Will of Mary Huston Rankin, wife of William, with a brief chart

This is a cautionary tale: be careful what you wish for.

One of my Rankin researcher friends says I need to consolidate information about the descendants of William and Mary Huston Rankin into one article. She complained that one must read several posts to assemble information on that family. Even that, she says, is hit-and-miss as to the identity of descendants, because I don’t provide charts.

I plead guilty.[1] I shall try to respond to her request.

William was one of the three sons of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, a famous immigrant Rankin couple claimed by many hopeful descendants. Actually, my friend wants a chart for all of Adam and Mary’s line — not just William’s. OK … A draft of one is underway. It is already more than twenty pages long as a Word document because I occasionally succumb to the urge to provide evidence. I will obviously have to post it in multiple parts. Charts of that nature do not make good reading. They don’t even make reading. That’s the “be careful what you wish for” aspect of this.

The upside is that descendancy charts provide an abundance of easy-to-follow information that might help you know where, or if, your family fits into a specific ancestral pool, and where you might need to flesh out the research on your line.

Adam’s line is the main course: to come. This article hardly even counts as an appetizer.

I have started with Mary Huston Rankin’s will because I have mentioned it on this blog before but never abstracted it. It is an important document because it helps prove which of the two David Rankins in Franklin County — one was a son of James, and one was a son of William and Mary, and both were grandsons of Adam — was her son. It also proves fourgranddaughters of William and Mary who are not established by any other records, so far as I know.[2]

Here is an abstract of Mary’s will, followed by an outline descendant chart using information from the will. Then I will flesh it out with more descendants. This will be a “skeleton” chart because it includes only names with very few dates and spouses. No evidentiary clutter. Its utility may be (1) as a starting place for your own research or (2) as confirmation of your existing charts. If it isn’t helpful, hang on for the series on all of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin’s line.

Mary Huston Rankin’s Franklin County will was dated April 11, 1818; it was proved in 1824. Mary expressly identified her relationships to each beneficiary and, except for one, identified the beneficiary’s Rankin parent. Mary did not name Betsy Rankin, her only proved daughter. She also omitted her eldest son Dr. Adam Rankin, who had moved to Kentucky. Otherwise, she mentioned all of her children.

Mary’s will recites that she resided in Peters Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She was almost certainly living with her son David.[3] Here are her beneficiaries, all of whom received cash bequests:

  • Sons John and Jeremiah Rankin. They were William and Mary’s two youngest sons, although they are the first-named beneficiaries in Mary’s will.
  • Granddaughter Easter Robison, cash when she reached age 18. Easter’s parents aren’t identified. Her mother was probably Mary’s only daughter, Betsy Rankin, who evidently married a Robison and may have died by the time Mary wrote her will.
  • Grandson William, son of her son William, cash for the purchase of books. The will doesn’t say so, but he was a medical student.
  • Granddaughters Betsy, Martha, and Mary Rankin, daughters of her son David.
  • Grandson David Huston Rankin, son of her son David.
  • Granddaughters Betsy and Maria Rankin, daughters of her son Archibald.
  • Granddaughter Maria Rankin, daughter of her son James.
  • Executors: sons Archibald and William Rankin.
  • Witnesses: Robert W. Kerby and Martha Kerby.[4]

Here is a skeleton outline chart one can create for Mary’s family from her will. This chart begins with Adam and Mary Steele Alexander, William Rankin’s parents, as Generation 1.[5] I’ve included some information obviously not available from Mary’s will. The chart ignores descendants of William’s siblings James, Jeremiah, and Esther, who are waiting their turns. This chart lists William and Mary Huston Rankin’s children in birth order and provides their birth dates from a family Bible.[6] They are shown in boldface type.

1  Adam Rankin, d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA. His wife was Mary Steele Alexander, daughter of John Steele of New Castle Co., DE and widow of James Alexander of Cecil Co., MD. Adam and Mary were married between August 1718 and 1724 in the Colonies.[7] Adam’s reputed father, grandfather, and alleged first wife are unproved, although their names are cast in concrete (or bronze) in the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom also claims Adam had a brother John; that notion is now conclusively disproved by Big Y. Adam was the immigrant in his line. Adam and Mary’s four children are not listed here in birth order: James was likely the eldest, Jeremiah likely the youngest, and I have no idea where Esther and William should appear between those two. I put William last because his is the line that is extended in this chart.

     2 James Rankin, who left a will in Franklin dated 1788 and proved 1795.[8] Wife Jean MNU. Four sons, two daughters.

     2 Jeremiah Rankin, died in Franklin (then Cumberland) in 1760. Wife Rhoda Craig. Four sons, all of whom went to Kentucky. I am not aware of daughters, if any.

     2 Esther Rankin Dunwoody. I know virtually nothing about her.

     2 William Rankin and wife Mary Huston. He died in 1792 in Franklin.[9] She probably died in 1824, the year her will was probated.

       3 Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762, not named in Mary’s will.[10]

       3 Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764.

          4 Betsy Rankin, apparently not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

          4 Maria Rankin, ditto.

       3 James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766.

          4 Maria Rankin, apparently not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

       3 William Rankin, b. 5. Nov 1770.

          4 William Rankin, the med student who received money for books.

       3 Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. Apparently m. Mr. Robison and d. by 1818.

          4 Easter Robison, not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

       3 David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777.

          4 Betsy Rankin

          4 Martha Rankin

          4 Mary Rankin

          4 David Huston Rankin

       3 John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779.

       3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783.

OK, the expanded chart below adds William and Mary Huston Rankin’s descendants down to their great-grandchildren, where proved. I have omitted Generation 1 (Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin) and their children except for William and Mary Huston Rankin of Generation 2. I’ve generally omitted evidence, spouses, dates, and locations, saving all that for later. William and Mary’s children (the generation numbered 3) are again shown in boldface.

2 William Rankin and wife Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Huston. William died in 1792, devising land in his will that makes it easy to track his sons with confidence.[11] According to The Pennsylvania Archives, he was a Revolutionary War soldier. If you are descended from William and Mary, you will have no problem obtaining membership in the DAR or SAR. If you are a male descendant named Rankin, for heaven’s sake, man, please do a Y-DNA test! His wife Mary evidently died in 1824. There is no evidence of a birth year for either William or Mary. William appeared in a plethora of county records. He is NEVER shown with a middle initial, much less a middle name, in any of them. The middle name “Steele” shown for him in internet trees is fiction.

     3 Dr. Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He went from Franklin to Henderson Co., KY, where he died. He married three times: (1) Elizabeth Speed, m. 1 Nov 1792 in Danville, KY (six children, she died 15 Aug 1803); (2) Ann Gamble, m. 23 Oct 1804 (one son, she died 14 Aug 1806); and (3) Susan (Susannah) Anderson, m. 3 Sep 1807 (six children).

       4 Mary Huston Rankin

       4 William Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

          5 Gwatkin Rankin

          5 Juliet S. Rankin

       4 Elizabeth Speed Rankin

       4 James Speed Rankin

       4 Juliet Spencer Rankin, 1800 – 1871, Henderson Co., KY. Married Dr. Thomas J. Johnson.

          5 Benjamin Johnson

          5 Elizabeth Speed Johnson

          5 Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, see article with photographs at this link.

          5 Thomas J. Johnson

          5 William Stapleton Johnson

          5 Campbell Haussman Johnson

       4 Adam Rankin

       4 John David Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

          5 Sallie Rankin

          5 Juliet Rankin

       4 Nathaniel Alexander Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

       4 James Edwin Rankin

          5 Ann E. (Nannie?) Rankin

          5 Sarah A. (Sallie?) Rankin

          5 James Edwin Rankin

          5 Rev. Alexander Taylor Rankin

          5 Coalter Wardlaw Rankin

          5 Samuel W. Rankin

          5 Alice H. Rankin.

          5 Fannie M. Rankin

          5 C. Wardlaw Rankin, the second child by that name.

       4 Lucy Rankin

       4 Archibald Rankin

       4 Susan Daniel Rankin

       4 Weston Rankin

   3 Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Remained in Franklin County his entire life. His wife was Agnes Long. Only three daughters are proved; one son is probable.

       4 Betsy Rankin, proved by her grandmother’s will.

       4 Maria Rankin, ditto.

       4 Fanny Rankin, proved by a record of the Upper Conococheague Presbyterian Church.

       4 William Rankin, a probable son.

           5 Archibald Huston Rankin

           5 Olivia Catherine Rankin

           5 James Irvine Rankin

     3 James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. Went to Centre Co., PA. Either died or moved away. Had a large family, but only one daughter is proved.

          4 Maria Rankin, proved by Mary Huston Rankin’s will.

     3 William Rankin (Jr.), b. 5 Nov 1770. Went to Centre Co., PA, where he died. Married (1) Abigail McGinley and (2) Susannah Huston.

       4 Adam Rankin

       4 Dr. William Rankin (III), the med student who inherited money for books. Wife Caroline Niven.

          5 Rev. William Alexander Rankin

            6 Annie J. Rankin

            6 William W. Rankin

            6 Percy Randolph Rankin

        5 Mary Adaline Rankin

        5 Dr. David Niven Rankin

        5 Abigail McGinley Rankin

        5 Alfred J. Rankin

        5 James Henry Rankin

        5 Elizabeth Rankin

        5 Joseph Pierce Rankin

        5 Caroline Olivia Rankin

        5 Anna Margaretta Rankin

    4 Dr. James Rankin

        5 Dr. William M. Rankin

          6 Dr. James Rankin

       5 Dr. Andrew Hepburn Rankin

       5 Emily J. Rankin

    4 John M. Rankin

       5 Oliver Rankin

       5 Susannah Rankin

       5 John Rankin

       5 James Rankin

    4 Joseph Alexander Rankin

       5 Abigail M. Rankin

       5 William Blair Rankin

       5 Sarah C. Rankin

       5 Anna M. Rankin

       5 Caroline E. Rankin

       5 John A. Rankin

    4 Dr. Archibald Rankin

    4 Abigail Rankin

    4 Susannah Rankin

  3 Betsy Rankin, evidently married a Mr. Robison. May have died by 1818.

    4 Easter Robison, proved by her grandmother’s will.

  3 David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. Wife Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. Eventually moved to Des Moines Co., IA, where he died. For information on this family, see the links in Note 1.

     4 William Rankin

        5 Frances Elizabeth (“Libby”) Rankin

        5 Samuel Bruce Rankin

        5 Areta Catherine Rankin

     4 Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Rankin

     4 Martha C. Rankin m. Mr. Sweeny.

        5 Frances C. Sweeny

     4 Mary H. Rankin m. Mr. Bruce.

        5 Martha (“Mattie”) Bruce

        5 Lawrence H. C. Bruce

        5 David R. Bruce

        5 Sarah Bruce

        5 Margaret Bruce

     4 Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin

        5 David C. Rankin

        5 Hezekiah Johnson Rankin

        5 Sarah F. Rankin

        5 John William Rankin

    4 Frances Rankin (Jr.)

    4 David Huston Rankin

        5 Martha (“Mattie”) C. Rankin

        5 Fannie Rankin

          6 Rankin Rice

    4 Archibald Rankin

        5 Elizabeth J. Rankin

        5 Frances Margaret or Margaret Frances Rankin

        5 Martha Catharine Rankin

    4 Adam John Rankin

 3 John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. Moved to Centre Co., PA, where he died. Wife Isabella Dundass.

     4 Mary Rankin

     4 Isabella Rankin

     4 Jane Rankin

     4 Eliza Rankin

     4 William D. Rankin

     4 Dr. John C. Rankin

     4 James H. Rankin

        5 Alice Rankin

        5 Jane A. Rankin

     4 J. Duncan Rankin

     4 Luther Calvin Rankin

        5 Mary J. Rankin

        5 Anabella (“Anna”) Rankin

        5 George F. Rankin

        5 Charles Rankin

        5 William Rankin

        5 Edith? Rankin

        5 Eliza Rankin

  3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. Went to Centre Co., PA with his three brothers. Wife  Sarah Whitehill.

     4 Mary H. Rankin

     4 David W. Rankin

        5 Oscar Rankin

     4 Rachel Rankin

     4 William Rankin

     4 Adam Rankin

        5 Mary Rankin

        5 James Foster Rankin

     4 Robert Rankin

I was amazed to find that this chart, with information largely limited to names with virtually no evidence, required four pages in a Word document — and that is with normal spacing, not the crazy spacing the WordPress format uses.

Jeremiah Rankin, the son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin who died in a mill accident in 1760, is up next. Maybe. There are several Rankin projects in the mill, including good stuff happening at the Rankin DNA Project. Meanwhile, a chart for Adam’s entire line continues to grow.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] One can find blog articles about William and Mary’s line here  and  here  and here  and still more here.

            [2] Jessica Guyer, a Rankin data mining bulldog, provided a link to Mary’s will from a new source she found for Franklin County records. My attempts to access the website once produced a message saying “service not available.” Perhaps the website was undergoing maintenance. Sometimes it asks for a password, with no clue how to get one. In any event, the link is accessible as I type it here.

            [3] The 1820 census for Peters Township, Franklin Co., PA, has an entry for David Rankin with a woman over 45, almost certainly his mother Mary, in the household.

            [4] I don’t know how Robert and Martha Kerby were connected to the Rankins, if at all.

            [5] Adam’s parents are unproved, although his purported father and grandfather are identified in a family legend along with an alleged first wife.

            [6] Disc 4, Cloyd tapes. I have lost my references to the Cloyd disk page numbers, for which I apologize. Wading through those disks is a serious MEGO challenge. The information in the Bible appears in the form of chart accompanying a letter dated May 6, 1954, from Rev. J. O. Reed, pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Opelousas, LA, to Flossie Cloyd. Rev. Reed, a descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin, was the owner of the Bible and drew a small chart for Flossie.

            [7] For proof of Adam and Mary’s marriage date, see the article at this link.

            [8] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin Sr.

            [9] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin dated and proved in 1792.

            [10] This Adam (in the third generation) is named in his father William’s 1792 will. Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256. William named his wife Mary and children (in this order) Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John and Jeremiah. William identifies Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old. The family Bible identifies the same children, see Note 6.

            [11] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A-B: 256. William named his wife Mary and children (in this order) Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John and Jeremiah. William identifies Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old. The family Bible identifies the same children, see Note 6.

Breaking Down a Brick Wall: a Researcher’s Thrill

by Jessica Guyer

Note: the last guest author on this blog was such a success we’re doing it again. Jessica Guyer is one of the two best Rankin data mining researchers I know. When I first “met” Jess, she wasn’t acquainted with deeds. I suggested she take a look at deeds in Pennsylvania counties relevant to her brick wall, telling her only that deed images are available at FamilySearch.Org. I didn’t explain grantor/grantee indexes, how to navigate the Family Search catalog, or what constitutes meaningless deed boilerplate. Next thing I knew, she had blitzed through deeds in a half-dozen counties looking for clues on her brick wall. This article is a story about the trail of clues that finally knocked it down. Enjoy!

Robin

 Introduction

This is a story about Don D. Rankin’s brick wall. The story includes a rich old 19TH century man who was apparently popular with the ladies, some bigotry that probably prevented sharing important information, and a clue that finally allowed me — his great-great niece — to correctly break down the brick wall and fix his very public error.

A California schoolteacher, Don had to travel cross-country to conduct family history research on his Pennsylvania Rankins in the 1970s and ’80s — the pre-internet dark ages.  His goal was to identify the parents of his great-grandfather, Chambers Rankin (1805-1835). He dubbed his trips “High Adventure Genealogical Safaris” and wrote humorous letters to relatives about his finds.

After decades of work, Don did something every family history researcher has done at least once. He identified the wrong couple as Chambers Rankin’s parents. That is usually a “so what?” Unfortunately, Don typed up his conclusions and sent copies to every relative, friend, library, genealogical association, and historical organization in Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil probably received a copy.  What ensued is predictable: Don’s error became the conventional wisdom. It can now be found in 99% of the family trees on Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org that include Chambers Rankin.

We’re going to follow his excellent detective work. However, we will identify the correct parents of Chambers Rankin: David (1776-1857) and Martha Culbertson Rankin of Westmoreland County, PA.

Road to Error

   Lee Rankin in 1954 at the gravesite of his grandfather, Chambers Rankin

Don’s father, Lee Rankin, took him to visit Chambers’ grave in the Old Log Church cemetery in Schellsburg, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Lee’s father was Franklin Rankin; Chambers was Lee’s grandfather. Chambers had died when Franklin, his only child, was about 9 months old. Above are some 1954 pictures Don took of Lee by Chambers’ tombstone.

During Don’s visit, Lee shared an old velvet photo album of family pictures. One photo in the album was a very old tintype of a woman Lee called an “Indian Lady” — a Native American. When Don asked questions, Lee refused to discuss her further. Don’s daughter Marjorie subsequently asked Lee about her. He became agitated and said only, “she is one of your great great grandmothers” and told her not to ask any more questions.

That silence was probably a result of prejudice and misplaced family shame. It is a pity on several levels. Among other things, surely Lee had some information about her.[1] After all, she was his grandmother – the mother of Chambers Rankin’s only child, Lee’s father Franklin R. Rankin.  The family has never determined whether she and Chambers were married or any other circumstances about their relationship — not even her given name.

Don didn’t have much to go on in his quest for Chambers’ parents. All he knew for certain was that Chambers (1) fathered a son (Franklin) with a Native American woman, (2) died in 1835 about 9 months after Franklin’s birth, and (3) had a brother named J. C. Rankin of Harrison City.  The brother is proved by Chambers’ gravestone, which is engraved “Chambers Rankin died Mar. 16, 1835. Aged 30 years. Erected by his brother J. C. Rankin, Harrison City.”[2] This brotherly kindness will prove to be the clue that ultimately led to breaking down Don’s brick wall.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Don connected with a mother and son from Pitcairn, Allegheny County. On his behalf, the pair visited a number of cemeteries and sent Don information and photos of Rankin gravestones they came across. One of these was J. C. Rankin’s grave in Harrison City. His stone mentions his wife, Nellie Rankin, a name that Don remembered from his father’s old photo album. At the foot of J. C.’s grave is a marker for his sister, Martha Rankin Bisel. The proved nuclear family was growing: it now including Chambers, J. C., and Martha Rankin Bisel. Her stone was also purchased by J. C. This should have been a step in the right direction for Uncle Don, who already suspected that J. C. was “the long missing link” towards uncovering the mystery.

What Went Wrong?

The mother and son duo had ancestral ties to the Bisel family (Martha Rankin Bisel’s inlaws). So instead of focusing on researching J. C. and the Westmoreland County area, they followed the trail of the Bisel family, which took them to Bedford and Fulton Counties. Upon finding Rankins buried at the Big Spring Cemetery in Fulton County, they convinced themselves that those burials were Chambers’ parents – with literally zero evidence. Don accepted their conclusions and considered them his “Big Breakthrough.” In January 1985, he excitedly typed up his “case-solved-here-is-our-lineage” piece, now memorialized as the conventional wisdom.

Don claimed Chambers Rankin’s father was John Rankin (1754-1829) buried in Big Spring Cemetery in Fulton County. But he confused that John Rankin with a different John Rankin, born the same year, who married Martha Waugh, and moved to Tennessee.  Don used the Tennessee John’s lineage for the remainder of his erroneous Rankin lineage write up.

There were so many red flags (such as a father who was only 13 when a son was born) that the people in his chart might as well have been fictional. Instead, the erroneous information spread like a virus.

Uncle Don’s excitement was short lived. He passed away in May, just five months after completing and distributing his work. Perhaps he was worried about his health, which contributed to his acceptance of unvetted information to finish his life’s work before it was too late. This feeling is a relatable anxiety for researchers – hoping to “finish” our work before we die with our findings only in our minds and scribbled on mountains of notes that would make no sense to anyone else.

Setting the Record Straight

To begin, I went back to the place where evidence was pointing – Chambers’ siblings J. C. Rankin and Martha (Rankin) Bisel in Harrison City, Westmoreland County.  I spent hours of research hoping to find them in a will or deed pointing toward their family of origin. The only thing I found was another sibling – Culbertson Rankin of Somerset County, for whom J. C. also purchased a gravestone that was identical to Chambers’ marker. This find was interesting because it turns out J. C.’s given name was John Culbertson Rankin. That made two Culberson names among the siblings.

I began corresponding with one of J. C.’s descendants who shared her theory that the parents of the Rankin siblings were David and Martha (Culbertson) Rankin of Westmoreland County. Based solely on the importance of the Culbertson maiden name, the theory that they were Chambers’ parents seemed far more plausible than anything else I’d come across.  In her theory, David Rankin was the son of another David Rankin (Sr.) who died in Westmoreland County in 1790.

Our Rankin siblings didn’t fit in with any other Rankin clan in Pennsylvania, so I decided to research the David Rankins of Westmoreland County to search for clues.

David (Sr.) was a Westmoreland County innkeeper whose land was located in Unity Township along the Loyalhanna Creek. He died in 1790, leaving a will for which there are two transcriptions.[3] One leaves his estate to his “well beloved wife James” (obviously a transcription error) and which subsequently identifies his wife as Mary. The second transcription wrongly identified James as David’s son. However, estate records prove that James Rankin was actually David Sr.’s brother. Estate records also provided the names of David and Mary’s children: Daniel, David (Jr.), Jane, William, Matthew, Margaret, Martha, and Chambers.[4]YES, CHAMBERS! No, this wasn’t my Chambers, but it WAS another clue. Family names can be important circumstantial evidence, particularly in the case of unusual names such as “Chambers” and “Culbertson.”

Further down the rabbit hole, I learned that this Chambers died when he was in his teens. It seemed plausible that his brother, David Jr., would name one of his sons (my Chambers) after a deceased brother.  I gathered enough information about David Sr. and his wife Mary Cochran (and her family) to create a detailed timeline for him.[5] Unfortunately, I can’t find additional records about his son, David Jr. The only known detail about his life is that he married Martha Culbertson by 1800.[6] She and her family moved to Westmoreland County around 1785 from “Culbertson Row” in Franklin County.[7]

I changed direction to focus again on Chambers’ brother, John Culbertson Rankin. He married near Culbertson Row in Franklin County. In 1840, he moved his family to Westmoreland County, where he purchased coal and timberland and founded Harrison City. He also ran a store and a hotel. In the process, he became incredibly wealthy: many of the landowners in Westmoreland County wound up sitting atop thick seams of anthracite coal.

Researchers originally believed that his wife died shortly after their 9th child was born. That is because J. C. was married by 1850 to a second wife with whom he had three children. She was around the same age as his oldest daughter. However, his first wife was still very much alive. That first marriage evidently ended in divorce, as did his second marriage. Around 1865, he married a third time, to a woman named Nellie who was nearly 45 years younger. He conforms to an old cliche:  a rich guy who keeps getting divorced and marrying younger women – add a silk robe and smoking pipe for a stereotypical 19th century image.

God bless his heart, though, because he did something caring and useful with his overflowing money pot. He bought gravestones for his siblings that included his own name, without which this brick wall might have stood forever. And for that, Uncle J. C., we thank you.[8]  J. C.’s gravestone itself was about to provide another clue!

After COVID allowed, I was finally able to visit J. C.’s enormous gravestone. It was engraved “J.R. Oursler, Latrobe” – presumably, the tombstone engraver. I took note, hoping it would lead to something. I still lacked any direct evidence that David (Jr.) was the same David who married Martha Culbertson. And that David and Martha’s children were John C., Chambers, Martha, and Culbertson.

Serendipity Rewards the Prepared

That proof came in a way I least expected. I happened upon a single newspaper article that tied together all the random notes and circumstantial evidence I had collected for two years.  I said out loud to my laptop, “oh my god, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THIS TIME, ARTICLE!?” It conclusively proves that J. C.’s family lived along Loyalhanna Creek near Hannastown, and the only Rankin family documented in that area is David (Sr.).

The Latrobe Bulletin newspaper reported that, in 1891, J. C. Rankin was in town meeting with John R. Oursler for ordering a cemetery monument. During this visit to Latrobe, J. C. stopped to visit the newspaper, which reported this:

“In the course of conversation, we learned that Mr. Rankin was one of the pioneers of this section of the country, being at the present time 87 years of age. He is a large, fine looking specimen of manhood, and not withstanding his advanced age, is as sprightly and active as a man of 45 or 50 years. He informed us that all his relatives were raised along the Loyalhanna and that his [father was[9]] at Hannastown the time it was besieged and burned by the Indians. They were forced to flee for their lives and escaped. He said that the town or fort was thickly surrounded by hazel bushes. These were cut off, piled up and burned. The stumps of these bushes were sticking out of the ground and had been burned to needle-like sharpness by the fire. In making his escape, his father was compelled to run over these spear-like points in his bare feet and in doing so, his feet were terribly lacerated. At the time of his death having a number of holes in the soles in which Mr. Rankin said he often inserted his fingers. He is blessed with excellent eyesight and an elegant memory and related many stirring scenes of early days.”

Hannastown was attacked and burned in July 1782. David Rankin (Jr.) would have only been around 6 years old at the time. The Rankin family home along the Loyalhanna was only a few miles away from Hannastown. So … why would the David Rankin (Sr.) family have been in Hannastown that day?  More direct evidence provides the answer.

Quarterly Court was in session the day of the attack, and on the docket was business regarding tavern keepers and selling “spirituous liquors in small measure.” Twelve tavern keepers attended, although they weren’t identified. David (Sr.) had been an innkeeper since at least 1781, per court records.[10] Surely he was there with the other county innkeepers.  Perhaps he brought his son, David Jr., with him on the trip – or maybe even the whole family, since it wasn’t safe yet on the homesteads due to continuing Native American attacks.

There were no other Rankins with land along the Loyalhanna except for David Sr. and his children, who remained in the area after his death.

Good ‘ol Uncle J.C….. that “fine looking specimen of manhood”…. irresistible to the younger ladies…and with money to burn….. once again came through in our quest to break through this brick wall to tell us that the earliest known Rankin ancestor in our line is undoubtedly David Rankin (Sr.) who died in 1790.

That brief celebration was interrupted by the realization that I’ve just left one brick wall (Chambers) only to hit another (his grandfather David.)[11]  Nevertheless – progress! I hope Uncle Don would be thrilled with this discovery, and not upset that his conclusion turned out to be error. Surely he was accustomed to the twists and turns — and errors — along our “High Adventure Genealogical Safaris.”

[1] She was probably Shawnee, the prevalent Native American tribe in the area.

[2] This gravestone was an 1890s replacement of Chambers’ original stone.

[3] Westmoreland County Pennsylvania Probate Records, Will Book Vol.1, Pg. 101.

[4] Children’s names are documented in the following records: 1.) OC Vol.A, Pg. 59   2.) OC Vol.2B, Pg.27 and Pg.31   3.) OC Vol.A, Pg.92   4.) Deed Book Vol.17, Pg.186   5.) Deed Book Vol.6, Pg.53.  6.) Undocketed estate papers for David Rankin and his father-in-law William Cochran in Records Management storage at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

[5] This timeline document can be found on Ancestry when searching for David Rankin (1750-1790) or at this link: https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/collection/1030/tree/8318305/person/112357108913/media/943c87d8-493e-4e44-81bc-07c40a879728?_phsrc=jHG7&usePUBJs=true&sort=-created

[6] Deed Book Vol.6, Pg.35

[7] Culbertson Row refers to a large area of land in Letterkenny Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, settled by several members of the Scots-Irish Culbertson family in the early 1700s.

[8] There is one more very likely sibling in this family. His name was also David Rankin, and he died in 1866 in Grapeville, Westmoreland County.

[9] The article actually reads “parents were” but I believe there was slight error to the way the story was printed. His mother would have only been a baby. Further, her Culbertson family didn’t come to Hannastown until at least three years later.

[10] Documentation includes: 1.) The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Volume 7, Issues 2-3, Pg. 172-174 and 2.) History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Volume 1 Pg. 136.

[11] Information on David Rankin (d.1790) remains elusive. The lack of any documents helping to reveal the origin story for he and his brother James, has nearly convinced me they were dropped there by aliens. I kid,…

THE ANCIENT AND MODERN RANKIN FAMILY TREE – By Richard Rankin

NOTE: Robin and I are pleased to publish this article by Richard Rankin, an administrator of the Rankin DNA Project. He wrote it; I provided graphics. Everyone interested in Y-DNA testing should read it, even if you don’t have a Rankin ancestor. It’s a great illustration of what Big Y tests can do to place your surname into a genetic family tree. Enjoy! – Gary Willis

THE RANKINS – A FEW LEAVES OF A VERY LARGE TREE

The Rankin surname has only become attached to specific branches of the human family tree in very recent times. As this article will demonstrate, there are known Rankin lines from branches of the genetic tree that diverged tens of thousands of years ago. By comparison, family surnames were adopted very recently, only within the past 1,000 years or so. People adopted surnames at different times, in different circumstances, in different cultures. Originally, a family surname was less related to genetics than to external factors like geography, occupation, or tribal association, despite sons having the same Y-DNA as their fathers. Thus, members of the same family might have different surnames based on each one’s occupation. For example, John (the) Smith might have sons named John (the) Wheelwright and James (the) Miller.

The families who first adopted the Rankin surname generally lived in Ireland, Scotland, or England in 1000 AD or later. However, they came from a wide variety of genetic backgrounds. That is because those islands experienced multiple waves of in-migration from different people groups long before written history, from the early Stone Age, through the Bronze and Iron Ages. As a result, Rankins are genetically quite diverse despite sharing a surname.

Y-DNA TESTING, OR “WHY DO A BIG Y TEST”?

Advancements in genetic testing have opened a new world of discovery. In particular, Y-DNA genetic testing presents a bewildering array of choices to the interested genealogist. All of these Y-DNA tests examine the paternal Y chromosome, which is only passed from fathers to sons. The Y chromosome is inherited largely unchanged because it does not mix or recombine with anyone else’s DNA. Mutations or changes occur over very long periods of time.

The most common Y-DNA test for genealogy purposes is the Y-37, or 37 marker STR (or “short tandem repeat”) test. It gives just enough information to identify other test takers who might be related through the paternal line within a time frame of several hundred years. But that’s about all it can do. There are also “reversions”, or backwards changes in these STR markers, which can result in a false positive match. When this occurs, what appears to be a close genetic match is in fact just random. This is especially possible when only 37 markers are compared, rather than 67 or 111 markers.

In contrast, Family Tree DNA’s Big Y-700 SNP test (pronounced “snip” test) examines substantially more Y-DNA than any STR test. As a result, when a member does a Big Y-700 test, there is much more information available. This genetic information reaches back before surnames, beyond the reach of traditional paper genealogy, enabling the construction of a “family tree” back to the beginnings of humanity.

Not only does the Big Y-700 test reach back into the ancient ancestry of the Rankin family tree, it also has benefits for modern genealogical research. Big Y SNP results allow placement of an individual into a specific Rankin lineage with much greater confidence than STR results alone. Even better, the SNP results accrue additional benefits as more people test. When enough distant cousins within a known lineage do SNP testing, laboratories can identify and catalogue additional SNPs specific to that group. This is why the terminal SNP or Haplotype for an individual will often change over time. In this way, the additional SNPs become both more recent, and more relevant to specific sub-branches of a Rankin lineage. With enough testers, SNPs can work alongside STRs to help identify a very particular branch of a lineage. They can even help identify a Most Recent Common Ancestor (MCRA) when those terminal SNPs are known to have developed in the past few hundred years.

Most members of the Rankin surname project at Family Tree DNA have taken a 37-marker test. Thus far, the test results have enabled Rankin project administrators to group the members into nine identifiable lineages. The members of each distinct lineage likely descend from a common ancestor of that lineage in a genealogical time frame, that is, when written records are available. Often that period is within sixteen generations or fewer. However, the nine Rankin lines are genetically diverse and are not related to each other within a genealogical time frame.

If the nine Rankin lineages are not related to each other on a genealogical time scale, how are they related to each other? We have to go back nearly 50,000 years and rely on Big Y tests to answer that question.

Fewer than a dozen Rankin Project members have done the Big Y-700 test to date. These individuals have made a great contribution to the understanding of the ancient Rankin family tree. Despite the relatively small number of Big Y-700 testers, the results enable the creation of an ancient Rankin family tree. As more people test, more Rankin SNPs will be identified, and a more detailed genetic history can be written, both ancient and modern.[1]

  THE RANKIN FAMILY TREE CHRONOLOGY

All modern humans descend from a common genetic ancestor who lived over 200,000 years ago. Not surprisingly, he is denoted “Y-Adam.” All of the identified Rankin lineages come from a descendant of Y-Adam who appeared about 47,000 BC.  He carried the SNP M523 and is the common ancestor of all the Rankins tested to date and many, many other surnames as well.  Over the millennia, present-day Rankin lines diverged from M523 in four major branches to form their own distinctive groups. Charting these branches over time creates a Rankin DNA Family Tree analogous to a traditional “paper” tree. The tree developed below identifies each SNP associated with a major Rankin lineage branch and the approximate time the branching occurred. The currently identified Rankin lineages are shown as L1 through L9.[2] The final major branch for each lineage is in a highlighted box.

First Branch – 45,000 BC: Stone Age Europeans

The Rankin family tree first branched downstream of the M523 common ancestor about 45,000 BC, when the present day Rankin Lineages 4 and 8 diverged from the other groups.

Of course, they were not called Rankins at the time. Lineages 4 and 8 have SNP M429 while the others have SNP M9. Lineages 4 and 8 then developed M170, part of genetic Haplogroup I, which is among the earliest Stone Age groups to arrive in Western Europe. Lineages 4 and 8 diverged from each other and from M170 around 25,000 BC. Lineage 4 is defined by SNP I-P215.[3] The SNP distinguishing Lineage 8 is I-Z2699.[4]

The migration maps at Family Tree DNA illustrate the Haplogroup I migration path through the Balkans and into Scandinavia. M170 is among the most frequently identified SNPs in European remains dating from the Paleolithic. The frequency of this haplogroup in early Western Europe was later reduced by waves of other migrating groups, including Haplogroup R1b in the Bronze Age and Haplogroup R1a, especially during Viking expansion.

Second Branch – 20,000 BC: Norse Vikings

The remaining seven Rankin lineages descended from SNP M9, which developed via multiple steps into M207/Haplogroup R about 26,000 BC. The Rankin family tree then split from the downstream Haplogroup R1 about 20,000 BC.

Haplogroup R1a carries the M420 SNP, while R1b carries the M343 SNP. In Europe, the R1a/M420 group is strongly Slavic, Baltic, and Nordic. Lineage 1 is the only known Rankin line that comes from Haplogroup R1a / M420.

Lineage 1 descends from M420 through a series of interesting SNPs, including Z289, which is associated with Norse Vikings, Z284 associated with the Viking Expansion into Ireland and Scotland, and L448. The last SNP developed around 1200 BC and was found in the remains from a Viking grave in 9th century Dublin. Being strongly associated with the Viking Expansion, this group was likely among the later arrivals into the Scottish / Irish sphere.[5]

Third Branch – 3,000 BC: Germanics

The other Rankin lineages descend through R1b / M343, which is characteristic of both Celtic and Germanic peoples. They also descend from the downstream SNP M269, the Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype (WAMH). For the majority of Rankins who do an STR test only, their predicted haplotype will very likely be R-M269. Unfortunately, this SNP developed about 11,000 BC, so it isn’t terribly helpful for genealogy. It became prevalent in Western Europe in the Bronze Age.

The third major branch occurs downstream of M269 / WAMH, when Lineage 2 separated from Lineages 5, 6, 7, and 9 around 3,000 BC. Lineage 2 is defined by the distinguishing SNP U106, while the  other four lineages have SNP P312. “BritainsDNA” calls U106 descendants the “Germanic” group. At present, U106 occurs with the highest frequency in the Germanic areas of Europe but also in Britain, especially the historically Anglo-Saxon regions of southeastern England.[6] Members of this group appear more likely to have an Anglo-Saxon ancient paternal ancestry, although many are later associated with the largely Scots-Irish diaspora to the British Colonies.[7]

Celtic Branches – 2,000 BC: Britons, Irish, and Scots, Oh My!

The other Rankin lineages developed from the Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype in branches below R-P312, which is associated with a non-Germanic historical group called the Beaker Folk or Bell Beaker.[8] As part of the Bronze Age migrations westward, this group displaced or absorbed many of the earlier European arrivals.

Rankin Lineages 5, 6, 7, and 9 all carry SNP R-P312, and its downstream SNP L21, which is characteristic of the broad Celtic group in particular, and R-DF13. All four of these Rankin lineages branched from R-DF13 around 2,000 BC.

Lineage 5 branched off DF13 to its distinctive SNP R-DF21, which is closely associated with the Celtic cultures of the British Isles.[9] Interesting SNPs yet further downstream include R-S424, the “Little Scottish Cluster,” and R-S190, which is associated with certain Iron Age tribes particularly concentrated in the Clyde River valley.[10]

Lineage 6 diverged from R-DF13 with its distinctive SNP R-DF49. An interesting note about the downstream SNP R-M222 from genetichomeland.com: “Sometimes called Northwest Irish, concentrated in Ireland and western Scotland. Associated with Niall of the Nine Hostages and Ui Neill clans. Britain’s DNA labeled this branch: Ancient Irish.” Members of this lineage are likely to have a very strong Irish paternal connection.[11]

Rankin Lineage 7 branched off DF13 with its distinctive SNP R-Z253 and downstream SNP R-FGC3222, closely associated with both Scotland and Ireland.[12]

Rankin Lineage 9  carries the same SNPs as Lineages 5, 6, and 7 down to R-DF13. Additionally, Lineage 9 carries the distinctive SNP R-Z255. Downstream of this, there is an additional distinctive SNP R-L159 called “Hibernian” or Irish.[13]

SUMMARY -THE COMBINED TREE

Thus concludes the story of the Rankin family tree as told by Y-DNA, stretching back to a genetic Adam. Here is the complete Big Y Tree:

All Rankins who have taken the Big Y-700 test to date carry the same SNPs, inherited from genetic Adam down through a common ancestor about 47,000 years ago. Roughly then, the first branch occurred, dividing the broad group of Stone Age Europeans, from a broad group of later-arriving Bronze Age Europeans. Additional branches occurred about 20,000 BC (Nordic), about 3,000 BC (Germanic), and about 2,000 BC (Celtic including Brittonic, Irish, and Scottish). Nine distinct genetic Rankin lines have been identified so far.

The more people test at a Y-700 level, the more discoveries are made. This story will continue to develop. May those who come behind us find it helpful.

 

REFERENCES:

Genetichomeland.com

YFull.com

FamilyTreeDNA.com

https://isogg.org/wiki/Western_Atlantic_Modal_Haplotype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britons_(ancient)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_Celtic_peoples_and_tribes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Britain.north.peoples.Ptolemy.jpg

[1] For those interested, new first time Y-DNA testers can order the Family Tree Big Y-700 test at https://www.familytreedna.com/products/y-dna. An existing Y-DNA kit can be upgraded from the “Add Ons & Upgrades” button in your account, or go to https://www.familytreedna.com/my/upgrades. An additional DNA sample is usually NOT required for an upgrade. FTDNA frequently offers discounts on these products around  main holidays including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Please note that the Rankin DNA Project and its administrators have no financial interest in test purchases.

[2] Lineage 3 is not shown because no member of that line has taken a Big Y test.

[3] Only one member of Lineage 4 has done a Big Y test, though two others have done limited SNP testing that places them along the same SNP tree downstream of I-P215.

[4] No members of Lineage 8 have done a Big Y SNP test. But the one current member of this line has done a more limited test, which confirmed a SNP I-L22, downstream of the distinctive I-Z2699.

[5] Three members of Lineage 1 have taken a deep subclade or Big Y test, with two distinct terminal SNPs at present.

[6] For more information about the SNP U106, consider reviewing or joining the U106 group project at Family Tree DNA (https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/u106/about/background). According to this group page, “R-U106 …  rose to significance in the area of present Germany and the surrounding areas probably a bit before 3000 BC.  Although U106 is found all over Europe, and in countries that Europeans have migrated to, it is most significant in Germany and surrounding countries, Scandinavia, and Britain. In its time-frame of 3000 BC, U106 likely arose in the Corded Ware culture. Depending on which branch of U106 a member descends from, the people on that branch adapted to a variety of different cultures along the way….”

[7] Only one member of Lineage 2 has taken a deep SNP test, although three others have taken lower level SNP tests that place them definitively along the same SNP tree downstream from U106.

[8] An early Bronze Age culture that lasted in Britain from about 2,800-1,800 BC, so named for distinctive inverted bell-shaped drinking vessels.

[9] Only one member of the Rankin Lineage 5 has taken a Big Y-700 test. But there are numerous members of the Little Scottish Cluster project who have also taken the Big Y and carry the same SNP tree. These Sloan, Chambers, and other Big Y test results are also helping to shape the understanding of the Rankin L5 genetic history.

[10] These Brittonic tribes were known to the Romans as Damnonii, and later a confederation of tribes called Maeatae. These are not the Caledonii or the Picts, nor the Gaelic Scots (Scotii) nor Irish (Hibernii), but lived in close proximity to them near present day Ayrshire. These were a Celtic people, speaking a Brythonic language, possibly Cumbric, closely related to Welsh. These were later known as Strathclyde Britons.

[11] Rankin Lineage 6 has no members with Big Y-700 results. However, of the four members of the lineage, one member has done a limited SNP test. His confirmed SNP R-M222 allows for a good placement in the Rankin tree.

[12] Although 4 members have tested Big Y, they all happen to be part of the same 2 terminal SNPs. Not much more is known without some additional members and tests.

[13] Only one member of this lineage has tested Big Y-700, so once again this line is in particular need of additional testing in order to develop a more robust genetic storyline.

Same Name Confusion: William Buckley Jr. of Loudoun, Virginia

Subtitle: Dead Men Weren’t Tithable

            A good friend believes that “same name confusion” is the most common error in family history research. She is probably right, although careless errors — e.g., failure to note that a child was born when its purported mother was four years old — surely rank a close second. “Same name confusion” occurs, for example, when a man named George Washington, born in 1799, is identified in a tree as the first President of the United States. That also counts as a careless error.

            A frequent candidate for the “same name” error is William Buckley Jr. of Loudoun County, Virginia. He was a son of William Buckley Sr.[1] His wife was Amy MNU Buckley.[2] William Jr. had several brothers, including one named John and another named Joshua.[3] The only conclusively proved child of William Buckley Jr. and Amy is a son, Elijah, named in his grandfather’s will.[4] William Jr. also had daughters named Frances, Sarah, and Ann, who are established (IMO) by a convincing web of circumstantial evidence.[5] The daughters married Claiborne Martin, Gibson Martin, and Elijah Moseley, respectively.[6]

            Same-name-wise, William Jr. is confused with a William Buckley who died in 1776 while in military service during the Revolutionary War. The vast majority of online trees about this family identify William Jr., father of Elijah, husband of Amy, and son of William Sr., as the soldier who died in 1776. I did a search at Ancestry on William Jr. (also using father William Sr., wife Amy, son Elijah, mother Elizabeth, and death = 1776 as search terms). That search produced seven-hundred seventy-one trees identifying William Jr. as the soldier who died in 1776. There were only fourteen trees showing William Jr.’s death as 1780 (correct) or 1779 (close).

            Numbers, however, aren’t evidence, much less proof. All those trees prove is how easy it is to copy someone else’s tree without confirming research. In fact, it simply cannot be the case that William Jr. (husband of Amy, father of Elijah, and son of William Sr.) was the same man as the soldier who died in 1776. With apologies to my 5th cousin L. E., this is not a theory, it is an in-dis-effing-putable fact. Pardonnez mon français, s’il vous plait.

            If you accept original military and abstracted tax records as direct and weighty documentary evidence, that’s the unavoidable conclusion. Let’s consider the evidence …

            First, check out the military muster roll for Capt. Thomas Berry’s Company of the 8th Virginia Regiment at this link. The roll has a list of privates, including #17 Abram Buckley, appointed 22 Feb 1776, and #18 William Buckley (no “Junior” included), also appointed 22 Feb 1776. The muster roll states that William Buckley died on 16 Sept 1776. 

            Second, please see Loudoun County tax list abstracts by Ruth and Sam Sparacio.[7] Here’s a quick summary of tithables (i.e., taxable persons) from relevant years:

1773 — Samuel Love’s list included William Buckley Sr., who was listed with Joshua Buckley and Ben for a total of 3 taxables. I made a note of this because we know from Wm. Sr.’s will that Joshua was a son of his. The enslaved man Ben is important because he continues to be taxed with William Sr. in subsequent tax lists … so we can be confident that some stray William Buckley hasn’t snuck into the Loudoun lists. There was a separate listing in 1773 for “William Bukley,” who may or may not be William Jr.

1777 — the tax list of Samuel Love included William Buckley Sr. with Joshua, William Jr., and slave Ben — a total of 4 tithes. Dead men weren’t tithable,[8] so William Buckley Sr.’s son William Jr. was still alive in 1777. If you are descended from the soldier named William Buckley who died in 1776, then you can write off William Sr. as an ancestor and Amy MNU Buckley as an ancestress. This might cause 771 Ancestry tree owners some distress. Or perhaps not. I wonder how many claims of descent from William Sr. and Jr. the D.A.R. has accepted?

1779 — William Buckley Sr. was listed with Jas or Jos Gold (I don’t know him) and slave Ben for 3 tithables. William Buckley Jr. was listed with slave Suck (usually Suckie, a nickname for Susannah) for 2 tithables. Joshua Buckley was listed with slave Amey for 2 tithables.

1780 — George Summer’s list included both Joshua Buckley (slave Tom, 2 tithables) and William Buckley Jr. (1 tithable). William Jr. was therefore still alive when the 1780 tax list was made. William Buckley Sr. was still on Love’s list. He was taxed on himself, a man named Halbert, and enslaved man Ben, for 3 tithables.[9]

            Finally, there is an entry in the Loudoun County order book that establishes that William Jr. died between the time the 1780 tax list was made and the end of 1780. The order book for 11 December 1780 says, “[O]n the motion of Amy Buckley who made oath according to the Law & together with John Buckley and Joshua Buckley her securities …bond of 10,000 pounds … letters on the estate of Wm Buckley Junr dec.d.”[10]

            For icing on the cake, the 8th Virginia Regiment didn’t recruit in Loudoun County. It recruited in a half-dozen other Virginia counties.[11]

            If you can figure out a reasonable way to explain away these facts, I will give you a lifetime free subscription to this blog. Emphasis on reasonable.

            Considering the evidence, Pvt William Buckley of the 8th Virginia Regiment, who died in Sept 1776, was not the same man as the William Buckley Jr. who died in 1780. The tax lists conclusively prove (IMO) that William Buckley Sr.’s son William Jr. was alive through the time the tax list was taken in 1780, but he had died by December 1780 when his widow Amy applied for letters of administration on his estate.

            And that’s it for now. Some other ancestors are calling my name.

            See you on down the road.

            Robin

[1] Loudoun Co., VA Will Book D: 36, will of William Buckley of Loudoun Co. dated 12 Jul 1786, proved 8 Jun 1789. Sons John, Joshua, and Samuel Buckley and daughters Elizabeth Harris, Sarah Harris, Catherine Harris, Rosanna Halbert. Grandson Elijah Buckley, son of William Buckley, dec’d.

[2] Loudoun County Order Book G: 313, LDS Film #32,349, order dated 11 Dec 1780: “[O]n the motion of Amy Buckley who made oath according to the Law & together with John Buckley and Joshua Buckley her securities … bond of 10,000 pounds … letters on the estate of Wm Buckley Junr dec.d.” There is reportedly a record ordering Amy Buckley Huff and her husband James Huff to appear to administer on the estate of Elijah Buckley. I haven’t been able to find either the record itself or a citation.

[3] See Note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] There is a 5-part series on the Buckleys and Martins on this blog. Displaying an utter lack of imagination, I designated them Part 1 ,  Part 2,  Part 3,  Part 4,  and Part 5.

[6] Id.

[7] The Sparacios abstracted so many Virginia records they founded their own publishing company (“The Antient Press”). They don’t exactly abstract, they copy deeds and other records verbatim. See Tithables Loudoun County, Virginia 1775 – 1781 (McLean, VA: The Antient Press, 1992); Ruth & Sam Sparacio, Tithables Loudoun County, Virginia 1770 – 1774 (McLean, VA: The Antient Press, 1992).

[8] A deceased person’s estate (land and taxable personal property) was taxable. The deceased person was not himself tithable (or taxable).

[9] William Sr.’s daughter Rosannah married a man named Halbert. See Note 1.

[10] Loudoun Co., VA Order Book G: 313, LDS Film #32,349, order of 11 Dec 1780. The 10,000 pounds refers to lbs of tobacco, not pounds sterling). Some people might rationalize that probate of the estate of person who died in September 1776 might be delayed until December 1780. If you can produce an example of such a lengthy delay, I will eat both my hat and my laptop. As a practical matter, family,  heirs, or creditors typically filed for probate within a very short time after death in order to care for assets (crops to be harvested, e.g.) and assure prompt and orderly disposition of the.

[11]  https://revolutionarywar.us/continental-army/virginia/.

 

Find-a-Grave Bloopers: a Really Cool One

First, I need to acknowledge that Find-a-Grave is a wonderful source for family history researchers. The information on tombstone images can be invaluable. Of course, the website itself doesn’t commit “bloopers,” e.g., confusing two men having the same name. Instead, Find-a-Grave members who post on memorials or add pictures sometimes provide bad information.

I am now aware of three Find-a-Grave bloopers for Rankins, all of which are wrong identifications of men named William. See articles about the first two here and  here. But the third Rankin blooper takes the cake. It’s not only that some Find-a-Grave poster has claimed the wrong William Rankin is interred in the Mahnes Cemetery in Ridersville, Morgan County, West Virginia. In this case, the grave has an image of a tombstone that wrongly identifies him! Better yet, the tombstone image is attached to two William Rankins who allegedly have different birth dates. Somebody has some ‘splaining to do, Lucy …

Here are the facts. If you go to the Find-a-Grave page for the Mahnes Cemetery and search on Rankin listings, it will take you to this page. There are three men named William Rankin who were born in the 18th century in that list of Rankin burials:

  1. William Rankin, 1760 – 25 Feb 1830
  2. William Rankin, 1748 – 22 Feb 1830
  3. Private William Rankin, 1720 – 1783

There is no tombstone photo for Private William, who was allegedly the father of the William born in 1748, according to a poster’s information.

Both the William born in 1748 and the William born in 1760 have tombstone images. It is the exact same stone for both men, although the two photos were clearly taken at different times. Here is the tombstone image for the William allegedly born in 1748, with what appears to be a slightly altered birthdate that is clearly not 1748. And here is the tombstone image for the William allegedly born in 1760, again with a slightly fuzzy birthdate on the stone.

You will notice that the marker doesn’t look like an almost 200-year-old stone. It looks more 20th century-ish. I wonder (1) when the stone was installed and (2) who paid for it. I have not yet tried to find answers to those questions.

The tombstone has this inscription:

PVT BRADYS CO ROWLING’S REGT

REVOLUTIONARY WAR

This is great information because it is subject to easy verification. In fact, there was a Private William Rankin who enlisted in Capt. Brady’s Company, Stephenson’s Regiment, later known as Rawling’s Regiment (not Rowling’s, although that’s close). His Revolutionary War pension application says he enlisted in July 1776 in Berkeley County, Virginia. Morgan County was created from part of Berkeley in 1820. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the rest of the facts present serious problems. Private William Rankin of Brady’s Company, Rawling’s Regiment, filed his pension application from Mason County, Kentucky in 1833 — three years after the Mahnes Cemetery Williams reportedly died.[1] He lived in Frederick County, Virginia after the war. He may have moved to Mason County by at least 1800, based on tax lists. He was definitely in Mason County by 1810, when he was listed in the federal census there with a profile that fit his family. He died in Mason County on 12 April 1836. His estate was probated there. For detailed information about Private William Rankin of Brady’s Company, see articles about him here and here. His war story is fabulous and you might enjoy it, even if you aren’t related.

I don’t have any information about the William Rankin in the Mahnes Cemetery whose tombstone is attached to two listings. There is virtually no  chance that he is the same man as Private William Rankin of Brady’s Company, Rawling’s Regiment, who died in Mason County in 1836 — not in 1830, as the two listings in the Mahnes Cemetery claim. FYI, it is 500 miles from Washington, Mason County, Kentucky to Ridersville, West Virginia. Even if the Mahnes Cemetery Williams had the same death date as William Rankin of Mason, it is highly unlikely that the family would transport a body that distance for burial.

The William Rankin who died in Mason County in 1836 may be buried in the Old Washington Cemetery there, although there was a cemetery plot on the land William owned. When his children sold his land after he died, the deed reserved a 70 square foot graveyard.[2] It is a reasonable bet that William and his wife, who also died in 1836, were both buried in that family cemetery.

Finally, the odds are absolutely nil that there were two Private William Rankins in Brady’s Company, Rawling’s Regiment. Military records are clear on that point. The one and only William Rankin who served in those units lived in Mason County, Kentucky, where he applied for a pension in 1833, died in 1836, and is surely buried.

I would love to know more about the Morgan County Rankins. There are quite a few of them buried in the Mahnes Cemetery in Ridersville. Perhaps there is a living male Rankin descendant who might be persuaded to Y-DNA test? It wouldn’t be surprising to find that he is related to Private William of Mason County. There were more Rankin families in Virginia’s Northern Neck and into West Virginia than I can count. And we need more information about Private William’s important family.

Here’s hoping someone reading this knows about the Mahnes Cemetery Rankins. If so, I would love to hear from you.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] I have omitted citations to supporting records because my two articles about William Rankin’s war story provide considerable documentation, readily available for anyone who is interested. See links here and here.

[2] Mason Co., KY Deed Book 43: 65, deed dated 24 Sep 1836 from the heirs at law of the late William Rankin, dec’d, of Mason County, tract near Washington on the Waters of Lawrence’s Creek adjacent Berry, et al., 70 square foot graveyard excepted.

Henry Willis, Carpenter of Maryland and Philadelphia (1829-1906) Part 1

Who the heck is Henry Willis who died in Philadelphia in 1906? And, is he part of the “Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project? Most of the Maryland Group descend from John Willis of Dorchester County, Maryland who was born about 1650-1670 probably in Berkshire County, England. (See https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/willis/about)

Spoiler alert — I am not sure about Henry, although I have an opinion. This post consists of two parts. Part 1 below sets out the facts, factoids, and gaps in the records that have frustrated the search for Henry. Part 2 will offer a theory identifying his parents based on circumstantial evidence.

Here goes …

Henry is the brick wall in the Willis line of Erin Daniels who descends from Henry’s daughter Lola. Erin has searched for years for Henry’s parents and for a male descendant of Henry’s son Harry. Her story about Henry, much of which is confirmed in the 1900 census for Philadelphia:[1]

    • He was born about 1829 in Maryland. Both his parents were born in Maryland.
    • In about 1880, he married Martha Anne (Annie) Stewart born about 1846. She and her parents were born in Delaware.
    • Family legend says the couple ran off from her home near Glasgow, New Castle County, Delaware to be married in Elkton, Cecil County, Maryland near the Delaware border.
    • Henry and Annie lived in Philadelphia in 1900. She had four children between 1880 and 1885, two of whom died in infancy.[2]
    • Henry was a carpenter.

Beyond the 1900 Census and the records relating to daughters who did not survive, there are only a few pieces of record evidence about this family:  a few entries in the City Directory of Philadelphia; a baptism of their youngest son; a death certificate for Henry; the 1910 census after Henry’s death; and the 1920 censuses after the death of Annie. Here is what we learn from those data …

Philadelphia City Directories                

Henry Willis, carpenter, appears in the 1901 and 1904 city directories of Philadelphia with his home address of 1335 South Hicks . However, he does not appear in 1873, 1881, 1894, 1897, or 1898.[3] It is reasonable to conclude that he did not take up residence in Philadelphia until shortly before the 1900 Census. This obviously raises the question, “Where the heck was he?”

 Harry Willis 1888 Baptism  

Henry and Annie may have almost lost a third child. On 17 October 1888, they arranged for the minister of Eleventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church to come to their home  and baptize their youngest child, Harry. The entry in the church record indicates the child was sick.[4] Often, a couple arranged for a home baptism if they feared their child was about to die. Thankfully, Harry lived to have children of his own.

Henry Willis 1906 Death Certificate

Carpenter Henry Willis died on 18 Sep 1906 and was buried at Hillside Cemetery in Philadelphia. His death certificate states he was born in Maryland and lived at 1335 So. Hicks Street. His death certificate does not name his parents or their place of birth. It states he died of kidney failure,[5]

1910 and 1920 Censuses

The widow Annie appears as Anna Willis in the 1910 census for Philadelphia as head of household with daughter Lola, son Harry, and five-year old granddaughter “Elsa.” [6] That census shows Lola working as a candy maker and Harry as a street car conductor. Both Lola and Harry are listed as single. Elsa apparently is Lola’s child. She appears with Lola Stevenson (neé Willis) in the next census as “Elva” Stevenson, age 14, along with four other children.[7] Harry appears in the 1920 Census with his wife Emma and four children ages eight through five. [8]

Missing Records

Here the frustration begins. There appear to be no other records that might help explain this family. For example, Henry Willis does not appear in certain census records, vital records, or probate records :

Census Records

Annie appears as Martha Anne/Annie Stewart in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 censuses for Pencader Hundred, Glasgow Post Office, New Castle County, Delaware. She is in the household of her father James, a farmer in that community. However, Henry Willis does not appear in the 1850 through 1870 censuses for Maryland or any adjoining state. He should be named somewhere, but is not. Furthermore, Annie and Henry do not appear in the 1880 census. It is not all that uncommon for a person to be missed or a name misspelled in one census. However, it is highly unlikely for that to occur three or four times in a row, unless of course, that person wants to be missed. Erin Daniels also told me that Henry may have been a bit of a rascal or a troublemaker. It makes one guess that Henry might have used an alias.

Vital Records

There is no marriage record for the couple, nor are there birth records for any of their children except Harry’s twin Julia. There are no baptism records for any of their children except Harry, who was sick. There is no death record for Annie or for young Harry’s twin Julia. Again, some of this may be due to incomplete or lost records, or perhaps they are just not available online. However, given Henry’s absence in the census record, one has to ask, “Was the couple actually married? Did they use an alias?”

Probate Records

There are no probate records for Henry or Annie, which is not surprising. The couple apparently did not have significant assets. They did not own real estate; they always rented the place they lived. However, Annie Stewart was not from a poor family. She and her sister Mary were the only children of James Stewart and his wife Eliza. After her mother’s death between 1850 and 1860,  Annie continued living with her father. Her sister Mary married Henry Kendall in 1864,[9] and the couple lived on her father’s farm in 1870. Annie was also there in 1870. James Stewart died in 1874[10] owning real estate worth about $2,000 and $400 of personal property.[11]

There is no online probate information for New Castle County, Delaware beyond 1800. Therefore, we do not know whether Annie inherited anything. James Stewart’s probate file may not reveal anything about Henry Willis, but you never know. I will just have to make a trip to Wilmington or Dover when Covid abates, and check the original paper records.

This ends Part 1 and the litany of missing information. In Part 2 we will see if we can find Henry hiding in plain sight.

[1] 1900 Census Philadelphia, Ward 26, District 0628

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DTG3-6M1?i=18&cc=1325221&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AM3W8-DKX

1335 Kick [sic South Hicks] Street

Henry Willis head May 1829 71 M20  MD MD MD Carpenter Rent House

Annie Willis wife Jun 1846     53 M20  4/2 DE DE DE

Lola Willis son [sic Dau] Apr 1882 18  S  PA MD DE

Harry Willis son  Oct 1885 14  S  PA MD DE

[2] A Philadelphia Death Certificate proves a daughter born in 1884 who died that same year: Elinar Jessie Willis, born 1884, died 22 Sep 1884 in Philadelphia, PA, age one month, female, father Henry Willis, mother Annie Willis, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/2233393:2535?tid=&pid=&queryId=c55646857b4faa216b36bf1856d9b842&_phsrc=DgH3&_phstart=successSource

And, a Philadelphia Birth Record proves a daughter born in 1885 who did not survive. She was a twin of Harry: Julia E. Willis, female, born 16 Oct 1885 in Philadelphia, father Harry Willis, mother Anna Willis

“Pennsylvania Births and Christenings, 1709-1950”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2NV-K9B : 15 February 2020), Julia E. Willis, 1885.

[3] Philadelphia City Directories by various publishers as found on Fold 3.

[4] Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church Records, Eleventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church,https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2451/images/40355_267328-00065?usePUB=true&_phsrc=tQw4&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=7976645

[5] Philadelphia Death Certificate:

Henry Willis, male, white, married, date of birth unknown, date of death 18 Sep 1906, age 75 years, resided at 1335 So. Hicks Street, was ill for 10 days, chief cause of death Uraemia [kidney failure], contributing causes Nephritis [kidney disease] and myocarditis [inflammation of the heart], Dr. J. Moon Campbell/Camphill?, Philadelphia Hospital, date of burial 21 Sep 1906, place Hillside Cemetery, Undertaker Robert P. Martin, 1444 So. Broad St

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JK37-W2X : 18 February 2021), Henry Willis, 18 Sep 1906; citing cn 23553, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,319,466.

[6] 1910 Census Philadelphia Ward 40, District 1033, “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGHQ-XJ2 : accessed 5 January 2022), Anna Willis, Philadelphia Ward 40, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 1033, sheet 7B, family 143, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1410; FHL microfilm 1,375,423.

1826 South Allison Street

Anna Willis F 63 Wid 4/2 DE DE DE Rents Home

Lola dau F27 Sing PA MD DE  Candy Maker in Candy Store

Harry son M 24 Sing PA MD DE Street Car Conductor

Elsa granddau F Sing PA PA PA

[7] 1920 Census, Philadelphia Ward 40, District 1453, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/77217633:6061?tid=&pid=&queryId=19c95d4c019145aa9bda5fa51a2c83eb&_phsrc=Vvv1&_phstart=successSource

5532 Paschall Avenue

James Stevenson M 37 PA PA PA Auto Mechanic Rents Home

Lola wife F 37                 PA DE MD

Elva Dau F 14  School  PA PA PA

James Son M 8 School  PA PA PA

Harry Son M 7 School  PA PA PA

Reba Dau F 5                   PA PA PA

Mildred Dau F 2 10/12 PA PA PA

[8] 1920 Census, Philadelphia, Ward 40, District 1461, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/77226506:6061?tid=&pid=&queryId=ccccee670eed5c7a101f6852bb057775&_phsrc=Vvv4&_phstart=successSource

6332 Theoadore Ave.

Harry Willis 34 M Phil MD DE Driver in Coal Yard Rents Home

Emma wife 28 F Phil PA PA

Harry son 8 M Phil Phil Phil in School

Ethel dau 7 F Phil Phil Phil in School

Helen dau 6 F Phil Phil Phil

Effie dau 5 F Phil Phil Phil

[9] Marriage date 28 Apr 1864 per Delaware Marriage Records, https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=1508&h=78789&tid=&pid=&queryId=dabeb42f303b1ebacf9892713f541bf5&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Vvv14&_phstart=successSource

[10] James Stewart (of Seth) death date 7 Dec 1874 per Presbyterian Church Records, 1701- 1970, https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=61048&h=1500507877&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=7163

[11] 1850 Census Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/18428343:8054

James Stewart 44 M DE Farmer

Eliza                    44 F  MD

Mary E                     7 F DE

Martha A                5 F DE

John Stewart    46 M DE Farmer

David Willey    14 M DE

1860 Census Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, Glasgow Post Office, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/10383554:7667

James Stewart    53 M DE Farmer $2,800 real prop, $750 personal prop

Mary                         17 F DE

Martha                     14 F DE attends school

1870 Census Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, Glasgow Post Office, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1897649:7163

James Stewart    64 M DE Farmer $2,000 real prop, $400 personal prop

Martha                     24 F DE Keeps House

Henry Kendall      35 M DE Farm Hand [second family in same dwelling]

Mary E                     27 F DE Keeps House

Mary E                     5   F DE at Home

Ella May                  3  F DE at Home

Harry                        1 M DE at Home

Vietnam War Story – Medevac Meadow

As I mentioned before, I have been neglecting genealogy in favor of working on a follow up to the book Red Markers, Close Air Support for the Vietnamese Airborne, 1962 – 1975. The book recounts the history of the forward air controller unit — the Red Markers — I served with in Vietnam. This unit worked exclusively to support the Vietnamese Airborne and the American advisors — known as Red Hats — who served with the Airborne on the ground. The following article describes one of the more exciting engagements that occurred in 1970 during the incursion into the Fishhook region of Cambodia to destroy enemy base camps and supplies.

Medevac Meadow[1]

The Vietnamese 6th Airborne Infantry Battalion moved with the rest of the 1st Brigade from Song Be during early May, reinforcing the three battalions already engaged in the Fishhook. The battalion headquartered at Fire Support Base (FSB) Oklahoma while its troopers maneuvered in the region. FSB Oklahoma was about ten miles inside Cambodia off Highway 7 on the eastern edge of the Memot Rubber Plantation.[2] The fire base was the operational home of the 1st Brigade’s Artillery Battalion of 105 mm howitzers and the long range 8-inch howitzers of A Battery of the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, the “Proud Americans.”

On 23 May, a task force of the 61st and 63rd Companies of the 6th Battalion encountered NVA troops during a ground sweep about eight miles southeast of FSB Oklahoma. After a brief fight, the NVA withdrew to the west side of a clearing oriented southeast to northwest, and the Airborne retired to the east. The battalion senior advisor, Red Hat Captain Jesse Myers overhead in a command-and-control helicopter called for artillery fire from FSB Oklahoma and asked Red Marker Control to divert some airstrikes to the enemy’s possible routes of withdrawal.

The artillery fire mission required extra caution. Only eighty meters separated the NVA on the west side of the clearing from the Airborne troopers on the east side. The standard safe distance from an 8-inch round with its 200 pounds of explosive was 100 meters for unsheltered personnel. A miscalculation could prove fatal. The howitzers’ alignment, elevation, and propellant charge had to be just right. The fire control center made its calculations and then double checked them. Then A Battery Commander, Captain Lee Hayden, double checked the “double check” by hand.[3] Myers watched the first shots land on target and gave the okay to fire for effect.

A Red Marker FAC arrived on scene and orbited to the east awaiting a set of fighters scrambled from Bien Hoa. Myers briefed the FAC and shut down the artillery when the fighters arrived. They bombed and napalmed the western tree line as darkness fell. The Airborne dug in for the night. Overnight, FSB Oklahoma stood ready if needed, but only sporadic small arms fire came from the opposite side of the clearing.

At dawn on the 24th, the NVA attacked in strength. The Airborne drove them back while suffering several killed and eight seriously wounded. Myers again called on the artillery at FSB Oklahoma and requested Red Markers direct some airstrikes on the NVA positions. Red Marker 16, Lieutenant David G. Blair, already in the air, diverted to the site to control immediate airstrikes aimed at possible routes of retreat. After the two Airborne companies secured the area, the Red Hats on the ground, Staff Sergeants Louis Clason and Michael Philhower, requested Medevac. Myers relayed the request to Brigade HQ and asked for gunship cover. The request went out to the 1st Air Cavalry’s Medevac and Blue Max gunship units at about 1100 hours.[4]

A Medevac helicopter piloted by “The Wild Deuce” (official call sign Medevac 2), First Lieutenant Stephen F. Modica, and a pair of Cobra gunships, Precise Swords 12 and 12A, received the requests for the evacuation mission.  Modica was en route from Phuoc Vinh to Katum when he got the call. Red Hat Sergeant First Class Louis Richard Rocco, happened to be on board hitching a ride to Katum. Rocco, a qualified medic and advisor to the Airborne’s Medical Battalion, sometimes volunteered to fly on Medevac missions. When Rocco heard Medevac 2 was going to pick up wounded paratroopers, he asked to stay on board and help. Modica landed at Katum, offloaded some supplies, and picked up a ceramic chest protector for Rocco. The Wild Deuce departed Katum toward the task force location.

Blue Max aircraft commanders First Lieutenant George Alexander Jr., Precise Sword 12, and Chief Warrant Officer–2 (CW2) Paul Garrity, Precise Sword 12A, were on Hot Alert at Quan Loi. They scrambled within the requisite two minutes from the time the alert horn sounded. Quan Loi Tower clear the flight of two to take off to the south. As Alexander and Garrity smoothly nosed over and headed down the runway, CW2 James “Bugs” Moran in the front seat of the lead ship radioed Blue Max operations on VHF for mission information.

“Blue Max ops, this is Precise Sword One Two airborne on scramble. Mission brief. Over.”

“Roger, Precise Sword Twelve. Mission is Medevac escort for pickup at XU5101 in a hot LZ. Depart Quan Loi heading 290 degrees, about seventeen klicks. Rendezvous with Medevac Two coming out of Katum.”

 “Roger, Blue Max. Copy all. Heading 290.”

Precise Sword flight tuned in Medevac’s standard frequency 33.00 FM and met The Wild Deuce on the way to the LZ. Meanwhile, Blair returned to Quan Loi for fuel and rockets while another FAC, most likely Lieutenant Byron Mayberry, Red Marker 19, arrived on scene with a flight of diverted fighter aircraft. Myers again shut down the artillery while the Red Marker directed more bombs into the western tree line. A few minutes after the airstrike finished, the trio of helicopters was several miles from the clearing. The Red Hats monitored the Medevac frequency awaiting contact. When Medevac 2 called in, Myers briefed them on the situation and suggested a run in from the south. Precise Sword 12  and the Wild Deuce descended to the deck two miles out. Precise Sword 12 A remained high to cover them both and give directions to the LZ.

“Medevac 2, hold this heading. I’ve got the clearing in sight about one klick. I’ve got green smoke on the eastern tree line.”

“Roger, Twelve Alpha. Got it.”

All Hell Broke Loose

The Wild Deuce and Precise Sword 12 came in low and fast just above the treetops. Modica wanted to give any North Vietnamese gunners only the briefest glimpse of the helicopter before setting down, loading wounded, and speeding away.

Red Hat Clason, advisor to the Vietnamese 63rd Airborne Infantry Company Lieutenant Hwang, stood in the clearing and watched green colored smoke spew from the smoke grenade he had popped. Behind the tree line, Philhower, advisor to 61stCompany commander Captain Nguyen Van Nghiem, manned the FM radio. They all heard the distinctive whup-whup-whup of the Huey’s blades well before it entered the clearing.

Lieutenant Hwang had stretcher bearers waiting outside the tree line with the seriously wounded troopers. Hwang and Clason waited tensely, hoping they could load the men without any trouble. Modica brought the ship into the clearing, lined up on Clason, and expertly flared for touchdown.

Just then, all hell broke loose. AK-47 and .51 caliber machine gun fire ripped into the cabin from the western tree line. The Cobra gunships responded immediately. They returned fire with 2.75-inch high explosive and flechette rockets, miniguns, and 40 mm grenade launchers, hoping to suppress the enemy fire long enough for Medevac 2 to complete its mission. The low bird turned hard to the left in front of The Wild Deuce to get lined up on the source of the fire. The high bird dove straight at the NVA positions unleashing a salvo of rockets. The Medevac’s door gunners opened up with their M-60 machine guns. Rocco fired his M-16 out the left door into the trees. Modica felt two enemy slugs glance off his “chicken plate” chest protector. At the same time, a third round shattered his left knee. The Medevac pancaked into the clearing. Copilot Lieutenant Leroy (Lee) G. Caubarreaux swiveled his head to give Modica some shit for such a bad landing before realizing Steve was hit. Lee immediately grabbed the controls. “I’ve got the ship!” he shouted over the intercom. As he pulled pitch and poured on full power, Caubarreaux jabbed the FM key, shouting now to the two Cobra gunships, “Precise Swords One Two and One Two Alpha, we are outta here! Cover us!”

Sergeant Clason hot-footed it out of the clearing as Medevac 2 spooled up and climbed toward safety. But safety was a long way off. Coming in hot and low to the clearing made the bird harder to hit. Liftoff was a different matter. The UH-1H helicopter took time to get back up to speed and out of the clearing. The NVA gunners got a clear view of the slow-moving Huey and unleashed everything they had. The entire western tree line lit up. From the left seat, Modica saw the RPM sliding past normal minimum and knew they were in trouble. He switched to VHF Guard channel and broadcast, “The Wild Deuce is going down! XU5101! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! XU5101!”[5]

At about 50 feet in the air, gunfire and aerodynamic stress ripped the tail boom from the ship.[6] The Huey spun out of control, crashing to the ground on its right side. Smoke billowed from the chopper as the fuel tanks burst into flame. In his C&C chopper, Myers watched in horror as the Medevac seemed to land, then shot almost straight up and fell to the ground on its side thrashing briefly like a wounded insect. He thought at first it had fallen on Clason.

In fact, Clason was not hurt — unlike the Medevac crew. Sergeant Gary L. Taylor, right side door gunner, died on impact, crushed by the aircraft. Medic SP5 Terry T. Burdette was badly burned and suffered multiple fractures. Crew chief and left door gunner, Sergeant Patrick Martin, was thrown clear and knocked unconscious. Rocco was also thrown clear, breaking a wrist and hip. Modica’s leg was shattered, and Caubarreaux suffered a crushed right shoulder, broken arm, and back injuries. He was trapped beneath Modica as the ship caught fire.

Precise Sword 12 lined up at low level to attack the tree line point blank with flechette rockets. Even before Alexander got lined up, Bugs Moran in the front seat swiveled the minigun under the Cobra’s chin, spraying the tree line. Meanwhile, Garrity with his copilot Warrant Officer (WO) James Nabours rolled in from above and plastered the tree line with rockets, minigun fire, and 40 mm grenades.[7] Both ships took numerous hits, but the Cobras pressed the attack. At one point, Moran asked George on the intercom, “Are we gonna die here?” Ignoring the tracers flying past, they made repeated head on passes into the NVA positions.[8]

When Medevac 2 hit the ground, Sergeant Philhower dropped the radio handset and sprinted toward the clearing, leaving Captain Myers overhead in the dark. Even without radio communication, Myers knew the paratroopers and Red Hats would try to get any survivors out of the downed bird. Lieutenant Hwang immediately sent a skirmish line of 63rd Company troopers forward to provide covering fire while Clason and Philhower approached the wreck and the Vietnamese got their injured away from the landing area and back in the tree line. The Blue Max gunships kept attacking the NVA positions as the Red Hats pulled survivors from the burning wreckage and helped them to the friendly tree line. Lieutenant Alexander noticed that one person getting people out of the burning Medevac “was not wearing Nomex – very odd for an aircrew.”[9] Myers informed FSB Oklahoma about the crisis in the clearing and asked for more artillery fire. The 8-inchers stepped up their fire on the western tree line, keeping the NVA’s head down. At one point each weapon had several rounds in the air at the same time. The enemy did not venture into the clearing in force.

Failed Rescue Attempts[10]

Modica’s Mayday call attracted numerous helicopters wanting to immediately pick up the injured crew and the wounded troopers. Precise Sword 12 escorted the first ship, call sign Killer Spade, as it approached the field. Intense ground fire erupted, repeatedly hitting the Huey, and Killer Spade aborted the attempt.[11] Meanwhile, back at Quan Loi, Captain Henry (“Hank”) O. Tuell, III, aircraft commander of Medevac 1, learned that the Wild Deuce was down. He shouted to his pilot Lieutenant Howard Elliott, who was in the shower at the time, “Get your butt in gear! We gotta go get Modica and his crew!” Elliott scrambled into his Nomex flight suit and boots. Tuell had the Huey cranked when Elliott arrived at the revetment still dripping soapy water.  Medevac 1 approached the clearing from the south, again escorted by Precise Sword 12, and took ground fire that wounded Tuell. Elliott took control and flew back to Quan Loi where Hank got medical attention. Meanwhile, Garrity notified Quan Loi they needed to launch the Cobra section sitting Blue Alert because this situation was not going to be resolved any time soon.

Lieutenant Thomas Read, Medevac 12, and his copilot Lieutenant Monty Halcomb were in the air 40 miles away northwest of Song Be when they heard the Mayday call. They sped toward the Fishhook and soon spotted the smoke rising from Medevac Meadow. They arrived just as Medevac 1 was taking hits and struggling to get out of the clearing.[12] At this point, Precise Swords 12 and 12A were low on fuel and completely out of ammo. The relief section of gunships led by CW2 Maurice A. “Mac” Cookson came on station to support subsequent rescue attempts. Cookson asked Alexander to mark the enemy position for him. Alexander replied, “No can do. I’m Winchester.[13] Just lower your nose toward that western tree line. The enemy will mark his position for you.” [14] Mac did as suggested, and a stream of tracers erupted toward his ship, precisely identifying the NVA locations. Mac responded with flechette rockets trailing their telltale red smoke. The Precise Sword flight limped their dinged Cobras to Quan Loi where maintenance grounded Alexander’s bird until they could install a new set of blades. Alexander pulled a slug from Garrity’s seat and presented it to him some years later preserved in an epoxy pyramid.

Cookson  and his wingman continued the attack on the NVA while Medevac 12 assessed their options. Read and Halcomb decided to approach over the friendlies in the eastern tree line instead of coming in from the south.[15] They came in just over the trees, made a right hand U-turn, and started down fast with their tail pointed at the NVA tree line. The NVA opened fire from the west and the north as Medevac 12 reached about 100 feet. The crew heard and felt the ship taking hits. The Huey began a severe vertical vibration at about fifty feet from the ground. Read aborted the descent, slowly climbed above the trees, and called, Mayday.” He set the wounded bird down in a clearing to the east and shut down the engine as CWO Raymond Zepp, Medevac 21, arrived on scene. Monty Halcomb jumped out of the Huey to assess the damage to their plane as Zepp landed close by to pick up the crew, if needed. Although there were numerous bullet holes in their ship and major damage to one rotor blade, Read and Halcomb decided to try to get it back to Quan Loi. They were successful, just barely. The ship went to the scrap heap a few days later, slung out under a Chinook.[16]

Medevac 21 took off from the clearing and flew back to the Meadow to make a fourth rescue attempt. However, Lieutenant Caubarreaux ordered him not to try. He said the LZ was too hot and there was no sense possibly losing another ship and another crew.[17] As the day ended, Medevac had lost three ships, one still smoldering in the Meadow and two heavily damaged – one that had to be scrapped. The crews of the two damaged birds had made it back to safety. But the injured crew of Medevac 2 and the wounded paratroopers would spend the night on the ground with no medical care except first aid.

Clason and Philhower were awarded the Silver Star for their actions. Vice President Agnew presented the awards at a ceremony shortly afterwards. Sergeant First Class Rocco was recognized several years later for rescuing survivors from the chopper and administering first aid before he became immobilized from his injuries.[18] He was awarded the Medal of Honor presented by President Gerald Ford in February 1974. The Medevac pilot and crew also received awards for bravery. Modica received a Silver Star and Caubarreaux, Taylor (posthumously), Burdette, and Martin each a Distinguished Flying Cross. Those were not the only awards conferred, for this engagement was far from over, but unbelievably, despite braving intense enemy fire in repeated head-on attacks, the gunship crews received no such awards.[19]

Jesse Myers knew what needed to happen next. The two Airborne companies had run into a buzz saw. But they had given better than they had gotten in return. They had a good defensive position and overwhelming artillery and air support. The only thing they did not have was mobility. Ideally, they would pull back and bring in a B-52 Arc Light mission to pound the enemy. But with the number of injured on hand, the paratroopers could not easily withdraw. They would not abandon their wounded, and they could not easily move them. They needed to hold their position until after a successful evacuation of casualties. Some of the enemy fire now came from the north and south sides of the clearing. The NVA may have been attempting to flank the two companies or at least be in position to score more hits on helicopters they knew would be coming. Myers adjusted the artillery to compensate.

Airstrikes

That afternoon, the Red Markers diverted more strike aircraft to Medevac Meadow, where Myers informed them of the expanded targets. For several hours, fighter aircraft bombed and strafed the enemy-held tree lines on the north, south, and west sides of the clearing. Red Marker 26, Lieutenant Lloyd L. Prevett, piloting an O-2A from Phuoc Vinh, flew 4.8 hours, his longest mission of the war. The twin engine O-2A had a rocket pod of seven rockets under each wing. During his mission, Prevett expended all fourteen smoke rockets, one at a time, marking different strike locations around the perimeter of Medevac Meadow. After running out of Willie Pete, he marked targets with smoke grenades tossed out of the pilot-side window. Prevett remembers controlling mostly F-100’s, with at least one flight of  A-37’s, and a few Vietnamese A-1E’s.  Prevett recalled:

“One interesting note is I requested a flight with wall-to-wall nape and 20 mm, figuring it would be a standard load of snake and nape.[20] I was shocked when a flight of two F -100’s showed up with just nape and 20mm. When I put them in, the nape uncovered a fortified bunker and of course, no snake to employ. Took care of that on the next flight. My hat is off to all the fighter pilots that showed up that day. They put their asses on the line to ensure each and every drop was right where it was needed. Gives me shivers today thinking about what everyone did to try and protect the guys on the ground.”[21]

Lloyd did not record the number of strikes he directed, but remembers being amazed on his way back to Phouc Vinh at the amount of grease pencil writing on the side window. He had scribbled on the plexiglass the standard info for each flight — mission number, call sign, number of fighters in the flight, ordnance load, expected time of arrival on scene, and bomb damage assessment. Given the number of strikes Prevett controlled, it is a wonder he saw anything through that window.

The O-2A could fly for more than six hours if conserving fuel with a lean mixture at cruise power setting. But directing airstrikes with the mixture rich and power often “balls to the wall” for almost five hours, Prevett’s O-2 was near minimum fuel when he landed at Phuoc Vinh. The crew chief refueled and rearmed the Skymaster, cleaned the inside of the window, and the detailed record of those strike missions was lost to history.

Radio operator Sergeant Jim Yeonopolus manned Red Marker Control outside the Airborne Tactical Operations Center at Quan Loi. He remembers the firefight became more hectic about 1500, when the FACs called for additional airstrikes. As daylight faded, the fighting became more intense. Earlier, Red Hat Sergeants John A. Brubaker and James H. Collier asked Yeonopolus if he would accompany them to the Meadow and stay on the ground overnight to call in air support if needed. Jim told them he would be more effective with his full set of radios at Quan Loi. Brubaker and Collier did not make it into Medevac Meadow.

Until nightfall, Red Markers continued to direct airstrikes into the enemy positions. Lieutenant Gary Willis, Red Marker 18, in his Bird Dog controlled two more F-100 flights just before dark. According to Captain Myers, the Red Markers directed 36 tactical air sorties during two days at Medevac Meadow.[22]  Myers saw one FAC make low passes to drop canisters of water to the Red Beret troopers who had not been resupplied for two days. Most of the containers missed the mark or burst upon landing, but some made it into the perimeter intact.[23] Early the next morning, the Medevac crew chief and copilot retrieved from the destroyed Huey a few glass bottles of saline solution that survived the wreck and fire.[24]

Overnight, artillery support from Oklahoma became even more important. The NVA attacked the Airborne position three times during the night and were repulsed each time. The Proud Americans at Oklahoma responded with precise artillery fire, sometimes extremely close to the eastern tree line. Many of those gunners had not slept much during the last 48 hours. The Red Hats also called on flare ships and Air Force gunships to help defend the Airborne position.

A Rescue Plan

Myers returned to the 6th Battalion’s command post at FSB Oklahoma, monitoring the situation on the ground via the radio net. At the firebase, he received a surprise visit from Lieutenant General Michael S. Davison, II Field Force Commander, who asked simply, “What do you need, Captain?” Myers replied, “Sir, I need a B-52 strike.” Davison said, “You’ve got it.” The general left and ordered an Arc Light mission for 1500 hours the next day.

Brigadier General Robert M. Shoemaker flew in later to be briefed on the situation. Shoemaker was a principal architect of airmobile warfare concepts and an experienced helicopter pilot. He flew his own command and control chopper throughout his tour.[25] Shoemaker listened to all the information about the condition of the wounded (there were now about 40 casualties), the resupply situation, and the ability of the troopers to hold on. He vowed to round up additional resources and return in the morning with a plan.

Overnight at Quan Loi, the 15th Med and Blue Max created a plan that met Shoemaker’s approval. The 15th lost so many aircraft damaged or destroyed the first day, it borrowed several Dust Off Hueys for non-combat missions.[26] That freed up enough Medevac birds to send four on the rescue – three as primary and one as backup. Blue Max committed six gunships to the mission, half the entire C Battery fleet.

Early the next day, Shoemaker flew into FSB Oklahoma to brief the Airborne and the artillery commanders on the plan. Also attending the briefing were the commander of the Medevac birds and a major representing Blue Max command, each in his own helicopter. After a fifteen minute briefing, the three left to rendezvous at Medevac Meadow with the Hueys and Cobras coming from Quan Loi. An additional command and control helicopter carried Lieutenant Colonel Truong Vinh Phuoc, Vietnamese 6th Battalion commander; Battalion Senior Advisor Captain Myers; Captain Hayden, commander of A Battery, 2nd of the 32nd Field Artillery at FSB Oklahoma; and the Vietnamese artillery commander. General Shoemaker flew his own Huey in overall control.[27]

Beginning at 0930, Red Markers directed a series of strikes into the perimeter of Medevac Meadow controlled by the well-bunkered NVA. As the airstrikes ended at 1100, the fleet of fourteen helicopters arrived on station. According to Myers’s description:[28]

“The plan was for the LZ to be ringed by Arty fire, friendly troops, and gunship suppressive fire. After we were airborne, we first adjusted the Arty. There were two ARVN 105mm How batteries, an ARVN 155 mm How battery, and the American 8-inch battery.[29] The prep was fired and the wood line was smoked[30] and then the extraction was started. Arty fires were not shut down, but shifted to form a corridor through which the Medevac ships were to fly. The gunships formed a continuous “daisy chain” whereby suppressive fire was kept on the area of greatest enemy concentration.”

After the artillery adjustment, Shoemaker flew his chopper at low level the length of the field to check the safety of the corridor before clearing the gunships and Medevac birds to proceed.[31] The plan worked almost to perfection. CW2 Mac Cookson led the flight of six Blue Max Cobras spaced out to keep continuous fire on the NVA. The three primary Medevacs came in, loaded up and took off in sequence. The first two made it out of the clearing without any damage. CW2 Richard Tanner, Medevac 24, came in first and picked up the surviving crew of Medevac 2 at about 1115. Captain Jack Roden, Medevac 7, landed second and took off with most of the wounded paratroopers. The third ship, Medevac 25 commanded by CW2 William Salinger picked up the last few wounded paratroopers but was hit heavily taking off. His ship sank back to the ground and caught fire. Before the backup bird flown by CW2 Denny Schmidt, Medevac 23, and his copilot Monty Halcomb could react,  another Huey dropped into Medevac Meadow beside the burning ship. Salinger and his crew shuttled the wounded Vietnamese aboard the rescue bird, and they safely exited the hot LZ. No one knows for sure who flew that unidentified Huey.[32]

Several days later, General Shoemaker presented “impact” awards to some of the rescue participants in a ceremony at Bien Hoa Air Base.[33] One recipient was Cobra aircraft commander CW2 Mac Cookson. Mac received a Silver Star for his contribution to the fight. Nineteen days later, General Shoemaker received the same award. At FSB Oklahoma, commander of the Vietnamese Airborne Division General Dong presented a Cross of Gallantry to Captain Hayden and to Lieutenant Granberg for the excellent work by their 8-inch battery. Red Marker Radio Operator Jim Yeonopolus was also awarded a Cross of Gallantry recognizing his work during the engagement.

Back in the Fight

Relieved of their serious casualties, the Airborne companies withdrew a couple of klicks to the southeast. Resupply choppers soon arrived with food, water, ammo, and medical supplies. At 1500 hours, the promised Arc Light mission hit the west side of Medevac Meadow. A light helicopter flew over later to assess the damage. Surviving NVA drove it off with ground fire but not before the pilot saw numerous dead and a lot of destroyed concrete bunkers. While there is no official estimate of enemy casualties, the NVA must have suffered tremendous losses given the facts. They made four frontal assaults across the open meadow into the dug-in Airborne position. The artillery units at FSB Oklahoma poured extremely accurate fire into the NVA tree line. Air Force fighters bombed and strafed the NVA bunkers with 36 sorties during the two days. Blue Max Cobras flew at least 30 sorties expending rockets, minigun, and 40 mm grenades into the NVA position. The B-52 Arc Light mission dropped 81 tons of explosives.

The 61st and 63rd Airborne Companies swept the area the next day capturing weapons, signal equipment, and some wounded combatants. Some of those were in a hospital complex. The two companies continued to battle in the Fishhook until withdrawn with the rest of 6th Battalion on 25 June. At that point, each company had about 40 effectives remaining of their original 100 troopers. The engagement at Medevac Meadow impressed Myers in a number of ways, as he wrote in his letter to U.S. Army Aviation Digest:

“I saw time and again the courage and concern of one pilot on behalf of another. I saw outstanding teamwork between ARVN and American forces, between air and ground forces, and between combat and combat support forces. I saw magnificent employment of air/ground coordination to provide massed fires. I saw commanders all the way up to the three-star level who were vitally interested and concerned for the welfare of their men and who were willing to get personally involved to remedy a bad situation. And finally, I saw raw courage and heroism displayed time and time again by U.S. and ARVN soldiers alike.”[34]


[1] The description of the following event is based on numerous sources, some of which contain conflicting detail: Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam by Peter Dorland and James Nanney; magazine article by then Captain Stephen F. Modica, U.S. Army Aviation Digest, June 1975; letter written by former Red Hat Major Jesse W. Myers in response to that article; emails among various surviving participants including Jerry Granberg and Ralph Jones (artillerymen), Patrick Martin (Medevac crew chief), Major (R) Jesse Myers, Monty Halcomb (Medevac pilot), Major (R) George Alexander, former CW2 Paul Garrity, and CW3 (R) Mac Cookson (Cobra pilots); Oral History and other statements by Warrant Officer Rocco; mission statements by Alexander and Garrity, by Henry Tuell (Medevac pilot); various reports of awards and citations/orders related to same; and other sources as individually footnoted.

[2] Grid Coordinates XU425098, per the History of the “Proud Americans” at ­­­­ https://proudamericans.homestead.com/VIETNAM_1963-1971-1.pdf

[3] Emails July 2021, former Lieutenant Jerry Granberg, second in command, A Battery, 2nd of the 32nd Field Artillery.

[4] Medevac Platoon, 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Division, and C Battery, 2nd Battalion Aerial Rocket Artillery, 20th Artillery Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Division.

[5] The grid coordinates Modica screamed into the mike designated a one-kilometer square of territory about five miles inside the Fishhook north of Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam. In an article Modica wrote for the magazine U.S. Army Aviation Digest, he incorrectly stated the coordinates as XU5606, which is right on the border of Cambodia and Vietnam rather than five miles inside. Chalk that up to the “Fog of War” and frailty of human memory. Interestingly, “5606” is the designation of the hydraulic fluid used in the Huey, which might explain why the number came to Modica’s mind while writing from memory about five years later. According to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots’ Association, XU507010 is the six digit grid coordinate for the downed Medevac, tail number 69-15121.

[6] Precise Sword 12, Lt Alexander did not see the tail boom break away, but did notice that the tail rotor was not operating as te Wild Deuce tried to climb.

[7] Another Cobra pilot, WO Brian Russ, claims to have been flying Precise Sword 12 with Alexander in the front seat. Aircraft commander Alexander disputes that claim. Cobra commanders Garrity and Cookson also believe that Russ was not involved in the mission.

[8] Rocco’s oral history recorded in 1987 testifies to the volume of fire. The crew does not believe they would have gotten safely to the tree line without the protection of the Blue Max Cobras. The damage inflicted on the helicopters speaks for itself.

[9] Statement by George Alexander, in possession of the author. That person could have been Red Hat Rocco, Clason, or Philhower, who all wore camouflage fatigues. Modica and Caubbareaux wrote that Rocco pulled then from the wreckage.

[10] Details of the failed rescue attempts are primarily from several sources:

[11] Killer Spade was the unit call sign used by B Company, 229th Aviation Battalion (Assault Helicopter), part of the 1st Cavalry Division

[12] Emails and telecon, Jan 2022, with Cecil M. (Monty) Halcomb, former Captain, USA pilot on Medevac 12, later aircraft commander of Medevac 8.

[13] Winchester – flyers slang for “out of ammo.”

[14] A basic rule of modern warfare – “Tracers work both ways.” Tracers help a gunner see how close the gunfire is to the target, but they reveal the gunner’s exact position.

[15] Jesse Myers recalls advising Medevac 12 to make such an approach. Monty Halcomb does not remember that communication.

[16] Halcomb telecom. Also, Joe Baugher’s Serial Number website lists UH-1H tail number 69-15139 as written off on 26 May 1970. That may have been Medevac 12. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1969.html

[17] From Halcomb. Lee used Modica’s survival radio to communicate with Zepp.

[18] From the Citation to accompany the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to Warrant Officer (then Sergeant First Class) Louis Richard Rocco.

[19] The Blue Max aircraft commanders, Lt. Alexander and CW2 Garrity were recommended for the Silver Star, but that paperwork was lost. To date, each has been awarded an Air Medal with V device for Valor. Attempts to upgrade the awards to Silver Stars have been denied.

[20] Snake and Nape – Air Force slang for High-drag bombs (“Snake”) and Napalm (Nape”), a standard ordinance load for situations with troops in contact.

[21] Emails with Colonel Lloyd Prevett, USAF (Ret), Dec 2020.

[22] Most of those strikes were controlled by Red Markers Dave Blair and Byron Mayberry (both now deceased) and Lloyd Prevett.

[23] The FAC who made these drops is unknown. None of the surviving Red Markers or crew chiefs remember such a mission. Medevac pilot Monty Halcomb recalls a sector FAC, call sign Rod 15, who flew from Quan Loi as being the one involved. The Rod FACs supported the 5th Vietnamese Infantry Division, a unit not involved in the Fishhook operation. However, if Rod 15 were in the air, he would have heard the Mayday call and could have learned of the plight of the men on the ground. The author continues the search for Rod 15.

[24] Emails, Jan-Jul 2021, former Sergeant Patrick Martin, crew chief on Medevac 2, Medevac Platoon, 15th Medical Battalion.

[25] Lieutenant General (R ) H.G. “Pete” Taylor, telephone interviews, January 2021.

[26] The borrowed helicopters were from the 45th Medical Company, Air Ambulance, out of Long Binh.

[27] Shoemaker logged 14.3 hours flying time on 25 May 1970 per Individual Flight Record, DA Form 759-1, Archives Texas A & M University – Central Texas

[28] From Myers’s letter to U.S. Army Aviation Digest, undated but shortly after June 1975.

[29] Myers does not know the location of the Vietnamese batteries engaged in this effort. The Vietnamese had their own forward observers and controlled their own batteries.

[30] With white phosphorous shells to screen the evacuation flight path

[31] Per General Order Number 2605, Award of the Silver Star Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) to Brigadier General Robert M. Shoemaker, 13 June 1970. The first award of the Silver Star and of a Distinguished Flying Cross to then Colonel Shoemaker came in 1965 as a Battalion Commander with the 12th Cavalry Regiment.

[32] No one to date has been able to identify the Huey that picked up the people from Medevac 25. Participants agree it was not the Medevac commander’s Huey. They also agree it was not C Battery commander Major Donald Eugene “Gene” Wilson, because C Battery has no aircraft except Cobras. It might have been the Huey that carried the Bule Max command representative – someone from battalion headquarters at Phuoc Vinh. It might have been one of the ships from the 1st Cavalry Division’s Assault Helicopter Company, call sign Killer Spade. It is a mystery.

[33] A so-called impact award did not go through the normal steps requiring recommendation, review and approval. An appropriate authority could grant such an award to give immediate recognition for actions that had a significant impact on a battle or mission.

[34] Myers letter.

Revolutionary War Story: William Rankin of Virginia’s Northern Neck (part 3 of 4)

The previous article in this series ended with the Battle of Ft. Washington on November 16, 1776. William Rankin was captured there and imprisoned in Manhattan. Against long odds, he survived. His elder brother Robert Rankin was not in that battle, so far as we can determine.[1] Their war experience diverged after Ft. Washington, despite the fact that both had enlisted in Captain Brady’s Company of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. Most that regiment fought at Ft. Washington.[2]

Let’s turn to their individual war stories. We’ll start with William because there is so much detail in his pension application file. Robert, bless his heart, didn’t have much to say about his war experience.

Private William Rankin[3]

The facts William states in his pension application dovetail with military history to a “T.”[4] His memory was awesome. His military service had been over for more than fifty-four years when he made his application declaration in November 1833 from Mason County, Kentucky. Here is part of what his declaration said:

    • He enlisted in July 1776 for a term of three years in Berkeley County, Virginia. He enlisted in Capt. William Brady’s company of Col. Hugh Stephenson’s regiment. He notes that Stephenson soon died and the company was attached to Col. Moses Rawlings regiment. William didn’t say so, but Rawlings was Stephenson’s second-in-command of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. The regiment to which William’s company belonged didn’t change after Stephenson’s death, it just had a new commander.
    • William marched first to Philadelphia, then went to Trenton by water, then marched to Princeton.[5] All of his regiment went first to Philadelphia, where Washington was having his men inoculated for smallpox.[6] Next, William marched to Ft. Lee and Ft. Washington.[7] He stated the precise date of the battle at Ft. Washington. I’ll bet he could also have testified to the weather conditions.
    • The British imprisoned William in one of the notorious “sugar houses” in Manhattan before transferring him “after some time” to the British ship “the Duttons.”[8] The majority of British prisoners in New York City – four out of five – did not survive captivity.[9] Instead, they died of starvation or disease. William must have been a pretty tough teenager.

That gets us to the point in the previous article where we left William.  In February or March 1777, the British paroled him and he went from New York to Philadelphia. In April 1777, said William, “he was sent home by direction of Gen. Daniel Morgan who happened to be a personal acquaintance.”[10] He was recalled from home a year later to rejoin some remains of Rawlings’ Regiment at Ft. Frederick in Frederick, Maryland.[11] From there he went to Ft. Pitt in Pittsburgh, where he worked as an “artificer” – someone who constructed fortifications.[12] He was discharged at Ft. Pitt when his three-year enlistment ended in mid-1779.

Now let’s go back to when Morgan sent him home from Philadelphia. Thomas Jones filed an affidavit in support of William’s pension application, confirming that Morgan ordered him to take William home to Virginia. Jones said “in the year 1777 he received from the hand of General Morgan … William Rankin in … Philadelphia, a sick soldier … to convey Rankin to Virginia, his former state of residence.”[13]

Jones took William home in a wagon.[14] In my imagination, William was horizontal on the wagon bed, on top of and under (I hope) some blankets. A John Kercheval also filed an affidavit in support of William’s pension application. Kercheval stated that “he met the said William Rankin returning to Virginia then in a low state of health in the wagon of Thomas Jones who lived in the neighborhood.”[15]

Where the heck was William’s home? He was still a teenager in April 1777, about eighteen. You would think he was going home to recuperate under the care of his family of origin, wouldn’t you? Inquiring minds want to know who they were …

William leaves us dangling on that question. Kercheval was more helpful. In the middle of his affidavit is this attention-grabber: Kercheval said he understood “from Mr. [William] Rankin’s brother Robert Rankin, who was an officer, that his brother William” was at one time ordered to Pittsburgh. Yes, indeed, William Rankin was once in Pittsburgh, where he was discharged. William’s brother is the man I nicknamed “Lt. Robert” in the  first article in this series.

William may not have identified his parents, but his file gave us his brother, which is one clue to his family of origin. There’s more. William also provides the link between the Rankin and Kercheval families. William said that “John Kercheval and his wife Jane Kercheval both know that he did serve in the war of the Revolution and the latter recollects the day he marched from her fathers in Frederick County Virginia.”

John Kercheval’s wife was Jane Berry, a daughter of Thomas Berry of Frederick County.[16] One of Jane Berry Kercheval’s sisters was Margaret “Peggy” Berry, who married Lt. Robert Rankin in Frederick County. Seventeen or eighteen-year-old William Rankin may have enlisted in Berkeley County, but he marched off to war from Frederick County – to be exact, from Thomas Berry’s house. My imagination has Jane Berry and her sister Peggy, both still single, watching Robert Rankin (Peggy’s fiancee)[17] and his brother William march off to war from their father Thomas Berry’s house in Frederick County.[18]

Kercheval also testified that “William Rankins not long after the war was done settled in … Frederick” County, where he was still living when Kercheval moved to Mason County, Kentucky about 1798-1799.[19] That seems to imply that William wasn’t living in Frederick County before the war, which comports with him having enlisted from Berkeley. William was definitely in Frederick by 1792, because a Frederick County lease and release[20] recites that William was “of Frederick” in that year. Two Frederick deeds prove William had a wife named Mary Ann and a son named Harrison.[21] Thomas Berry was a witness to those instruments.

There is another tidbit or two in William’s pension file. Kercheval also said that William Rankin was “a very respectable man and entitled to credit in any court or county … he is a wealthy farmer of Mason County Kentucky.” Some of William’s wealth undoubtedly came from land speculation, which may have been Lt. Robert’s financial undoing. William said that his discharge papers had been “lost long ago or put in the land office in Virginia to get land warrants.”[22] At that point, his remarkable memory fogged up. He said he “could not recollect but possibly the latter,” he “having traded so much in that business cannot speak certainly.”

William was certainly well off by the standards of the day, when wealth was measured in part by ownership of other people. The 1836 inventory of his estate included twenty enslaved persons.[23] The current account of his estate in November 1839 showed an amount to be distributed of $17,911, after payment of an agreed $1,000 fee to the two estate administrators.[24]

That is all of William Rankin’s story I can tease out of online records.[25] He died intestate in Mason County on April 12, 1836, leaving a widow and children to collect the remainder of his pension.[26] William may be buried in the Old Washington Cemetery (AKA the Washington Baptist Church Cemetery) in Mason County. [27]

William’s pension file doesn’t name his children. Fortunately, a deed and court record fill in the blanks. First, a deed was executed conveying William’s land in September 1836. It identified the grantors as the heirs at law of William Rankin.[28] The heirs – in this case, his children– sold William’s land for $12,930. The tract was near the town of Washington on the waters of Lawrence’s Creek adjacent a Berry family. The deed excepted a graveyard.

Here are William’s heirs, along with the names of their spouses and their locations when they executed the deed.

  1. Blackston H. Rankin and wife Elizabeth of Bracken County, Kentucky.
  2. James M. Rankin and wife Lorina, also of Bracken County.
  3. John Hall and wife Elizabeth Rankin Hall of Scott County, Kentucky.
  4. Wyete (sic, Wyatt?) C. Webb and wife Ann D. Rankin Webb, also of Scott County.
  5. George D. Stockton and wife Harriett Rankin Stockton of Fleming County, Kentucky.
  6. John L. Rankin and wife Mary J. of Mason County.
  7. George W. Stockton and wife Caroline S.? Rankin of Illinois.
  8. Robert P. Rankin and wife Mary C. of Scott County, Kentucky.
  9. Thomas P. Rankin of Mason County.

Finally, here is a record from the Mason County court order book for September 1836.[29] It names eleven children rather than nine and was proved by the oaths of John Hall and Marshall Rankin. I don’t know Mr. Hall, but Marshall Rankin was William’s nephew – a son of William’s brother John. The purpose of the court order was to establish a claim to William’s pension. The children are listed in this order:

  1. Harrison Rankin. You may remember him from the lease and release for life back in Frederick County.
  2. Blackston H. Rankin
  3. James M. Rankin
  4. John L. Rankin
  5. Robert P. Rankin
  6. Thomas Rankin
  7. Elizabeth married John Hall
  8. Sarah married James Rankins
  9. Harriet married George D. Stockton
  10. Ann married Wyatt Webb
  11. Caroline married George W. Stockton

The court order list adds two children to the heirs identified in the deed: a son Harrison and a daughter Sarah, who married a James Rankins. It also states that William Rankin died on 12 April 1836 and his widow Mary Ann died on 29 July 1836.

May you rest in peace, William. And now … on to your more famous brother’s war story.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

[1] Gary and I found no military records to prove Robert’s location in 1776. Consequently, we can only speculate why he wasn’t in the battle at Ft. Washington. Perhaps he was one of the Rifle Regiment’s members who remained at Ft. Lee because of sickness? See Tucker F. Hentz, Unit History of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (1776–1781): Insights from the Service Record of Capt. Adamson Tannehill (Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 2007) 12, Note 50, at this link. Perhaps Robert was actually in the battle, but was neither killed nor captured? Statistically, that is highly improbable.

[2] William’s pension application declaration expressly stated that he enlisted in Brady’s company. Robert’s declaration didn’t name a company and contains an error about his regiment. Fortunately, muster and payroll records for Gabriel Long’s composite company of Virginia riflemen consistently name remnants of Brady’s company, including Robert Rankin. Those rolls specifically identify Robert as a member of Brady’s company. The remaining members of the other two rifle companies (Captains Shepherd’s and West’s) that were decimated at Ft. Washington also appear on rolls for Long’s composite rifle company.

[3] Information about William Rankin’s military history is largely taken from his pension application file. I made screen shots of many of the original images at Fold3, but unfortunately I rarely included the page number assigned to each image by Fold3. Accordingly, I have simply cited to “William’s pension application” with a brief description of the document in question. One of these days, I will go through the drill again and identify page numbers.

[4] William’s pension declaration echoes the history of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, some of which was the subject of the previous article about the Northern Neck Rankins.

[5] Pension file of William Rankin, S.31315 (hereafter, “William Rankin’s pension file”), his sworn declaration supporting his pension application dated 22 Nov. 1833 in Mason Co., KY.

[6] Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. See p. 15 re: smallpox inoculations. The Philadelphia location was obviously before the British occupied the city in September 1777 following Washington’s defeat at Brandywine.

[7] William Rankin’s pension file, sworn declaration.

[8] Id.

[9] This discussion of “Prisoner of War Facts” states “[b]y the end of 1776, there were over 5,000 prisoners held in New York City. More than half … came from the soldiers captured at the battle of Fort Washington and Fort Lee.” Four out of five prisoners died.

[10] Morgan was actually a Colonel when he sent William home, although he ended his career as a General and was undoubtedly referred to with that title by anyone who knew him. Morgan lived on a farm just east of Winchester in Frederick Co. and was apparently acquainted with the Rankin family. See this link.

[11] William Rankin’s pension file, sworn declaration.

[12] United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Familysearch.org, FHL Film/Fiche Number 7197150, image 57, return of Capt. Heth’s Company at Ft. Pitt, listing Private William Rankins as an “artificer.” He apparently recovered from his prison ordeal.

[13] William Rankin’s pension file, affidavit of Thomas Jones. I took some liberties with the affidavit’s spelling.

[14] Id., affidavit of John Kercheval.

[15] Id.

[16] Will of Thomas Berry of Frederick Co., VA dated 20 Feb 1806, proved Frederick Co. 4 Mar 1819. Copy certified and recorded in Mason Co., KY at Will Book E: 17 et seq. Thomas named his daughter Peggy, who married Col. Robert Rankin (that was his rank in the KY militia, not the Revolutionary War), and his daughter Jane, who married John Kercheval. Thomas Berry left part of his land in Mason County to his daughters Peggy Rankin and Jane Kercheval.

[17] Pension file of Robert Rankins, No. W26365 or Peggy B. Rankin, L.Wt. 1380-200, images of originals available from Fold3.com. Peggy (Berry) Rankin’s declaration dated 16 Feb. 1844 states that she and Robert were married on Oct. 1, 1781 in Frederick County while he was on furlough after his capture at Charleston, they “having been previously engaged.” Peggy’s declaration is at pages 16-19 of their combined Fold3 file.

[18] Presumably, William would not have bothered to mention that Peggy also saw him march off to war. By 1833, she and Robert no longer lived in Mason County and Peggy wasn’t available to testify in support of his pension application.

[19] Id.

[20] A “lease and release” was a two-step land transaction created to circumvent the English Statute of Uses. The two documents were typically executed on consecutive days. Together, they had the effect of a conveyance of land in fee simple.

[21] See Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 24A: 152, 155, lease and release dated 3 Nov 1792 from Fairfax, proprietor of the Northern Neck, to William Rankin of Frederick, 79 acres, part of the “Chestnut Level” in Frederick. Lease for the lives of William Rankin, his wife Mary Ann Rankin, and son Harrison Rankin. One witness was Thomas Berry.

[22] William Rankin’s pension file, declaration of 22 Nov. 1833.

[23] Mason Co., KY Will Book K: 448, inventory of William Rankin’s estate dated 4 June 1836.

[24] Mason Co., KY Will Book L: 538, Nov. 1839 current account of John L. Rankin and Robert P. Rankin, administrators of the account of William Rankin, dec’d.

[25] Deeds would probably provide evidence of William’s land speculation and the identity of other family members who witnessed his deeds or were grantees.

[26] William Rankin’s pension file, letter dated 14 May 1927 from Winfield Scott, Commissioner of the Revolutionary and 1812 Wars (pension?) Section, to an inquiry about William’s record from Miss May Harrison. Scott’s reply noted William’s date of death and failure of his pension file to mention names of wife and children. See also a letter of 17 Sep 1931 responsive to a request about William from Mr. Walter H. Rankins stating the same facts.

[27] See Elizabeth Prather Ellsberry, Cemetery Records, Mason County, Kentucky, Vol. 1 (Chillicothe, MO: 1965). The contents of that book were the source for the Mason County Cemetery Index database on Ancestry.com.

[28] Mason County Deed Book 43: 65.

[29] Mason Co., KY Court Order Book M: 403 (FHL Film No. 8192456, Image No. 563 et seq.).

James Winn, Son of Daniel of Lunenburg: Lost but now Found? Probably …

REVISED TO INCORPORATE INFORMATION PROVIDED BY A DESCENDANT

I recently stumbled across online images of a Winn family Bible I had not seen before.[1] The Bible is from the family of James Winn, son of Daniel Winn of Lunenburg County, Virginia. James’s wife was Mary Ann Winn, daughter of John and Ann Stone Winn, also of Lunenburg. I wrote about James and Mary Ann briefly in Part IV of the recent Lunenburg Winn series.

What stands out about James in that article is his Revolutionary War service. He enlisted in February 1776 for two years in Capt. James Johnson’s company of the 6th Virginia Regiment, as did his brothers Elisha and William Winn.[2] He is shown on a Revolutionary War roll as a Sergeant in May 1777.[3] His individual service record lists him in Capt. Billey Haley Avery’s company of the 6th Virginia Regiment from August 1777 through January 1778. He was discharged in February 1778 at Valley Forge.[4] That catches most people’s attention, as well it should. And because today is November 11, I hereby send best wishes and gratitude to all veterans, including my husband Gary, a Vietnam vet, and (posthumously) to James Winn, a many-greats uncle of mine.

Back to the Winns: my article goes on to say that James probably left Lunenburg because there doesn’t seem to be a will or estate administration for him there. I added that I did not know where he went. In short, I just flat lost James and Mary Ann.

So … have we found James, son of Daniel, in this family Bible record? As a black plastic “Magic 8 Ball”[5] might say, “all signs point to ‘yes.’ ” For starters, the first members of the family recorded in the Bible are named James and Mary Ann Winn. The Bible says he was born in 1757. I had estimated that Daniel’s son James was born in 1757-1758, so the Bible’s birth year is spot on.

Also, several descendants of this family have been accepted by the D.A.R. on the basis of the Revolutionary War service of James Winn, son of Daniel Winn of Lunenburg. In short, there is every reason to accept that the James and Mary Ann Winn in the Bible record are the same people as James and Mary Ann Winn of Lunenburg.

But wait, there’s more … one descendant of James posted a comment on the original version of this article. She says the line has been Y-DNA tested and is well-established as part of the genetic family of Daniel Winn of Lunenburg. This blog has turned out to be a great way to meet nice cousins, and she is another one who is also a great researcher.

There is an “in memory of” marker for a James F. Winn in the Oakwood Cemetery in Martinsville, the county seat of Henry County, Virginia. Here it is:

Please note that the marker is fairly modern, perhaps mid 20th-century. The cemetery wasn’t founded until 1883, sixty-eight years after James died, so it is virtually certain that he was not buried there.[6]

A minor nitpick: the many Lunenburg records for James Winn, son of Daniel, never included a middle initial. The same is true for his military service records, which have his first and last names only, with no middle initial. There is no evidence of a middle name or initial in the Bible, either … he is simply James Winn. Nevertheless, the marker includes a middle initial, and most Ancestry trees identify him as “James Francis Winn.” Of course, people routinely include middle names for 18th-century men without any basis in the records, so this isn’t s a big surprise.

OK, back to the Bible. It was printed in 1833, roughly two decades after James and Mary Ann died. The family entries are in two parts.  First, there is a list of gifts of the Bible from one Winn family member to the next – i.e., the Bible’s ownership provenance. Four pages headed “Family Register” follow. Those pages record names, dates of birth, and some marriages for family members. I was reeling after reading both, and didn’t feel as though I had a handle on this family until I did a fair amount of additional research. May you have better luck.

Here, sans commentary, is a verbatim transcription of the family information. It begins with the provenance of the Bible and continues with the four pages of “Family Register” entries.

“This my fathers family Bible. I will to my niece Susie Winn Shute after my death it is to be hers. [Signed] Mary A. Thompson. April 30, 1895.”

“I give this Bible to my cousin Walter S. Winn & if he ________ [indecipherable] _______ William Winn. [Signed] Susie W. Shute.”

“I give this Bible to John T. Winn Jr. with the request that it be kept in the Winn family. Walter S. Winn, June 5th1920.”

“I give this Bible to William Edward Winn with the request that it be kept in the Winn family. Jan. 28, 1962, Charlotte, NC, John T. Winn Jr.”

“I give this Bible to Thomas Edward Winn with the request that it be kept in the Winn family. April 26, 2003, Charlotte, NC.”

Here is the first page headed “FAMILY REGISTER.” In the original Bible, the names are shown in two columns on each page. I couldn’t make that format work here. Sorry. It would be easier reading.

Column 1

James Winn was born April 14th 1757

Mary Ann was born 14th December 1759

Olive Winn was born January 28th 1779

Crecy Winn was born November 29th 1780

Archelaus Winn was born November 17th 1784

Younger Winn was born April 12th 1786

Frances Winn was born October 15th 1787

Coleman Winn was born June 30th 1789

Elizabeth Ann Winn was born June 15th 1791

Column 2

James Winn and Mary Ann Winn were married on the 15th of May 1778

Jerusha James Winn was born March 7th 1793

James Sibley Winn was born January 1st 1795

Arlysha Scott Winn and Clearecy Harloe Winn twin sisters were born February 4th 1797

Whitehead Washington Winn was born February 22nd 1799

Clarecy Harloe Winn died Sept 6th 1802

Mary Ann Winn the wife of James Winn died August 13th 1813

End of first page of the register. Here is the second page, also titled FAMILY REGISTER …

Column 1

James Winn died June 14th 1815

Mary Ann Winn his wife died August 13th 1813

Susanna Winn died Dec 16th 1864.

Archelaus W. Winn died April 13th 1868

Column 2

Calma C. Winn wife of Rev. G. W. Winn died Aug 4th 1893.

George Washington Winn died April 8, 1895

Livin A. Winn died May 16th 1892

Louisa Yourman? Winn died June 25th 1894

Mary Ann Winn Thompson died Oct 29 1905, the last of the old family

End of the second page. Here is the third page of the Family Register …

Column 1

Archelaus W. Winn was born Nov. 17th 1784

Susanna Ballanfant was born January 23rd 1789

Ebenezer P. Winn was born Aug 17th 1809

James Winn was b. June 26th 1812

John B. Winn Sept. 2nd 1814

Joseph B. Winn Dec. 6 1816

George W. Winn b. Jul 5th 1819

Mary Ann Winn Nov. 23, 1821

Column 2

Louisa Y. Winn 28 Apr 1824

Levin A. Winn 22 Mar 1826

William Alexander Winn Aug 29th 182? 1828?

Franklin L. P. Winn 20 May 1831

Mary Elizabeth Hoskins was b. 21 Dec 1837

F. L. P. Winn and M. E. Hoskins were married 1855

End of the third page of the register. Here is the fourth and final page …

Column 1

Joseph B. Winn died Jan 9th 1828

John B. Winn died Oct 23rd 1855

Ebenezer P. Winn d. 12 Jul 1863

John A. Thompson died Oct 21 1866

William A. Winn d. 12 Dec 1866

Silas D. Thompson d. Nov 8th 1882

Column 2

John Thompson Winn d. July 12, 1932, Bedford Co., TN, son of F.L.P. and M.E. Winn was born Mar 23, 1856.

Walter Salt? Winn son of Livin A. Winn and Marth A. Winn was b. July 2 1864

Emma Ellen Maxwell Winn wife of W. S. Winn was born Oct. 5, 1871

John A. Thompson and Mary A. Winn was married Aug 10th 1852

S.? D. Thompson and Mary A. Thompson m. Dec 13th 1870

E. L. Winn son of J. T. Winn Sr. was born Feb 16 1882

And that’s all of the family information in the Bible. If the spirit moves, I will prepare and post a conventional descendant chart for clarity, along with some additional information from census and other records.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] The Bible is online at the Library of Virginia at this link.

[2] James Winn’s military muster rolls at the National Archives can be viewed  at this link.

[3] Online at FamilySearch.org, United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783: May 1777 muster roll, Sergeant James Winn and Corporal Elisha Winn in Capt. James Johnson’s company of the 6th Virginia Regiment, available here.

Id., Capt. Billy Haley Averys Company of the 6th Virginia Regiment, January 1778, Sergeant James Winn and Corporal Elisha Winn. NARA Series M246, Roll 103, online at this link.

[4] See Valley Forge Muster Roll Project here.

[5] Mattel still manufactures the Magic 8 Ball.

[6] Here is a link to the Find-a-Grave site for Oakwood Cemetery.

QUERY: (1) WHO WAS JOHN WINN d. AMELIA COUNTY 1781 and (2) WAS HE RELATED TO THE LUNENBURG WINNS?

— ANONYMOUS

Hooray! A query via email …

Answer #1: the circumstantial evidence is that Lt. Col. John Winn of Amelia County, Virginia (hereafter “Col. John”)[1] was a son of Richard Winn of Hanover County. Richard’s wife and perhaps John’s mother was Phebe, widow of a Mr. Pledger.

Answer #2: Yes, Amelia John was related to the Winn families of Lunenburg County.

Well. I suppose an explanation and some evidence is in order. Alternatively, we could avoid a lot of footnotes if readers would just accept my version of the facts as readily as people accept unsourced family trees on Ancestry.

No?

I thought not.

For Answer #1, we need to look at records involving Richard Winn of Hanover County. They establish that (1) Richard married Phebe ___ Pledger,[2] (2) he owned land in Amelia County, (3) he didn’t live in Amelia but paid taxes on some enslaved people there, and (4) Col. John subsequently acquired Richard’s tract and the enslaved people, evidently via inheritance.

(1) A 1733 Hanover County lease and release proves Richard Winn’s wife was Phebe, the widow of a Mr. Pledger.[3] We don’t know when Richard and Phebe married, so we can’t be certain that Phebe was the mother of Richard’s children.

(2) In 1744, Richard Winn of Hanover County bought 388 acres in Amelia County in the fork below the Little Nottoway River and Lazaritta Creek.[4] Richard had tithable (taxable) people on that tract in at least 1746, 1748, and 1749, even though he didn’t live in Amelia.[5] In 1749, John Wilke or Wilkes, perhaps Richard’s overseer, was one of his taxables. The two other taxable people with Wilkes were enslaved persons named Harry and Flowrey? The latter name is difficult to read on the film. Turns out it is “Flora,” perhaps pronounced “Flory,” see item (3).

(3) In 1751, the Amelia tax list includes an entry for John (rather than Richard) Winn, with taxables Joseph Wilkes, Harry, Flora, and Jean. Col. John Winn had apparently acquired the tract along with the enslaved people from Richard. There is no Amelia deed for any such purchase. That raises the inference that Col. John acquired the tract and enslaved people via inheritance. Records in Hanover are largely lost, so there is probably no will to be found there.

However, there is other evidence linking Col. John to Hanover. His eldest son Richard Winn[6]  was a Revolutionary War soldier whose widow Jane Pincham Winn applied for a pension for his service. Her application file includes the information that Richard’s father was Col. John Winn (identified by that title) who was born in Hanover County, Virginia.[7]

Other facts for the record … Col. John married Susanna Irby, daughter of Charles Irby Sr., in 1754.[8] John was probably born in the early 1720s and died in January 1781.[9] Col. John’s sister Susanna Winn married John Irby (Susanna Irby Winn’s brother) in 1757.[10] Are we dizzy yet? John and Susannah Winn Irby had children named Charles, Lucey, and John. Another sister, Phebe Winn, was the wife of Michael Holland.[11] The Winns and Irbys of Amelia County played a significant role in proving the Amelia-Lunenburg Winn family connection.

Which brings is to Answer #2, Col. John’s relationship to the Lunenburg Winn families.

The Winn DNA project results table does not include a group identified as descendants of Col. John Winn of Amelia. However, there is a group  designated “Richard Winn … m. Phebe Pledger, Hanover Co. VA.” If you accept that Col. John was a son of Richard of Hanover  with wife Phebe, then the Y-DNA evidence will convince you that Col. John shared a common Winn ancestor with Col. Thomas Winn, Daniel Winn, and John Winn (wife Ann Stone), all of Lunenburg.

Of course, Y-DNA doesn’t identify the nature of their relationships. However, there is compelling circumstantial paper evidence that Col. John of Amelia and Col. Thomas of Lunenburg were brothers. The evidence that Daniel Winn of Lunenberg was another brother is also convincing. I identify five people as children of Richard and (perhaps) Phebe Pledger Winn of Hanover, not necessarily in birth order:

Col. John Winn of Amelia (wife Susanna Irby, daughter of Charles Irby Sr.)

Col. Thomas Winn of Lunenburg (two wives, possibly Miss Bannister and perhaps Sarah Bacon)

Susanna Winn of Amelia (husband John Irby, son of Charles Irby Sr.)

Phebe Winn of Amelia (husband Michael Holland)

Daniel Winn of Lunenburg (wife Sarah, possibly Sarah Tench)

The key to the family relationship between Col. John and  Col. Thomas is Thomas’s Lunenburg will.[12]

Most importantly, Thomas named John Winn of Amelia (expressly described as “of Amelia”) an executor along with his wife Sarah, son William, and Lyddal Bacon. IMO, that is sufficient evidence standing alone that Col. Thomas and Col. John were siblings. The most loved, trusted, and capable members of the testator’s family were usually designated executors. Further, an out-of-county executor was not the norm, because he would necessarily have to travel to administer the estate. Col. Thomas surely named John of Amelia executor out of affection without any expectation that he would perform estate administration duties.

The witnesses to Col. Thomas’s will, who are traditionally also close family members, provide additional evidence that he and Col. John were siblings. Here are the people who witnessed Col. Thomas’s will:

… Members of the Amelia County Irby family, including Susannah Irby, Charles Irby, and Lucy Irby. Susannah was Susannah Winn Irby, proved sister of Col. John. Charles and Lucy Irby were Susannah’s children.[13] Keep in mind that the Irbys had to make a trip across the Nottoway to witness Col. Thomas’s will. One had to witness the will when and where the testator executed it.

… the Winn witnesses were John Winn Jr. and John Winn. As you know if you follow this blog, Lunenburg was awash with Winns named John. That means my opinion is ripe for second-guessing. Because Col. John Winn of Amelia was named executor, I believe that he and his son John Jr. were witnesses.[14]

I have saved the low-hanging (read: easy) fruit for last. Namely, whether Daniel Winn was also a sibling of Col. John, Col. Thomas, Susanna Winn Irby, and Phebe Winn Holland. I will refrain from reciting the many connections between Col. Thomas and Daniel in the Lunenburg deed records. Instead, I offer the following two items.

Naomi Giles Chadwick’s book, Winn – Daniel and His 9 Sons, states without any citation to county records that Col. Thomas testified in a deposition that Joseph Winn, son of Daniel, was his nephew. I haven’t found that deposition. If true, then Daniel Winn and Col. Thomas Winn were brothers.

There is one more will “factoid.” Joseph Winn and Elisha Winn, sons of Daniel Winn, witnessed Col. John Winn’s Amelia County will. All of the other witnesses (with the possible exception of Giles Nance) were Col. John’s close relatives. And, of course, Joseph and Elisha made the trip across the Nottoway to witness their Uncle John’s will.

With that, I’ll move on. More Winns are tugging at my sleeve.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] John Winn was commissioned a Lt. Col. in the Amelia County militia on 23 May 1771. Lloyd Bockstruck, Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988). My Air Force Academy graduate husband tells me that a Lieutenant Colonel is addressed as Colonel. I am doing that in this article.

[2] I am glossing over Phebe Winn’s maiden name in order to avoid a sidetrack into lengthy proof. I believe she was née Wilkes.

[3] Rosalie Edith Davis, Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735: Deeds, Wills and Inventories (1979) 13-14, lease and release from Richard Winn and wife Phebe of Hanover to John Winn, 517 acres with a plantation on Chickahominy Swamp.

[4] Amelia Co., VA Deed Book 2: 82-83, lease and release from Stith Hardaway to Richard Winn of Hanover, 388 acres. The tract was then in Amelia but is now in Nottoway County, about 6 miles north of Effing Creek/Falls Creek/Hounds Creek where the Lunenburg Winns lived.

[5] FHL Film #1,902,616 has Amelia County tax lists including those for 1746, 1748, 1749, and 1751. Two of the tax lists identify his property as “Richard Winn list” or “Richard Wyn’s Quarter,” which means the taxpayer didn’t reside in the county.

[6] Amelia Co., VA Deed Book 15: 6, deed dated 24 Sep 1778 from John Winn of Amelia to his son Richard of same, for love and affection, 400 acres on the south side of John Winn’s mill pond, part of the tract belonging to the late Col. Irby adjacent John Winn and Charles Irby.

[7] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files Vol. 4 (Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). Revolutionary War pension application No. W.6558 by Jane Pincham Winn, widow of Richard Winn, Virginia Line. View it here.. If it is correct that Col. John Winn was born in Hanover rather than a predecessor county, then he was born during or after 1721. Hanover was established in 1721 from part of New Kent County.

[8] My notes indicate that, years ago, Ann Avery Hunter somewhere (!?!) cited the accession number at the Virginia Archives for the marriage bond of John Winn and Susanna Irby, daughter of Charles Irby Sr. The bond was dated 4 Apr 1754. I cannot locate the accession number, nor can I recall where I found the reference. I nevertheless trust Ms. Hunter and my woefully incomplete notes on this fact.

[9] For Col. John’s birth date, see Note 7 saying that he was born in Hanover County. I estimated he was born after 1721 when Hanover was created but during the 1720s because he married in 1754, see Note 8. Colonial men (in my observation) typically married about age 25. His will was proved in January 1781, probably very soon after he died as was the norm. See Note 14.

[10] Amelia Co., VA Will Book 2X: 45, will of John Irby dated and proved in 1763. Executors wife Susannah Irby, “her brother John Winn,” and brother Charles Irby. Children Charles Irby, Lucey Irby, and John Irby. See also Kathleen Booth Williams, Marriages of Amelia County, Virginia 1735-1815 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1978, originally published Alexandria, VA, 1961), John Irby and Susanna Wynne married 29 Jan 1757, surety John Wynn.

[11] Amelia Co., VA Deed Book 8: 314, deposition of John Nance re Michael Holland’s gift of enslaved people to his children Mary and Joseph. Nance testified that Michael Holland’s wife (unnamed) wanted the gift recorded and asked Nance to have her “brother Winn” take care of it. Nance’s testimony proves only that Mrs. Holland was née Winn. However, Susannah Irby, a proved sister of Col. John, also testified on the gift issue. Id. at 315. Finally, Mrs. Holland’s given name was Phebe. Amelia Deed Book 14: 1774 deed from Pheby Holland, widow of Michael Holland, and his son Joseph and wife Mary to Medkip Tomson of Amelia. That combination of facts convinced me that Phebe Holland was Col. John’s sister.

[12] Lunenburg Will Book 3: 75, FamilySearch.org film #32,380, will of Thomas Winn dated 18 Sep 1779, proved 12 Apr 1781. Thomas named six of his eleven children in his will, see the  article about a chancery suit identifying all of his children.

[13] See Note 10.

[14] Col. John Winn had sons Richard, John, and Charles, and a daughter Jane Winn Epes. Amelia Co., VA Will Book 2: 360, will of Col. John Winn dated Mar 1780, proved Jan 1781. He named his wife Susanna (née Irby, daughter of Charles Irby Sr. and wife Susanna), sons Richard, John, and Charles, and daughter Jane Winn Epes. Executors were his wife, Truman Epes, and Charles Winn. Truman Epes was John’s son-in-law. Witnesses were Giles Nance, John Irby, William Gooch, Elisha Winn, Joseph Winn, and Jane Epes. I have long suspected that John Nance or Giles Nance married a Winn, but cannot prove it. John Irby’s wife was Susanna Winn Irby, sister of Col. John. William Gooch married Henrietta Maria Irby in Nov. 1769; Charles Irby testified that Henrietta was 21 and the daughter of Charles Irby Sr. Kathleen Booth Williams, Marriages of Amelia County, Virginia 1735-1815 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1978, originally published Alexandria, VA, 1961).