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Submitted by: Margaret Butler (

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On January 23, 2008, I was in Oklahoma City and had the pleasure of visiting the new Oklahoma History Center and its Research Library. I only had a few minutes to look around, but it was just enough time to find an interesting short story about the Cokers and Sneeds of Marion County, Arkansas. In all my years of research, I never read nor heard of this 1877 article, so I wanted to share it with other researchers.

The excerpt below is taken from:
"Historical and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlement of the Valley of White River Together with a History of Izard County" - reprint of "A Series of Newspaper Accounts of the People and the Times in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas from 1800 - 1877," by A.C. Jeffery, 1877, edited by Dale Hanks, Copyright 1973, The Jeffery Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia, April 1973, pp. 66-67.

"The Sneeds and Coker families who figured in the early settlement of this valley, claim a place in these sketches. The exact date of their coming to White River is not certain known, old Lem Coker lived at the old Jeffery place 2 miles above Mt. Olive, and old Peter Sneed at the mouth of Wideman, as early as 1815. Old Sneed had a son named Charles, who made a prominet [sic] citizen of Carroll county.

"Charles Sneed got to be a rich man and was sheriff of that county, and is perhaps living there yet. Old Coker had two grown sons left where he came from, which was likely East Tennessee, these grown sons were old Jo and old Ed who also came to White River, and they settled about Dubuqe [sic] in Marion county. The most noted of these was old Jo who was a sporting, spreeing character, showed to be a man of great intellect and great physical ability and a very rough man. He was rich, had a white family before he came here, and after he came to White River he always kept two Cherokee wives. In his old days he had four families of grown children, three of whom were half-breed Indians. Some of these boys made desperate characters and committed deeds of desperation; a part of them finally had to quit the whites and go to the Indians. Cal Coker, his son by a white wife was a man of some note and at one time however he was a desperado and a dangerous man. Having been acquainted with old Jo. Coker from character from our earliest recollection we had the satisfaction of meeting him at Dubuque on board of Capt. Bateman's boat, about 1860, the first we saw of him he was coming down the river bank with a walking stick in one hand and a man hold of the other arm making for the stage plank, and cursing like a sailor; he swore he was freezing to death for a drink of whisky, he showed to be about three score and ten years old, and to have been at one time a man of great intellect. When old Jo got on board he drank with the Capt., drank with the Clerk, drank with the Pilot, drank with the Mate, and then walked back, took a seat and sang "Mary in Heaven," in a loud voice. The Coker's [sic] had a great deal of property among them and quite a number of slaves, but the late rebellion killed and dispersed them and their property."

There are a few points that jump out after reading the above article:

1. Mr. Jeffery (he was born March 4, 1824, on the banks of the White River) referred to Buck Coker as "Old Lem Coker." Was Buck's name Lemuel William Coker or William Lemuel Coker? The name of "William L. Coker" does run in the family.

2. It's obvious that Mr. Jeffery was referring to Joseph Coker, Sr. and his brother Edward "Ned" Coker.

3. The timing of the Cokers' arrival in Arkansas - 1815 or before - appears to be fairly accurate.

4. What is interesting is the comment about the four family groups of children belonging to "old Jo." I knew of four women in Joe's life, but not four groups of kids. The first wife was allegedly Mary Ann Brown, the white wife who died in Alabama; the second wife was Aney, a Cherokee Indian; the third was Cynthia Ann "Aney" Rogers, also a Cherokee; and the fourth woman in Joe's life was his so-called housekeeper (her name similar to "Margaret"), but she ran away with another man while Joe was in court about his lifestyle. So who was the fourth mother of Joe's children? Was Joseph Coker, Sr. the father of all the mulatto children listed under his name on the 1850 and 1860 Marion County slave index, and was their mother the fourth woman?

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