Coon Hunting: Berkley Martin Coon
Berkley moved to Marshall, Harrison County, Texas after the birth of his son Norman K. who was born June 1912 but before the birth of his son Arthur Nolan born in Texas July 1915. Berkley worked as a generator attendant for the Texas and Pacific Railroad in Marshall, Texas. The move from Lincoln County, Mississippi to Harrison County, Texas was a good move for Berkley and his family.
Tracking Berkley through the censuses over the years from Beat 3, Lincoln County, Mississippi one can glean nuggets of gold about him and his family. In 1880 Lincoln County, Berkley is four years old and hasn’t started to school yet. His parents are Edward Coon and Jane. Berkley has two older sisters and a younger brother: Sephrona born in 1871 and Sarah 1874 and Harris born in 1879. Each of them were born in Mississippi. Edward’s father was born in Mississippi and his mother was born in South Carolina, which from previous research was known, Jane’s parents were born in Mississippi. There is a twenty-year span to the next census and a lot of things can happen in twenty years.
Berkley is no longer a four year on child, and is twenty-four years old by1900. His mother has passed away, he is still single, living as a boarder, and living in Lincoln County near family. Also living nearby are his future bride and her family. Marriage is on his mind and by 11 March 1903 he is married to Victoria Viola Kelley in Brookhaven in Lincoln County where both were born. They most likely grew up together, went to school together, and played together as children.
Bert was working at a planning mill in Lincoln County. He was a laborer and had worked steady in 1909. The Berkley Coon family was living well for that era. He was literate, completed the sixth grade, had learned to read and write, and was renting a house in the town of Pearl Haven on First Street in Beat 1 in Lincoln County.
The couple started a family soon after they were married and by 1910 Beat 1, Lincoln County census they had three children ages six three, and six months. The eldest was Ethel, then the two sons Sherman and Preston. Victoria had given birth to three children and all three were living. In 1912 another son Norman was born in Brookhaven, Lincoln County. Berkley is getting restless now, and getting ready for the next chapter of life. Both his parents by May 1912 are deceased and family members are moving out of the Lincoln County area going west. So, after 10 June 1912 and before 13 July 1915 west is where he is headed. The first child born to the couple in Texas was Arthur Nolan born in Alvord in Wise County 13 July 1915. Berkley signed up for the World War I Draft Card C September 2, 1918 but wasn’t called into the service. He and Victoria were living on E. Bowie in Marshall when he signed up for the draft. In less than a year tragedy struck his family – Berkley and Victoria’s youngest son, Berkley’s namesake Berkley Martin, Jr. born 6 February in Marshall, became ill with pneumonia and died 27 January 1919. Then, 1 May 1921 another tragedy struck the family. Preston drowned in Richter’s Pond in Marshall. The child was a young eleven years old.
The Coon family has left the poverty-stricken state of their births – Mississippi. They are seeking better opportunities out west in Harrison County, Texas. They are living in Marshall in east Texas where Berkley is working for the railways. One can only imagine what Berkley and Victoria are thinking at this point in their lives. What if we had stayed in Lincoln County? Why did we move from our home where we were born and grew up? But they went on with their lives and they lived in Marshall until their deaths.
Opportunity did happen in the form of a job with the steam rail road. In 1930 he is an ax welder for the steam rail road; and the family is living on Allen Street, in District 12, Ward 4, in Marshall City, Harrison, Texas. He and Victoria have been married twenty-seven years, they own their home, the family owned a radio, and the value of the home is eight hundred dollars. They have lived through some difficult times but the family members are working steady jobs. Ethel the twenty-six-year-old single daughter is working as a grain nurse; Sherman the oldest son is twenty-two, single, and working as a baker in a bakery. Neither Sherman nor his father were veterans. The two younger sons, Norman age seventeen, and Nolan age fourteen are not employed. The parents most likely kept those two sons nearby after the death of their other two young sons.
The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. Berkley filled out the Social Security Application and Claims form January 1937. His father Edward T. and mother Janie Mason were listed on the form. Berkley listed his place of birth as Brookhaven, Lincoln County, Mississippi and birth 7 March 1876. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Social Security Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. Retirement was looked promising to Berkley. He had several steady jobs in his lifetime and could eventually retire.
By 1940 Berkley is getting near retirement age and is still working as an ax welder for the steam rail road in the rail road shop. He is now doing private work as a welder, and worked forty-four weeks in 1939. His income was one thousand twenty dollars and had no other income from other resources. Prior to the 1940 census he worked forty hours. The Berkley Coon family is living in the same house on N. Allen Street in Marshall Texas in 1940. Living in the house with the family is a two-year-old granddaughter Shirley Ann Coone. Whose child is she? Is she twenty-four-year-old single Nolan’s or twenty-seven-year-old Norman who states he is wd (widowed) on the 1940 census. Other than B. M. and Victoria those are the only family members living in the home or nearby.
Berkley and Victoria lived in the same house on N. Allen Street in the same area of Marshall until their deaths. Berkley died of pulmonary edema in the Texas and Pacific Hospital in Marshall at the age of eighty 23 February 1957. He also had heart disease and pulmonary emphysema, and was probably a heavy smoker. His niece my mother was a chain smoker until her death. Berkley’s surname was changed from Coon to Coone on the first Texas census that he was listed on. He retired as a generator attendant for the T & P Railway. His oldest son Sherman Coone was the informant for the information on the death certificate. Whether he spelled it for the census taker one will never know. But he is listed as Berkley Martin Coone on the Texas Death Certificate.
Victoria Kelly Coon died of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease and uremic syndrome 25 October 1962 in the Memorial Hospital in Marshall. She had lived in Marshall for thirty years. She was a housewife and was still living on N. Allen Street in Marshall at the time of her death. Her two sons Sherman and Nolan were the informants for the information on the death certificate. Victoria’s father was Samuel Kelly which I knew already from previous research on her family. She and Berkley are interred in the Greenwood Cemetery in Marshall.
The eldest child Ethel Coon is twenty-six years old on 1930 census, which is the last census she was listed on with her parents and siblings. She hasn’t been found on any other records, but research is ongoing.
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