Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Stories: Henry and Alverda (Peale) Coker

In November of 2012, I featured Alverda Peale in one of the early Sunday Stories. That post can be found HERE.



Henry and Alverda (Peale) Coker

Henry Coker was born January 6, 1863, in Monfort, Iowa County, Wisconsin, to John and Adelaide (Calame) Coker, one of nine children.

When Henry was 22 years old, in April of 1885, his family, having suffered mining reversals in 1883, decided to go west. They came to Nebraska by freight train box car and settled north of the North Platte River, where they homesteaded about seven miles north of Dudley Spur, later named Sutherland. They built a sod house on what is now the W.Stewart Coker ranch. Henry stayed in Wisconsin for a time to try to salvage what he could from the zine mine and to drive a mail route.

At the age of 25, Henry came to Nebraska to visit his family and went to work for John Bratt as an appraiser of cattle damages for the Bratt Cattle Company. Five years later he took up a timber claim west of Sutherland, agreeing to plant trees as part of his land claim. He met Miss Alverda Peale, who taught school near the ranch and boarded with the Coker family. Alverda was the daughter of Franklin and Mary Ann (Comly) Peale, descendants of early pioneers, and eighteenth century artists. She was the first white baby girl born in North Platte. Alverda and Henry married on October 22, 1891, when Henry was 28 years old.
Information on Alverda Peale Coker found on Ancestry.com
In addition to farming and ranching, Henry and his father circulated a petition around Sutherland for the creation of the first Post Office. It opened in 1892 and for six years, Henry served as the first Postmaster. Hnery also maintained the first mail route, known as the Star Route, which he served for nearly 20 years, starting from Dudley Spur and running 56 miles through roadless Sandhills to Swan Lake at Lena, Nebraska. He delivered the mail by horsecart (one horse and a small two-wheeled car big enough to carry five or six mail sacks and groceries) from Sutherland to Lena. The round trip took two days, one day there and one back. He was assisted for many years by his sons, Charlie, Ross and Vern and Negro Jake Turner when he needed time off.

Henry and Alverda lived at the old Dudley homestead for a time, later moving to the Burklund Store, where Henry was Postmaster and mail carrier. Later they built a home southwest of Sutherland for their large family of 11 children: Henry, Frank, Vernon, Harold Ross, Alverda Marie, Walter John, Charles Wilson, Gladys Helen, Theodore Roosevelt, Paul Herbert, Gertrude Evelyn and Melvin Peale who died in infancy.

Their last move, in the 1890s was to the original Dudley homestead again, later known as the Alverdale Farm, which was named for Alverda Coker. There they spent their happiest and most prosperous days of their lives. The farm was located at the northeast side of Sutherland and was the former home of Henry’s father, John Coker. While living at Alverdale, Henry and Alverda operated a tourist camp area there, and ran the first milk route in the Sutherland area.



Henry was a rancher, farmer, road and bridge builder, and a Lincoln County Commissioner and Assessor. One of his bridges is still standing on the north side of Sutherland.

For the last 30 years of his life, Henry owned and operated the Standard Oil Service Station in Sutherland. The station was located on the current Highway 30 on the corner west of Kealy’s Super Stop (Now Ozzies). Henry is remembered for opening the station at all hours of the day or night for people and would always have a piece of candy for children of customers who “filled up” their vehicles.

While Henry was a Commissioner, he was on the Committee to approve contracts for building the Lincoln Highway (Highway 30) through Lincoln County, Nebraska.

Henry was a charter member of the Presbyterian Church and a charter member of the Odd Fellows Lodge. Henry passed away on April 16, 1956, and is buried at the Sutherland Riverview Cemetery.
Alverda Coker died on July 17, 1958 at Eureka, California. She too is buried at the Sutherland Cemetery

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