Friday, April 18, 2014

Willis Barnum Coker (1867-1956) "52 Ancestors"

My son and I spent the four days last week walking around Jacksonville, Florida taking part in the One Spark celebration. This celebration is a crowd source funded celebration for Creators. These creators are from a variety of fields including science, technology, arts, music and social good. So, after seeing all these great ideas being presented around the city, I decided to write about my wife's great-great-grandfather Willis Barnum Coker. He was a local businessman, carpenter, printer and entrepreneur.

Willis Barnum Coker
Willis Barnum Coker was born on 9 January 1867 in Americus, Plains, Georgia. His parents were James Franklin Coker (1836-1899) and Saran Ann Jane Walters (1836-1883). James Franklin Coker was married three times. He had one child, James Anderson Coker (1859-1860) by his first wife Martha A Butler (died 1859, two weeks after giving birth). His second wife was Sarah Ann Jane Walters. Willis was the oldest of seven children born to this marriage. His siblings included William Bartow (1868-1889), Dora Joline (1870-??), James Thaddeus Beta (1871-1956), Belle Boyd (1874-1938), Maggie Louise (1876-1956), and Effie Dessolee (1878-1905). After Sarah's death, James married Mary Emma Bellew and they had four children, Ethel Velona (1889-1916), Janie Mabel (1891-1919), James Bradford (1894-1961), and Mary Ida (1897-1898).

Jessie Clara and Willis Barnum Coker
Willis moved to Jacksonville, Florida from his home in Georgia in 1886. The 1888 Jacksonville Florida City Directory lists Barnum Coker as a carpenter. Willis Coker married Jessie Clara LeBoeuf (1857-1929), daughter of James LeBoeuf and Mary Ann Vickery, on 25 December 1887. If you have read the story I wrote about James LeBoeuf, you may remember that Jessie Clara was born on board his ship off the coast of Australia. He continued working as a carpenter until 1895, when he went to work for the James Douglas Book and Picture Framing business where he did picture framing and other general work. The 1900 census indicates that Willis B Coker was living with his wife Jessie (age 43) and children Frank V (age 9), Lula B (age 5), and Nellie M (age 1), and his mother-in-law Mary A LeBoeuf (age 75) at 1016 Church Street in Jacksonville. Willis' occupation is listed as clerk. In 1907, after the company added a printing office, Willis became half owner of the company which was then known as the James Douglas Company.

The 1910 census lists Willis Coker (age 43) as a frame maker. His family consisted of his wife, Jessie (age 50), and children Frank (age 19), Lura (age 15), Nellie (age 10), and Willis Jr. (age 6). Frank is employed as a printer and Lura is a dry goods saleslady. The other two children are attending school.

During the 1920 census the family is living at 912 Ashley Street in Jacksonville. is wife Jessie C (age 55), and children Nellie (age 28) and Willie Jr. (age 12) are living in the house. Willis is listed as a cabinet maker. Nellie is listed as being employed as a cashier at a department store and Willis Jr. is listed as a bell clerk at a department store.

In 1922, Mr. Douglas died and Willis became the sole owner of the James Douglas Company which he eventually sold to E. A. Koester and P. M. Ulsch who changed the name of the company to the Douglas Printing Company.

Sometime before 1935 he moved in with his daughter Nellie and her husband Harvey P McCarty at 1026 East Church Street. The 1940 census states that Willis was working 60 hour weeks as a picture framer in the printing office. He was 73 years old at the time. The 1945 Florida census also states that he was working as a picture framer. Willis continued his picture framing until 1946 when he retired.

Willis was a life member of the Knights of Pythias and Dramatic Order Knights of Khorassan and was the oldest member in Jacksonville at the time of his death. He was also a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Arlington. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 31 May 1956, at the age of 89 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville.

No comments:

Post a Comment