George Livingston Tucker, born April 24, 1831 in North Carolina, was the son of Joseph and Mary (Isbell) Tucker. Paternal grandparents were William and Nancy (Grider) Tucker, and his maternal grandparents were Thomas and Discretion (Howard) Isbell of Wilkes County, North Carolina.
After 1860 George moved from his parents’ home in Bradley County, Tennessee to Rhea County, and married Minerva McKamy Frazier on July 15, 1863. They were married by the Rev. Beriah Frazier Jr., the bride’s uncle. Minerva, born in 1845, was the daughter of Nicholas Gibbs and Hannah Minerva (McKamy) Frazier. At least three children were born to this couple: Mary Emily Tucker, died prior to 1870; Hannah Minerva Tucker, born December 18, 1866, and married Dr. William W. Cunnyngham; Julia Frazier Tucker, died February 14, 1869 at four months of age, and is buried in Mynatt Cemetery in Washington.
George and his family lived on a 765-acre farm on the Tennessee River, approximately six miles south of Washington. His wife, Minerva, died when only twenty-five years of age, on February 14, 1870. She is also buried in Mynatt Cemetery. After his wife’s death, George continued to live on the farm until he was murdered by Frank Casteel on December 14, 1878. A newspaper article, found in the Cunnyngham Family Bible (in the possession of Nancy Cunnyngham McClure), and from the Bradley County paper, entitled, “Mr. George L. Tucker of Rhea County Killed,” describes the incident:
“On Saturday evening last a runner, who had been sent, brought the sad news to this place that Mr. George L. Tucker had been killed, on the morning of that day, at his own home, six miles south of Washington, on the north bank of the Tennessee River, by a man named Castile, who stabbed him to the heart with a butcher knife. The particulars, as they came to us, are about these: Tucker and a man by the name of Tollett, from Bledsoe County, had been engaged for some days in killing a lot of hogs, which belonged to them jointly, and had contracted to pay the hands that helped them in bones. When settling time came, Castile refused to take bones in payment, and angry words ensued between him and Tucker. Castile became boisterous and commenced swearing—Tucker told him he did not curse himself on his own premises and that he would not allow anyone else to do it, and ordered him to leave. This Castile refused to do, and continued to curse, when Tucker caught him by the lapel of the coat with a view of leading him away instantly. “Boys, help me,” were the only words spoken by Tucker after he received the fatal stab. Castile was preparing to stab Tucker the second time, when a young Mr. Franklin ran up behind him, threw his arms around him, and held him so securely as to prevent him from further injuring Tucker. Then Castile commenced trying to cut young Franklin with the knife—he (Franklin) called for help, when Tollett picked up a mall and hit Castile a blow upon the head which fractured his skull, and our informant thinks it will be impossible for him to live.
George L. Tucker, deceased, was the only son of Mr. Joseph Tucker, who resides one and a half miles west of this place. He was aged about 48 years. For many years he was a citizen of our town and county, and was esteemed and respected by all who knew him—and almost everyone knew George Tucker. He was a noble man, either at home or abroad, and we have never come across a man that could beat him being clever. After the war he settled in Rhea County where he has lived ever since, and where he was regarded and looked upon as one of the most enterprising citizens of that county.
On Monday last his remains were deposited by the side of those of his wife, in the cemetery at Washington, with Masonic honors. He leaves a little daughter, an aged father and mother, four sisters, and many nephews and nieces, to mourn his untimely taking away. Most deeply do we sympathize with them in their sad bereavement.”
There is also another article found in the same Bible from the Bradley County newspaper, which refers to the trial and verdict. It is titled “A Light Sentence Upon A Murderer, “and is as follows:
“We learn that Frank Casteel, who killed George L. Tucker, In December 1878, was tried last week on an indictment for murder in the second degree, by the late term of the Circuit Court for Rhea County, where the offense was committed, and was only found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and sent to the penitentiary for two years. According to the verdict of the jury in this case, human life is being valued as being worth but very little. The deceased was raised in Bradley County and was well and favorably known as a good, generous and noble man, and a valuable, enterprising citizen. He had been living in Rhea County several years, where he was highly respected and esteemed by all good citizens. He was instantly killed, and left his old father and mother and his sisters, and Minerva, his only child, an orphan to mourn his loss. Frank Casteel was at Tucker’s house at the time of the fatal blow, and became offended as we learn, about his pay for one day’s work, and commenced cursing and using insulting language. Tucker requested him kindly to leave his premises or behave; he replied to Tucker with an oath, that he would leave when he got ready. Tucker left him some minutes and returned and said to Casteel, “I have asked you as a gentleman to go out of my yard, and now you must go out.” Casteel declined, and Tucker took him by the lapel of his coat and requested him to go away and not trouble his hands. Casteel replied, “Go away, or something will happen,” and he and Tucker walked three or four steps, when Casteel drew out of his pocket a large knife open, and as quick as thought stabbed Tucker in his right breast and instantly killed him. He drew back to stab him again but was prevented. If these facts do not make a case of murder we are at a loss to know what facts would. We understand the above to be substantially the facts. The open knife in his pocket shows premeditation. Yet the jury only considered he was only guilty of manslaughter. Thus a good man is murdered and his victim, from some unknown cause, escaped with almost no punishment. Is this to be a precedent? If we are any judge of human nature Casteel was a bad man, and the great crime which he committed should have been punished to the full extent of the law—not as vengeance upon him alone, but to deter others from committing like offenses.”
As we read these two accounts from a Bradley County newspaper, we see that each article spelled the name Casteel differently, and that there were a number of grammatical errors in both. Also, one article stated that Tucker was stabbed in the heart; then, in the other article we find he was stabbed in his right breast. Of course, the heart is closer to the left than right side; however, I think the reporter was using the term right side as facing the person, instead of looking down on one’s own body. And, in the first article, the reporter talks about Tollett picking up a mall and hitting Casteel; a mall was also known as a mallet.
So we see that times have not changed a great deal. People still have arguments and get killed over what some might consider insignificant things. Punishment does not always suit every crime, or every person. I suppose it is a good thing that we have trained people to uphold the law and pass sentence on those who break laws; the rest of us would certainly make a mess of things if that were not true! This event in our county’s history shows that we should learn from the past in order to understand the present and be able to live in the future.