Part of the Historical Society of Easton’s series: Easton in the Service.

Small towns usually have their share of interesting characters who serve their community in different ways, and Easton is certainly no exception. Take the Tucker twins for example.

Arthur Jelliff Tucker and Henry Burdett Tucker were identical twins born on September 2, 1896 to Floyd Tucker Jr. and his wife Helene Stiles Tucker. They were the grandsons of Floyd Tucker Sr., a successful farmer who had moved to Easton from his native Redding and had the distinction of serving each town as a member of the Connecticut State Legislature during his residency in both towns. Tucker’s 185-acre farm was on Rock House Road just west of its intersection with Valley Road. The house at 480 Rock House Road is one of the oldest homes in town and still stands proudly on the knoll above the sweeping curve in the road.

The Tucker House in the late 1930’s at 480 Rock House Road. The wrap around porch has since been removed and the house restored to a more accurate representation of what it would have looked like when it was first built c.1790

The Tucker twins grew up in Bridgeport where their father was the publisher and editor of the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, a newspaper he had inherited from his father-in-law, Henry Burdett Stiles upon the latter’s death in 1904. The twins’ father had also inherited and maintained his own parent’s Easton farm upon his mother’s death in 1891, using it as the family summer home for many years. Both boys were attending Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy, New York when the United States entered World War I in 1918, and together, they enlisted in the Navy, both serving until the end of the war, both stationed at the same NY naval base, and both being discharged the very same day.

Inseparable, the young men returned to Bridgeport after the war, living with their parents on Brooklawn Avenue, where they eventually took jobs as electricians, working for the same employer. On April 20, 1927, the twins incorporated the Tucker Machine Company in Easton. The Tuckers, in conjunction with one of the Gillette boys from Easton, sold, assembled, and then installed Fairbanks-Morse engines from their facility at today’s 387 Center Road. Prior to most of rural Easton’s complete electrification by the mid-1930’s, farmers relied heavily on gasoline powered engines such as the ones made by Fairbanks-Morse for sawing wood, filling silos, threshing grain or pressing their hay. They were also used to operate water pumps, cream separators, milking machines, butter churns, washing machines, and even for powering electric light plants. When electricity became available to even the most remote farms in the 1930’s, these engines lost their luster and sales fell by the wayside. Businesses like the one run by the Tucker twins failed and their owners needed to seek a way to survive elsewhere.

Gasoline engines such as the Fairbanks – Morse brand replaced traditional water and wind power in many operations during the early part of the 20th century. Gillette Tucker & Company from Easton represented the brand in the late 1920’s through the middle 1930’s.

It was in the mid-1930’s, after the death of their father, that the Tuckers, along with their mother Helen with whom they still resided, moved to the farm the family still owned on Rock House Road in Easton. When Helen passed away around the start of WW II, the twins built a smaller house to the east of the large farmhouse and moved in. Just as they always had, after they shuttered their business on Center Road, they went to work for the same employer, Forsell Electric in Westport.

After the war, Easton began to grow quickly. On November 20, 1946, then volunteer fireman Henry Tucker spotted flames as he was driving by Helen Keller’s Redding Road home. By the time that the volunteers were alerted and responded with the company’s aging 1931 Sanford Cub truck, it was too late to save the house. After the disastrous fire at Helen Keller’s Arcan Ridge, Chief Arthur “Turb” Bush opened the January 6, 1947 meeting of the Easton Volunteer Fire Company with the suggestion that the town hire a full time paid fireman who would roll with the volunteer company’s lone truck at a moment’s notice during the day while a rotation of volunteers would man the firehouse each evening. Less than two months later, the company’s second truck, the long awaited new Mack fire truck finally arrived in March and the company then needed not one, but two paid men to man the firehouse during the day. The $42 per week jobs went to Arthur and Henry Tucker. Again, twin brothers, twin jobs, same employer. Added to their paid fireman’s position, both brothers drove school buses for Skip Toth during the school year.

This 1946 Mack Pumper arrived a few months after Helen Keller’s Arcan Ridge Home was destroyed by fire in late 1946. The Tucker Brothers were Easton’s two paid drivers, assigned to handle this and the Company’s original 1931 Sanford Cub fire truck.

By 1953, the Tuckers were in a bitter feud with the unpaid volunteers at the firehouse. They refused to allow the volunteers to play cards during the evening in the upstairs room that held the TV and pool table. There were complaints that the twins failed in their duty to run each engine at least once a day and that the firehouse was unkempt and dirty due to their neglect. Meetings with the fire company president failed to produce results and the Tucker brothers were fired. The resulting firestorm threatened to tear the fire company apart. The League of Women Voters even initiated a study to determine if the volunteer fire company needed more supervision by the town. Unfavorable news articles in the Bridgeport papers were fueled by the Tucker brothers’ other employer, Skip Toth, who sided with the twins. The League finally sided with the fire company and in early June the Bridgeport Post reported that, “nobody will be making a pitch tomorrow night for the Tucker twins, Henry and Arthur, at the town meeting on their dismissal by the volunteer firemen.”

The brothers left, but soon opened a television and radio repair shop at their home on Rock House Road while they both continued to drive for Toth. Again, inseparable as they lived and worked together twenty-four hours a day. Neither man ever married and neither man ever lived in a separate house from his brother. The only time this writer could find the boys apart was for the five years between Henry’s death in April of 1976 and Arthur’s demise in May of 1981. The Tucker brothers had served their country together during WWI, and then served their town together as both volunteer and then paid firemen while they served the Easton schools as bus drivers. Interesting characters indeed!

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By Bruce Nelson

Director of Research for the Historical Society of Easton Town Co-Historian for the Town of Redding, Connecticut Author/Publisher at Sport Hill Books