The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One among the oldest citizens who lived on the right bank of White River in what is now Crocket township, Marion County, Arkansas, when the war between the states broke out was Ned Coker. Mr. Coker was intelligent and was a good common sensed man, very prosperous and owned several slaves. The writer has enjoyed many pleasant hours with him for he took pains to give me many incidents that occurred on the upper White River in the long ago. It was supposed by some that he possessed a big sum of gold and silver which was said to be concealed somewhere on his farm or in the near neighborhood, from this cause he was treated very cruel by the bandits that infested the county during the war. Mr. R. S. Holt, whose father, Wm. Holt, owned the river farm on the opposite side of the river from the Ned Coker farm informed me that during the turbulent days of blood and death the bad men stole all of Coker’s horses and cattle except one wild mare as they called her which he managed to keep out of the reach of the desperadoes. One night a band of robbers paid him a personal visit in disguise and demanded his money which he flatly refused to give up. They threatened to do violence to him unless he revealed to them the place where he had hid his gold and silver, but he had a stout heart and a resolution made of iron almost and they found that threats were unavailing to compel their victim to give up his money. And so they proceeded to torture him with fire and inflicted all the suffering and pain they were able to heap on him to force him to yield up his gold but he held out so strong against the awful tortures from their hands that they resorted to other means and they procured a rope and tied one end around the poor old man’s neck and passed the other end of the rope over a beam or other object and pulled him up and tied the rope fast with the intention to leave him suspended until he was dead, but as the bandits turned away from him to take their departure one of the band stopped and stepped back to the hanging and struggling form and cut the rope and he fell to the floor. After the robbers were gone and Mr. Coker had revived he called his faithful slave whose name was Jeff and who was a bow legged Negro to bring up the wild mare and they would make an effort to get into Missouri where there would be some show of receiving protection. The Negro was not long in bringing the mare to his master’s house. The thieves had stolen Mr. Coker’s saddle but the now almost helpless old man by the assistance of his slave mounted the mare bareback and Jeff lead the mare. They traveled night and day and went part of the way where there was no road. Mr. Coker was not able to ride only a few miles at a time when he was compelled to stop and rest and go on again. In this way he rode the mare all the way into Green County, Mo., bareback and Jeff the Negro walked and lead the mare all that distance."

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