New York to Ohio

Thomas B. Tucker & Hester Mohler

Thomas and Hester are Bonnie Billick’s maternal great-great-grandparents.

Thomas B. Tucker (1806-1866) was born August 19, 1806, in Johnstown, New York, the ninth of his parents’ eleven children. He likely grew up in or around Johnstown. His occupation has been described as “lumber manufacturer” which probably means saw mill operator (CBR, p. 844).[1] In 1834, he married Laura Lyon (1809-1843), resident of Le Ray, New York, a rural town about 120 miles from Johnstown and just a few miles from the Canadian border. Laura’s ancestors had roots in Colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. It is not clear where the family domiciled. The birthplaces of their ten children are recorded in communities around Le Ray: Alexandria Bay, Antwerp, and Lorraine. Laura passed away in December of 1843, only five months after the birth of daughter, Sarah Josephine Tucker (1843-1910). She was buried in the Old Theresa Cemetery, in Theresa, New York.

We’ve seen above that Caleb Tucker moved from Massachusetts to New York. What, one wonders, motivated his son, Thomas to then relocate some 600 miles west to Sandusky Township, Ohio along the shore of Lake Erie? Thomas’s parents died within a year of each other, in November 1852 and October 1857 and Census records show three of Thomas’s brothers, Henry, Hiram, and Nathaniel, were already residing in Sandusky County, on properties in Rice Township. As a soldier in the War of 1812, Nathaniel had served in the area and was thus likely familiar with the area around Fort Meigs and modern-day Perrysburg. He moved to the new state of Ohio in 1839 and owned some 200 acres of land. He and the other Tuckers were part of a wave of settlers from the east.

Why Ohio?

An early history of Sandusky County relates:

“The fame of the exhaustless fertility of Sandusky’s fertile vegetable soil had reached New York, and a stream of emigration turned westward. Some came in large covered wagons all the way, but by far. a larger proportion utilized lake transportation from Buffalo to Huron, and thence in wagons. Many Huron settlers abandoned unfinished improvements and began anew in the adjoining forest. York, Townsend, and Green Creek townships received their immigration mostly from New York.”[2]

One can imagine sculpting a working farm from dense virgin forests was no simple matter. The County history continues:

“Very few of the pioneers had more than enough money to bring them here. They depended for a start upon their own labor and the resources of the country, about which so much had been said in the old communities. The first season’s planting, owing to the difficulty of preparing the soil, was small, but under favorable conditions would have been sufficient to furnish bread, had the destroyer remained away. What must have been the hardworking farmer’s disappointment and chagrin, to see his crop at ripening time become the feast of all the multitude of animals and birds, which filled the woods. Blackbirds, squirrels, raccoons, and turkeys literally devoured the drooping ears of an entire field, upon which the hard-pressed family placed sole dependence for their winter’s food.”

In February of 1856 Thomas married Hester Mohler (1830-1920).[3] He was 50 years old, she just 26, and only eleven years older than her step-daughter, Laura Ann Tucker (1842-?). “Hester” is not a misspelling but a form of the Biblical “Ester” that became popular in Reformation England.

Hester Mohler was born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1830 and came to America with her parents, arriving in New York in 1844. The family went first to Canton, Ohio, then Fremont. This is not such an odd itinerary: Ohio was a destination for many 19th-century Swiss immigrants. Census documents, marriage records, and a history of Sandusky County (CBR) reflect a number of Swiss families resident in the area in the late 1800’s and more than a few bear the “Mohler” surname.

The couple had four children: Nelson Melvin Tucker (1857-1916), born March 27, 1857, and Adelaide Tucker (1858-1922), born October 8, 1858. In addition, they had two children who died in infancy: Sebastian and Franklin.

Tucker_Mohler_marriage_record
County Record of Marriage, Thomas Tucker and Hester Mohler, 1856

Some records suggest Hester died in 1859 but this is an error. She appears in the 1860 Census, along with Thomas, stepdaughter Laura (then 18 years old), and toddlers Nelson and Adelaide. Several records confirm her marriage in April of 1870 to a prominent, Swiss-born farmer, John Frabish (1814-1890)[4], sixteen years her senior, and a next door neighbor of Caleb Clink (see The Clink Clan). Indeed, Hester is listed in the 1870 Census living with Mr. Frabish, along with her children Nelson and Adelaide.[5] Following John’s death in 1892, Hester lived with her son and after his passing with her daughter-in-law, Emma. Hester passed away in Emma’s home on Main Street in Woodville, on the afternoon of October 4, 1920.

 

Thomas Tucker died in 1866 in Sandusky County; his burial place is unknown. Most of the Tucker children from Thomas’ first marriage to Laura Lyon remained in New York, save daughters, Martha Tucker Abel (1833-1923) and Laura Ann Tucker (1842-??), both of whom joined their father in Ohio.


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Notes

[1] The Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Sandusky and Ottawa, Ohio, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens J.H. Beers & Company, 1896. Since this tome is cited several times, I’ll refer to it parenthetically simply as CBR. It was published while many of the descendants were still alive, so one assumes the information is generally accurate. There are a few instances, which I shall point out, where the CBR has some questionable statements that can’t be confirmed with other documents.
[2] History of Sandusky County Ohio with Portraits and Biographies of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers (Cleveland, Ohio: H.Z. Williams and Bro., 1882), p. 126.
[3] Records reflect surname variations, such as Moler and Mouler.
[4] Also spelled Froebisch and Frabish.
[5] Assuming the “Ida” in the Census is Adelaide.
{last update: 2-Mar-2020}