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Submitted by: Margaret Butler (

Dividing Line

NOTE !! This is a compilation of information only, and the reader must allow for errors. Because of past courthouse burnings, a large majority of coker information comes only from stories handed down through families and acquaintances. This genealogy is meant to be used simply as a guide. For additional information on the Cokers, look at the book on Marion County, AR families at the Marion County library.

* * *

JOSEPH W. COKER, SR., son of Buck Coker

b. ca. 1786-87 NC

d. 1862, alone at his home in Lead Hill, AR

m. (1) Mary Ann "Aney" Brown (dau. of Robert "Boo" Brown)

(2) "Aney" _____?

(3) Cynthia Ann "Aney" Rogers,

(dau. of Cherokee Chief John & Elizabeth (Coody) Rogers)

Before writing about Joe, it is important to note the heritage of Cynthia Rogers' own family tree. She was related to well-known Sam Houston; adventurer Jesse Chisholm; the famous Cherokee Indian, Bushyhead; the last Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation; Richard Fields, Chief of the Texas Cherokees; and last but not least, the actor, Will Rogers. Cynthia was a descendant of Mary of the Long Hair Clan.

Joe Coker is listed as a resident of various counties in northwestern Arkansas, primarily because the county lines changed through the years.

1829-31 Izard Co., AR

1834 & 1838 Carroll Co., AR

1840 Carroll Co., AR (Sugar Loaf Twp)

1850 Marion Co., AR

1860 Marion Co., AR (Sugar Loaf Twp)

Later, Lead Hill became part of Boone Co.

Most Coker researchers are quite aware of Joe Coker and know that he was a bigamist, married to his 2nd and 3rd wives at the same time. Each wife lived in a different household, down the road from the other. Regarding the colorful character of Joe Coker, he has been mentioned in several publications:

The writings of W. Flippin of Marion Co., AR:

Joseph Coker had married in Tennessee, his wife [Mary Brown] died before he came to Arkansas. He had several sons and daughters, I do not know the number, by his first wife. When I first saw him he was living near where Lead Hill now stands. A white man and a Cherokee Indian, a very fine looking half breed, I took him to be, came to the county to buy cows for the Indians who had lately immigrated to the Cherokee Nation. ... We sent up the military road to Georges creek a path turned off there going up the creek to Joe Coker's. There was at that time not a man living on the route, we traveled from Georges creek to Coker's. ... When we [apparently Flippin & another Indian] got to the residence of one of his [Coker's] Indian wives (we had been told he had two) we asked where Mr. Coker was, we were told he was at his mill a short distance down the creek. This Indian woman [probably "Aney"] was a stout healthy looking woman, quite dark skinned. ... Mr. Coker entertained us royally, as he was better prepared than common, had better buildings and another small active Indian woman [probably Cynthia Ann], about I judged half breed for a wife. By these two women, I learned he had quite a number of sons and daughters; as the state had been admitted into the Union and as it was illegal to have two wives, this woman [probably Cynthia] soon left and went back to the Nation. She was what might be called a good looking woman.

The following from the book, The Raven, copyrighted 1988, page 152, by ______. The Raven is the story of Sam Houston, husband of Talihina "Tiana" (Rogers) Houston, the aunt of Cynthia Ann Rogers. Chapter XII "The Wigwam Neosho," page 152:

A great many young Rogers attended the Dwight School. Cynthia, a niece of Tiana, was "active" and "amiable," but "for want of parental ... example she was vain, giddy, fond of dress and impatient of wholesome restraints. ... She absconded with a most worthless and abandoned white man [Joe Coker] who had another Cherokee wife."

From S.C. Turnbo's "Chased By a Band of Indians ":

One mile west of Elbow Creek in Taney County, Mo., is a bald hill called "Poor Joe." There is nothing remarkable in the formation of this moundlike hill, but it possesses a name which it has borne since the early settlement of the country. ...

There is an old time tradition in connection with this bald hill which the old settlers said was true. But the occurrence of it was so long ago that it is almost impossible at this late day to obtain an accurate account of it. But the story was told about this way.

Joe Coker . . . who we have said elsewhere was among the first settlers on White River. He had married in Alabama and his wife died in that state. The issue of that marriage was two sons and two daughters. William (Prairie Bill) and Herrod were the names of his two sons and Sally and Betsey were the names of his girls. Coker''s wife was a daughter of Bob Brown, another old time settler on White River. Soon after the death of his wife Joe married a Cherokee Indian woman named Aney (not Annie), but during the year previous to his marriage to this woman he sent his children and Negro slaves to White River in charge of his brother, Charles Coker, who reached the Sugar Loaf country in 1813 and as we have said before Joe Coker himself came here in 1814. His father, William (Buck) Coker, pitched his tent on the north bank of White River January the 8th, 1815. The spot where he located is now the Dave McCord farm in Jake Nave Bend and is embraced in Boone County, Arkansas. It was told by the settlers that after Joe took up his abode on White River he was not contented with one Indian wife and took unto himself another one of the name of Cynthiana. She was a daughter of John Rogers, a white man who had married a full blood Cherokee woman. Many years after the occurrence of the story we have in mind Aney lived on the river and "Cyntha" lived in the Sugar Loaf Prairie. It was said that after Coker showed his affections for the second Indian woman the Indiana, who were numerous here at that time but were friendly, become greatly incensed at Joe''s conduct for having one too many wives of their kindred and made up their minds to put him out of the way. But Coker understood the enmity they held against him and was constantly on the lookout for them to prevent them taking the advantage of him and thus it went on for some time when finally a bunch of the Indians got the drop on him and thought his scalp was in their grasp. It is told that Coker and others had went to Elbow Creek to kill bear. The majority of the men were afoot. It appears that a small band of Indiana were hunting here at the same time which was unknown to Coker and his friends. The Indians were all afoot and carried their bows and arrows and tommyhawks. One day while Uncle Joe was hunting alone on the west side of the creek the Indians discovered and recognized him. He in turn knew that they were his enemies. Joe had his rifle and hunting knife. The band of Indians raised the war whoop and charged toward him. Knowing he had no chance for his life in contending against so many Coker reserved his fire and fled. The woods were open--that is it was divided into belts of trees and prairies without undergrowth or thickets or bresh. Coker was in the prime of life and stout and vigorous and he bounded along through the tall grass like a deer pursued by a pack of hounds. As he ran he looked back and perceived that the yelling band was gaining on him. This was not a good omen and he did his utmost to accelerate his speed. On came the noisy Indians who were thirsting for his blood and scalplock. Uncle Joe was not ready to surrender his life and he knew that his safety depended on his legs and he made good use of them. The pursuing Indians yelled like demons and let fly several arrows at the retreating form of Coker but they went wide of their mark. The fast racing white man had no time to stop and exchange shots with the red men for his business lay rolling from there and that in a hurry. It was not long before the man drew near this bald hill. It lay directly in his course but he kept straight forward up the slope. Coker was afraid to turn to the right or left for fear the Indiana might head him off. By this time the white man was becoming tired and his breath was coming and going at much shorter intervals than common and before reaching the summit the Indians gained on him rapidly and as the pursued and pursuers went rushing along over the top of the knob the latter came near overhauling their intended victim. Thinking he would have to face death Joe thought he would stop and sell out to his enemies as dear as possible, but at this moment the red men thinking he was a a good as theirs yelled the louder which put new life in Joe''s system and without halting he renewed his running power to keep in advance of his foes. A few of the fleetest Indians had dashed forward ahead of their companions and were almost in the act of striking him with their tommyhawks, when Coker threw down his rifle which impeded his progress and cried out in a loud voice as he ran, "Poor Joe", "Poor Joe" a half a dozen times or more for he believed he was a goner this time sure. By this time the white man and the foremost Indians had reached the slope on the opposite side from where he ran up and being relieved of his rifle he was now in better running order and he bounded along down the hillside like a rubber ball and soon outstripped the angry savages. Part of the Indians stopped to pick up Joe''s rifle and exult over the possession of it. Of course when these Indians halted it gave the man some advantage and he made good use of it. When the other red men stopped the fleetest ones clacked their speed and slowed up. Very soon Coker looked back again and seen the Indians far in the rear. But he kept up the race when finally he lost sight of them. But on he went as fast as he could run over the rough ground and across glades, small prairies and wooded ridges. It was a desperate race. He looked back again but his pursuers if they were still following him were not in his sight. His strength was nearly exhausted and he could run but little further until he rested. Seeing a fallen tree a few yards ahead which had been blown down by a windstorm during the summer and he sought its friendly shelter of limbs and dead foliage and lay in concealment until his almost exhusted organs of respiration could equalize the circulation of blood then he poked his head out of the tree top and finding the coast was clear left his hiding place and went on and escaped. No doubt the Indians could have followed him to his place of refuge in the treetop for he had left a plain trail behind him in the rank grass, but fortunately for him they abandoned the chase and turned in another direction. This bald hill was called Poor Joe from that day and retains the name to the present time. More than likely this name will never be changed as long as the little brooklet which flows on the east side of it is called Elbow Creek.

S.C. Turnbo also wrote about Joe's relationship with Miss Martha Ann/Margaret Ann Phipps, who is listed as a resident of Joe's household in 1850 Marion Co., AR. Mr. Turnbo explained what happened in his article entitled "Living In a Bad Sense":

In the long ago when Joe Coker the famed character lived in the neighborhood where the town of Lead Hill Ark. now stands he was accused of living an immoral life or in other words he was charged with having too many wives.

Mr. R. S. Holt, a resident of Lead Hill and who was personally acquainted with Coker for many years said that while Joe was living with Miss Margarette Phipps sister of Ben Phipps he pretended to keep her for his house keeper and that he had hired her to stay there and care for his house hold goods but most everyone knew that he was violating the law and kept the girl there as a wife and refused to marry her. Every time court was in session at Yellville Coker would make an effort to evade the law but in this he was put to a great deal of trouble in trying to shun the courts and beat them. The girl was industrious and good looking and Coker kept her dressed very nice. On a certain time just before court convened Coker hired a young man to take the girl away like he had stole her from him and keep her away until after circuit court was dismissed. Unfortunately for Coker the young fellow did not make a mock of stealing her but fell in love with her and she returned his affections and he did steal her sure enough and left the country with her and never did come back which almost broke the old mans heart.

Excerpt from S.C. Turnbo's article, "Finding a Panther Guarding a Dead Bear" tells of Joe's death:

In the cemetery at Lead Hill, Ark., is an unmarked grave in which the mortal remains of Joe Coker were deposited. We have made reference to him in several other sketches. Joe was the eldest child of Buck Coker and was a noted character. He has lived on the bank of White River and in the Sugar Loaf Prairie and on East Sugar Loaf Creek. While he lived at the Big Spring below where the town of Lead Hill now stands he built a little mill and the settlers visited this mill far and near to have their corn ground. He also put up a whiskey still where he manufactured corn whiskey to supply those fellows that were "dying for the want of a dram." I was told that at the time of his death which occurred in 1862 he was living at what is now the Brice Milum residence at Lead Hill. It is said that at the moment of his death he was alone. There was no one in the house to smooth his dying moans with a word of consolation and hope for the future welfare of his soul. A negro woman, one of his slaves, was the only one in the house just before the cold icy hand of death came to him. Perceiving that the life of her master was nearing to an end she hurriedly left the house to notify a neighbor. When she returned back Mr. Coker had passed over the deep and dark valley to his long home. He had lived to a great age and had lived in this country 48 years.

On the 1830 Izard Co., AR census, p. 108, there are nine children under the age of 20 living in his household. It also shows two women living there who were both between the ages of 20 and 30.

By 1840, Carroll Co., AR census, p. 47, there were ten children under the age of 20 in Joe's home, and one wife between the age of 40 and 50.

By 1850, Joe was 63 and living with "Aney" who was 45 years old as well as "Martha Ann Phipps," age 20. Children in the household were Mary Ann, Daniel and Henderson.


(not necessarily in birth order)

1. MARY ELIZABETH "BETSY" COKER, born abt 1808 TN; married Bill "Squirrel" WOOD (one source says it was Thomas D. Wood, son of Obadiah). Betsy & Bill's children were Frederick, Hannah, Elizabeth, Thomas B., Nancy, and John Wood.


3. WILLIAM T. "PRAIRIE BILL" COKER, born abt 1810 TN; married Arminta "Vanilla" FANCHER, dau. of James & Elizabeth (Carlock) Fancher. Arminta died March 17, 1848 in AR. Children: Mitchell D., James Alexander, Martha Jane "Mattie", and George M. Dallas Fancher.

4. HARDIN/HERROD COKER, married Mary A. "Polly" ORR, dau. of Samuel & Catherine (Adams) Orr. Children: Sarah J., Randolph B., Felix Thornton, James William, and Catherine Ann "Katie."

5. RANDOLPH COKER married Minerva FOSTER (he was killed by Sheriff Billy Brown). Known children: Cynthia, Ellen, and Sallie.

6. GEORGE WASHINGTON "Wash" COKER (said to have been killed by Jake Nave in 1854), married Nancy KING (she married next to husband, Charles Coody Rogers, Cynthia Rogers Coker's brother). Nancy King's parents were Joel & Nancy King; Joel born 1785. (Was Nancy married to a Patton before marrying Wash Coker? Emmett Starr did an unofficial census and listed her as Nancy Patton.) Wash & Nancy are both buried at the Patton Cemetery in Marion Co., AR. Children: Joel Seab, Francis R., Mary J./T., George Washington (b. 1845), Emeline/Eveline R., Margaret E. "Betty," Elisa W., Nancy E./C., Joseph Calvin, Martha Ann/E., Amanda Missouri, Barnett B., and Barnett's twin brother who died at birth.


8. JOSEPH "CHEROKEE JOE" COKER, a/k/a "Little Joe" Coker, born abt 1824 and died abt 1854; married Mary ___? who was born ca 1832 in Arkansas. Children: James W., Lucy Ann and Arminta (Aramissta?). In 1850, his mother Aney (Cynthia), age 48, is living in his household.

9. JOHN ROGERS COKER, married Annie HOGAN. Children: Frances, Leonard, Robert, Polly, James Marion, Calvin, and Charles Coker. John Rogers Coker killed Jim Churchman.

10. DEMPSEY FIELDS COKER, son of Cynthia, married (1) Eliza Jane MARLER, dau. of Luke & Rebecca (Cruise) Marler, (2) Elizabeth SIGMOND. Children: Lewis Cass, Granville Milam, Minerva Elizabeth, Rebecca Lavinia, Mary Louisa, Martha Ella, David Nicholls, John Randolph, Cynthia Jennie, and Josephine Alice "Jessie" Coker.

11. JANE CATHERINE COKER, born abt 1829; married George McCager HOGAN, son of Ewing Hogan. Jane & George's children: Sarah, George A., and Rebecca Jane Hogan.

12. REBECCA COKER, born abt 1831, married William "Bill" DANIEL(S), who was born ca 1823 in Tennessee. Their known children were Alfred and Cynthia Jane.

13. MARY ANN COKER, born abt 1833 Marion Co., AR; died 1882 Indian Territory; married Robert Emmett "Bob" TRIMBLE about 1850. Bob was the son of Robert & Elizabeth Trimble, and nephew of William Trimble. Mary and Bob's children: Elizabeth, Joseph C., Ivanorah, Allen W., Arminta F., Mary Lucy, and James Emmett Trimble.

14. DANIEL "THE FIDDLER" COKER, born abt 1838. Was he Sump D. Coker who died at Pea Ridge during the Civil War, and who married Sarah ___? but had no children?

15. HENDERSON L. "COON" COKER (or Lafferty Henderson?), born abt 1840 and died at the Battle of Port Hudson [LA] during the Civil War.

I wonder if some of Joe's slaves were also his children? On the 1850 Marion Co., AR slave index he had the following slaves (no names listed):

1 45-yr-old black female
1 18-yr-old mulatto male
1 16-yr-old mulatto male
1 14-yr-old mulatto male
2 12-yr-old mulatto females
1 12-yr-old black male
1 7-yr-old black female
1 10-yr-old mulatto male
1 3-yr-old black female
1 11-yr-old black male
1 5-yr-old black male
1 28-yr-old black female
1 1-yr-old black female
1 20-yr-old mulatto female
1 6-yr-old black male
1 13-yr-old black female
1 9-yr-old black male

On the 1860 Marion Co., AR slave index, he had the following slaves:

1 19-yr-old mulatto male
1 17-yr-old mulatto female
1 60-yr-old black female
1 5-yr-old black female

Unnamed Coker daughter (Part 3)

Dividing Line

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