Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rather a Mixed-Up Marriage

Ewing Tucker married Harriett Lefever in Morgan County, Missouri, in 1844, when he was over 40 and she was just 17. Over the next sixteen years, young Harriett bore the old man five children, and he worked as a farmer to support the family.
When the Civil War came on, Ewing Tucker left home to join the Confederate Army, although he was now 60 years old. Meanwhile, Harriett stayed home raising five kids. Time passed with no word from Tucker until finally a rumor filtered home that he’d been killed.
Not long afterward, Harriet took her kids and moved in with another old man, Elijah Slocum. Slocum was fairly well-to-do and able to take good care of Harriet and her children. Word was that he also treated Harriett better than her first husband had.
Then, in the spring of 1866, Ewing Tucker showed back up in Morgan County after four years of absence, very much alive. He moved back to his old home place in the southwest part of the county and took possession of it.
But Harriet wasn’t there.
Learning that she was living with Elijah Slocum not far away, Tucker set out to reclaim his family the same way he’d reclaimed his farm. The Morgan County Banner called the situation at the time “rather a mixed-up marriage.”
The crisis was seemingly resolved when Slocum acceded to Tucker’s prior claim on the woman and Harriett agreed to return to her first husband. But she was not happy.
Finally she could stand it no longer. Leaving Tucker, she and her children once again took up residence with her second husband.
Tucker tried to get his family to come back home again, but this time Harriett declined to go back. Infuriated, Tucker threatened Slocum’s life, but Slocum apparently didn’t take the threat seriously.
However, on the early morning of August 29, 1866, Tucker came to the Slocum place and opened fire on Slocum as he was milking his cows. Slocum escaped and ran to the house, yelling to Harriet, “They have shot at me!” and urging her to take refuge in an upstairs room.
Harriet did as Slocum advised, and from the upstairs room, she could hear a commotion below. Soon she saw Ewing Tucker climbing a ladder toward her window. She begged him to call off his attack, and he finally retreated back down the ladder after ascending about halfway up.
Tucker fled on foot, but when Harriett went downstairs, she found Slocum lying dead on the floor.
She gave an alarm, but it took some time for neighbors to gather a posse. That afternoon, they tracked Tucker almost to his house. Local constable Hiram Shockley then went to the Tucker place and found the fugitive calmly at work a short distance from his house.
Tucker denied his guilt, but Shockley escorted him back to the Slocum place, where Harriet confirmed that Tucker was the man who had shot Slocum. Because it was now almost dark, Shockley took the prisoner to his (Shockley’s) home to spend the night with plans to take him to the county jail the next day.
Near midnight 15 or 20 men with disguised faces came to the Shockley place. The constable met the mob in the yard, where the men demanded that the prisoner be turned over. Having secured only one other guard besides himself, Shockley was greatly outnumbered; so he tried to reason with the vigilantes. The men he was talking to at the side of the house quickly cut him off, though, threatening to blow his brains out if he didn’t shut up.
By now, another part of the mob had gained entrance to the house through the front door. As they dragged Tucker out, Shockley ran around the house to meet them but realized there was nothing he could do to stop the mob.
When the gang had gotten a short distance away, Shockley heard several shots, and the next morning he found Tucker dead not far from the scene of his own crime the morning before.
At last report, Constable Shockley was making “every effort in his power” to ascertain the identity of the men who composed the mob but with no success.

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