The last couple of months I have been sitting up late at night working on my family tree. I found out the spelling of my last name which I have known for some time, was not supposed to have been spelled Koon. My grandfather and great-grandfather all spelled their last name with the first letter as C as for Coon, and that's the way my name should of been spelled. My grandmother Tolley got the spelling mixed up somehow when she filed my father's birth certificate in Jackson County, W.Va., in 1916, when my father was born. There are three ways to spell the name Koon-Coon-Kuhn.
Being born in West Virginia, I was really surprised to learn that a couple of my relatives on my mother's side of the Robey family originally came from Maryland and settled in Washington County, in the 1800s, and worked for the Marietta Chair Co. as traveling catalog salesmen.
My great-great-grandfather on my mother's side, William H, Robey, also came from Maryland and settled in Meigs County in 1840, and later moved to West Virginia in 1848.
Researching the history of the Coon family on my father's side, that originally came from Jackson and Roane County, W.Va., I didn't even know my Grandfather Arthur Coon from Roane County died in 1959. His obituary I read stated he had one daughter. No mention of him ever having a son. If he even knew he had a son is a question, or whether or not my grandmother even told him, for they were never married, and only went together for a short time.
I found that my great-great-grandfather on my father's side was Benjamin Coon from Roane County, W.Va. Now here's the bad part, if you read the book online titled, "The Memoirs of Daniel W. Cunningham," which outlines the criminal history of Roane and Jackson County W.Va., you will find that Ben Coon mentioned in the book, who is my great-great-grandfather was a member of a mob from Jackson County, W.Va., who took the law in their own hands and hung two men from a tree at the Lynn Camp Schoolhouse in Roane County, W.Va., in 1878. One of the men they hung was Chess Coon, better known as Chester Coon, another relative. My grandfather, Benjamin Coon, held his own relative down while they put a rope on his neck, believing they were the two that shot through a preacher's window in Roane County one night in 1878 and killed him.
None of the members of the mob were ever prosecuted, but after reading the book, what I couldn't understand is, why did the preacher's wife waited until morning to report the crime. After the wife's husband was shot, the woman went back to bed and reported the crime the next morning. These two men could have been framed for the murder. Back in those days, if a man stole a horse, a mob would hang you. Guilt was never the question.
Larry Koon is the author of several price guide books on antiques and collectibles. His column appears every Monday on Life.
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