The subject of this sketch, Joseph J. Coker, who resides near Illinois Bend, occupies a foremost position among the leading stock farmers of Montague county. Mr. Coker was born in Todd county, Alabama, July 29, 1855, son of William and Nancy H. (Wilbanks) Coker, both natives of that state. William Coker was a prominent and successful farmer of Alabama, owning a number of slaves before the war. He served all through the war as a Confederate soldier, was once wounded but never captured by the enemy, and at the close of hostilities returned home to carry on his farming operations under changed conditions. He remained in Alabama until 1870, when he came to Texas and bought land in Cooke county, and on this place he carried on farming the rest of his days. He died in 1892, at the age of seventy-five years. For over forty years he was a consistent member of the Missionary Baptist Church, of which for many years he was a deacon, and he was also a Royal Arch Mason. Quiet and unassuming in manner, never seeking notoriety of any kind, always true to every trust reposed in him, he had a character above reproach and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his neighbors, and in fact of all who knew him. His wife survived him two years, her death occurring in June, 1904, at the age of seventy-eight years. She was a woman of most amiable and estimable qualities. In her care of the home and family during her husband’s absence in the war, she displayed the same brave, true spirit that he did in his army service. Her father was a respected planter of Alabama, and she was the eldest of a family of four children, the others being Lizzie, Rhoda, and Daniel Wilbanks. William Coker’s brothers and sisters were Sebe, Diadem, Green, Gettie, Gallant and Mrs. Wheelis. The children of William and Nancy H. Coker, four in number, are as follows: Mrs. Lizzie Crawford; Joseph J., whose name introduces this sketch; William, a resident of Sulphur Springs, Indian Territory; and Jackson, on the old homestead in Cooke county.
Joseph J. Coker came with his parents to Texas in 1870 and remained a member of the home circle until 1874, when he married and settled on a farm. He lived in Cooke county four years and in 1878 came to Montague and bought the farm on which he still lives. To his original purchase he has since added until he is now the owner of one thousand acres, one of the largest farms in the county, four hundred and fifty acres of which are under cultivation, devoted to a variety of crops, the rest being used for stock purposes.
Mr. Coker married for his first wife, Miss Mary Wood, a native of Dallas county, Texas, and a daughter of Joel Wood of that county. Seven children were the fruits of this union, of whom four are now living, namely: Warren, a farmer; Lena, wife of F. B. Beard; Ruba, wife of A. M. King; and Jennie. The mother died in 1888. In October, 1889, Mr. Coker married Mrs. Mollie Williams, widow of L. H. Williams. By Mr. Williams she had four children, two of whom died. Mr. Coker reared the other two, Artie and Marvin Williams. Mrs. Mollie Coker was a daughter of Daniel Duke, of Alabama, who in middle life came to Texas and was for years engaged in business at Terrill, where he died. She died in 1896, leaving three children, Alton and Dalton, twins, and Pearl, at this writing all at home. In 1898 Mr. Coker wedded Mrs. Anna Franklin, widow of D. M. Franklin. She had two children, Ada and Homer Franklin, who are being reared and educated by Mr. Coker. Mrs. Coker is a daughter of William and Lucy (Murrell) Browning, and one of a family of four children; Waddie, Winnie, and Ellen and Anna, twins. The children of Mr. Coker’s present marriage are two: Daisey, born February 8, 1899, and Lu E., born May 20, 1902.
Mr. Coker is a member of the Farmers Union, Woodmen of the World and the Masonic Order, in the last named order having advanced through the Royal Arch degree. He and his family are identified with the Missionary Baptist Church.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 705-706.