Sunday Stories: William and Cecelia Coker

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891-1991, published in 1991.

The entry is written by William "Stew" Coker.

William S. and Cecelia M. (Fye) Coker

William Sherman Coker (the father of William Stewart Coker), was the second child born to John and Adelaide (Calame) Coker. He was born August 12, 1867, near Mineral Point, Wisconsin. As a child he went to school and lived on his parents’ farm and helped in the family mining business. He had four brothers and two sisters: Henry, Frank, Walter, Edward, Sarah and Charlotte, all being born in Wisconsin. In 1884 after suffering flooding problems in the mining business, the entire family moved to Nebraska settling and homesteading northwest of Sutherland, the NW1/4 Section 12-14-34. The five brothers were all in the livestock and land business. My father, Will, being the one to stay on the original homestead in later years.
William and Cecelia Coker

Cecilia Mae Fye (William Stewart Coker’s mother) was born November 30, 1876 in Butler County, Nebraska to John and Harriet (Passmore) Fye. Before Cecelia was born the family had moved from Pennsylvania to eastern Nebraska near Rising City (Butler County). Her parents farmed in this area and raised their family of nine children until 1885, when they moved to Lincoln County, south of Sutherland. In 1889, my grandmother, Harriet (Passmore) Fye passed away from pneumonia. My mother, Cecelia, was 13 years old at the time and took charge of caring for the remaining family. She told me many times how she sewed for them until they were grown. As a little girl in eastern Nebraska, she remembered the Indians peeking in their windows, and how frightened they all were.

My parents were married in 1895 and started their married life living in the John Keith house. Later my father built a house in Sutherland on the North County Road where Harvey Applegate now lives.
The Coker home on North County Road in Sutherland. Taken from the book "It Happened in Cow Country".
My father was a natural born rancher and loved his work. He and my uncle, Frank Coker, were in the ranching business together for years, handling thousands of horses and cattle. In the spring of 1896 my father and a rancher, Henry Alsher, bought 2500 head of horses in Idaho that had sold for taxes owed against them. They hired a young ranch lad to drive the buckboard that hauled their gear, and the three left Nebraska and went to Salmon, Idaho, where they received the horses. It took them three months to make the round trip, and they did it with ease. The horse business in those days was very profitable and my father handled many as well as cattle. He could look at a cow or horse and tell you what it was thinking. He always told me you had to be able to do that to be good with livestock. I had the best teacher that lived. Thanks Dad!

My mother, Cecelia Mae (Fye) Coker was a great rancher’s wife and business partner. She was a religious person and a “doer” and there was nothing she could not do. During their life on the ranch it was always a stopping place for ranchers freighting supplies to their ranches, and anyone coming and going in our vicinity. Many weeks she would cook a quarter of a beef in a week, and everything that went with it. In addition, my father had a dipping vat on the ranch and ranchers for miles around would drive their cattle to the ranch to be dipped and there would be those extra men to feed. They would bring their bedrolls and be scattered all over the house, the bunkhouse and any other likely spot. 

My mother was also a good horsewoman in her own right. She had her own buggy, with a Chestnut stallion by the name of Walnut, and a black stallion named Eurallis, the best of buggy horses. Her buggy had side curtains and the top would go up or down depending on the weather. I have her single horse backband she used on her buggy horses; it is beautiful leather trimmed with solid brass. She, my mother, was also an artist. We have oil paintings and charcoals she did, as well as drawers full of fancy needlework done by her. We also have room size braided rugs all made by her hands. What a lady.

My parents had five children: Grace (Jeffords) born in 1896; Irene (Stewart) born in 1898; Adelaide (Kramer) born in 1900; Wylma (Snyder) born in 1905; and myself, William Stewart, born in 1908.

My parents were members of the Sutherland Presbyterian Church. My father passed away July 17, 1930 and my mother in 1965. They are both buried at the Sutherland Cemetery.


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