JOHN “JACK” COKER
In 1836, John Coker fought at the Battle of San Jacinto where Gen. Santa Anna of Mexico was defeated. The Texans avenged the defeat at the Alamo. Y.P. Alsbury recorded the story in a letter to Hon. Jesse Grimes in San Antonio in 1857. It was then printed in the 1861 edition of The Texas Almanac, pages 55-58. A footnote to the article states: “I, John Coker, of the County of Bexar, State of Texas, have no hesitation in stating, that the material facts in the preceding narrative are correct. Signed this seventeenth day of January 1858….John Coker.” In later reprints of The Texas Almanac, it appears in the 1861 volume, starting with page 435. [return to top]
Some highlights of the story are as follows: “On the morning of the 21st of April, 1836, Capt. Karnes’ cavalry company, commonly called ‘Deaf Smith’s Spy Company’, were drawn up, in line, on the edge of Gen. Houston’s position. As well as I can recollect, we were between 30 & 40 strong. The Mexican Cavalry, whom we fought the evening before, at that moment were drawn up, in line, on the south of our position, about 600 yds distant. I think they were from 60 to 80 strong. While sitting in our saddles, John Coker, my left file-leader, made the following remark, and the suggestions following:
‘Boys, before many hours, we will have one of the damnedest, bloodiest fights that ever was fought and I believe it would be a good plan to go and burn that bridge, so as not only to impede the advance of reinforcements to the enemy, but it will cut off all chance of retreat of either party.’ The proposition was seconded by the whole company, when Deaf Smith proposed to go and see the General, and get his approval to the enterprise.” [return to top]
The story goes on to say Gen. Houston approved the plan and Deaf Smith returned to his group and asked for six volunteers. The narrative continues: “I will mention the names of all who joined Deaf Smith in the enterprise; yet before doing so, beg leave to state, that I differ from the opinion of my old friend, “Uncle Jack Coker”, as we called him, as to the name of one of the party, but having implicit confidence in Uncle Jack’s honesty, I am willing to risk his statement, and give the names as he has set them down: Deaf Smith, Denmore Rives, John Coker, Y.P. Alsbury, - Rainwater, John Garner, - Lapham; seven in all.” [return to top]
Without trying to present the whole story here, the narrative goes on to tell how they proceeded to burn the bridge and return safely. A very interesting insight into those days.
For his participation in this battle, John Coker received the bounty land we are all familiar with in San Antonio. The State of Texas Historical Marker was placed on his gravesite in 1968. There is a document in the Texas State Archives Library where John Coker applied for reimbursement for having his horse shot during the actual Battle of San Jacinto, which implies that he was in the final charge against the Mexican Army. [return to top]
Joseph Coker and his sons and daughters and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law arrived in San Antonio, Texas, about 1853. Joseph Coker had buried his wife, Malinda Brown Coker, in the Old Jacksonville Cemetery in Cherokee County, Texas, May 24, 1853. They had lived in Cherokee County since about 1846 as shown by the Amos Dickens Jones diary that recorded the journey from Talladega, Alabama, in 1846 to East Texas.
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Joseph Coker married Malinda Brown in Laurens County, South Carolina, before 1822. Joseph and Malinda Coker left Laurens, South Carolina, about 1826 based on their first two daughters showing their birth state as South Carolina in 1823 and 1825. James Coker and his family also traveled with his brother Joseph on the round-about journey to Texas. In 1830, they are in Franklin County, Tennessee, and in 1840, Talladega, Alabama, and 1846 in Cherokee County, Texas.
When Joseph Coker and his family left Cherokee County in 1853, James Coker and his family stayed behind and their descendants are still in East Texas today. When John Coker, a lifelong bachelor, was getting up in age he drew up a deed giving his bounty land on the Salado Creek equally to his brothers, Joseph and James. James Coker then sold his share to Amos Dickens Jones, James Harrison Coker and other family descendants. Then began the evolution of the well-known Coker Community.
Tragedy fell on the Coker family September 24, 1857, when Loucious Monroe Coker, six-year-old son of James Harrison and Sarah Jane Coker, died from a rattlesnake bite. Little Loucious’s grandfather, Joseph Coker, offered to put the grave on his property. A high knoll near the Salado Creek was selected to mark little Loucious’s grave. Amos Dickens Jones was asked to chisel a large limestone headstone. The headstone is still standing today and is the largest monument in the cemetery. [return to top]
Today we still have the Coker Cemetery, Coker Methodist Church (now completely separate from the Cemetery), Coker Elementary School, Jones-Maltsberger Road and other reminders of a community that started over 150 years ago. The Joseph Coker descendants alone number in many hundreds today and are spread all over the country. [return to top]