Lieutenant Colonel Joseph John Tucker: A Generous Donor to UNBSJ

By Adrienne Buckley (2012)  |  Download or Print PDF Version

New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, NB, Accession number: 1963.112At the time of his death on November 23, 1914, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph John Tucker could not have known the huge impact he would have on the people of the City of Saint John and, to a greater extent, the Province of New Brunswick. According to his Will, Colonel Tucker bequeathed his farm on the Sandy Point Road “for use as a Park to be called ‘Tucker Park.’”1 This act of generosity ultimately became the home of University of New Brunswick’s Saint John campus. 

Lieutenant Colonel J. J. Tucker was born in Chatham, Kent, England in 1832 and came to Saint John with his father, John Tucker, at an early age.  He was educated in England. For a lengthy period, he was an agent and surveyor for Lloyds in Saint John and, subsequently, Chief Surveyor for Lloyds in the Far East for twenty years while residing in Shanghai.2 He was never married. After his father’s death, his mother and later his widowed sister, Annie Weldon, resided with him for a time.3 4

He had a long and distinguished career in the Volunteer Military Service. Tucker participated in the Crimean war (1854-1856), as a commander of a transport vessel. In 1862, at the time of “The Trent Affair,” he raised a company of seventy-six men under his command and offered his services to General Rumley. He was appointed Captain in the Nova Scotia Naval Brigade in 1865. In 1870, he joined the Shanghai Volunteer Force as a Private and was on duty during the trouble caused by the Tientsin Massacre. Shortly thereafter, he made rank of Sergeant.  In 1872, he was elected Lieutenant of No. 3 Company in the Shanghai Municipal Volunteer Corps and by 1873 became Captain. He was gazetted to the 62nd Saint John Fusiliers as a Junior-Major on June 13, 1883 (1st Class V.B. Certificate) and received a long-service decoration.5 6 7 He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in June of 1893. In August of 1897, he retired and was appointed Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. In his Will, Colonel Tucker bequeathed his “Silver Prize Cups contained in the gun case in my sitting room” to the Lieutenant-Colonel and officers of the 62nd Battalion.8

When Tucker returned from China, he was an extraordinarily active and dedicated businessman in Saint John. According to a Daily Telegraph article (January 20, 1923) “he had gained considerable wealth in the East through successful speculation and through his own profession.” In October of 1890, The Daily Telegraph was purchased by The Telegraph Publishing Company for the sum of $45,000. This company was comprised of approximately twenty leading New Brunswick liberals of the time.  Tucker was the President of this company.  For many years, he was also on the Board of Directors for the Saint John Railway Company (a precursor to today’s Saint John Transit System). In these two roles, he worked closely with leading members of the Saint John business circle. 

His involvement with various clubs and societies further established Tucker as a pillar of the community.  He was a founding member and first President of the Saint John Union Club.  According to the Union Club’s website, the club was launched by “a group of businessmen looking for a place to gather for companionship and the exchange of ideas.”9 A portrait of Tucker hangs on the wall of the Club’s foyer to this day. He was a longstanding member of the New Brunswick Provincial Rifle Association and (according to NBPRA reports) its Vice President from the years 1893-1896. From 1896-1904, he was listed as a representative on the D.R.A. Council in the NBPRA reports. 

Colonel Tucker was an Anglican and a member of Trinity Church in Saint John. Church records show he donated money to a “Special Repair Fund” for repairs on the spire, the tower and other portions of the Church in 1896. A Register of Pew holders at Trinity confirms in 1908 he held Pew #116, for which he paid $20.00 annually. Trinity was also where his grand military funeral was held in 1914.  This service was described in the Daily Telegraph (November, 26, 1914) as “One of the most impressive and best arranged military funerals ever held in the city.” At the conclusion of the service, a military procession continued up King Street “the band playing funeral marches. There were great crowds in the streets and many hats were raised as the cortege passed by.” 

One of his most notable achievements was his election to the Canadian House of Commons for the electoral district of the City and County of Saint John.10 11 He was elected twice as an MP for the liberal party and was in office from 1896-1904.  While in Parliament, he served as Chairman for the Commission to inquire into the Herring and Sardine Industry of the Bay of Fundy, as well as into the Ravages of the Dog-Fish and the General Condition of the Lobster Fishery at the Magdalen Islands, St. Mary Bay and the Bay of Fundy.

At the time of his death, at age 82, Tucker was one of the most respected and distinguished citizens of Saint John.12 13 He is described in a Saint John Daily Telegraph article (November 24, 1914) as one of Saint John’s “prominent and honored citizens who recently have gone the long journey. Colonel Tucker’s death will cause sincere regret throughout the great circle in which he was known. A quiet man, unostentatious, with a strong sense of public duty, Colonel Tucker enjoyed an unusual degree of respect among those who knew him best. He had no political ambitions, and yet he came forward when he believed it his duty to the country to do so, and his elections in this city and county gave impressive evidence of the high public esteem in which he was held.” A quote from the Saint John Daily Telegraph on January 20, 1923 described him as “a fascinating raconteur” with “many experiences to draw from for subjects for narration.”

Through his substantial land donation to the City of Saint John, Colonel Tucker has contributed to the education of countless New Brunswickers, Canadians, and international guests for the past fifty years.   In the early 1960’s, UNB began its quest to find a permanent home for its expanding University Branch in Saint John. As stated in The “Quiet Campus,” Saint John’s Mayor Teed proposed Tucker Park as the site for the new UNB campus and, in January of 1965, the City gave a portion of Tucker Park for its development.14 15 After many years of planning, work, and unforeseen obstacles, the official opening of the Saint John Campus took place on May 13, 1969.  



1. Probated Will of Joseph John Tucker.

2. H. J. Morgan. (1912). The Canadian men and women of the time: A handbook of Canadian biography. Toronto: W. Briggs.

3. 1901 Census of Canada. Library and Archives Canada.

4. 1911 Census of Canada. Library and Archives Canada.

5. E. T. Sturdee. (1888). Historical records of the 62nd St. John fusiliers (Canadian militia). Saint John: J. & A. McMillan.

6. Honourary Lieutenant Colonel J. J. Tucker Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers Decoration - V.D., 62nd Regiment. Military and Peacekeeping Medals, Honours and Awards. Library and Archives Canada.

7. Honourary Lieutenant Colonel J. J. Tucker Volunteer Decoration. Military and Peacekeeping Medals, Honours and Awards. Library and Archives Canada.

8. Probated Will of Joseph John Tucker.

9. The Union Club, Saint John, New Brunswick.

10. Personnel of the Senate and House of Commons, eighth Parliament of Canada, elected June 23, 1896. (1898). Montreal: John Lovell & Son. See page 194.

11. Joseph John Tucker, Parliament of Canada. Library of Parliament.

12. Provincial Returns of Deaths, Joseph John Tucker, RS141C4. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

13. Joseph John Tucker, Burial Permit. City of Saint John. 24 November 1914.

14. Peter McGahan. (1998). The "Quiet Campus": A History of The University of New Brunswick in Saint John, 1959-1969. Fredericton, New Brunswick: New Ireland Press. See pages 114-115.

15. Saint John Council Minutes. (1967). Saint John Public Records / Archives Publiques.


Photo credit:

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. Tucker, Commander, 62nd Saint John Fusiliers c. / v. 1890. New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, NB. Accession number: 1963.112.