S2133] Keating, History of the City of Memphis Tennessee, pg 366 shows Tuck as secretary of the board of health reporting on deaths from yellow fever.
  53. [S2134] "Death of Dr. W. J. Tuck," Memphis Daily Appeal, 16 Jun 1859, shows he "has been" the Secretary of the Board of Health for several years.
  54. [S4392] United States Congressional Serial Set, Senate Doc. No. 130, 43rd Congress, 1st session, Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1873.
  55. [S4399] Conner, "History of Weather Observations, Memphis", pp 28-9.
  56. [S4398] Asearchin' News, vol 44 no 4 (Winter 1997) pg 42, transcribed from 19 Oct 1857 Memphis Evening Ledger.
  57. [S4400] Tuck, Selections for Sabbath Reading.
  58. [S4141] Tuck, Shelby Co. Tennessee loose probate records, statement of J. Henry A. Lownes 29 Dec 1859.
  59. [S4141] Tuck, Shelby Co. Tennessee loose probate records, four notes dated 1 May 1845; and administrator's settlement statement.
  60. [S4141] Tuck, Shelby Co. Tennessee loose probate records, administrator's inventory 16 Jun 1859; and list of book sales.
  61. [S4141] Tuck, Shelby Co. Tennessee loose probate records, administrator's settlement statement and individual bills.
  62. [S4141] Tuck, Shelby Co. Tennessee loose probate records, administrator's inventory 16 Jun 1859.
  63. [S4141] Tuck, Shelby Co. Tennessee loose probate records, bond 5 Jul 1859; administrator's inventory 16 Jun 1859; and settlement statement.