The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

This man was a son in law of George Wood who lived on East Sugar Loaf Creek some 3 ½ miles above Lead Hill, Ark. Woods owned the mill at the Big Spring. Coker’s wife was named Jane and they lived in a hollow that mouthed into Sugar Loaf Creek near the mill. The old country road lead up this same hollow from the mill to the crossing of White River at the mouth of Trimble’s Creek. One evening in the late spring of 1865 when the bloody strife was nearing to an end Dud Coker was in the field just above the George Wood residence replanting corn. A large mulberry tree stood near where he was at work with the hoe. While he was at work a party of horsemen armed to the teeth made their appearance at the fence and fired on him which gave the unsuspecting man a slight wound. Knowing It was death to remain in the field he started and ran to the fence on the opposite side of the field from where he was attacked. After crossing the fence he ran across the Yellville wagon road and made his way up the hill. The horsemen seeing the direction their victim was going galloped around the field on the lower side and charged up the point of the bluff to head him off. But they missed him on the summit of the hill and being determined he should not escape they found his shoe track and pursued him a half a mile and overhauled him and shot him to death and left the body for the women and children to care for or decompose in the hot sunshine and be finish up by the wild animals. It was near sunset when the slayers of Coker rode away and the dead man lay where he fell until the following day when the women and children of the neighborhood got together and searched the woods for him. The recent heavy rains had softened the ground and the feet of the pursuers horses had cut up the surface of the ground they had passed over that their trail was easily followed and by this means they discovered the dead body on the flat South of the Big Spring. Mrs. Sophia Chaffin, wife of "Jet" Chaffin, and Miss Mary Lane, daughter of John Lane, were two of the women that help hunt for him. Those good women had no means to convey the form of the lifeless man to a graveyard and It was on the following day after It was discovered before they could obtain assistance to remove the dead man from the forest. By this time news of Coker’s death reached the John Jones family who lived on the Tom Keeling place in Locust Hollow and Fate Jones, who was a little fellow then (10 years old), took his father’s oxcart which had no box except an old frame which was used to go to mill on. The cart was drawn by a yoke of oxen. The cattle were called Ball" and "RedBud" and were very docile. The two ladies named above and who were always ready to do their duty met young Jones at a designated place and piloted the boy with his cart through the wild woods to where the remains of the man lay and the two women with the aid of the boy lifted the decomposing form from the ground and placed it on the cart and while the two devoted women walked along just behind the cart and brushed away the blow flies that was following the body young Jones went on through the woods. In a little while they reached what was then known as the ‘Jet" Chaffin’s house where Mrs. Chaffin, who was a widow lady, then lived where she had young Jones to stop and turn the cattle loose to graze while they took a small bit of dinner which was the best they could afford at the time. The body of Coker was left on the cart. Fate Jones said that they went from here to Sugar Loaf Creek and crossed It above the old George Wood farm and passed on up a hollow on the west side of the creek to a graveyard where they found a few other women and some children had assembled together and had dug a hole in the ground in which Coker’s body was buried. The body was wrapped in a bed quilt which some kind lady had furnished. it was nearly sundown when they arrived at the graveyard and It was getting dusky dark when they were ready to leave for their respective homes. Mr. Jones said that the night was intensely dark and while on his way back home which was near 5 miles he was afraid a bunch of wolves might attack him and when good dark set in he mounted astride of old "Ball’s" back, the lead steer, and rode him home without unhitching the cattle from the cart. This account shows the young people of the present day how dreadful the experience of the women and children were in those terrible days of blood and death In that part of Marion County, Ark.

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