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COKER FAMILY - PART VI
LEONARD COKER

Submitted by: Margaret Butler (margaretbutler@yahoo.com)

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.

LEONARD COKER, son of Buck Coker

b. ca. 1790-96 in Burke Co., NC

(another source lists him as being b. ca. 1796 Bedford Co., TN)

Christened 1796 NC?

d. before 1850, AR ?

buried Leonard Coker Farm, Bear Creek, Marion Co., AR

m. [unknown]

Very little is known about Leonard, but he was apparently named after Leonard Coker [Sr.], brother of William "Buck" Coker.

Leonard [Jr.] was married and had several children, but the majority of their names is unknown. Only one or two children's names have been mentioned with some certainty, and it is known that Leonard raised his nephew, William "Thresher Bill" Yocum, his sister's son.

The 1830 Crawford Co., AR federal census shows the Leonard Coker household:

1 male under 5

2 male between 5 and 10

1 male between 15 and 20

1 male between 20 and 30

1 male between 40 and 50?

1 female between 5 and 10

2 females between 10 and 15

1 female [older?]

The 1840 Carroll Co., AR federal census, Sugar Loaf Township, page 47, shows his household as:

1 male under 5

1 male between 5 and 10

1 male between 10 and 15

2 males between 15 and 20

1 male between 50 and 60

3 females under 5

1 female between 15 and 20

1 female between 20 and 30

Leonard Coker lived in Crawford Co., AR in 1830. In 1840, he was listed in Carroll County.

By 1850, a Crawford Co., AR household (#210) is as follows:

Edward Coker 19

Susan Bridgeman 40

Nancy Coker 19

Dece 16 (b. 1834)

Dudley 13 (b. 1837)

Polly 12

Josephine 9

Some Leonard Coker researchers believe these children belong to Leonard. Dudley appears to be Strother/Strander Dudley "Dud" Coker who married Jane Wood, dau. of George & Nancy (Coker) Wood of Marion Co., AR. Dud and Jane, as well as their children Charity & William, are listed on the 1860 Marion Co., AR census.

The 1840 Carroll Co., AR census infers that Mrs. Leonard Coker has died or is missing from Leonard Coker's household. Her exact identity is not known; however, many believe she may have separated from Leonard. Some believe she was Frances Coker, but that's just a guess. She is listed in her own household on the 1840 Carroll Co., AR census as "Frances Coker." In 1850, a "Frances Coker, age 55, born VA" is listed in the Carroll Co. household of J.C. Coker. By 1860, "Frances Coker," age 66 and born in VA, is listed as "a widow" living in the household of Thomas & Elizabeth Cardin of Carroll Co., AR.

LEONARD COKER'S CHILDREN:

1. JOSEPH COKER, b. ca. 1811 Knox Co., TN, m. Lucinda MATNEY.

Lived in Taney Co., MO in 1840. Had sons: William, Solomon, Irvin and Allin.

A descendant of Sebe Coker firmly believes he was Leonard's son:

2. SEABORN S. COKER, b. ca. 1828, m. Amanda J. Predella TUCKER, probable dau. of Edward. During the Civil War, Seaborn was allegedly killed by Bushwackers, and buried at the mouth of Becca Brown's hollow. Seaborn and Amanda's children: Nancy A., Samantha, Oyminta, Catherine, Mary Aliza, James Columbus, John C., Edwin C., and Sallie Anna.

Note the difference in years between Joseph & Seaborn -- 17 years. That seems to be consistent with the above statement that Leonard did have several children. Others named as possible children: Susan; John Coker; Nancy Coker; Edward Coker; Dicy Coker; Dud Coker, Dr. George Washington Coker.

[Remember this is only a compilation of information pulled together from other sources.]

The name "Leonard Coker" is found twice in early Marion County land records:

Section Twnshp Range Acres Date

COKER LEONARD 11 19N 15W 0 1830/11/15

COKER LEONARD 12 19N 15W 272.18 1830/11/15

[The date in these (Bureau of Land Management) land records may be the filing date???]

As for where Leonard Coker resided, other than TN, AL and the Marion County, AR area, a Coker researcher wrote on 6-24-99:

"It appears that Leonard Coker moved out 'west' to Crawford Co. [AR] about 1828 and returned to Carroll Co. [AR] about 1838/39. He was said to be involved in a cattle raising venture."

From Turnbo's "Desperate Struggle Between Two Bucks":

... As time went on this spot was well known to many white invaders who hunted here. We have already, referred to an incident of hunting which occurred here. We will now mention another one. Other early hunters who chased the bear and killed the spry deer in this locality were Len Coker and his son Joe and "Thresher" Bill Yocum, who lived at the mouth of Bear Creek. These men were rustlers in the occupation of hunting and killed all the game they wanted. They did not confine themselves entirely to the south side of the river either, but would frequently cross over to the north side and make the hills of Elbow, Yocum and Cedar Creeks their hunting grounds. These men have departed this life, but their memory is still fresh in the minds of those who knew them.

"Thresher" Bill Yocum related to me several years before his death a few sketches of his experience as a hunter In the long ago. Among the important incidents as given by him is one he told of witnessing a desperate fight between two bucks which occurred a short distance from this spring. In relating the story Mr. Yocum said he hunted in Taney County as early as 1825. "I well remember one of our hunting tours in the fall of 1831, Len Coker and I crossed the river and went out to the spring you speak of on the head of Yocum Creek on a few day''s camp hunt. Our bedding was composed of bearskins, sheltered by spreading deerhides on poles. Our fare seemed royal to us for it consisted of both fresh and dried venison, pone bread, bear meat and wild honey. The weather was clear, serene and cool enough to save meat and hides, which made our stay here delightful as far as the weather and our fare was concerned. But we were annoyed by the wolves which smelled the fresh meat and caused them to hover close around camp and howl from dark till daylight and occasionally a panther would give us warning of its approach by a fierce scream. It was a suitable place to hunt for game. The prairie hollows and wooded hills was just the place to find plenty of deer. We killed a few bear and collected a good supply of deer pelts. Yes, about the deer fight, I will tell you about it now," said Mr. Yocum. "Soon after sunrise one morning while we were preparing our forest fare we heard a mighty racket commence toward where L. P. Cornett''s store house now stands (Groom Post Office), sometimes called Flat Rock. We were at a loss to understand what sort of animals had met and were making such a terrible noise. Without fooling away time listening longer we hastily took our cooking vessels from the fire and snatched up our rifles and left camp on a run to investigate. We had not far to go before we saw two bucks engaged in a terrific encounter. They were alone and had not been fighting more than a few minutes, but by the time we got near them we noticed that their big horns were locked fast together. Both animals were large and fat and showed great ferocity and strength. They paid no attention to us. They were so busy with the fight that they had no time to look our way or get scared at us. They both surged and pushed with such power that it seemed impossible for either deer to escape without a broken neck. The battle was astonishing and we were held spellbound. As the fight progressed they would seek advantage of each other in a twinkle and change their mind frequently. Sometimes they would brace themselves and pull back with all their strength in an effort to force themselves apart. Failing in this they would push against each other like two infuriated bulls. Then they would try to raise on their hind feet and strike with their forefeet then lower their heads, plunge and paw the ground. They fought over nearly two acres of ground and the struggle lasted several hours. We were so deeply interested in watching the conflict that we forgot breakfast and the hour to start on the day''s hunt. Their unyielding power was surprising, but their strength was growing weak and finally both animals had become so exhausted that they were barely able to stand on their feet, yet they kept their bodies in motion and went on with a faint struggle until we got sorry for their condition and their feeble efforts to maintain their courage in their desperate struggle for the mastery and we shot them both and saved their hides and returned to camp to eat a very late breakfast. About one month afterward we went back to the scene of the fight and found their bones had disappeared except the heads and horns. These we carried home and we disentangled the prongs of the beams by means of strong poles. I was 17 years old then," said the old timer "and the recollection of that awful encounter between those furious antlered animals is still fresh in my mind."

More about Leonard in Turnbo's "A Monster Diamond Rattlesnake":

...Girard Leiper Brown was the first settler at the mouth of Bear Creek locating here in 1816. After Mr. Brown was killed on the Arkansas River his brother-in-law Lenard Coker was the next man who lived here; he lived on the south bank of Bear Creek a quarter of a mile above its mouth. Coker lived here many years and died on this land. ..."Thresher" Bill Yocum is dead now, but was living with Len Coker at the time of the incident [found a monster rattlesnake]. ... Its length was said to be ten feet and the middle part of its body was more than 30 inches in circumference. Its head was as large as a big dog''s head and measured five inches between the eyes. Len Coker and "thresher" Bill Yocum heard the news in a few hours after the snake was dead and they forded the river and visited the spot where the monster reptile lay to view it. Coker received permission to remove its hide which was done after much careful labor and then he cut the serpent open and exposed to view a wild turkey that was fully half grown which the reptile had caught and swallowed just before it was discovered and killed. Mr. Coker said he had heard the snake sing (rattle) on the bluff from his home on several occasions, but never could account for the strange noise till that day for he had never dreamed of its being a rattlesnake. Coker carried the hide home and stuffed it with wheat bran which required several bushels. The bran had been brought from a far away mill. Coker mounted the stuffed hide on the porch side of his house where many people came to see it. The reptile was killed just over the line in Taney County, Missouri.

Here's a long story by Turnbo, "Stories of Hunting in the Early Days":

With the exceptions of a year or two''s residence in Woodruff County, Ark., "Thresher" Bill Yocum has lived in Marion and Boone Counties, Ark., until his death on Music Creek July 20, 1900. He had lived on White River 80 years. He was born on the Arkansas River in 1814 and was six years old when he first saw White River in 1820. He was raised by Len Coker who lived at the mouth of Bear Creek. He says he remembers seeing large numbers of Indians here when he was a small boy but they were friendly as has already been stated. Mr. Yocum had much experience with the wild beasts of the forest and has contributed other stories of interest. he recollects about him and Uncle Len Coker finding a rich bee tree on the bluff opposite the mouth of Bear Creek near the spot where the big rattlesnake was afterward discovered and slain by the surveyors. The bees were found in a large post oak tree. They carried the honey across the river in homemade water bucks and wash tubs made of cedar. The honey was not measured after it was strained but Mr. Yocum said they estimated it at nine gallons. This was in 1829. "On another occasion, " said he, "I remember me and Jess Yocum finding six bee trees in the hills on the north side of the river opposite Horseshoe Bend, but none of these trees were very rich, but in one of the trees which was a cedar the comb extended over nine feet in the hollow of the tree. The entire length of the comb was only slightly saturated with honey."

. . . .

"One day," said Mr. Yocum, "me and Joe Coker, son of Len Coker, was hunting in the Horseshoe Bend and we saw a small deer standing about 50 yards from us. Joe aimed and shot it down. Now there was nothing strange about shooting at one deer and killing it, but when we went to the dead deer we saw another deer in the agony of death 25 paces beyond the one Joe shot at. The bullet had passed through the body of the small deer and struck the other deer in the forehead. Neither of us saw this one which was a large doe when Joe shot. At another time," continues Uncle Billy, "this same Joe Coker while hunting in the hills between the mouths of Bear and Bee Creeks, shot and killed a deer which in color was a curiosity. It was a doe and her right side was white and the left side was gray. The animal was well formed and full grown. We kept the hide at Coker''s a number of years and hunters who saw it pronounced the color very strange."

"During the earliest settlement of what is now Boone County, Ark., I was told by hunters that several white deer were seen by them. I seen one white deer myself in the hills between Bear and West Sugar Loaf Creeks. It was a buck and alone. I was at the time just old enough to carry a rifle and hunt and did my best to get in rifle range of the animal, but it kept at a distance and I failed to get a shot at it. It seemed to be the most active deer I ever saw and was as white as snow."

"I have given you a sketch about witnessing a terrific fight between two bucks on Yocum Creek. Now I will tell you about seeing two bucks with their horns locked when I was about ten years old or in 1824. Me and Lon Coker had went into the pineries on the head of Bee Creek to procure pine knots for torches for use during fire hunting. They had fought under the stately pine trees and got their horns interlocked and were starving to death. From appearances they had fought the battle four days before and were so nigh exhausted when we approached them that they paid but little attention to us. Mr. Coker killed them both and after taking off their hides we left their carcasses including heads and horns in the forest. I do not suppose," said Uncle Billy, "I have seen as many deer in one bunch as a few other settlers have but I had a fine view of a herd one day that interested me a great deal. You remember Sebe Coker who was killed during the war where Keesee''s Ferry is now. Me and Sebe were together and were attacked. Sebe was shot in the river and sank and lay on the bottom until he was taken out. He was buried on the bank of the river at the mouth of the Becca Brown hollow by a few women. Many years before the Civil War me and Sebe Coker were hunting together one day on horseback at the head of Carrollton Hollow and saw a herd of deer traveling slowly over a bald hill. It was wonderful sight. We were not in shooting distance and we sat on our horses and watched them as they passed from view into the timber. I do not know whether our count of them was accurate or not but we made it out that there were 103 in the bunch. Talk about beautiful scenes in the forest the sight of those pretty deer was fine indeed."

"Panther were not scarce here then. I saw plenty of them, but I never met but one that gave me serious trouble. This one came nigh scaring me to death. It was in 1827 and I was just 13 years old. Here is the way it come about. Len Coker, while living at the mouth of Bear Creek, owned several head of horses which kept fat on the range. One morning we heard the tingle of the bell in the river bottom below the mouth of the creek and Coker sent me down into the bottom to round up the horses and drive them home and put them in the lot to be salted. I mounted a frisky young mare barebacked and left the house at a lively gait. I was a good rider for a boy and being full of mischief I made the mare out up more than she would have done. I was not long in reaching the horses and starting them toward home. They were following a trail and were running about 100 yards in advance of me. I made the young mare I was riding gallop to keep in sight of the other horses. As the lead horses were passing through a small hazle thicket they scared at something in the thicket. Then the entire bunch took fright and nearly ran over each other in getting out of the hazle thicket. When I galloped up in a few yards of the edge of the hazle thicket I left the trail with the intention of passing around to find what the horses scared at. I soon found what was the matter by meeting a ferocious panther just emerging from the thicket. The big creature swayed its tail like a cat and growled fiercely. Of course, I stopped, but the panther came on toward me. The mare began rearing and plunging. She was so impatient that she was almost beyond my control, but I contrived to stay on her back. Then I remembered what Mr. Coker told me. He said one day that when I met a panther that showed an angry mood to look it in the eyes and it would not catch me. I kept the mare''s head toward the beast and backed her into the trail again but I never took my eyes off of the ugly beast. It followed me in a threatening way. When I got the mare in the trail I turned her head toward the house and told her to go and she did. I tried that mare''s mettle from there to the house. The panther pursued and gave vent to terrible screams just behind the mare''s heels. The mare did her best but I thought she was not putting forth her best speed and I jerked my coonskin cap off of my head and lashed her with it. I whipped the mare with the cap and yelled at every breath. I hallooed faster than the panther screamed but the latter seemed to go the loudest. Its cry seemed blood curdling. I was not long in getting home. The other horses were overtaken in the race and they scattered and I passed them. The panther pursued me nearly to the yard fence and then it wheeled around and ran back into the bottom. Coker and the dogs met me at the fence. The dogs chased the panther but I was scared too bad to talk until my excitement grew calmer. The panther ran to the river and plunged in and swam across. The dogs followed it into the bluff where it took refuge by springing up the cliffs and escaped."

"A long time before a settler built a cabin above us on Bear Creek me and Len Coker hunted together on many occasions in the rough hills and valleys of this stream where we shot and killed many deer. In 1832 when I was 18 years old a big snow came in December. The weather was pretty cold. The snow was the first of the season and Coker said it would drive the remaining bear to caves that had not already gone in. The following day after the snow had fell me and Coker left early in the morning with the dogs and our rifles to hunt for bear, but we did not discover any bear sign until we were passing up a rough stream which was afterward known as Barren Fork which is about seven miles long and goes into Bear Creek about six miles above the mouth. Here we found where a bear and a panther had met and fought a battle during the night or soon after daylight that day. The snow was trampled and wallowed down in a big space around and was stained with blood. Bear and panther hair lay thick all around that had beentorn from each other by their teeth and claws. It had been a desperate fight. Neither of the fierce beasts had been slain on the spot but the crimsoned snow indicated that they had fought until they were not able to fight any longer and they had separated and each had dragged himself away from the scene of the conflict in an opposite direction. We followed the bloody trail of the bear first and discovered it only 200 yards away lying down at the side of a log. It was so badly used up that it had but little life left. It did not offer to get up. Coker advanced in 15 yards of the animal and shot it. The bear had been bit and clawed so severely that great gashes was torn all over its body and legs. We left it where it lay and went back and followed the trail of the panther. It had dragged itself through the snow 1/4 mile and pulled itself up a tree. The great long beast was lying on a limb. Like the bear it was so desperately wounded and suffering so that it hardly noticed us when we went up near the tree. Coker ended its suffering by shooting it in the head. It is very doubtful whether either or both of them would have lived more than a day longer," said the old pioneer settler as he finished this interesting story.

Lastly, from Turnbo's "Interesting Accounts of Killing Deer":

... There is a small creek about 10 miles in length that flows into Long Creek some 12 miles below Carrollton, Ark., known as Lick Branch. At the head of this stream situated on a divide between Terrapin and Long Creeks is a famed lick once known as Bryant''s Lick where in early times buffalo, deer and elk collected together in large numbers to taste of the saline dirt. John Ross in describing this lick says, "the flat where it is situated used to be known as Ash Flat, taking its name from a grove of Ash trees that once grew on the flat, but the land is now in cultivation. The old lick is at the upper end of the flat." Mr. Ross said that the old settlers informed him that this was discovered by an early explorer of the name of Bryant who after crossing White River struck a trail made by Buffalo and Elk and followed it to this lick. The writer was told by the pioneer that hunters would go to this lick who lived many miles distant and shoot hundreds for their pelts. It is told that on one occasion that Joe Coker and Len Coker visited the lick once and killed about 40 deer apiece in one day. This is the same lick that Hamp Fancher refers to in this chapter.

William Coker Jr (Part 7)

Dividing Line

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