Revolutionary War Story: Robert Rankin of the Northern Neck (part 4 of 5)

A hoary old joke goes like this: what is the shortest book ever written? Possible answers: Nixon on Ethics or Bill Clinton on Fidelity. A book titled Robert Rankin on His Revolutionary War Service would challenge them for brevity. Everything Robert had to say about himself is contained in nine pages of his 117-page pension file. Many of his words are boilerplate. Worse, some of what he remembered is demonstrably wrong.

You can’t blame Robert for an occasional memory failure, minor error, or uncertainty about his unit assignment. He wasn’t a rear echelon organizational bigshot (there is a precise military term for that, but this is a family blog). He was a sharpshooter, a scout, a guerrilla who harassed British foraging parties, a soldier who guarded his army’s camps and flanks, a brigade forage master, and a line combat officer.

Unfortunately, misinformation provided by Robert and others is compounded by seemingly endless and endlessly confusing military reorganizations. In an effort to promote clarity, I divided Robert’s story into two sections and an “appendix.” The first section is his basic war story. The second section contains Robert’s own words about himself. The appendix explains military reorganizations affecting him.

Section 1: Robert’s war story, CliffsNotes version[1]

Robert enlisted on July 26, 1776[2] as a private in Capt. William Brady’s Company,[3] Col. Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (the “Rifle Regiment”).[4] That means Robert was a skilled marksman, because the Rifle Regiment recruited sharpshooters.[5] Robert’s pension declaration said he enlisted for the term of “during the War,” although company records prove he enlisted for three years.[6] Robert was promoted to Sergeant by at least January 1, 1777 and possibly earlier.[7]

The Rifle Regiment was decimated at Ft. Washington on Dec. 16, 1776.[8] His brother William Rankin, also in Capt. Brady’s Company, was taken prisoner there.[9] Robert wasn’t in that battle, although we don’t know why. Captain Brady wasn’t at Ft. Washington, either.[10]

Robert was in winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey in the winter of 1776-77 during the so-called “Forage War.”[11] He was probably in the battles of Princeton and Trenton in December 1776 and January 1777, respectively.[12] Both were spectacular victories for Washington’s army. Trenton was the famous surprise attack at dawn after crossing the icy Delaware River. Robert also fought at Brandywine on September 11, 1777 (a terrible rout by the British) and Germantown on October 4, 1777 (a somewhat less humiliating loss).[13] Amazingly, the only battle Robert named in his pension application was the Siege of Charleston.

Robert spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge.[14] By the following winter, he was listed on muster rolls as acting Brigade Forage Master in winter camp, located again at Morristown.[15] He was commissioned an Ensign on July 4, 1779, shortly before his original three-year enlistment expired.[16] After that point, he had no “term” of service because commissioned officers serve until they resign or are discharged. Gary, the family military historian, says it is unusual even in wartime for a private to become a commissioned officer.

Less than two weeks later, Robert probably participated in what we would call today an elite temporary unit for a risky mission at Stony Point on July 16, 1779.[17] General “Mad Anthony” Wayne assembled for the assignment a provisional troop of light infantrymen. Wayne and some of the patriots overwhelmed a well-fortified British position with bayonets.

Here’s how they did it.[18] Stony Point was surrounded on three sides by the Hudson River and on the fourth by a marsh. One part of the patriot force feinted a frontal assault across the marsh’s causeway, laying down “a galling fire.” This took place around midnight, at low tide.[19] Two larger parts of the force waded silently through the river to the north and south sides of the hill, carrying unloaded muskets with bayonets affixed. The muskets were not loaded to prevent accidental discharge, which would have ruined the crucial element of surprise. The two patriot forces ascended the hill and overwhelmed the British from both sides. Wow.

In early 1780, Robert’s company was assigned to the enlarged 1st Virginia Regiment. It then began a roughly four-month march to the Siege of Charleston, which was Robert’s last significant military engagement. The siege ended on May 12, 1780 when the entire patriot army defending Charleston surrendered. It was the worst American defeat of the Revolution, with about 6,000 patriots captured.[20]

After the siege, Congress conferred a “brevet” on all participating officers.[21] The brevet designation recognized outstanding service by temporarily promoting an officer to a higher rank. Robert was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant effective January 1, 1780.[22] That is his so-called “date of rank.” Robert thus became a “Brevet Lieutenant” on the date Congress awarded the promotions, but his actual promotion to “Lieutenant” was retroactive to January 1, 1780.

In July 1781, nearly all patriot prisoners in the south were released as part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Britain.[23] Not long after the exchange, Robert went home on furlough to Frederick County, Virginia. He married his fiancé Margaret “Peggy” Berry there on November 1, 1781.[24]

 After Charleston, the Virginia Line essentially ceased to exist.[25] Robert was “reduced” on January 1, 1783.[26] That means he was listed as a surplus officer having no assignment. In the final “arrangement” of the Virginia Line, Robert was the 37th Lieutenant out of sixty based on the Lieutenants’ dates of rank. Put another way, there were 36 Lieutenants who would have been offered an assignment ahead of Robert. The odds are that Robert never had another duty assignment after the exchange of prisoners from Charleston. He was officially discharged on January 1, 1783.[27]

Along the way, Robert served in Stephenson’s (Rawlings’) Rifle Regiment and the 11th, 7th, and 1st Virginia Regiments. All regimental changes were due to reorganizations. He had five different company commanders we can identify. He only actually changed companies once, and that was when he was commissioned an Ensign.

Here is what Robert himself said …

Section 2: Robert’s pension file declarations

Robert made two sworn declarations, one for a pension and one for a land warrant. He also wrote an unsworn letter supporting the former.

Below is a verbatim transcription of part of Robert’s declaration of July 26, 1828, including a strikethrough in the original. I have omitted boilerplate and material irrelevant to his war story. I inserted footnotes to correct the errors or ambiguous statements noted in boldface.

“ … I, Robert Rankins, of the County of Washington, in the state of Alabama, do hereby declare, that I was an Officer in the Continental Line of the Army of the Revolution, and served as such to the end of the War,[28] and also to the time when the arrangement of the army provided by the Resolves of Congress of the 3rd and 21st of October, 1780, were carried into effect, and was reduced under that arrangement, at which periods I was a Lieutenant in the Third Regiment[29] of the  Virginia line.

“… And I do further declare, that I was one of the officers who served under, and was captured with, Major General Lincoln at the Siege of Charleston, South Carolina, and that every officer in the Army of the said General Lincoln in reward for the signal services rendered by them at that memorable siege Defence was promoted a Grade higher by a Resolve of Congress, but I cannot remember, at this distance of time, whether the Said officers were regularly commissioned, or not. But if my Commission as a Lieutenant, (the grade to which I had been promoted) was ever received, it has, in the long lapse of fifty years, been either lost or mislaid, or destroyed by time or accident, so that it cannot now be produced.

                                        Robert Rankins

Sworn to & subscribed before me this 26th July 1828.” Wm Grimes, clerk of court.

Robert also wrote an unsworn letter dated July 1828 in support of his application with a “few explanatory remarks.” Here are relevant parts.

“… I embarked in the services of the United States, in the capacity of an Ensign in a Regiment of the Virginia Line upon the Continental Establishment (the number of which I do not now distinctly recollect) … A short time after the formation[30] of the said Regiment it was ordered to the South[31] under the command of Majr Gen Lincoln where it was captured, with his whole army, at the surrender of Charleston … [Thereafter, Congress] passed a Resolve raising each officer a grade higher or rather conferring upon them Brevets, and holding them in reserve to fill any vacancies that might thereafter occur in the Army.”

“I have never wanted and never sought relief from my Country, and nothing but the helplessness of age with unlooked for poverty[32] forces me now to ask a portion of the munificence extended by the government.”

Robert made a second sworn declaration in September 1828 in support of a request for a “Bounty Land Warrant.” The underlining and strikethrough are exactly as they appear in the original.

“The State of Alabama

County of Washington

“I, Robert Rankins, aged Seventy five years, do, upon oath, testify and declare, that in the year, one thousand seven hundred and seventy six – I entered the service of the United States for the term of “during the War” in the Third Regiment (to the best of my recollection) under the command of Colonel Hugh Stevenson – of the Virginia Line, and that I continued in the service aforesaid until the close of the War.[33] I do further declare that I entered a private and was afterwards promoted to the rank of Ensign and, before the close of the War, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, in which capacity I was disbanded or deranged after the conclusion of Peace.”[34]

“Signed, Robert Rankins”

The clerk’s attestation is dated September 18, 1828.

Finally, for the hard-core military historians, here is how Robert’s units were shuffled.

Appendix: military reorganizations affecting Robert

There were three military reorganizations which made it difficult to track Robert’s service: (1) the reorganization of the Rifle Regiment after the battle of Ft. Washington; (2) the 1778 reduction in the number of Virginia Line regiments from fifteen to eleven; and (3) the 1779 reduction of the Virginia Line from eleven regiments to four.

… the Rifle Regiment and its assignment to the 11th Virginia in February, 1777

Robert and his brother William enlisted in 1776 in one of the four newly recruited Virginia companies in the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, AKA Stephenson’s Regiment (later Rawlings’ Regiment). As noted, it was not part of a Virginia Line regiment. Stephenson’s regiment also included a veteran Virginia rifle company under Capt. Abraham Shepherd. The four newly created companies of Virginians were commanded by (1) Capt. William Blackwell (Lt. John Marshall, future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was second in command, and Robert was not in this company), (2) Capt. Gabriel Long, (3) Capt. Adam West, and (4) Capt. William Brady.

With two exceptions, the Virginia companies in the Rifle Regiment fought and were decimated at Ft. Washington on November 16, 1776. First, Capt. Blackwell’s company (including Lt. Marshall) didn’t reach New Jersey until April 1777, when the main army was in winter quarters at Morristown.[35] Upon arrival, Blackwell’s company was attached to the 11th Virginia Regiment and was never in an engagement as part of the Rifle Regiment. Second, most of Capt. Long’s company did not arrive until after the battle at Ft. Washington.[36]

That left Brady’s, Shepherd’s, West’s, and part of Long’s companies to participate in the awful defeat at Ft. Washington.[37] After that battle, Gen. Washington reorganized the few Rifle Regiment soldiers still fit for service (i.e., alive and not a prisoner). He created two “composite” rifle companies, one composed of Marylanders and the second of Virginians. Capt. Gabriel Long commanded the latter, and Robert Rankin was in his company along with the remainder of his own, Shepherd’s, West’s, and Brady’s companies.[38]

In February 1777, the 11th Virginia regiment was organized. Long’s composite rifle company with Robert Rankin was one of the nine companies assigned to the regiment. Capt. Long’s pay and muster rolls continued to include men identified as being from Shepherd’s, West’s, and Brady’s companies. After Long resigned, Robert remained in the same company under different commanders until he was promoted to Ensign on July 4, 1779. He was then assigned to Capt. William Johnston’s company. He was almost certainly still with Capt. Johnston at Charleston, but there are two more reorganizations to go through before we get there.

… the September 1778 rearrangement of the Virginia Line, effective May 12, 1779.

In response to the expiration of enlistment terms and other manpower losses, the 1778 rearrangement reduced the number of regiments in the Virginia Line from fifteen to eleven. You might want to take a Dramamine here. The 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th Regiments were combined with the depleted 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments (not in respective order) to restore the latter to full manpower. The former 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th regiments then ceased to exist. The 1st through 4th retained their numbers. The other seven remaining regiments – the 7th, 10th, and 11th through 15th – were renumbered. The 11th Virginia then became the 7th. As a result, Robert Rankin was now serving in the 7th Virginia, where he remained until the next rearrangement. When he was commissioned an Ensign on July 4th, 1779, he was assigned to Capt. William Johnston’s company, still in the 7th Virginia.

… the 1779 rearrangement.

The Virginia Line was reorganized yet again shortly before the march to Charleston. In late 1779, ten regiments of the Virginia Line[39] were consolidated into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments.  Companies from the regiments formerly designated 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th were folded into the 1st Virginia Regiment. Ensign Robert Rankin, soon to be Brevet Lieutenant Robert Rankin, was still in Capt. Johnston’s company in the 7th Virginia Regiment as of November 1779.[40] Robert was almost certainly still in Capt. Johnston’s company in the enlarged 1st Virginia Regiment at Charleston. Gary says the odds are slim to none that Ensign Rankin was assigned to any other company or regiment. Capt. William Johnson’s Company in the 1st Regiment of the Virginia Line was among the patriot reinforcements arriving in Charleston on April 8, 1780 and surrendered on May 12.[41]

And that is it for reorganizations. I wish Robert had written his memoirs and provided detail on the battles he was in. While he was at it, he might have identified his parents and siblings. No such luck. We are on our own on that question. Next up: a quest for his family of origin and a look at his family’s oral history.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] CAVEAT: Gary and I are not historians, although he published an award-winning history of the unit in which he served in Vietnam (Red Markers, Close Air Support for the Vietnamese Airborne, 1962–1975). We are family history hobbyists fond of obscure records. As for this article, some information is from Robert and Peggy’s pension application file, designated “Rankins, Robert No. W26365 or Rankin, Peggy B.L.Wt. 1380-200” (cited herein as “Robert Rankin’s pension application file”). Evidence also includes muster and pay rolls, other original military records, and published histories.

[2] United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Familysearch.org, Film/Fiche No. 7197156, image 395. Muster roll dated Sept. 1778 for Capt. Charles Porterfield’s Co., 11th Virginia Regiment, says that Sgt. Robert Rankins enlisted for three years on July 26, 1776. Hereafter, I will cite this simply as War Rolls, identifying the film/fiche and image numbers.

[3] War Rolls, Film/Fiche Number No. 7197155, images 590-591. Payroll dated 1 May 1777 for “pay and subsistence to 1 May 1777.” Sgt. Robert Rankins of Capt. Brady’s company listed on roll for Capt. Gabriel Long’s composite rifle company.

[4] Robert Rankin’s pension application file, declaration dated 18 Sep 1828, says he enlisted in Stephenson’s Regiment as a private. Images of Robert’s entire pension file are available for a fee from Fold.3 at ancestry.com.

[5] Part 2 of this series has information about Stephenson’s Rifle Regiment.

[6] See Note 2.

[7] See Note 3. Robert’s pay was £3 per month, the same as other Sergeants. Since that May 1, 1777 payroll was £12 for four months, he was a Sergeant by at least January 1, 1777. Robert may have become a Sergeant before Brady’s company ever left Virginia, since enlisted men sometimes elected their own non-commissioned officers. E.g., Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown (Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, 1910), p. 80, online here.

[8]  Part 2  of this series has information about Ft. Washington. So does Part 3,  which is about William Rankin’s Revolutionary War service.

[9] Id. See also William Rankin’s pension application. His declaration in support filed Nov. 22, 1833 said he enlisted in Capt. Brady’s Company, Stephenson’s Regiment, and that he was taken prisoner when Ft. Washington surrendered.

[10] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 275, “Arrangement of the officers of the 11th Virginia Regiment” (undated, probably about June 1777). It states that “William Brady was a Captain in the 11th Regiment and has never done any duty. Absented himself without leave.”

[11] 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), p. 21, available online at this link. Units which performed skirmishing duties in the first half of 1777 included Gabriel Long’s composite rifle company. Sgt. Robert Rankin was in the composite company during this time. See War Rolls, Film/Fiche Number No. 7197155, images 590-591, payroll dated 1 May 1777 for “pay and subsistence to 1 May 1777.” Sgt. Robert Rankins of Brady’s company is listed on Capt. Gabriel Long’s composite rifle company payroll.

[12][12] Robert’s widow Peggy didn’t include either Trenton or Princeton in a list of Robert’s battles. Nevertheless, it is likely that the remaining soldiers of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment were engaged in those battles. One “return of the forces” record dated Dec. 22, 1776 appears to include the remnants of the Rifle Regiment “on the banks of the Delaware in the State of Pennsylvania.” Hentz, Unit History of the Mawinterryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment at page 14, note 59. The Battle of Trenton, on the other side of the river, was four days later on Dec. 26, 1776; Princeton was on Jan. 3, 1777. It is almost inconceivable that the soldiers camped on the Delaware River didn’t participate in those two battles. However, the “return” does not identify company captains or enlisted men. It does say there were 108 men fit for combat and two Captains. This profile “fits” with how the two composite rifle companies would have looked after the Battle of Ft. Washington, taking losses into account. The two composite companies were Capt. Alexander Lawson Smith’s (the remaining Marylanders from the Rifle Regiment) and Capt. Gabriel Long’s (the remaining Virginians). Robert Rankin was in Capt. Long’s composite company.

[13] Robert Rankin’s pension application file, declaration of Peggy Rankin of Liberty Co., TX dated March 22, 1844. She said Robert fought at Brandywine, Princeton, Stony Point, and Charleston.

[14] War Rolls, Film/Fiche Number No. 7197155, image 578. A muster Roll for February 1778 for Capt. Philip Slaughter’s company (formerly Capt. Gabriel Long’s company) in the 11th Virginia Regiment stated it was taken at Valley Forge. The list of soldiers includes Sgt. Robert Rankin.

[15] Id., Film/Fiche No. 7197156, image 395. Muster roll for September 1778, Capt. Porterfield’s company, Col. Daniel Morgan’s regiment. Sgt. Robert Rankins was acting as Brigade Forage Master, abbreviated “Act as B.F.M.” For more information, see a resolution of Congress regarding  forage master duties.

[16] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 373. Arrangement of the Field Officers and Captains in the 7th Regiment of the Virginia Line states Ensign Robert Rankin’s date of rank was July 4, 1779.

[17] We found no muster roll or other record identifying the soldiers at Stony Point. The only evidence that Robert participated so far as we know is Peggy Rankin’s pension declaration. She had considerable credibility with the judge who took her declaration, who noted her remarkable memory and knowledge of the war.

[18] Samuel W. Pennypacker, “The Capture of Stony Point,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 26, No. 3 (1902), pp. 360-369, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.  A PDF   can be downloaded from JSTOR.

[19] Yes, the Hudson River is tidal  from its mouth upstream for 153 miles. Stony Point is 38 miles upstream of the river’s mouth.

[20] Estimates vary of the number of American troops surrendered at Charleston. One source One source says that an army of “roughly 5,000 men ceased to exist” when Gen. Lincoln surrendered. Carl Borick, who seems to be the leading authority on the Siege of Charleston, says some 6,000 Continentals, militia, and seamen were captured when Charleston surrendered. Carl P. Borick, Relieve Us of this Burthen (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2012). “Burthen” is not a typo.

[21] Robert Rankin’s pension application, declaration dated 26 July 1828.

[22] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 395-398, numerical list dated Jan. 1, 1783 of the redundant junior officers in each grade in the Virginia Line. Date of commission for Robert Rankins was Jan. 1, 1780. He was number 37 out of 60 Lieutenants based on date of rank.

[23] Mark Berry article  in “The College Today,” the news site of the College of Charleston, June 25, 2015.

[24] Robert’s pension application file, declaration of Peggy Rankin of Liberty Co., TX dated March 22, 1844. She testified that she and Robert, having been previously engaged, married in Frederick Co., VA on 1 Nov 1781. She believed he was then on a furlough of 60 days.

[25] By the end of 1782, only 730 officers and enlisted men remained active in the Virginia Line. That number is roughly normal manning for only one regiment, compared to fifteen regiments comprising the Line at one time. War Rolls, 1775-1783, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 391, “Arrangement Review Board Proceedings” dated January 1, 1783.

[26] Robert Rankin’s pension application, declaration dated July 26, 1828.

[27] Id., Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 449, list of the officers “deranged” (discharged) on Jan. 1, 1783, included Lt. Robert Rankins, due $80 for 1782 and nothing for 1783.

[28] What on earth did Robert mean by “the end of the war”? He was discharged on Jan.1, 1783. See Note 27.  The “Preliminary Anglo-American Peace Treaty” was signed in Paris on November 30, 1782. Gen. Washington issued the “Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities” (“an extra ration of liquor for every man”!!) on April 18, 1783. The Treaty of Paris was signed September 3, 1783 and ratified by the Senate January 14, 1784. Peggy testified that her marriage to Robert took place on November 1, 1781, “nearly a year before his service expired.” That suggests she thought his service was over by November 1782. My bet is he had come home to stay about then. He had no assignment at that time and probably no expectation that he would receive one.

[29] For a discussion of Robert’s regimental assignment as a Lieutenant, see the text accompanying Notes 39 and 40, infra. The records establish he was in the 1st Regiment rather than the 3rd.

[30] Gary would scold Robert for using the term “formation” in the context of the Virginia Line Regiments that were “ordered to the South” under General Lincoln. Every time I tried to write “newly formed” or “newly created,” Gary got out his red pen. “A regiment by that number already existed,” he would say. “The existing regiment was just enlarged.” The only time “newly created” was appropriate in this article was to describe the four Virginia companies recruited for the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment in 1776.

[31] See text accompanying Notes 39 and 40, infra. In his July 26 declaration, Robert said he was with the 3rd when his service ended. In this letter, also written in 1828, he cannot recall the number of the regiment that was ordered to the south. Ensign Rankin almost certainly marched to Charleston and fought there with the 1st Virginia Regiment, not the 3rd. Likewise, Lieutenant Rankin ended his service in the 1st.

[32] The letter reveals he was suffering “unlooked for poverty” by 1828, a fact confirmed by other documents in Robert’s pension file. One historian says Robert had a financial reversal around 1819-1820, probably in conjunction with land speculation and the panic of 1819. Ann Patton Malone, Handbook of Texas Online, “RANKIN, ROBERT.” Given his brother William’s statement that he (William) engaged in a good deal of land trading, land speculation and plummeting land values seem a likely cause of Robert’s poverty. See William Rankin’s pension application, declaration filed Nov. 22, 1833.

[33] Robert’s use of the phrases “close of the war” and “conclusion of the peace” in this letter raises the same questions as the phrase “end of the War.” See Note 28.

[34] Stephenson’s/Rawlings’ Regiment, AKA the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, was not part of the Virginia Line. It reported to Congress and was independent of any state regulation. Note that Robert correctly struck through “3rd” in this declaration.

[35] Hentz, Unit History of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, pp. 15-16. Blackwell’s company was still in Philadelphia receiving smallpox inoculations in March 1777 after moving up from Virginia. It joined the main army at Morristown in April.

[36] An advance element of 13 men from Long’s company reached New York ahead of the rest. A muster roll of Long’s company in April 1778 states those 13 men were captured. War Rolls, Film/fiche number 7197155, image 551.

[37] A 1778 report by Col. Moses Rawlings (Stephenson’s successor) names Rifle Regiment officers who died or were taken prisoner at Ft. Washington. Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, p. 13. Based on other information in that report, Gary estimates that 264 out of 297 riflemen engaged at Ft. Washington were killed or captured.

[38] The muster and pay rolls for Long’s composite company had a strange format. Rolls were titled “Capt. Gabriel Long’s Company,” but each also contained a listing of the names of soldiers in Captains Shepherd’s, West’s, and Brady’s companies — generally not more than a dozen men from each company. From the army’s standpoint, a soldier enlisted in Brady’s company remained in Brady’s company and was thereafter considered (in Robert Rankin’s case, for example) attached to Long’s company.

[39] The remaining regiment in the then 11-regiment Virginia Line was stationed at Ft. Pitt.

[40] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197152, image 330. Nov. 1779 muster roll of Capt. William Johnston’s Company in the 7th Virginia Regiment, junior officers included Ensign Robert Rankins.

[41] Capt. William Johnston’s Company, 1st Virginia Regiment, 1st Virginia Brigade is listed among patriot reinforcements here.

Revolutionary War Story: William Rankin of Virginia’s Northern Neck (part 3 of 5)

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

Let’s turn to their individual war stories in parts 3 and 4 of this series.  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 is awesome. His military service had been over for fifty-four years and four months when he made his application declaration in November 1833 from Mason County, Kentucky. Here is what his declaration said, in part:

  • 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 got 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.

OK, that gets us up to the point in Part 2 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 the remains of Rawlings’ Regiment at Ft. Frederick in Frederick, MD.[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 “that 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 18. 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 on these Rankins.

William may not have identified his parents, but at least his file proves a brother, who comprises 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, 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 18-year-old William Rankin may have enlisted in Berkeley County, but he went marching off to war from Frederick County – to be exact, from Thomas Berry’s house. I will bet a big stack of genealogical chips that Jane Berry and her sister Peggy, both still single, watched Robert Rankin (who was then engaged to Peggy)[17] and his brother William march off to war from their father Thomas Berry’s house in Frederick County. That is a nice visual image – two sisters and two brothers.[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 tells us William probably wasn’t living in Frederick County before the war. William was definitely in Frederick by at least 1792, though, because a Frederick County lease and release[20] says William was “of Frederick” in that year. The deeds also prove William had a wife named Mary Ann and a son named Harrison.[21] Thomas Berry was a witness to those two 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 the financial undoing of his brother Robert. 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 memory fogged up a bit. He said he “could not recollect but possibly the latter.” He probably got land warrants but “having traded so much in that business cannot speak certainly.”

William was certainly wealthy by the standards of the day, when wealth was measured in part by ownership of enslaved persons. The 1836 inventory of William’s estate included twenty enslaved persons.[23] The current account of his estate in November 1839 shows 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 the records I have accessed.[25] He died intestate in Mason County on April 12, 1836, leaving a widow and children to collect the remainder of his pension.[26] Unfortunately, William’s pension file doesn’t name them.[27] William may be buried in the Old Washington Cemetery (AKA the Washington Baptist Church Cemetery) in Mason County. [28] The 1810 through 1830 census records for Mason County suggest he had as many as ten children, although I can only prove three (a number of other Rankins were purchasers at his estate sale, and they probably include some children):

  • Harrison Rankin, who was born by 1792 in Frederick Co., Virginia, is conclusively proved by a lease and release.[29] He is most likely the same man who appeared in the 1850 census in Scott County, Kentucky at age 58. He was a merchant, lived in Georgetown, had at least four children, and last appeared in the Scott County census in 1870.[30]
  • John L. Rankin was one administrator of William’s estate.[31] I have not been able to track him with confidence.
  • Robert P. Rankin was also an administrator. He probably moved at some point to Scott County along with Harrison, although I haven’t found Robert in the census there. Some Robert P. Rankin is buried in the Georgetown Cemetery,  b. 1805 – d. 1892. It is also possible that Robert P. Rankin was the man by that name who married Mary C. Withers in April 1832 in Bourbon Co., KY.

If you have evidence for any other children, please post a comment! It would be wonderful to find a living male Rankin descendant from William’s line who would take a YDNA test.

May you rest in peace, William. And now … on to your famous brother in part 4 of this series.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Gary and I found no military records to prove Robert’s location in 1776 except for the locations mention in William’s pension application. 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), p. 12, Note 50, at this link. Perhaps Robert was actually in the battle, but was neither killed nor captured? Statistically, that is highly unlikely.

[2] William’s pension application declaration expressly stated that he enlisted in Brady’s company. Robert’s declaration didn’t name a company. 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 Long’s composite rifle company rolls.

[3] Information about William Rankin’s military history is largely taken from his pension application file, available for a fee at Fold3 on Ancestry.com. I made screen shots of many of the original images at Fold3 (available free at Clayton Library), but they rarely include 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.

[4] William’s pension declaration echoes the history of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, some of which was the subject part 2 of this series.

[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] https://revolutionarywar.us, discussion of “Prisoner of War Facts,” which 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, Frederick Co., and was apparently acquainted with the Rankin family. https://emergingrevolutionarywar.org/2019/05/27/george-washington-daniel-morgan-and-winchester-virginia-on-memorial-day/

[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 must have recovered nicely from his prison ordeal.

[13] William Rankin’s pension file, affidavit of Thomas Jones. I took a few 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. at Will Book E: 17 et seq. Thomas named his daughter Peggy, who married Col. Robert Rankin (his rank in the KY militia, not the Revolutionary War), and his daughter Jane, who married John Kercheval. Thomas left part of his land in Mason County to Peggy and Jane.

[17] Pension file of Rankins, Robert No. W26365 or Rankin, Peggy B.L.Wt. 1380-200, images of originals available from Fold3.com at Ancestry. 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 provide confirmation. Of course, my mental image of that event is pure speculation.

[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 normal conveyance of land in fee simple.

[21] See Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 24A: 152, 155, lease and release (essentially a conveyance) 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, wife Mary Ann Rankin, and son Harrison Rankin. One witness was Thomas Berry.

[22] William Rankin’s pension file, his 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] I haven’t been to the Mason county courthouse or anyplace where one can access land records online. 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] I cannot find a distribution in the Mason County will books, which would provide conclusive proof of William’s heirs.

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

[29] See Note 21, which should be the 1792 lease for life and & release.

[30] 1850 census, Scott Co., KY, dwelling 20, Harrison Rankin, 58, merchant, Betsey Rankin 48, KY, Martha Rankin 28, Elizabeth Rankin 22, Rufus Rankin 17, and Elizabeth Rankin 8; 1870 census, Georgetown, Scott Co., KY, dwelling 160, Harrison Rankin, 78, b. VA, $5,000/3,000, dry goods merchant, Elizabeth Rankin, 68 KY, Martha Rankin, 44 KY, Rufus Rankin, 35, KY, Lizzie Kenney, 28. Also listed in Harrison’s household: Paul Rankin, 46, doctor, b. KY. Underneath Paul’s name: William Rankin 20, Bettie Rankin 13, and Malvina Rankin 11.

[31] Mason Co., KY Will Book K: 448.

Two Revolutionary War stories: Robert and William Rankin of Virginia (part 2 of 5)

By Robin Rankin Willis and Gary Noble Willis

Sometimes military experience is essential. I enlisted former USAF Captain Gary Willis to help untangle the Revolutionary War records of two brothers from the Northern Neck of Virginia: Robert and William Rankin. They took wildly different tracks in the war, although they enlisted in the same company in 1776.

Our initial objective was to examine the accuracy of family oral history about Robert’s war experience. Somewhere along the research trail, we fell in love with the Rankins’ war stories and the underlying military history.[1] Here they are.[2] This post will be one of three posts (with parts 3 and 4) on the Rankin brothers’ military history. Part 5 will conclude with the vexing last question: the identity of their family of origin.

Background: Hugh Stephenson’s/Moses Rawlings’ Independent Rifle Regiment

The history begins in June 1775, when the Continental Congress directed the raising of ten independent companies of riflemen from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. “Independent” means that the companies reported to national rather than state authority and were not attached to another state regiment. Two Virginia companies were raised in Berkeley and Frederick Counties, a stone’s throw from where the Rankins lived. They were commanded by Hugh Stephenson and Daniel Morgan, whose names appear in the pension applications of the two Rankins.[3]

Rifle companies had different equipment and roles than other units. Regular infantry soldiers carried British-made smooth bore “Brown Bess” muskets having a range of about 100 yards.[4] They were not very accurate even within that range. However, they were deadly when fired en masse at an oncoming enemy formation. They could be reloaded rapidly: a trained soldier could load and fire one three to four times in a minute. For the conventional warfare of the times – successive massed formations advancing toward opposing massed formations – the Brown Bess was made to order.

In contrast, the rifle companies were equipped with American long rifles (AKA Kentucky long rifles). They were accurate up to 200 yards, but could not be reloaded as rapidly as the Brown Bess. The rifle’s advantages in range and accuracy were also offset by the fact that it could not mount a bayonet and was therefore not effective in close combat.

The rifle companies’ role was different than the musket companies. Riflemen normally provided scouting duties and guarded the main army’s flanks or fixed encampments such as Valley Forge. They were especially effective in patrols that remained out of musket range and harassed enemy foraging parties seeking supplies. As you might expect, rifle company recruits were skilled sharpshooters.

One rather florid history describes the Virginia riflemen and their uniforms like so:

“Volunteers [in the original 1775 Virginia rifle companies] presented themselves from every direction in the vicinity of [Shepherdstown and Winchester, VA]; none were received but young men of Character, and of sufficient property to Clothe themselves completely, find their own arms, and accoutrements, that is, an approved Rifle, handsome shot pouch, and powder-horn, blanket, knapsack, with such decent clothing as should be prescribed, but which was at first ordered to be only a Hunting shirt and pantaloons, fringed on every edge, and in Various Ways.”[5]

In July 1776, the Continental Congress authorized raising six new independent rifle companies. A total of nine companies, including three remaining from 1775 and those raised in 1776, comprised the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. Five of the nine companies were from the area where the Rankins lived in Virginia.

The regiment was originally commanded by Col. Hugh Stephenson and was commonly called “Stephenson’s Regiment.” When he died in August or September 1776, Lt. Col Moses Rawlings assumed command and the regiment became known as “Rawlings’ Regiment.” Captains Thomas West, William Brady, Gabriel Long, William Blackwell, and Abraham Shepherd commanded the five Virginia companies.

The company commanders are significant because our family history objective required identifying the companies in which William Rankin, Robert Rankin, and John Marshall (the future Chief Justice of the USCT) served. Two of them were easy. One of Capt. Blackwell’s junior officers when the company was formed in 1776 was Lt. John Marshall.[6] Documents in William Rankin’s pension application file state he was in Capt. William Brady’s company.[7] Only Robert Rankin’s company took some digging. Payroll and muster roll records establish he was in Capt. Brady’s company with his brother.[8]

 The rifle regiment’s first significant engagement was the Battle of Ft. Washington on November 16, 1776.[9] The fort was located at a high point near the north end of Manhattan Island. It overlooked the Hudson River to the west, providing an ideal vantage point for artillery harassment of British ships.[10]  Rawlings’ Regiment occupied an outpost north of the main fort. The riflemen repelled several bayonet charges by massed German mercenaries throughout the day. Vastly outnumbered, Rawlings ordered their retreat to the fort. About 2,800 surviving defenders, including 235 in Rawlings’ Regiment, were surrendered. It was a devastating loss in George Washington’s defense of New York. Shortly thereafter, he retreated from a position across the Hudson and began moving his army to northern New Jersey.

Prisoners taken at Ft. Washington suffered horribly. British treatment was brutal. Prisoners were initially crowded into jails, churches, sugar houses, and other large buildings in New York, including Columbia College.[11] Some were transferred to British ships, where conditions were also notoriously bad. By the end of 1776, the British held about 5,000 prisoners (including those from Ft. Washington) in New York City.[12] Approximately four out of five did not survive captivity. Most died of starvation or disease.

 Two of Rawlings’ five Virginia rifle companies did not participate at Ft. Washington.  Capt. William Blackwell’s company (with Lt. John Marshall) didn’t complete recruiting in Virginia until early 1777.[13] By the time Blackwell’s company arrived at the army’s winter camp near Morristown, it was assigned to the 11th Virginia Regiment. It never fought as part of Rawlings’ Regiment.[14] Most of Captain Gabriel Long’s company were still in Virginia on Nov. 21, 1776, days after the battle.[15]

They were fortunate, because the rifle companies which fought at Ft. Washington were decimated.[16] Roughly 90% of the participating riflemen (including men from both Virginia and Maryland companies) were either killed or captured.[17] Captains West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s companies were in New York by November 13, 1776. All three were in in the battle[18].

Capt. William Brady is of particular interest because both William and Robert Rankin were in his company.  He was a bad choice for a commander. Brady was not in the battle himself. He resigned his commission in disgrace in March 1777. A mid-1777 report by Col. Daniel Morgan, who then commanded the regiment that included the remnants of Rawlings’ Regiment, said that Brady “had never done any duty,” “absented himself without leave,” and “is said to have behaved in an infamous manner.”[19] The only reason we can imagine he wasn’t court martialed is that he was back in Virginia.

William Rankin was one of Capt. Brady’s men who was taken prisoner at Ft. Washington.[20] He was 17 or 18 at the time.[21] His brother Robert was not in that battle, although payroll and muster records prove he was also in Brady’s company.[22] Ironically, the fact that William was a Ft. Washington prisoner but Robert was not is the decisive factor that led the Rankins’ war stories to take divergent paths.

With that background, it is time to turn our attention to the two Rankins individually. Parts 3 of 5 (William) and 4 of 5 (Robert) will cover their histories.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] This article is based on information obtained primarily from these sources: (1) muster roll and payroll records from the National Archives and Records Administration (digitized images available at FamilySearch.com); (2) 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) at this link; (3) Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown (Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, 1910) online here; (4) Robert K. Wright Jr., The Continental Army (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2006); and (5) the original Revolutionary War pension files of Robert/Peggy Rankin and William Rankin.

[2] Neither Gary nor I are historians. As the list of sources in Note 1 suggests, we assemble what we think is credible information from actual histories. The only primary sources we had were payroll, muster, and other records from NARA.

[3] Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, p. 78-79. Hugh Stephenson’s name appears in the pension applications of both Robert and William Rankin. Daniel Morgan’s name appears in William’s. Both Stephenson and Morgan were acquaintances of the Rankins and lived in the same general area as they did.

[4] Information on rifles and muskets is from websites here and here.

[5] Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, p. 79.

[6] Lt. Marshall was consistently listed on Capt. Blackwell’s pay and muster rolls until Blackwell resigned in January 1778. United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Familysearch.org, FHL film/fiche number 7197155, image 274 (cited hereafter as “United States Revolutionary War Rolls, FHL film/fiche number ______, image ____.”). Marshall became the commander of Blackwell’s former company by no later than August 1778. United States Revolutionary War Rolls, FHL film/fiche number 7197156, image 223.

[7] Pension Application file of William Rankin, No. 25274, contains notes on the second page in official handwriting that William was a private in Capt. Brady’s company in a regiment commanded by Hugh Stephenson. William’s sworn statement made in Mason Co., KY in 1833 also states he enlisted in Capt. Brady’s company in Stephenson’s Regiment. William Rankin’s Pension Application, Fold3.com at pp. 1, 3. So far as I know, Fold3.com is the only online source for original pension file images. Accessing them requires a premium subscription to Ancestry.com.

[8] See, e.g., muster roll dated 16 May 1777 for Capt. Gabriel Long’s company at camp near Bound Brook, NJ, with detachments from Capt. West’s, Shepherd’s and Brady’s companies, in the 11th VA Regiment commanded by Col. Daniel Morgan. Sergeant Robert Rankin is listed as a member of Capt. Brady’s company, attached to Long’s company. United States Revolutionary War Records, FHL film/fiche number 7197155, image 551. We found no muster or pay rolls for 1776 naming individual soldiers. By May 1777, the remains of Rawlings’ Rifle Regiment were assigned to the 11th Virginia Regiment. The remaining riflemen after Ft. Washington had been assigned to either a composite rifle company (such as the one in which Sgt. Rankin is listed, above), or a provisional rifle company. Both were commanded by Captain Gabriel Long.

[9] There were about 3,000 defenders at Ft. Washington against 8,000 British troops. There is an old painting of Ft. Washington overlooking the river at this link. Gary and our sons Burke and Ryan would put this painting in a general category they call “Ships on Fire.” See, e.g., Édouard Manet’s painting painting  of the 1864 battle between the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama off the Cherbourg Peninsula, which is the origin of that “category.” It is part of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

[10] The site of Fort Washington is now Bennett Park on Fort Washington Avenue between West 183rd and 185th Streets, a few blocks north of the George Washington Bridge. The locations of the fort’s walls are marked in the park by stones. Nearby is a tablet indicating that it is the highest natural point on Manhattan Island, a prime reason for the fort’s location.

[11] Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, p. 166-67.

[12] For a discussion of prisoner of wars facts, see  this link.

[13] Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, p. 16, Note 67, which says the company “had difficulty recruiting even close to full strength, with the effort extending into early 1777.” Blackwell’s Company did not join the Main Army until April 1777, when the army was still in winter quarters near Morristown. Id. at p. 15.

[14] Id. at p. 16, Note 67. Blackwell’s company arrived at Morristown as the sixth company of the 11th Virginia Regiment, having never “taken up arms” as part of Rawlings’ Regiment.

[15] An advance element of 13 men from Long’s company reached New York ahead of the rest and was captured at Ft. Washington. A muster roll of Long’s company in April 1778 states those 13 men were captured. United States Revolutionary War Rolls, film/fiche number 7197155, image 551.

[16] We found no list of all Ft. Washington prisoners by name. However, a 1778 report by Col. Moses Rawlings about his regiment names company officers who died or were taken prisoner. Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, p. 13 (hereafter, “Rawlings’ Report”). The report establishes that West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s Companies were in the battle, as was part of Long’s Company.

[17] Based on information in Rawlings’ Report, Gary estimates that 264 out of 297 riflemen engaged at Ft. Washington were killed or captured.

[18] Rawlings Report states that West’s three junior officers were all taken prisoner, as were Capt. Shepherd and two of his three junior officers. One of Brady’s three junior officers was killed and one was captured. After Ft. Washington, the men in those three rifle companies who were neither killed nor captured were initially attached to a composite rifle company commanded by Capt. Long.

[19] United States Revolutionary War Rolls, FHL film/fiche number 7197160, image 275.

[20] William Rankin’s Pension Application, Fold3.com at p. 3.

[21] Id. William stated he was age 74 when he applied in November 1833.

[22] It isn’t clear why Robert Rankin was not in the battle at Ft. Washington. He may have been across the Hudson River at Ft. Lee. All three of the Virginia companies who fought at Ft. Washington (West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s) were at Ft. Lee on Nov. 13, 1776. A return of Rawlings’ Regiment on that date indicates that 48 out of 293 enlisted men were sick. Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, p. 12, Note 50. In any event, it is virtually certain that Robert was not in the battle despite having been in Capt. Brady’s company because (1) was not taken prisoner there and (2) his widow Peggy did not list Ft. Washington as a battle in which Robert participated. Nevertheless, payroll and muster roll records prove he was in Brady’s company.

“Follow the land” theory: believe it or not

Would you believe me if I told you that three deeds – only three deeds – could conclusively prove the names of eight of a couple’s nine children, the family’s migration history, the surnames of married daughters, and the given names of two sons-in-law? No? Oh ye of little faith! Keep reading.

This is yet another paean to deeds as a family history research tool.[1] It is also a tip of the hat to Jessica Guyer. She abstracted deeds in several Pennsylvania counties in an effort to break through her Rankin brick wall. Three deeds she found in Westmoreland County are the genealogical gold mine described above. The deeds concern the family of David and Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell Rankin, originally of Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

Jessica’s brick wall unfortunately remains standing. If anyone reading this knows anything about Chambers Rankin (1805-1835) of Bedford Co., PA and his siblings John C., Martha, and Culbertson Rankin, please post a comment!

By the way, this post is a sidetrack from what I had previously promised. This was supposed to be another article about Lt. Robert Rankin, a Revolutionary War soldier who is buried in the Texas State Cemetery.[2] David and Fanny have temporarily preempted my search for Lt. Robert’s parents.

The story in short, except for the voluminous footnotes

Ferreting out David and Fanny’s story requires slogging through deeds concerning tracts of land in two Pennsylvania counties, bequests in a will, inheritance via intestacy, two trusts, judgments, and a court-ordered confirmation deed. All in the arcane language of 19th-century deeds written in tiny, cramped, handwriting.

For those of us whose brains are addled (mine certainly is) by cabin fever during this coronavirus nightmare, here is the CliffsNotes version of their story. It is easier on one’s eyesight and sanity than the original deeds. Connoisseurs of evidence and other gluttons for punishment can find citations to deeds and brief abstracts in the footnotes.

David and Fanny originally lived in Antrim, Peters, and Montgomery Townships in Franklin County, PA.[3] David was born in 1776-77, a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Antrim Township in Franklin (formerly Cumberland) County.[4] Fanny was a daughter of Dugal/Dougal (various spellings) Campbell.[5] The 200-acre Franklin tract Fanny inherited from her father became security for her family’s financial future, along with legacies David’s mother Mary left to their children.[6]

By the 1820s, David was deeply in debt to Archibald Bard, a Franklin County justice.[7] To secure judgments “and other monies owed,” David pledged both the tract Fanny inherited from her father and his children’s legacies from his mother. Bard was entitled to sell the land and retain the proceeds, as well as the legacies from Mary Rankin, to apply to David’s debt. Bard was to use any surplus to purchase “lands to the west.” Bard was to hold that land in trust for the maintenance of Fanny and her children. Bard purchased a tract in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, called the “Dailey Farm.” For reasons unknown, David’s debts to Bard weren’t repaid until the Dailey Farm was resold.[8]

By at least 1830, the family had moved to Westmoreland.[9] David’s financial troubles must not have tarnished his reputation, because he was apparently a justice there.[10] From Westmoreland, the Rankins moved to Allen County, Indiana.[11] Finally, the family relocated to Des Moines County, Iowa Territory about 1838.[12] In 1844, the Rankins executed a deed from Iowa confirming the prior sale of the Dailey Farm to Gilbert Beck.[13] The entire family (including two living sons-in-law) acknowledged the deed to Beck in Burlington, Iowa. Only Fanny, who apparently died before 1840, and Adam John Rankin, who died in 1842, were not parties to the 1844 deed.

Voilà! Three deeds identified this entire family and unlocked its path westward. If you’re interested in this Rankin family, please thank Jessica Guyer.

The children

Finally, here are David and Fanny’s nine children. I drilled down in the records just far enough to help you (I hope) easily track this family if you wish. Except for Betsey, I didn’t find any good stories, so these are just bare facts.

  • William Rankin, b. 5 Jan 1807, Franklin Co., PA, d. 2 Jan 1873 Des Moines Co., IA.[14] He was listed in two censuses in Huron Township, Des Moines Co. with his wife Martha Jane Gray[15] and their children Frances Elizabeth (“Libby”) Rankin, Samuel Bruce Rankin, and Areta Catherine Rankin Tewksbury.[16] William’s sister Betsey’s will (see next child) named all three children and helped flesh out their full names.[17]
  • Elizabeth “Betsey” Rankin was born sometime between 1802 and 1807, Franklin Co., PA, and died 5 July 1888 in Des Moines Co.[18] Betsey left a remarkable will identifying two of her three sisters, four of her five brothers, a host of nieces and nephews, and some of her siblings’ grandchildren.[19] Betsey left cash legacies to all of them. Unfortunately, her estate assets consisted of notes, primarily on family members. Most of the notes were barred by the statute of limitations because they were long since overdue. Some were uncollectable. As a result, the administration of Betsey’s estate consisted primarily of (1) collecting on the few good notes, (2) paying $500 to her brother Archibald for taking care of her during the last five years of her long life, (3) payment to the administrator for his work, (4) obtaining releases from beneficiaries who agreed to waive payment of their legacies in exchange for forgiveness of their notes, and (5) paying one or two small legacies. Betsey and her administrator went to a lot of trouble that resulted in virtually no financial benefit to her family. Her big probate file, however, is a wonderful legacy for Rankin researchers.
  • Martha C. Rankin, b. Franklin Co., PA abt. 1805-1806. She married a Mr. Sweeny/Swenny/Sweeney, given name unknown. She probably married in Indiana, because her one child was born there. Martha was living with her father David in 1850 in Des Moines,[20] and with her daughter and sister Betsey in 1856.[21] Her only known child was Frances C. Sweeny, born in Indiana about 1836.
  • Mary H. Rankin, b. Franklin Co., PA 6 Feb 1809, d. Iowa 12 Nov 1885.[22] Her husband was James Bruce. Taken together, the census records from 1850 through 1870 suggest their children were (1) Martha (“Mattie”) Bruce, b. 1842, (2) Lawrence H. C. Bruce, b. 1844, (3) David R. (Rankin) Bruce, b. 1846, (4) Sarah Bruce, b. 1849, and (5) Margaret Bruce, b. 1851.[23] Betsey named all of them except Lawrence, who probably predeceased her, in her will. Betsey identified Mary Bruce’s married daughters as M. B. Bruce Cartwright (Martha), S. J. (Sarah Jane) Bruce Yost, and M. B. (Margaret) Bruce Crowder. Online trees name a dizzying array of additional children for James and Mary, most of which are error.
  • Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin, b. Franklin Co. about 1811-1812, d. Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines Co., IA, 21 Feb 1885.[24] His wife was Mary Johnson. He is buried in the Round Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery in Des Moines Co., although there is apparently no image of his tombstone available. Census records from 1860 through 1880 suggest their children were (1) David C. Rankin, b. abt. 1853, (2) Hezekiah Johnson Rankin, b. abt 1855, (3) Sarah F. Rankin, b. abt. 1858, and (4) John William Rankin, b. abt. 1860.[25] Dougal was still alive when his sister Betsey wrote her will, so she named Dougal rather than his children as her beneficiary.
  • Frances Rankin, baptized 9 May 1814 in the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague (the “Upper West Church”) near Mercersburg, Franklin Co., PA.[26] Frances married James Waddle.[27] The only record I have for this couple is the 1856 Iowa State Census in Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines County.[28] He was a merchant. The couple had no children, so far as I know. Her sister Betsey Rankin’s will didn’t mention either Frances or any children.
  • David Huston Rankin was baptized 28 Apr 1817 in the Upper West Church. He married Mary A. Oliver on 5 Jun 1844 in Des Moines.[29] The couple is listed in the census for Des Moines Co. in 1850 and 1860.[30] They moved to Garnett, Anderson Co., KS by 1870, where David was an innkeeper. The 1870 census and his sister Betsey’s will suggest that David and Mary had two daughters: Martha (“Mattie”) C. Rankin Osborne and Fannie Rankin Rice.[31] Fannie married James Wesley Rice, the Garnett postmaster, and had a son named Rankin Rice. David died on 19 Jan 1874 and is buried in the Garnett Cemetery in Anderson Co.[32] There was apparently an obituary for him, although I have not found it.
  • Archibald Rankin, b. 1 Aug 1819, Franklin Co., PA, baptized 10 Oct 1819 in the Upper West Church. Died 4 Mar 1889 in Kossuth, Des Moines Co., IA. Wife Lydia Blair. They had three daughters: Elizabeth J. Rankin, b. abt 1854, Frances M. Rankin, b. abt 1858, and Martha Catharine Rankin, baptized on 7 Apr 1866 in the Round Prairie Presbyterian Church.[33] Archibald is buried in the Kossuth Cemetery in Mediapolis, Des Moines Co.[34]
  • Adam John Rankin, b. 29 Dec 1821, Franklin Co., baptized 13 Feb 1822 in the Upper West Church, d. 8 Jul 1842. Apparently never married. Buried in the  Round Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery in Des Moines County along with other Rankins.

And that may be more than I actually know about David and Frances Campbell Rankin’s family.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] See blog articles about the “follow the land” theory of genealogical research  here  and here.

[2] Here is  a link to the previous article about Lt. Robert Rankin and his wife Margaret “Peggy” (no middle name Kendall) Berry.

[3] 1810 census, Antrim Twp., Franklin Co., David Rankin, 10020-31111; 1820 census, Peters Twp., Franklin, David Rankin, 310010-12022; Franklin Deed Book 14: 266, deed dated 28 Aug 1827 from David and wife Frances Rankin of Montgomery Twp.

[4] The Pennsylvania Archives confused William and Mary Huston Rankin’s son David (married to Frances Campbell) with his cousin David. The latter David was a son of James Sr. and Jean Rankin, also of Franklin Co. See the 1792 will of William Rankin of Antrim Township naming inter alia his wife Mary and his son David, Franklin Will Book A: 256, and the 1788 will of James Rankin Sr. of Montgomery Township naming inter alia his wife Jean and son David, Franklin Will Book A: 345. David’s approximate birth year is established by the 1850 census for Des Moines Co., IA, and his Iowa tombstone. The article addressing the Archives error can be found at this link. .

[5] The identity of Fanny’s father is established by a deed. Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14:245, quitclaim deed dated 5 Dec 1827 from the children of John Beatty to David and Frances Rankin and Archibald Bard. The deed recites that Dongal [sic,Dugal or Dougal] Campbell died intestate owning 400 acres. The tract descended “in coparcenary” to his daughters Frances Campbell Rankin (wife of David Rankin) and Elizabeth Campbell Beatty (wife of John Beatty). Each sister’s share was called a “purpart.” If you know what those terms mean, you need to get a life! “Coparcenary” described the ownership of land that two sisters inherited from their father who died intestate with no male heirs. “Purpart” means each sister’s share. Fanny’s share of the coparcenary tract was held in trust by Bard (see Note 6) to secure debts David owed to him. The Beatty children promised in the quitclaim deed not to make any claim to Fanny’s purpart.

[6] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 97, deed of trust (“DOT”) dated Dec 1826 from David Rankin and wife Frances of Montgomery Twp. to Archibald Bard, Esq. The DOT secured David’s debts to Bard with the coparcenary tract and legacies bequeathed by Mary Rankin to some of David and Frances’s children. I have not been able to find Mary (Huston) Rankin’s will. Insert obscenity of your choice.

[7] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 470, reciting that Bard had judgments against David of $1,602.91, plus “other moneys owing and due.”

[8] Id., deed dated 27 Mar 1832 from David Rankin and his wife Frances of Rostraver Township in Westmoreland Co. and Archibald Bard of Franklin Co., grantors, to William Rankin and Dugell (sic) Rankin, sons of David. The deed recites the terms of the Franklin Co. deed of trust (Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 97), stating that Bard could satisfy David’s debts with proceeds from the sale of the coparcenary tract and the legacies Mary Rankin left to David’s children. Money left over was to be invested by Bard in “lands to the west to be conveyed to and vested in Bard” for the support of Frances and her children. Apparently, the debts were not repaid from the sale of the coparcenary tract. Instead, Bard contracted with a Philadelphia bank to purchase a tract in Westmoreland Co. The deed provided that (1) the Dailey Farm would be sold to Gilbert Beck, (2) Archibald Bard would be repaid from the proceeds and released of his trustee duties, (3) Gilbert Beck would pay to William and Dougal Rankin the legacies from Mary Rankin, and (4) the residue from the sale would be used to buy “lands to the west.” Newly purchased land was to be conveyed to William and Dougal in trust for the use of Frances Rankin and her children and heirs. There is a lot going on in that deed. I recommend you read the original if you are interested in this family.

[9] Id. Grantors David and Frances Rankin were “of” Restraver Parish, Westmoreland Co. in 1832. See also the 1830 census, Westmoreland Co., PA, Rostraver Twp., listing for David Rankin, Esqr., 01211001-00022001.

[10] See 1830 census, Note 9. Usually, the honorific “Esquire” was reserved for judges. I have not confirmed that in Westmoreland court records.

[11] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 470-71, deed dated 26 Mar 1834 from “Sundry Rankins,” as the deed book calls them: David, Frances (Sr.), William, Betsey, Martha, Mary, Frances (Jr.), David H. (Huston), and Dougel C. (Campbell) Rankin of Indiana, grantors, to Gilbert Beck, the Dailey Farm. The Rankins acknowledged the deed in Allen Co., Indiana.

[12] 1856 Iowa State Census, listing #198 for James Waddle, 45, merchant, b. OH, and Frances (Rankin) Waddle, 43, b. PA; both have resided in Iowa for 18 years; listing #199, Elizabeth Rankin, 50, b. PA, and Martha C. (Rankin) Sweeny, 48, b. PA, both have resided in Iowa 18 years, with Frances C. Sweeny, 20 (Martha’s daughter), b. Indiana abt. 1836.

[13] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 471-72, deed dated 24 Feb 1844 from David Rankin, Betsey Rankin, Martha Sweney (whose husband must have been deceased, since he was not a party), William Rankin, James Bruce and wife Mary (Rankin) Bruce, Dugal Campbell Rankin, James Waddle and wife  Francis (Rankin) Waddle, David Huston Rankin, and Archibald Rankin, all of Des Moines County, Iowa Territory, to Gilbert Beck. This deed simply confirms the sale of the Dailey Farm to Beck, who complained that he had never received a deed. The entire Rankin family signed the deed except for Frances (Sr.), who probably died in Indiana, and the Rankins’ youngest son John Adam Rankin, who died in 1842.

[14] Find-a-grave image of William Rankin’s tombstone, Round Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery, Des Moines at this link.

[15] Martha Jane  Rankin’s tombstone in the Kossoth Cemetery in Mediaopolis, IA is inscribed “wife of William Rankin.”

[16] 1860 census, Huron Twp., Des Moines, IA, dwelling #91, William Rankin, 53, $5,700/$700, b. PA, Martha Rankin 27, b. Illinois, Frances Rankin, 5, b. IA, and Samuel Rankin, 4, b. IA; 1870 census, Huron Twp., dwelling 72, William Rankin, 63, farmer, b. PA, $8800/$1825, Martha Jane Rankin, 34, b. Illinois, Elizabeth Rankin, 15, b. IA, Samuel B. Rankin, 14, farm hand, b. IA, Areta Rankin, 3?, female, b. IA.

[17] See Note 19 for Betsey’s beneficiaries. Here is a find-a-grave image of Samuel Bruce Rankin’s tombstone Samuel Bruce Rankin’s tombstone  and one for his sister Areta Rankin Tewksbury.

[18] Betsey’s birth years in the census vary between 1802 and 1807. In the 1856 Iowa state census, she was age 50 (born about 1806); 1860 Des Moines census, age 57 (born about 1803); 1870 Des Moines Co. census, age 67 (born about 1807); 1880 Des Moines census, age 78 (about 1802); 1885 Iowa State census, age 83 (1802). Find-a-Grave doesn’t have an image of Betsy’s tombstone, but claims her death is recorded in the register of Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines and that she was born in February 1803.

[19] Images of original records available online at FamilySearch.org: Des Moines Co., IA Probate records, Film #007594729, image #315 et seq. Will of Betsy Rankin of Des Moines Co. dated 29 Nov 1881, proved 17 Sep 1888, recorded in Will Book D: 111. Beneficiaries: sister Mary Bruce; brothers D. C. Rankin (Dougal Campbell) and Archibald Rankin; children of William Rankin, dec’d (S. Bruce Rankin, Libbie Rankin, and Areta Rankin); Martha C. Osborne, daughter of David H. Rankin, dec’d, and Rankin Rice, grandson of David H. Rankin; John W. Rhea, grandson of sister Martha C. Sweeney, dec’d. James Bruce, brother-in-law, executor. By the time the will was probated, James Bruce had died, so the court appointed William Harper, administrator with the will annexed. Administrator’s bond named her heirs as (1) brother A. Rankin, (2) deceased brother William Rankin’s children (Frances E. Rankin, Samuel B. Rankin, and A. C. Tewksbury); (3) children of deceased sister M. H. Bruce (D. B. Bruce, M. B. Cartwright, S. J. Yost? and M. B. Crowder); (4) children of deceased brother D. C. (Dougal Campbell) Rankin (D. C. Rankin, H. J. Rankin, Sarah F. Rankin, and J. W. Rankin); (5) Martha C. Osborne, daughter of deceased brother D. H. (David Huston) Rankin, and Rankin Rice, grandson of D. H. Rankin; and (6) John W. Rhea, grandson of deceased sister Martha C. Sweeney.

[20] 1850 census, Huron Twp, Des Moines Co., IA, dwelling #496: David Rankin, 73, farmer, b. PA (abt 1777), $2800, with Martha Rankin, 35, PA, Dugald Camel (sic, Campbell), 30, PA, and Frances Camel (sic), 14, Indiana. I believe that Dugald is actually a Rankin – Dougal Campbell Rankin, son of David. Martha Rankin is probably David’s daughter Martha Rankin Sweeney. Frances Campbell is probably Martha’s daughter Frances C. Sweeney. Considering other information, that seems the most sensible way to interpret that otherwise baffling census listing.

[21] 1856 Iowa State Census, listing #199: Elizabeth Rankin, 50, PA, b. abt 1806. Has resided in Iowa 18 years. Martha C. (Rankin) Sweeny, 48, PA, b. abt 1808. Also resided in Iowa 18 years. Frances C. Sweeny, 20, b. Indiana about 1836.

[22] The Find-a-Grave image of the Bruces’ tombstone incorrectly names Mary’s mother as Frances Huston rather than Frances Campbell Rankin.

[23] See 1850 census, Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines Co., IA, household of James Bruce, 30, farmer, $2,000, b. OH, Mary (Rankin) Bruce, 30 (wrong age), Martha Bruce, 8, Lawrence Bruce, 6, David Bruce, 4, and Sarah Bruce, 1, all children b. IA; 1856 Iowa State Census, Yellow Springs Twp., James Bruce, 42, b. VA, Mary Bruce, 45, b. PA, Martha E. Bruce, 14, L.H.C. (Lawrence) Bruce, 12, David R. Bruce, 10, Sarah J. Bruce, 7, and Margaret Bruce;  1860 census, Des Moines, Yellow Springs Twp., dwl 249, James Bruce, 46, farmer, b. VA, Mary Bruce, 50, PA, Martha Bruce, 17, Florence (sic, Lawrence ) Bruce, 16, David Bruce, 14, Sarah Bruce, 11, and Margaret Bruce, 9, all children b. Iowa; 1870 census, Yellow Springs Twp., dwl 252, James Bruce, 56, $6525/2010, Mary H. Bruce, 60, PA, Mattie Bruce, 28, IA, and Margarite Bruce, 19, IA (adjacent the household of David R. Bruce, 25, and Ellen Bruce, 25).

[24] FHL Film #956344, Iowa Deaths and Burials, 1850 – 1990.

[25] 1860 census, Kossuth PO, Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines, household of Dugald Rankin, 43, farmer, b. PA, Mary Rankin, 36, b. PA, David Rankin, 7, b. IA, Johnson Rankin, 5, IA, Sarah Rankin, 2, IA, and William Rankin, 10 months, IA. 1870 census, Yellow Springs, household of D. C. Rankin, 58, $4,860/$1500, b. PA, David C. Rankin, 17, Hezekiah J. Rankin, 15, Sarah F. Rankin, 12, John W. Rankin, 10, all children b. IA. 1880 census, Yellow Springs, household of D. C. Rankin, 69, widowed, b. PA, parents b. PA, son David C. Rankin, 27, farmer, and son Hezekiah J. Rankin, 25, teacher.

[26] The source for the baptism records is the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. A database containing those records is available online at Ancestry.com and is titled “Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records, 1669-2013.” Frances Rankin, David Huston Rankin, Archibald Rankin, and Adam John Rankin are listed as children of David Rankin, along with their baptism dates, for the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague.

[27] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 471-472, the 1844 deed from “Sundry Rankins” to Gilbert Beck signed inter alia by James Waddle and wife Frances (Rankin) Waddle.

[28] 1856 Iowa State Census, Yellow Springs Twp., Des Moines Co., listing for James Waddle, 45, merchant, b. OH. Has resided in Iowa 18 years. Frances (Rankin) Waddle, 43, b. PA, has also resided in Iowa for 18 years.

[29] Compiled Iowa Marriages, available online at Ancestry.com.

[30] 1850 census, Yellow Springs Twp., Des Moines, IA, David H. Rankin, 33, farmer, $1000, b. PA, dwl #393, Mary Ann Rankin, 32, NJ?, Margret Rankin, 4, IA, Martha Rankin, 2, IA, Samuel Dickey, 40, PA, Rebecca Dickie, 36, PA, and William Dickie, 14, Indiana; 1860 census, Huron Twp, Des Moines Co., IA, dwelling #122 (adjacent Archibald Rankin): David Rankin, 43, farmer, b. PA, Mary Rankin, 40, b. NJ, Margaret Rankin, 14, IA, and Martha Rankin, 12, IA.

[31] 1870 census, Garnett, Anderson Co., KS, David Rankin, 53, b. PA, hotel keeper, $6800/1200, listed with (among others) May A. Rankin, 52, b. NJ, Mattie C. Rankin, 21, IA, James W. Rice, 33, postmaster, and Fannie? Rice, 24, b. IA. Betsey Rankin’s will named David’s daughter Martha C. Osborne and David’s grandson Rankin Rice.

[32] Here is an image of David Huston Rankin’s tombstone in Garnett Cemetery, Anderson Co., KS  at the Find-a-Grave website..

[33] 1860 census, Huron Twp, Des Moines Co., IA, dwelling #123, household of Archibald Rankin, 41, $2,500/$805, b. PA, Lydia Rankin, 35?, b. IL, Elizabeth Rankin, 4, IA, and Frances M. Rankin, 2, IA. 1870 census, Huron Twp., Archibald Rankin, 50, $500/$2100, b. PA. dwl 107, Lydia Rankin, 48, b. IL, Elizabeth J. Rankin, 14, IA, Frances M. Rankin, 12, IA, and Martha C. Rankin, 4, IA. 1880 census, Huron Twp., Des Moines Co., IA, Archibald Rankin, 61, b. PA, parents b. PA, farmer, Lydia Rankin, wife, 58, and daughters Elizabeth J., 24, Frances M. 21, and Martha C., 14

[34] Here is an image of Archibald’s tombstone.  I have no idea where anyone came up with the middle name “August” (some online trees show it as “Augustus”). Arch was baptized in the Upper West Conococheague Church along with two brothers whose baptism records expressly list their middle names (David Huston Rankin and Adam John Rankin). If Archibald ever had a middle name, it would surely have shown up in those church records. It’s a good thing there is only one more child, because I’m starting to get cranky.

My hair’s on fire: “just the facts, ma’am,” Lt. Robert Rankin (part 1 of 5)

CORRECTION, May 2020: while doing research for another post in this series, I discovered an error in an article about Robert in the Handbook of Texas Online. He did NOT enlist in the 3rd Virginia Regiment. That error is repeated below in an article in the Handbook of Texas Online, which I quoted in full. He actually enlisted in the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, a unit which was independent of state control. Thereafter, he served in the 11th, 7th, and 1st Virginia regiments. No military records provide evidence that he ever served Robert in the 3rd Virginia. Likewise, the Handbook article is wrong or at best misleading on when he was promoted to Lieutenant. Actually, his promotion was made retroactive to a date prior to Charleston. For detail on his military history, please see Part 4 of this series.

And so much for my promise that this post contained “just the facts.” Now, back to the original post … ________________________________________

The title of this post doesn’t do justice to the Southern roots of the “hair” idiom. It should be rendered phonetically: “mah har’s on far.”

What does it mean? It is clearly intended to convey a sense of urgency. A feeling of being overwhelmed gets to the essence.

The Rankin families of the Northern Neck of Virginia are guaranteed fire starters in the “overwhelming” sense. There are too many Rankin records in too many counties, with too many interconnected families[1] along for the ride. There is also a prodigious amount of hogwash about at least one of these Rankins.

I flailed about in county records (no hogwash there) for Northern Neck Rankins several years ago. Mah har caught far and I abandoned them on some flimsy pretext. This time around, I vowed to limit my research to Robert Rankin (1753-1837), a Revolutionary War soldier buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Lieutenant was his highest rank in the Revolution, so I will call him Lt. Robert. My sole objective was to prove his parents. Spoiler alert: hahahahaha! And that vow didn’t last long, as I veered off into Lt. Robert’s military history and his brother William.

As a result, Lt. Robert’s story has several parts. I plan to spread them out over several posts (it now looks like five) along the following lines:

  • This post (part 1), subtitled “just the facts, ma’am,” invokes Sgt. Joe Friday of “Dragnet.”[2] With him in mind, you can take to the bank the facts in this post about Lt. Robert and his children. There are two exceptions: (1) the correction I noted at the top of this article and (2) a legend regarding events that took place in 1936, when Lt. Robert’s remains were removed from Coldspring, Texas to the Texas State Cemetery. Like most oral retellings, it probably contains elements of both truth and fiction. You be the judge.
  • Next, three posts (parts 2 through 4) titled about the military service of Lt. Robert and his brother William. Part 2 will focus almost entirely on the relevant military history. Parts 3 and 4 will cover the brother’s individual war stories. We will see how some claims from the family’s oral history stand up against the military records. If you want to continue believing that George Washington personally handed Lt. Robert his discharge papers and called him “Colonel,” you might want to skip that post.
  • Finally, Part 5, the pièce de résistance: who were Lt. Robert Rankin’s parents? You can decide whether any (or none) of the proposed answers are satisfactory.

Let’s start with an article about Lt. Robert in the Handbook of Texas Online.[3] It succinctly covers the essential facts (with one error, as noted above) and includes some informative links.[4]

 “RANKIN, ROBERT (1753–1837). Revolutionary War veteran Robert Rankin was born in the colony of Virginia in 1753. He entered the service of the Continental Army in 1776 with the Third Regiment of the Virginia line and participated in the battles of Germantown, Brandywine, and Stony Point, as well as the siege of Charleston, where he was captured; he remained a prisoner of war until exchanged, at which time he received a promotion to lieutenant. On October 1, 1781, during a furlough, he married Margaret (Peggy) Berry in Frederick County, Virginia. He returned to active duty on October 15 and served until the war’s end. Robert and Margaret Rankin had three daughters and seven sons, one of whom was Frederick Harrison Rankin. The family moved to Kentucky in 1784. In 1786 Rankin was named by the Virginia legislature as one of nine trustees for the newly established town of Washington, in Bourbon County (later Mason County), Kentucky. In 1792 he served as a delegate from Mason County to the Danville Convention, which drafted the first constitution of Kentucky. He also became an elector of the Kentucky Senate of 1792. The last mention of Rankin in Mason County, Kentucky, is in the 1800 census. The Rankins moved to Logan County, Kentucky, in 1802 and to the Tombigbee River in Mississippi Territory in 1811; the area of their home eventually became Washington County, Alabama. Four of the Rankin sons fought in the War of 1812. The family suffered a severe financial reversal around 1819–20, probably in conjunction with land speculation and the panic of 1819. In July 1828 Rankin first made an application for a pension for his Revolutionary War service.

In 1832 the Rankins moved to Joseph Vehlein‘s colony in Texas, along with the William Butler and Peter Cartwright families. Rankin was issued a certificate of character by Jesse Grimes on November 3, 1834, as required by the Mexican government. He applied for a land grant in Vehlein’s colony on November 13 of the same year and received a league and labor in October 1835.[5] The town of Coldspring, San Jacinto County, is located on Rankin’s original grant. Rankin had the reputation of being a just and diplomatic man. He was a friend of Sam Houston, and his influence with the Indians in the region was well known. Houston reputedly called upon him in the spring of 1836 to encourage neutrality among the Indians during the crucial Texan retreat toward San Jacinto. Toward the end of 1836 Rankin became ill, and he and his wife moved to St. Landry parish, Louisiana, where he died on November 13, 1837.[6] His body was brought back to the family home near Coldspring, in the new Republic of Texas, and buried in the old Butler Cemetery. In 1936 he was reinterred at the State Cemetery in Austin. His widow lived in Texas with her sons, William and Frederick, in Polk, Montgomery, and Liberty counties until her death sometime after December 1852.”

Besides being a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War, Lt. Robert was a Colonel in the Kentucky militia, commander of a group of scouts.[7] He was a clerk of court in Mason County.[8] Lt. Robert was plainly an accomplished, admired, and well-liked man. The documents in the huge pension file establish that Peggy and her sons were also highly regarded. The couple lived in Frederick County, VA; Bourbon, Mason, and Logan Counties, KY (Bourbon and Mason while they were still part of the “Kentucky District, State of Virginia); Mississippi Territory; Washington Co., AL; Texas Territory when it was still part of Mexico; the Republic of Texas; and St. Landry Parish, LA, where Lt. Robert died.[9] Peggy also lived in the state of Texas after it was admitted to the Union in 1845.

Lt. Robert and Peggy Rankin’s three daughters and seven sons are conclusively proved. The first eight children and their dates of birth are established by a transcribed page from the family Bible that is included in Peggy’s 1844 application for a widow’s pension.[10] Peggy’s will named the two children who weren’t included in the Bible record.[11]  The ten children:

  1. Thomas Berry Rankin (Sr.) was born in Virginia, 17 May 1783; he was named for his maternal grandfather. He and his younger brother Joseph both died in 1813 at Ft. Mims during the Redstick War.[12] Thomas B. and/or Joseph Rankin had sons (and perhaps other children) who also came to Texas prior to its independence from Mexico in March 1836. Character certificates in the Texas General Land Office provide their likely identities: James Rankin Jr. and William Rankin.[13]
  2. Elizabeth Rankin was born 27 Jan 1785, also in Virginia. I have found no further record of Elizabeth. She may have been one of the four Rankin children who had died before Peggy Rankin filed her 1844 pension application.
  3. William Marshall Rankin was born 24 Aug 1786 in Bourbon Co., VA.[14] His wife was Sarah Landrum. Four related Rankin/Landrum families all arrived in Texas in January, 1830:[15] (1) William Marshall and Sarah Landrum Rankin, (2) Sarah’s parents Zachariah and Lettice Landrum, (3) William’s sister Frances Rankin Huburt and her husband M. Huburt, and (4) a second William Rankin, who was almost certainly a son of one of the two Rankins who died at Ft. Mims. William and Sarah Landrum Rankin were in Montgomery Co., TX in the 1850 census.
  4. Joseph Rankin was born 4 Nov 1788 in Kentucky. He died at Ft. Mims.[16]
  5. John Keith Rankin fought in the War of 1812d; he was born 5 Jan 1791 in Kentucky. He and his wife Elizabeth Butler moved from Washington Co., Alabama to Hinds County, Mississippi (later Rankin County, which was not named for John Keith). The couple moved to Texas during the 1840s, lived briefly in Polk County, then moved to DeWitt County. He died there on 17 Nov 1884. He and Elizabeth had eight children: (1) Moses Butler, (2) Mary, (3) Masena, (4) James, (5) Samuel, (6) Mary Ann, (7) Robert, and (8) Malinda Rankin.[17]
  6. James Rankin Sr.[18] was born 27 Jun 1792 in Kentucky. He died in Texas before 26 Apr 1847, when his mother Peggy wrote her will naming her grandchildren John B. Rankin, Berry Rankin, Peggy Rankin, and Rebecca Rankin, children of her son James Rankin, dec’d.[19]
  7. Frederick Harrison Rankin was born Feb. 15, 1794 in Kentucky and died July 2, 1874 in Ellis County, Texas. He received title to land that is now in Harris County as one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” colonists. He is on one or more 1826 tax lists in “Austins Colony, Texas Territory” and/or “Austin, Mexicounty Territory.”[20] In 1936, Texas erected a joint monument to Frederick and his wife Elizabeth Smith in the Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis, Ellis Co., TX. Frederick and Elizabeth had eight children: (1) Harriet, (2) Robert S., (3) Napoleon Bonaparte, (4) Emily, (5) Mollie, (6) Alexander, (7) Austin, and (8) a child who died as an infant. [21]
  8. Henry Rankin was born 7 Feb 1796 in Kentucky. I found no further record for Henry. He may have been one of the four Rankin children who had died by 1844.
  9. Massena Rankin McCombs, wife of Samuel McCombs.[22] Her first husband was a Mr. Brown.
  10. Frances Rankin Hubert also came to Texas in 1830.[23]

Finally, I promised a story about the removal of Lt. Robert’s remains from Coldspring, Texas to the Texas State Cemetery in 1936. I heard it from Mary Buller, a serious Rankin researcher descended from Lt. Robert and Peggy through one of their sons who died at Ft. Mims. Mary heard the story in a telephone conversation with a woman I will call “Faye.” If Faye is still alive, she is in her nineties. She is (or was) a local historian in Coldspring, TX.

Faye said that the family’s side of the re-interment project was spearheaded by a “hoity-toity DAR type,” despite opposition from Lt. Robert’s descendants still living in the Coldspring area. The DAR lady was insistent. The descendants capitulated.[24]

Faye told Mary she doesn’t believe that Lt. Robert is actually buried in the Texas State Cemetery. Instead, she thought, his remains probably didn’t make it back to Texas from Louisiana. She explained that during the 1936 disinterment at the Butler Cemetery in Coldspring, the coffin fell open and a skeleton toppled out. Family members and curiosity seekers were there, according to Faye. The men rushed to put the remains back in the coffin. One man, a dentist, opined that the skeleton’s teeth were not those of an 80-year-old man. They were more like the teeth of a man in his thirties, he said.

According to Faye, the family remained silent – in my imagination, they were all dressed in black and had somber, stoic expressions – and the removal continued. Faye thought that lack of refrigeration in 1837 would have discouraged shipping Lt. Robert’s remains from St. Landry Parish to Coldspring, a distance of more than 200 miles. She didn’t have an opinion on who is buried in the Texas State Cemetery, but the dental evidence convinced her it isn’t Lt. Robert.

There is also the possibility of poor grave location records in what was initially a family cemetery.

Take that for what it’s worth: oral history from someone who was old enough to have heard it from a participant. It may be the most colorful family legend I’ve ever heard.

More to come on Lt. Robert. See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Families connected to the Northern Neck Rankins include Woffendalls (various spellings), Marshalls, Harrisons, Berrys, Keiths, Kendalls, and Keys.

[2] The original “Dragnet” aired during the 1950s. If you didn’t get the reference, you are clearly younger than I. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragnet_(1951_TV_series)

[3] Ann Patton Malone, Handbook of Texas Online, “RANKIN, ROBERT,” accessed January 31, 2020, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fra40.

[4] I must comment on the link to the state cemetery in Austin, lest your preconceived notions about Texas get even worse. Andrew Forest Muir, Handbook of Texas Online, STATE CEMETERY, accessed Feb. 18, 2020, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/les02. The Handbook cites a 1970 article from the Austin American Statesman. The article sounds as though the cemetery is populated entirely by old white men and Confederate soldiers. Although that is substantially correct numerically, it doesn’t include recent notable additions. Governor Ann Richards is buried there, with a characteristically unique, swirly, white marble tombstone. So is Don Baylor, an African-American who was a member of the 1987 World Series champion Minnesota Twins and American League MVP in 1989. Representative Barbara Jordan is also buried there. Her oratory and distinctive voice at the 1974 Watergate hearings in the House Judiciary Committee are unforgettable (“My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is total, it is complete …”). Tom Landry and Darrell Royal are also buried in the State Cemetery, introduction probably not necessary. There is a tombstone for former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, still living, and her husband, who died in 2014. A former Harris County GOP bigwig said the Senator was “so tough you could strike a match on her backside.” Having survived the oil and gas business from 1974-1987, it seems to me that is probably a truism for most women our age who worked in non-traditional professions.

[5] “League” and “labor” refer to the acreage in a grant. A labor was 177 acres and a league was 4,428 acres.  https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fau14

[6] All sources agree that Lt. Robert died in November, 1837. However, three different specific dates appear in his pension file, number w26365 (cited hereafter as “Pension File;” images are available online at Fold.3/Ancestry.) Peggy’s 1844 pension declaration gives Lt. Robert’s date of death as November 13.  I would bet she knew exactly what day her husband of 56 years died. Pension File p. 15 et seq.

[7] Robert enlisted in the Revolutionary War as a private, was promoted to Ensign, and ended the war as a Lieutenant. If you don’t have a Fold.3/Ancestry subscription so that you can view the entire Pension File, see Will Graves’ partial transcription at https://revwarapps.org/w26365.pdf. See also Murtie June Clark, American Militia in the Frontier Wars, 1790-1796 (Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Co., Inc., 1990) at p. 1, identifying a regiment of scouts for Mason Co., KY commanded by Col. Robert Rankin.

[8] See, e.g., Mason Co., KY Deed Book A: 171, deed dated 26 Nov 1789 from the trustees of Charles Town in Mason Co. (including Robert Rankins) to Henry Berry, lots in Charleston. The Clerk of Court was Robert Rankins.

[9] I began inserting footnotes proving that Lt. Robert actually resided in all of those places. It quickly got out of hand, partly because jurisdictions changed even though the location may not have. With one excessively long footnote already (the comments on the Texas State Cemetery), I decided to omit the citations. If anyone needs evidence, you know how to reach me.

[10] Transcription from Rankin Bible. Pension File at p. 24. This was obviously not a verbatim transcription: the transcribed added “Sr.” to the names of Thomas Berry and James Rankin. Those designations would not have been added until a later generation of the family had men by those names.

[11] Will of Peggy Rankin dated 26 Apr 1847, proved 25 Oct 1858, Polk Co., TX, Will Book A: 28. Peggy made bequests to her sons Frederick H. Rankin and William M. Rankin and daughters Frances Huburt and Massena McCombs. She also named grandchildren John B. Rankin, Berry Rankin, Peggy Rankin, and Rebecca Rankin, children of her deceased son James Rankin. She appointed her sons William M. and John executors.

[12] See, e.g., Gregory A. Waselkov, A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2006), Appendix #1, p. 250-51. It identifies Joseph Rankin as a “Tombigbee resident, born in Kentucky, brother of Thomas Berry Rankin.” The book also lists Thomas B. among those who died at Ft. Mims. The book has two errors about the Rankin family. First, it identifies Joseph and Thomas B.’s father as “Richard Robert Rankin.” I’ve never seen a record in which Lt. Robert appears by any name other than Robert, and there are many records for this man. Second, the book names Lt. Robert’s wife as “Margaret Kendall Rankin.” I have found no evidence for that middle name, either. I am 99% certain that both “Richard” and “Kendall” are incorrect.

[13] See Gifford E. White, Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas (Austin: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985). White’s (apparently assigned) No. 1660 says: “San Felipe de Austin, 10 Jun 1830. To Mr. S. F. Austin, Empresario. I have emigrated to this Colony… my name is James Rankin. Age 22 years. Single. My father is dead and I have no parent in this Country to represent me. I removed from Alabama, arrived in this colony in 1827. Occupation farmer. Signed James Rankin Junior.” See also No. 1663, “To Mr. S. F. Austin, Empressario (no date). I have emigrated to this Colony. William Rankin 21 years old. Unmarried. An orphan. From Alabama and arrived in this colony in January 1830.” See also Note 15: William Rankin, age 21, arrived in Texas the same month as his likely uncle William Marshall Rankin, likely aunt Frances Rankin Huburt, and William M. Rankin’s in-laws, Zachariah and Lettice Landrum.

[14] The Handbook of Texas Online (see Note 3) says that the Rankin family moved to Kentucky in 1784, suggesting that William Marshall Rankin, born in 1786, was born there. However, the 1850 census for Polk Co., TX identifies William M.’s birth state as Virginia, muddying the issue. The explanation is that William was born in what was then the state of Virginia but is now Mason Co., KY. See G. Glenn Clift, History of Maysville and Mason County, Volume 1 (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Printing Company, Inc., 1936) p. 56. Two days before William was born, Lt. Robert signed a petition from the town of Washington in “the Kentucky area of Virginia” in what was then Bourbon Co., District of KY, state of Virginia. Thanks to Kevin Thompson for the correct information and the source.

[15] Villamae Williams, Stephen F. Austin’s Register Of Families, From The Originals In The General Land Office, Austin, Texas (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989). Entry No. 392, M. Hubert, 34, wife Frances (Lt. Robert and Peggy’s youngest child), 32, and 2 daughters came from Alabama and arrived in Texas in Jan. 1830; No. 393, Wm. R. Rankin, 43, wife Sarah, 33, two sons, and 2 daughters came from Alabama and arrived in Texas in Jan. 1830; No. 394, Zachariah Landrum, 64, and wife Lettuce (sic, Lettice), came from Alabama and arrived in Texas in Jan. 1830; and No. 395, William Rankin, 21, single, came from Alabama and arrived in Jan. 1830. Records also available online at Ancestry.

[16] See Note 12.

[17] Information for John Keith and Elizabeth Butler Rankin was provided to Louis Wiltz Kemp, a Texas historian, by May Myers Calloway, John Keith’s great-granddaughter. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, papers of Louis Wiltz Kemp, Box 2R232, General Biographical Notebooks, Ranb-Reavis. Viewed Feb. 8, 2020. Cited hereafter as “Kemp papers, Box 2R232.”

[18] A pension abstract by Virgil White and a transcription by Will Graves both show James in the Bible page transcription as James Junior. The image in the Pension File (page 24) appeared to me that both James Rankin and Thomas Berry Rankin were designated as “Sr.” In any event, James, son of Lt. Robert and Peggy, appeared in all other records I found as “Sr.”

[19] See Polk Co., TX, Will Book A: 28, will of Peggy Rankin naming children of her son James Rankin, dec’d: John B. Rankin, Berry Rankin, Peggy Rankin, and Rebecca Rankin.

[20] Online images of tax lists at Ancestry. Frederick Harrison’s family was listed in Polk County, TX in the 1850 census. In 1860 and 1870, they were enumerated in Ellis County, TX.

[21] Kemp papers, Box 2R232.

[22] See Note 11 and the 1850 census of Polk Co., TX, household of S. McCombs, 60, farmer, b. SC, Mathinia [sic] McCombs, 45, b. KY, Jas. McCombs, 14, Mary McCombs, 12, Elizabeth McCombs, 10, and Martha Brown, 18. All children born in Texas. Martha Brown was Massena’s child from a prior marriage.

[23] See Note 15.

[24] There is correspondence about permission for the re-interment among the Kemp papers. I failed to make notes about it when I looked at them. The next time I’m in Austin, I will remedy that error. It might confirm my strong suspicion about the identity of the hoity-toity DAR type.

Friendship Andrew Willis – Part II, the Last Man Standing

Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from “Wantage John” Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to “Friendship Andrew” Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. Those facts launched the search for Andrew’s parents among a couple of Willis families. Part I of this analysis posted earlier concluded that Andrew Willis did not descend from the family of Quaker Richard Willis.

Part I Recap

The analysis showed the following as to Friendship Andrew:

    • He may have been born between 1720 and 1730, or likely sooner.
    • His first appearance may have been 1743 when an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond.
    • He was a planter of Dorchester County when he bought land called Friendship in 1753.
    • Friendship was located in Caroline County after 1773.
    • Friendship Andrew died in late 1777 or early 1778.
    • His eldest son distributed per his father’s direction Friendship Andrew’s land among five heirs including four surviving sons.
    • Andrew was likely Quaker. Two of his sons were Nicholite, or New Quakers, a sect which later merged with the Quaker

And as to the Quaker Richard Willis family:

    • Quaker Richard had a daughter Frances and sons Richard II and John:
      • Richard II had a daughter Mary and a son Richard III, who had no children.
      • John had no children.
    • Quaker Richard “daughtered out” with no male descendants beyond Richard III.
    • Friendship Andrew is not descended from Quaker Richard.

Part II

This post continues the search for Friendship Andrew’s parents within Wantage John Willis’s family. This analysis will try to eliminate men who could not have fathered Friendship Andrew, concluding with “the last man standing” as his parent. Wantage John had four sons:

    • Andrew – six known sons, one named Andrew
    • William – possible sons William and Thomas
    • Thomas – no children
    • John Jr. – six known sons, none named Andrew

Neither Andrew Willis, Son or Grandson of Wantage John, is Friendship Andrew

Andrew Willis, son of Wantage John, was born in 1690.[1] His well-documented family lived in southern Dorchester County, and he died in 1738.[2] He had a son named Andrew born around 1719, about the right time to be Friendship Andrew.[3] However, that son Andrew lived until at least 1781 in southern Dorchester, not the part that became Caroline County in 1773.[4] Moreover, young Andrew was not Quaker. Three of his children were baptized at Old Trinity Church between 1768 and 1775. His children were not the known sons of Friendship Andrew.[5] Therefore, neither Andrew Willis born 1690 nor his son is Friendship Andrew.

William Willis, Son of Wantage John May Be Friendship Andrew’s Father

William inherited the family homestead under Wantage John’s 1712 will and lived there with his wife Judith (neéSeward/Soward). In 1734, they sold the property to Judith’s brother Richard.[6] Dorchester records do not show them buying or inheriting other land. However, deed records show they gave a deposition in 1748 about the boundaries of a tract in the Neck Region of Dorchester County.[7] William testified he had known the property for about 25 years near Hudson’s Creek. William and Judith must have moved there even before they sold Wantage, maybe as early as 1723. Such a move makes sense because Judith’s family owned land in that region.

Dorchester records do not show William and Judith had any children. However, two deed book entries indicate they may have had sons. In 1764, a sale of land on Hudson’s Creek locates the tract at the head of Willis’s Cove near where William Willis lives.[8] This reference could be to William husband of Judith, or it could be to a son of that couple. Second, a Thomas Willis gave a 1784 deposition about the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Soward.[9] At the time, Thomas was about 70 years old, therefore born about 1714. He stated he had been shown one boundary marker of the tract about 30 years ago. Thomas is the right age to be a son of William and Judith.

Beyond those two instances, the records give no clue about children of William and Judith. Regardless, the couple is the right age to have had a child Andrew, a relatively common name among William’s extended family.

One factor not in their favor, besides the lack of circumstantial evidence, is geography. Friendship Andrew Willis in 1753 purchased land a considerable distance from the Neck Region of Dorchester County. That distance brings into question how a son of William would know about the land or the owner from whom he bought it. Two siblings, Thomas and John Jr., lived much closer to Andrew’s land purchase and are thus more geographically desirable.

 Thomas Willis, Son of Wantage John, Is Not the Father of Friendship Andrew

Thomas and Grace Willis are not Friendship Andrew’s parents. They are in the right place, the part of Dorchester County that became Caroline. However, there are no children in the record and circumstantial evidence indicates there were none.

No Children in the Record

In 1717, Thomas Willis purchased 50 acres of land, one half of a tract called Sharp’s Prosperity, adjacent his brother John Jr. in what would become Caroline County. Thomas died intestate in 1722, and Grace Willis administered his estate. His brothers Andrew Willis and John Willis signed the inventory of his estate as kindred. John was on the adjoining property. Andrew was not too distant, living at the time on Shoal Creek some fifteen miles away. The record does not state whether Grace Willis is Thomas’s widow or his sister, nor does it indicate if he had children. However, the inventory of Thomas’s estate lists only one bed and bedstead suggesting Grace is his widow, and they were childless.[10]

Land Records Also Suggest No Children

The ownership history of Sharp’s Prosperity also suggests the couple had no children. Various parties paid the rents on the tract after Thomas’s death.[11] The last such entry, thirty-four years after Thomas’s death, shows payment by “heirs of Thomas Willis.”[12] If Thomas and Grace had children, those children would be the heirs. If there were a single child, that child at maturity would have taken over the land and payment of rents, which did not happen. If there were multiple children, they likely would have sold the land and divided the proceeds. The record shows no such sale.

If there were no children, Thomas’s siblings and his spouse would be the heirs. In that case, Grace may have been living on the tract, and her in-laws farmed the land and helped pay the rents. The debt books show no rent payments after 1756.[13]Upon non-payment of rents the land reverted to the proprietor. We do not know why the heirs quit making payments. Possibly, Grace died. Also, her brother-in-law John Jr. acquired some additional land in 1756. Both of those events would be reason to let the land go.

Clues in the Probate Record

Thomas’s probate record reveals a couple more facts about Grace. First, she was not a Quaker. The inventory states that she took an “oath on the Holy Evangels”, that is, swore on the Bible, that her inventory filing was true and correct. Quakers did not swear on the Bible, they “affirmed” or “testified according to law” and the record usually noted that fact. The couple’s religious affiliation is significant because Friendship Andrew was probably Quaker. Two of his sons were members of the Nicholites, or “New Quakers.”

Secondly, Grace’s maiden name may have been Bexley. Her administration bond listed William Woods and William Bexley as sureties.[14] Normally, bondsmen assuring probate administration performance included one or more relatives and, if necessary, a non-relative wealthy enough to be good for the bonded amount. It surprised me to see no Willis as a surety. In 1693, a William Bexley in Talbot County made a will naming a son William. That son may be the listed bondsman.

Thomas’s estate inventory shows total assets of only £12.10.4, including a debt William Bexley owed the estate of 2 shillings, 4 pence. William Bexley’s debt suggests he may be a relative. No one else owed money to the estate. In colonial Maryland, wealthy people loaned money on a regular basis. Non-wealthy people like Thomas Willis did not, except to family. However, Thomas’s inventory of cobbler tools and leather shows he was probably a shoemaker. One explanation for the debt might be that Bexley bought a pair of boots and had not yet paid for them. We just do not know. However, we do know that there are no hints in the record that Thomas and Grace had children or that they were Quaker.

All things considered, we can be relatively certain that Thomas and Grace were not Friendship Andrew’s parents.

John Willis Jr. Could Be Friendship Andrew’s Grandfather

John Willis Jr. had six sons, none named Andrew. However, his eldest son John III is a candidate to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John Willis III was born to John Jr. and his first wife Mary about 1704.[15]  Documentary evidence does not help us here. History does not record a marriage, land purchase, children, or even the death of John III.

If John III were Anglican, the records of St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish might have that information. However, those records do not survive. If Quaker, John III likely would have attended Marshy Creek Meeting established in 1727 near his family’s home. However, I cannot find records of that meeting. Other meetings he may have attended such as Northwest Fork Meeting do not record his name.

John III died sometime after 1771, likely during the period 1776-1790 when there is a gap in the Caroline County probate records. If Friendship Andrew were born between 1724 and 1732, John III was about 21 to 29 years old at that time. That makes John III a reasonable candidate to be his father. John III is the only son of John Jr. that fits as a possibility. The other sons are either too young or their families are well documented and do not include a son Andrew.

 Conclusion – The Last Man Standing

Two of Wantage John’s four sons cannot be the forebearer of Friendship Andrew:

    • Direct evidence shows Friendship Andrew did not descend from Wantage John’s son Andrew.
    • Solid circumstantial evidence rules out son Thomas.

That leaves William and John Jr.

    • Son William is geographically undesirable but has a proved marriage and likely children. William could be Friendship Andrew’s father.
    • Son John Jr. had a son John III the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John III is in the right place at the right time, but nothing else in the record argues either way as to his parentage.

Between William and John III, the latter is more likely the father of Friendship Andrew based on location, but we cannot prove it. Possibly down the road more facts will emerge. Until then we have two “last men standing,” and cannot conclusively prove either one.

 

[1] Dorchester County Deed Book 8 Old 404 – 4 Sep 1730, Deposition of Andrew Willis, aged about 40.

[2] Maryland Will Book 21:918 – 24 May 1733, Will of Andrew Willis submitted to probate 23 Aug 1738

[3] Birth year estimated.

[4] Dorchester County Deed Book 28 Old 356 – 22 Sep 1781, Andrew Willis of Dorchester County, planter, purchased  for £60 current money 49½ acres from Benedick Meekins of Dorchester County, planter, and Mary his wife, being part of a tract called Addition to Adventure and part of a tract called Adventure

[5] Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, Cambridge, MD – Children of Andrew and Sarah Willis: Andrew 12 Feb 1768; Keziah 12 Oct 1770; George 3 Dec 1775.

[6] Dorchester County Deed Book 9 Old 214 – ­­­­15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judeth of Dorchester County, planter, for £6 current money sell to Richard Seward of Dorchester County 50 acres called Wantage near the head of Blackwater River adjoining Littleworth. Signed William (M) Willis, Judeth (+) Willis

[7] Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 658 – 3 Sep 1748 Judah [sic Judith] (+) Willis age 50 stated she had heard of the tracts Rosses Range and David Ropies but did not know the bounders; Wm (M) Willis age 52 stated he has known the place for 25 years but not the bounders.

[8] Dorchester County Deed Book 19 Old 343 – 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester County, Merchant., to Nicholas Maccubbin of Annapolis, Merchant for £285.14.6, three tracts totaling 291 acres on Hodsons Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives.

[9] Dorchester County Deed Book NH 5:259 – 4 Dec 1784, Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70, regarding the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Seward/Soward.

[10] Perogative Court of Maryland Inventories, 9:9 – Inventory of the Estate of Thomas Willis, 15 Oct 1722.

[11] Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Volume I and II, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, MD, 2016

[12] Ibid, Vol II, p 234, 1756, Book 20:159, Heirs of Thomas Willis, Sharp’s Prosperity, 50 acres.

[13] Ibid, Vol I and II, Rent entries, which include the years 1758, 1766, 1767, and 1770, show no property named Sharps Prosperity nor any payments on behalf of Thomas Willis.

[14] Testamentary Proceedings of the Perogative Court of Maryland, 26:77, on 28 Nov 1722 John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County exhibited bond of Grace Wallis administratrix of Thomas Wallis. Sureties William Bexley, William Woods, dated 29 Sep 1722. Also filed inventory of the estate.

[15] Dorchester County Deed Book 25 Old 26, 13 Nov 1770 -2 Aug 1771, Deposition of John Willis the Elder of Dorchester Co, aged about 67 years, mentions his father John Willis and a bounder of land called Painters Range on Hunting Creek Mill Pond.

Friendship Andrew Willis – Mystery Man, Part I

Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from John Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. We refer to him as Wantage John. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to Andrew Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. This article explores how John and Andrew might be related.

What We Know About Andrew

In 1753, Andrew Willis “of Dorchester County, Planter,” bought a 28-acre tract for £6.10.00 in Dorchester called Friendship, so let’s call him Friendship Andrew.[1] He was therefore a resident of the county at the time of the purchase. He was not a yeoman farmer who tilled the land. A “Planter” had others, sometimes enslaved people, doing the hard work. Frustratingly, Dorchester records do not show Friendship Andrew before 1753, so there is no indication how he qualified as a “Planter.”Friendship Andrew’s first appearance in the record may have been ten years earlier. In 1743, an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond in St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish.[2] That parish covered the region of Dorchester County that included the tract called Friendship.  After his initial 28-acre purchase, Andrew had his land resurveyed twice to confirm boundaries and add vacant land, resulting in a tract that by 1764 totaled 304 acres called Friendship Regulated.[3]

Friendship Andrew had five sons. He orally directed that should he die without a will, his son Thomas was to divide Friendship Regulated among the five, with 100 acres each to Thomas and Andrew, 70 acres to Ezekiel, and the home plantation to his youngest son Elijah except for a parcel to Joseph.[4] Friendship Andrew died intestate in 1777 or 1778. In Aug 1778, Thomas essentially followed his father’s request and deeded parts of Friendship Regulated to Andrew, Ezekiel, Joseph, and to Isaac Collins.[5] Thomas did not deed any land to Elijah, who must have died before 1778. Likely, Isaac Collins married Elijah’s unnamed daughter, who would be entitled to a share of the land under the Maryland law of intestacy.

Between 1783 and 1786, Joseph, Andrew Jr., and Ezekiel sold all or part of their inherited land.[6] Each was most likely at least 21 years old at that time. Therefore, all were born by 1765. If their father was 25 – 35 years old at that date, he would have been born between 1730 and 1740. Since Friendship Andrew was a “Planter” by 1753, his birth date was probably sooner, maybe in the range of 1720-1730.

What we do not know are Friendship Andrew’s parents. Two groups from which he might directly descend are the family of Wantage John Willis and the Quaker family of Richard and Frances Willis. This article will examine Quaker Richard’s family. I will address Wantage John in a later post.

Quaker Richard married Frances, widow of Richard Dawson, about 1683.[7] Quaker Richard died in 1690 leaving a will that proved their sons Richard Jr. and John and a daughter Frances.[8] Based on the following analysis, it is highly unlikely that Friendship Andrew descended from either son of Quaker Richard.

 Friendship Andrew Is Not Descended from Richard Willis Jr.

Richard Willis Jr. was born 13 Oct 1684.[9] He is the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. However, Richard Jr.’s mother Frances wrote a will in 1723/4 and a codicil in 1729 in which she named three children, two sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. She did not name an Andrew as a son of Richard Jr. Instead, she identified Richard (III) and Mary as Richard Jr.’s children.[10] Frances divided her real property between her son Richard Jr. and his son Richard III.[11] In 1741, Richard Jr. made a will that, like his mother Frances, did not name a son Andrew.  Richard Jr. left all his property to his wife and at her death to a grandchild, with a nephew as a conditional devisee.[12] Surely, if Andrew were a son of Richard Jr., that child would have been named in either his father’s or grandmother’s will, if not both. We can reasonably conclude that Friendship Andrew was not a son of Richard Jr.

Furthermore, Andrew was not a son of Richard Jr.’s son Richard III. In his 1737 will, Richard III gave everything to his sister Mary, except some bequests to two cousins.[13]  Clearly, he had no widow and no children. Thus, neither Richard Jr. nor Richard III, son and grandson of Quaker Richard, was Friendship Andrew’s father.

John Willis Is Not Friendship Andrew’s Father

Quaker Richard’s son John was born 7 Sep1686 and married Margaret Cox 10 Jul 1712.[14] He died intestate in 1723 almost certainly without surviving children. First, there is no mention of children in the record. Second, there was no division of his estate as required by the laws of intestate distribution if children are involved.

No Mention of Children in the Record

If John and Margaret had any children, the eldest would have been about ten when John died. The accounts filed by his widow, however, do not mention any children, who are often identified in such filings.[15] Further, there are no guardianship records as required for minor children … no guardian bond, no guardian accounts, no distribution of the estate to indicate an heir other than Margaret.

Division of Estate

If John and Margaret had children, John’s estate would have been allocated by law one-third to the widow and two-thirds to the children.[16] Margaret died just three years after John, and her personal property was almost identical to her husband’s. John’s estate inventory totaled £103.14.04.[17] Hers amounted to £102.17.11, rather than a third that amount.[18] Having no portion carved out for any children indicates there were none.

If John had no children, the widow would get one-half the personal estate according to law and the other half would go to the deceased’s siblings Richard Jr. and Frances.[19] In that case, one would expect Margaret to have controlled only about £50. However, with no minor children involved, the adult heirs could easily have forgone receiving anything immediately from their sister-in-law. Taking their share would have only made her life more difficult. It makes sense that they would put off a distribution until a later date. In this case, the delay was only three years until Margaret died.

Land – The Final Evidence

The final argument against Friendship Andrew descending from Quaker Richard’s sons is that Andrew received no land from them. Families almost always passed down land from father to son. Maryland Provincial Land Office records show the subsequent owners of the lands of Quaker Richard and Frances Willis and their sons. Friendship Andrew Willis inherited none of that land.[20] Were he in the line of succession, he most likely would have ended up owning some of their land.

Conclusion

It is safe to conclude that the mystery man, Friendship Andrew Willis, is not descended from the line of Quaker Richard and Frances Willis. Neither Richard Jr., his son Richard III, nor John Willis is Andrew’s father. The next article will look at the sons of Wantage John for a possible father.

 

[1] 15 Sep 1753, Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 738 – Thomas Hackett of Dorchester County, Planter, and wife Sarah for 6 pounds, 10 shillings, paid by Andrew Willis of the same place, Planter, sell part of a tract of land called Friendship adjoining Grantham and containing 28 acres.

[2] Wright, F. Edward, Judgement Records of Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, Delmarva Roots: Lewes, Delaware, 2001, p 34 – Aug 1743, Dorchester County Court Judgment Records, p 231 – Presented that Sarah Willis of St. Mary’s White Chappel Parish, spinster, on 10 May 1743 committed fornication and begat a bastard child. Fined 30 shillings. Andrew Willis her surety to indemnify the inhabitants of the county for 7 years from keeping and maintaining a bastard child.

[3] 6 Apr 1754 survey, 23 Sep 1760 patent, Dorchester County, 113 acres, Patented Certificate 1174, MSA S1196-1317, the survey found Friendshipencroached on an elder 1,000-acre tract patented in 1684 called Grantham located in “woods near Catarine Creek.” The resurvey eliminated the encroachment, realigned his tract adjoining Grantham, and added vacancies for a new total of 113 acres then called Friendship Regulated. And 23 Mar 1764, Dorchester County, 304 acres, Patented Certificate 1175, MSA 21196-1316 added vacant lands for a total of 304 acres called Friendship Regulated.

Note: The reference to Catarin Creek is an error. The land was located about five miles north of Federalsburg, estimated by the location of “Davis’s old field,” “lands of Abraham Collins,” “Collins Crossroads,” and Raccoon Branch referenced in other tracts adjoining Grantham and Friendship Regulated.

[4] Caroline County Deed Book D:381, 27 Aug 1793 – 10 Dec 1793, Deposition of John Walker, carpenter, age 52, said he was at the house of Andrew Willis, father of the late Thos. Willis dec’d, of whom Sina Willis is widow, and heard Andrew say he intended 100 acres of his land for Thomas, 100 acres for son Andrew, 7 [sic 70] acres for son Ezekiel, and the home plantation for his youngest son Elijah excepting a parcel to be laid off for the said Andrew’s son Joseph; and that in the event of his death without a will, that Thomas would so convey; to which Thomas agreed and so did. The deposition was requested by Abraham Collins who bought part of Friendship Regulated from Ezekiel in 1786.

[5] Caroline County Deed Book GF A:285-287, 21 Aug 1778. Rather than the instructions conveyed in the above 1793 deposition, Thomas conveyed 87 ½ acres to Andrew, 50 acres to Ezekiel, 32 ½ acres to Joseph, and 29 ¾ acres to Isaac Collins. This left Thomas holding 104 ¼ acres for a total of 304 acres contained in Friendship Regulated.

[6] Caroline County Deed Books, A:650, 659 – Joseph, 1783; A:773 – Andrew, 1784; B:116 – Ezekiel, 1786.

[7] Marriage date estimated based on the 13 Aug 1684 date of the birth of Richard Willis Jr.

[8] Dorchester County Deed Book 4 ½ Old 1 – Will of Richard Willis dated 21 Oct 1689, probate 2 Jan 1690. 300 acres called Rondley to go to his sons.

[9] Quaker Birth Records, Third Haven Monthly Meeting, 1665-1930, p 21, Richard Willis 8th Mo 13th 1684. Note: 1st month for Quakers is March.

[10] Maryland Will Book 19:679 – Will of Frances Fisher dated 28 Feb 1723/4, codicil 14 Apr 1729, probate 7 May 1729. Note: the widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher who predeceased her.

[11] Ibid, ­­­679 and 680

[12] Maryland Will Book 22:439 – Will of Richard Willis dated 6 Nov 1741, probate 20 Jan 1742 – To wife Mary the dwelling plantation which at her death to pass to granddaughter Elizabeth Jolley and heirs. Should Elizabeth Jolley die without heirs the plantation would go to Willis Newton son of Edward Newton [and Richard’s sister Frances Willis Newton]. Personal property bequeathed to wife Mary and to Elizabeth Jolly at age 16. Wife Mary executrix. Wit: Thomas Smith, James Billings, Robert Jenkins Henry. [Note: at the time of his will, Richard Jr.’s son Richard was already dead. Richard Jr.’s daughter Mary’s husband Francis Jolly had died (with his estate underwater), and she had married Hugh Rimmer. Richard, Sr. was guardian of grandchild Elizabeth Jolly. At Richard’s death, Major James Billings became guardian. Elizabeth Jolley died without heirs, and the land went to Willis Newton and eventually his son Thomas Newton.]

[13] Maryland Will Book 21:814 – Will of Richard Willis, wheelwright, of Dorchester County dated 11 May 1737, probate 19 Nov 1737 – To sister Mary, executrix, entire estate except legacies of personal property to cousins John Newton and Margaret Newton children of Edward Newton [and Frances Willis Newton]. Wit: Richard Webster, Sr, Sarah Whaland, Anna Webster.

[14] Quaker Records, Third Haven Monthly Meeting, 1665-1930, p 21, John Willis 7th Mo 7th 1686, and Marriage Book 1668-1938, p 100, 10 Jul 1712 at their Meeting House in Dorchester County. Note: The record is in the books of Third Haven Monthly Meeting in Talbot County.

[15] Perogative Court Accounts 5:280, 19 Sep 1723 – Account for estate of John Williss of Dorchester Co, total account £103.14.4, payments made £25.15.8, dated 19 Sep 1723. Payments to William Ennals, John Orell, Dr. William Murray, William Hemsley, John Hodson Jr., Capt John Rider. Administratrix Margaret Williss.

[16] “An Act for the better Administration of Justice in Testamentary Affairs granting Adminisrcons recovery of Legacies Secureing filiall portions and distribution of Intestates Estates” (1715)  (Ref: Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, April 26, 1715 – August 10, 1716, Acts of the Assembly, April 26-June 3, 1715, Archives of Maryland, Volume 30, William Hand Brown, Maryland Historical Society, 1910, pp. 331-347) – “… one third part of the said Surplusage to the wife of the Intestate and all the residue by Equall portions to and amoungst the Children of such persons dying Intestate and such persons as Legally represent such Children …”

[17] Perogative Court Inventories 8:191, 9 May 1723 – ­­­­Inventory of the estate of John Willis, £103.14.04 appraised by Thomas Hides, Charles Dean; creditors Jno Rider, W Ennalls; kindred Richard Willis, Daniel Cox: filed 16 July 1723 by Margaret Willis administratrix, who “gave testimony according to law” that the inventory was true and correct.

[18] Perogative Court Inventories 11:399, 4 Jul 1726 – Inventory of the estate of Margaret Willis, £102.17.11 appraised by W Ennalls, Edward Newton; creditors W Ennalls, John Rider; kindred Dan’l Cox, Betty Cannon; filed 5 Jul 1726 by Richard Willis administrator.

[19] Testamentary Affairs Act, “And in Case there be no Child or Children nor any Legall representatives of them then one Moyety of the said Estate to be allowed to the wife of the Intestate the residue of the said Estate to be Distributed Equally to Every of the next of kindred of the Intestate who are in Equall Degree and those who Legally represent them(Provided there be no representatives admitted among Collatteralls after brothers and Sisters Children) …”

[20] Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Vol I, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, 2016 – p 152, Richard III tracts owned by Phil. Covington, p 193, Richard Jr.’s tracts owned by John Leatherbury “for his wife.”

[21] Dorchester County Deed Book 7 Old 63 – 26 Jul 1718, Frances sold all her real estate to sons Richard and John Willis for 2,000 pounds of tobacco. The deed provided that when ready to make a division, John would have first choice as to the part he would take. The deed also required them to sell Rondley to John Dawson, possibly Frances’s son from her first marriage.

[22] John received 2,000 pounds of tobacco “on account of the land” and another 2,000 pounds as compensation for not receiving an enslaved person (Frances willed five enslaved people to various legatees).

[23] Jenkins, Dan, Baja Oklahoma, Antheneum, division of Simon & Schuster: New York, 1981

Do You Know a Noah?

I certainly did not until I bumped into Noah Willis who married Eliza Blake on 31 Jan 1827 in Talbot County, Maryland. He appears three years later in the 1830 census for Talbot heading a household of a whopping 16 people. What gives?

Thanks to detailed records at FamilySearch.org, the Maryland State Archives Online, and at MDLANDREC.net, we can answer many questions about this man and his descendants. The record reveals that he was born in Maryland, but not his family of origin.[1] We have no clue about his parents and cannot connect him to my ongoing project identifying descendants of “Wantage John” Willis who died 1712 in Dorchester County, Maryland.

But let’s go back … what does the record show about Noah?

First, there is his marriage in 1827 to Eliza Blake.[2] Then, there is the 1830 census for Talbot that shows the following household residents:

  • Seven white boys – 1 male under 5 years, 3 males age 5-9, 3 males 10-14,
  • Two white men – 1 male 30-39, and 1 male 40-49
  • One white girl – 1 female under 5
  • One white woman – 1 female 30-39
  • One free black woman -1 female age 10-23
  • Two enslaved girls – 2 females under 10
  • One enslaved teenage girl – 1 female age 10-23
  • One enslaved woman – 1 female 24-35

Further investigation shows Eliza had been married before and Noah may have been. Noah Willis at age 26 to 44 appears in the 1820 census for Talbot County with a woman age 45+, presumably his wife but maybe his mother or sister. The remainder of that household are 43 enslaved people … 16 males and 27 females, with 17 members of the household employed in agriculture. I have not identified the woman in Noah’s household, but there were no children. Furthermore, the woman disappeared before Noah married Eliza in 1827, or at least before the census in 1830.

Talbot County deed records show Noah purchased 140 acres of land in 1823.[3] Likely, he was renting and farming that same land at the date of the 1820 census. He sold that land in 1828 after his marriage to Eliza, and they lived on her property.[4]

As to Eliza’s first marriage, on 20 Nov 1816 Eliza Ray wed John Blake.[5] The 1820 census lists the Blake household near the Willis lands. It shows John Blake and his wife both at age 18-25 with three children, a girl age 10-18 and two boys less than 10.[6] The rest of the household consists of 8 enslaved males and 9 enslaved females. John Wilson Blake purchased more than 400 acres of land in 1821 in the Miles River Neck for $10,500, entering into a fifteen-year mortgage for about half of that amount.[7] The Blake couple had three more sons before John died intestate in 1826 leaving his widow and six orphan children.[8]

In 1828, Samuel Roberts, administrator of the estate of John W. Blake, deceased, began filing annual reports as acting guardian of Blake’s six orphan children … five boys and a girl, naming each one.[9] His reports include an item of expense for each child as “Board and clothing paid to Noah Willis.” Obviously, these six children are in the Willis household in the 1830 census. The personal property attributable to each orphan is a one-sixth share of the annual rent derived from the land owned by their deceased father (net of their mother’s dower). Eliza Blake Willis nee Ray is clearly the mother of these children.[10] In about 1828, Eliza gave birth to a son by Noah, James Willis. With this information we can name all of the white occupants of the household except one man and one boy, whom we can reasonably assume are related to Noah or Eliza, possibly her brother and his child:[11]

  • Noah Willis – age 40-49
  • Unidentified male – 30-39
  • William Blake, John Blake, Theodore Blake – 10-14
  • Richard Blake, Thomas Blake, unidentified boy – 5-9
  • James Willis – under 5
  • Eliza Ray Blake Willis – 30-39
  • Mary Ann Blake – under 5

Talbot County guardian accounts show that from 1833 through 1836, Noah Willis served as guardian of the six children. I am uncertain why Samuel Roberts vacated that office. Appraisers periodically assessed the real estate of the deceased John W. Blake and submitted to the Orphan’s Court a fair annual rental for the property. The property descended through the laws of intestate descent and distribution to Blake’s orphan children, subject to their mother’s rights during her lifetime. The Willis family occupied the property and Noah Willis “rented” it from the estate. Had a third party occupied and rented the farm, an arms-length transaction would have established the value and the annual rental. However, Noah’s renting the farm necessitated the third-party appraisals. Noah’s guardian accounts dutifully tabulated each orphan’s one-sixth share of the rental income (after dower). The deducted expenses attributable to each child were a share of taxes and filing fees, with the difference between income and those expenses listed as the cost of boarding and clothing the child. Therefore, the resulting balance due each child was zero. Noah “paid” rent into the guardian account and then “paid” himself from the account for caring for the children, so no money really changed hands except for the taxes and fees paid to the county.

The appraisal process established an annual rental of $400 in 1831, $350 in 1834, and $275 in 1836. The record shows a detailed description of the land and improvements.[12] The land amounted to about 430 acres of which 200 was forested. The rest was arable with the soil ranging from very good to thin. The farm had three fields. The first contained 220,000 hills of corn, and the other two about 140,000 to 150,000 hills. Two apple orchards existed. The older one with 152 trees was in a bad state of decay; the second with 50 trees thrived. A fenced vegetable garden was under a new rail fence, strong and good.

The appraisers described the farms buildings in this manner, a “frame house with two good rooms and a passage and stair case on the first floor and three rooms above, good cellars, a good brick lodging room adjoining and a good brick kitchen. All these are in pretty good repair. A good frame smoke house about 12 feet square, a good corn house of about 12 by 24 feet, and four other out houses, such as poultry houses, a stable and quarters, all wretchedly dilapidated. There is a large barn of about 60 by 28 feet, good frame but suffers for want of a good roof.  There is also the roof of a corn house, quite good, but no house or underpart. This roof is about 50 or 60 feet long. The fencing on the farm is tolerably good, but the general state of the farm is somewhat out of order.”

Noah and Eliza had two more children, Margaret (who died an infant) and Eliza A., before Noah Willis died about 1837. On 31 May 1838, Noah’s widow married William T. Stitchberry in Talbot County.[13] She and Stitchberry entered into a prenuptial agreement stipulating that she was seized of property in Miles River Neck and the property was to remain hers separately. Any rents and profits from the property she could invest as she saw fit and could dispose of the profits during her life as she determined. The investments would be made in the name of John B. Ray, Trustee, [likely her brother] or whoever she designated in the future.[14]

The Stitchberrys appear in the 1850 census in Talbot County with the two surviving Willis children, James E. and Eliza A., plus two children of their own, William G. and Sarah E. Stitchberry.[15]

Noah’s only son, James E. Willis married by 1870 when the census lists him as a farmer with a wife Martha W. Willis. He has $600 of personal property but no real property and is living very close to his stepfather Stitchberry’s farm. Possibly, he was still working there. The 1880 census lists James and Martha with six children, a daughter … M. E. age 9, and five sons … Jas E. age 8, Wm Geo. age 5, T. F. age 4, N. A. age 2, and H. C. age 3 months born in April 1880. Other researchers have attributed the following names to James’s and Martha’s children … M. Emily, James E., William George, T. Frank, Albert Addison, and H.C.

That is all the time I have now for the mysterious Noah Willis. If anyone has more information, please share it! My next step will be to convince Robin to help find a living male descendant of one of James Willis’s five sons … someone to take a Y-DNA test. She is very good at finding such candidates and I hope she will help.

[1] 1880 Census for Talbot County lists James E. Willis, son of Noah and Eliza, showing both of James’s parents as born in Maryland.

[2] Maryland State Archives Online, Talbot County Marriage Licenses, by the Reverend Mr. Thomas, 1825-1840, p 18.

[3] Talbot County Deed Book 44:385, Noah Willis paid $300.00 to William Watts and James Saulsbury, Sr., for 140 acres lying at the headwaters of St. Michaels River, parts of tracts called St. Michaels Fresh Run, Carter’s Range, and Carter’s Forest near the mill pond at the headwaters of the St Michaels River and on the main road to Potts Mill.

[4] Talbot County Deed Book 48:131, Noah Willis and wife Eliza Willis sold to William T. Clark for $400.00 the property Noah bought in 1823.

[5] Maryland State Archives Online, Talbot County Marriage Licenses, by the Reverend Mr. Thomas, 1794-1825, p 241.

[6] The census also lists an older John Blake in the vicinity.

[7] Talbot County Deed Book 43:104, 16 May 1821, Fayette Gibson sold to John Wilson Blake for $10,500 tracts near the waters of Saint Michaels River [i.e., Miles River] called Batchelor’s Branch, Batchelor’s Branch Addition, Thief Keep Out, Bennett’s Neglect, Bennett’s Neglect Resurveyed, part of Triangle and as much of the adjoining Halls Range to make up 400 acres … also some small acreage called Partnership and Spring Field in Miles River Neck. At DB 43:107 Blake mortgages the property as security for the repayment of $5,500 in fifteen equal annual installments plus interest to be paid before 1 Jan 1837.

[8] Talbot County Guardian and Administration Bonds, 1813-1829, p 159, 2 Sep 1826, Samuel Roberts bound at $10,000 as administrator of the estate of John W. Blake along with E. Roberts and Andrew Skinner. Subsequent account filings show a net personal estate of more than $4,500.

[9] Talbot County Guardian Accounts, Vol 10, pp 106-110.

[10] The land confirms this Eliza is the mother of the orphan children of John W. Blake. That would have been an easy conclusion to make had she been the only Eliza in the Ray and Blake families. However, the record is a little more complex. William Blake, Sr. who died in 1813 had five children: son John Wilson Blake who married Eliza Ray on 2 Nov 1816; daughter Eliza S. Blake who married William Ray on 28 Sep 1813; son William Blake who married Elizabeth Hardin on 8 Nov 1821; daughter Frances Blake; and son James Blake. The land helps prove that the Eliza Blake who married Noah Willis was the Eliza Blake nee Ray who married John W Blake and not the Eliza Ray nee Blake the daughter of William Blake, Sr. nor the Elizabeth Blake nee Hardin who married William Blake, Jr.

[11] I cannot identify the enslaved persons by name. Samuel Roberts’ 1828 guardian filing records the sale of four slaves: Garrison, age 9; Betty, age 6; Levina, age 19; and Harriet age 6 months, presumably Levina’s daughter, both sold to the same person. The remaining population of 60 enslaved people from the Blake and Willis households in the 1820 census are unaccounted for.

[12] Talbot County Guardian and Administration Bonds, 1830-1838, pp 239, 296, 321

[13] Talbot County Marriage Licenses, 1825-1840, married by the Reverend Mr. Potts, MSA Reference C1890-5, p 92.

[14] Talbot County Beed Book 54:1, signed 31 May 1838 by William (X) Stitchberry, E. R. Willis, and John B. Ray, recorded 1 Jun 1838. While the document states she is seized of the land, she only held it during her lifetime. Upon her death it descended to the children of Eliza and John Blake.

[15] 1850 Census, Talbot County, William T Stitchberry, 37, farmer, $1,600 of real estate, cannot read or write; Eliza Stitchberry, 49; James E. Willis, 22, farmer; Eliza A. Willis, 14, attended school; William G. Stitchberry, 11; Sarah E Stitchberry, 10.

Revised: Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware and the Bastard Stableboy

This post has corrections and additions to an article having this title originally posted Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. A couple of thoughtful readers commented privately on the original article. One gentle friend suggested (“if you ever revise it”) including information from Rev. S. M. Rankin’s book on two of Joseph’s sons. That is a good idea. Another noted with mild chagrin that I had provided minimal source citations. Guilty. Since I often kvetch about unsourced family histories, that constitutes serious hypocrisy on my part. This revision therefore adds citations. The process of checking my sources uncovered several errors, always a good thing. Here is the revised article.

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Joseph Rankin of New Castle County (1704 – 1764) once generated some lively controversy among members of the Rankin DNA Project.

Back in the day, the conventional wisdom was that Joseph was the father of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County, NC, husband of Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. One member of the Rankin Project (call him “Joe” Rankin) has an unimpeachable paper trail back to Joseph. However, Joe is not a YDNA match to descendants of Samuel and Eleanor. Not even remotely. Almost everyone concluded that Joe couldn’t be a descendant of Joseph of Delaware. Someone told Joe he must have an NPE (“non-paternal event”) in his Rankin ancestry. Perhaps a Mrs. Rankin had an extramarital fling, producing a son named Rankin but who wasn’t a genealogical Rankin.

That couldn’t be the case, because Joe is clearly a genealogical Rankin. He has Rankin YDNA matches who aren’t descended from Joseph. Nevertheless, the naysayers held firm.

Joe’s frustration simmered until he identified another Rankin having a solid gold paper trail back to Joseph of Delaware. Joe persuaded him to YDNA test. Bingo! They are a 37-marker match with a genetic distance of one. Said Joe: “I feel like I’ve gone from being the bastard stable boy to laird of the manor.”

Joe and his recruit descend from different sons of Joseph, so their close YDNA match is not a result of a recent shared ancestor. Joseph of Delaware is their common Rankin ancestor, and he was born more than three centuries ago. Joe’s YDNA match to his recruit established that Samuel of Lincoln County was not a son of Joseph of Delaware.

There are other issues with Joseph’s family. His wife is frequently identified as Rebecca Armstrong, although there seems to be no evidence for her surname (Rebecca is correct for her given name).[1] Some say he was born in Scotland,[2] although he almost certainly arrived in one of the Philadelphia ports in the late 1720s, during the Great Migration of Scots-Irish from Ulster. Some sources say his children were born on the other side of the Atlantic, although the evidence suggests they were born in the colonies.[3] Some say Joseph served in the Revolution. If so, he was a ghostly presence, because he died in 1764.[4]

Joseph was most likely the original Rankin immigrant in his line. His descendants belong to the same Rankin YDNA lineage as (1) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC and (2) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, NC. Joseph was neither the father nor the son of Robert or David. No common ancestor for these three Rankin family lines has been identified, although David of Iredell may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. YDNA results establish a low probability that there is a common Rankin ancestor for these families on this side of the Atlantic. The common ancestor probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, almost certainly in Scotland. On the Rankin DNA Project website, Joseph’s line is “Lineage 1B.”[5]

Joseph of Delaware may be the same man as the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (i.e., unmarried and not a landowner) on the 1729 and 1730 tax lists in London-Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[6] That township is in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania bordering the Maryland and Delaware state lines. Strickersville, the largest town in the township, is less than four miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware, where Joseph is buried.

By 1731, Joseph (hereafter, “Joseph Sr.”) had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, White Clay Creek Hundred.[7] If Joseph of New Castle was the same man as Joseph of London-Britain Township, then Joseph must have married sometime after the 1730 tax list.

Joseph Sr. had four sons conclusively proved by deeds: Joseph Jr., Lt. Thomas, John, and William.[8] A daughter Ann is proved by the will of Joseph Jr.[9] Joseph Sr. also had two probable sons established by circumstantial evidence: James and Robert. Based on birth dates that are known and Joseph Sr.’s likely marriage after 1730, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware.

Here are Joseph’s proved and probable children, in no particular order except that the proved children are listed first.

John Rankin (1736 – 1814). Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book said this about him: “John Rankin, the son of Joseph, was born near Newark, [New Castle Co.,] Delaware, 1736, came to Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1764 … he was married to Hannah Carson just before or within a year after coming to North Carolina. He died in 1814.”[10] He was “tall and slender,” he and Hannah had twelve children, and they are both buried in the Buffalo Presbyterian Church cemetery in Greensboro.[11] A deed conclusively proves Joseph Sr. was John’s father.[12] Hannah Carson Rankin was also from New Castle, which makes me suspect she and John probably married there. Three of John Rankin’s proved or probable brothers served in Hannah’s brother Walter Carson’s Company in the Revolutionary War. Although John didn’t serve in Delaware, his family’s oral tradition was that he fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Rev. Rankin’s book extensively traces the lines of both John Rankin and his brother William.

Thomas Rankin died in 1795, birth year uncertain. Some sources say he was born in 1735, which is possible. Lt. Thomas may be buried in the same grave as his father because a DAR marker with Thomas’s name, rank and unit (“2 Delaware Militia”) is installed at the base of Joseph Sr.’s tombstone.[13] The stone’s inscription says that Joseph died in 1764 at age 60. Some sources apparently assume that Lt. Thomas died at age 60. His estate was administered in 1795, the year he died. Thus, some conclude Lt. Thomas was born in 1735. I found no evidence of a date of birth.

Like three of his brothers, Lt. Thomas is proved as a son of Joseph Sr. by a deed.[14] Also, Lt. Thomas signed a 1778 loyalty oath in New Castle at the same time and place as three other Rankin men (James, Joseph Jr. and Robert).[15] Of the three, only Joseph Jr. is a proved brother. Lt. Thomas served with the other two, probable brothers James and Robert Rankin, in Capt. Walter Carson’s company in the Revolutionary War.

Lt. Thomas’s wife was Elizabeth Montgomery (1760 – 1830).[16] Their five children, all born 1786 – 1795, are proved by Orphans’ Court records.[17] They were also beneficiaries or devisees in the will of Joseph Jr., who named his nieces and nephews Montgomery, Hannah, Margaret, Joseph (III) and Thomas Rankin (Jr.).[18] At least two of them – Joseph III, born about 1786, and Thomas Jr., born in 1795 – went to live with their uncle Joseph Jr. after Lt. Thomas died.[19] There was no better way in the colonies to become destitute than to be the mother of young children whose father dies. Orphans’ Court records confirm that Lt. Thomas’s personal estate was insufficient to pay debts.[20]

William Rankin (1744 – 1804)[21] was administrator of his father’s estate along with his mother Rebecca Rankin.[22] William married Jane Chambers in 1772 in Guilford County;[23] the couple had nine children.[24] William was still in Delaware in 1768, when two deeds recited that he was “of New Castle Co.”[25] The deeds appointed someone to acknowledge them in court for the grantors, suggesting that William probably left soon after executing them. Rev. Rankin says William arrived in Guilford in the latter part of 1768 and lived with his brother John for about three years.[26] I first found William in the Guilford records in 1772 when he bought a tract from John.[27] S. M. Rankin believes that William also fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Joseph Rankin Jr. died in 1820, birth year uncertain. He may have married Margaret Carson, sister of Hannah Carson Rankin and Capt. Walter Carson, in Philadelphia. That marriage was in a Lutheran church, though, and the Rankins were serious Presbyterians. Online trees (yes, I know, they aren’t worth the paper it would take to print them) say Walter Carson’s sister Margaret married a Mr. Byers, not Joseph Rankin. Other trees say Joseph Jr. never married. The marriage issue is essentially moot, because Joseph Jr. had no children of his own. Instead, he became the family caretaker, taking in his single sister Ann and at least two of the orphaned children of Lt. Thomas.[28] He was also an administrator of Lt. Thomas’s estate.[29]

Naturally, a deed conclusively proves Joseph Jr. was Joseph Sr.’s son.[30] Joseph Jr. also signed the 1778 loyalty oath along with the other Rankin men, but did not serve in Capt. Carson’s company. His 1819 will is a nice display of both affection and determination. He provides that his sister will live with his two nephews, and states how they should treat her in uncompromising terms: “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” (Emphasis added.)

Ann Rankin apparently never married. Joseph Jr.’s will was the only source of information I found on her.[31]

James Rankin is a probable son of Joseph Sr., based on circumstantial evidence. He also signed the 1778 loyalty oath and served in Capt. Carson’s company. Most importantly, James was listed in the 1783 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred along with Lt. Thomas and Joseph Jr.[32] That was his only appearance on a tax list that I found, but viewing those lists online is a nightmare. James owned no land, so he was likely farming with his brothers, who owned a tract in common.[33] 1783 was James’s last appearance in the New Castle records. There are neither probate nor cemetery records for him, suggesting he moved away. I suspect that is the case. An article on him will follow if my theory pans out.

Robert Rankin is also a probable son of Joseph Sr. Robert signed the 1778 New Castle County loyalty oath and served in Capt. Carson’s company. Robert was listed on the 1777 and either the 1778 or 1779 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred, as were Thomas and Joseph. He isn’t listed in New Castle cemetery or probate records, and doesn’t appear in the grantor or grantee indexes of New Castle County. Some Robert Rankin married Martha Latimer in 1765, although the marriage license was a record of the Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church of New Castle. I have no idea where Robert might have gone. He was not the same man as Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC who married Mary Withrow as his first wife. Nor was he the same man as the Robert with wife Rebecca of Guilford Co., NC.

And that’s a start on Joseph of Delaware. I promise to work on an outline descendant chart for this line. I was also reminded when checking my sources that there was a second Rankin family in New Castle. I should probably write an article on them as well. If you are sucker for detail, check out my transcription below, of the extraordinary New Castle deed proving four of Joseph Sr.’s sons following the footnotes.

See you on down the road.

Robin

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[1] See estate account of William Rankin and Rebecca Rankin, administrators of the estate of Joseph Rankin, dated 16 April 1765, in Delaware Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971, Register of Wills, Anna Racine – Lydia Rash, file of “Rankin, Joseph 1765.”

[2] See, e.g., Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001), citing p. 445-446 of History:

“Joseph Rankin was b. near the Clyde in Scotland; to DE with his wife and children long before the Revolutionary War.”

[3] Id.

[4] Find-a-Grave has a photograph of Joseph’s tombstone at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery  here. Gary and I visited the cemetery in 2008. The only information on the tombstone is that Joseph Rankin died 29 Jul 1764 at age 60. It does not say Joseph was born in Ireland; a Find-a-Grave contributor added that commentary.

[5] See a brief discussion and charts for Rankin Lineage 1 on the Rankin DNA Project website at this link.

[6] www.familysearch.org, Chester County (Pennsylvania) Tax Records, 1715 – 1820, Film No. 7857857, images #162 (1729 tax list for London-Britain Township) and #179 (1730 tax list for London-Britain Township). Joseph doesn’t appear on the 1732 list. I couldn’t find a list for 1731.

[7] I couldn’t find a listing for a 1731 deed to Joseph Rankin in the grantee index. The only proof I can find for the land purchase is recitations of the provenance of the tract in later deeds. E.g., New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees. The deed describes a grant from William Penn, proprietor of PA, to Robert French on the “south south (sic, southwest) side of White Clay Cr. in White Clay Cr. Hundred.” French conveyed to David Miller, who sold 150 acres to James Miller in 1730. James Miller conveyed the tract to Joseph Rankin in 1731. Joseph Rankin by will dated 13 Jul 1764 conveyed part of the tract to John and William Rankin.

[8] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book G3:249-255 expressly names Joseph, Thomas, John, and William as sons of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. The deed also identifies tracts devised by Joseph Sr. to those four sons, subject to “their mother’s dower interest,” by will dated 13 Jul 1764. I couldn’t find a listing for Joseph Sr.’s will in the probate index. So far as I know, deeds are the only evidence that Joseph Sr. died testate. The probate account refers to William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors.

[9] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819, proved 7 Jun 1820, naming sister Ann ($100 cash, and to live with nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin). He also bequeathed cash to his nephew and nieces Montgomery Rankin, Hannah Rankin and Margaret Rankin, and devised his Mill Creek Hundred tract of 256 acres to Joseph III and Thomas Rankin Jr.

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, MA: Higginson Book reprint, originally published Greensboro, NC, 1931), 55.

[11] Id. at 21 and 55.

[12] See Note 8.

[13] Find-a-Grave has an image of the DAR plaque for Lt. Thomas placed at the foot of his father’s tombstone at this link.

[14] See Note 8.

[15] Eleanor B. Cooch, Delaware Signers of the Oath of Allegiance (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1937). This book is out of print. Ms. Cooch may have abstracted the oath of allegiance information from the History of Delaware. See J. Thomas Scharf, Index to History of Delaware, 1609-1888 (Historical Society of Delaware, 1976).

[16] Elizabeth Montgomery Rankin is also buried in Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Her tombstone reads, “In Memory of Elizabeth Rankin, wife of Thomas Rankin.” The Find-a-Grave transcription incorrectly gives her date of death as 1886. I read her date of death from the original stone as 18 Apr 1830, age 70 years. That would make her birth year about 1760.

[17] Sarah Deakyne Burke, Orphans’ Court Proceedings of New Castle County, Delaware, Book No. 5 April 1793 – April 1802(Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2008). A record dated 15 Dec 1801 describes the petition of Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of White Clay Creek Hundred, administrators of Lt. Thomas’s estate. The petition recites that the administrators settled the estate on 15 Jul 1798, paying £134.2.3 over the amount they received. Petitioners asked for sale of part of Lt. Thomas’s land. The petition also states that Lt. Thomas was survived by his widow Elizabeth and five children: Joseph, Hannah, Montgomery, Margaret, and Thomas. It also recited that the eldest, Joseph III, was only 15 (born about 1786).

[18] See Note 9.

[19] The federal census records for New Castle are spotty. The 1810 census for Mill Creek Hundred (incorrectly designated on Ancestry as Brandywine Hundred) lists Joseph’s household as 01101-00020. The male over 45 is Joseph Sr. and the two young males are the right ages to be Lt. Thomas’s sons Joseph III (b. 1786) and Thomas Jr. (b. 1795). The females age 26 < 45 are a mystery to me, but one should be Joseph Jr.’s sister Ann. If so, she is in the wrong age bracket. See also the 1820 census (the last before Joseph Jr. died that same year), Mill Creek Hundred, Joseph Rankin, 45 and over, with a female his own age (presumably his sister Ann), a male and female age 26 < 44 (his nephew Joseph III and wife Sarah), a male age 16 < 25 (his nephew Thomas, b. 1795), 4 children under the age of 15, and a free black woman.

[20] See Note 17.

[21] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[22] See Note 1.

[23] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984), marriage bond dated 13 Nov 1772 for William Rankin and Jean Chambers. Rev. Rankin gives her name as Jane. Guilford County records also spell it as Jean or Jine. E.g., Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 9: 429.

[24] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[25] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499 and 565, Familysearch.org film #6564. E.g., DB Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor to Guilford) and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees.

[26] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 21, 149.

[27] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 1: 179, John Rankin of Guilford to William Rankin of same, 218 acres on the North Side of Buffalo Creek that John purchased from Alexander McNight (or McKnight) in 1765.

[28] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819 proved 7 Jun 1820 provided that his sister Ann was to live with my two nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin (sons of Lt. Thomas and Elizabeth Montgomery) “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” Joseph Jr. also left her $100.

[29] See Note 17.

[30] See Note 8.

[31] See Note 28.

[32] Familysearch.org catalog, New Castle Co., DE, Taxation, “Tax Lists (New Castle County, Delaware) 1738-1853,” Film No. 7834264, “Tax Lists v. 1=17, 1738 – 1790.” Unfortunately, I failed to record image numbers.

[33] There is no listing for either James or Robert Rankin in the New Castle County grantor and grantee indices.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Transcription of New Castle Deed Book G3: 249-255. Proves 4 of the sons of Joseph Rankin. Transcription is verbatim, except that I have started new paragraphs between topics. The original deed is all one paragraph. My comments are in italics.

To all People to whom these presents shall come We Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of Whiteclay Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware administrators of all and singular the goods and chattels rights and credits which were of Thomas Rankin late of the county afsd decd at the time of his death who died Intestate and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin in the lands and premises herein after about to be granted and conveyed. The grantors in this deed are (1) Joseph Rankin and David Nivin in their capacities as administrators of Thomas Rankin’s estate and (2) Joseph Rankin in his capacity as tenant in common in the tracts being conveyed in the deed.

Send greeting whereas William Penn Esquire proprietor of the State [then the province] od Pennsylvnia and territories in and by a certain Instrument or Patent under the hands of Edward Shipper Thomas Story and James Logan his then Commissioners of property and the Seal of the Province annexed did grant and confirm unto Robert French a certain tract of land containing three hundred acres situate on the South West side of Whiteclay Creek in Whiteclay Creek Hundred and County of Newcastle afsd as in and by the the said Patent bearing date the fifteenth day of December in the year one thousand seven hundred and two and recorded in the Rolls (?) Office at Philadelphia in Patent Book A Vol 2d page 422 as (?) relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said Robert French so thus being seized by his deed bearing date the twentieth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred and three did grant and convey the said tract of land unto a certain David Miller as in and by the said deed Recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Lib B folio 266 relation being thereunto as will more and at large appear

and whereas the said David Miller made over and conveyed one hundred and fifty acres of the said Land unto James Miller as by deed dated the thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty and the said James Miller made over and conveyed the same unto Joseph Rankin [Father of the aforesaid Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin] in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty one

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin so thereof being seized made and published his last Will and Testament in writing bearing date the thirteenth day of July in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty four wherein among other things he devised twenty one acres and three quarters of the said land unto his two Sons John Rankin and William Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever and the residue of the said land he devised unto his two Sons to wit the afsd Thomas Rankin the afsd decd and the afsd Joseph Rankin party to these present to be held by them their Heirs Executors Administrators and assigns in common Tenancy for ever subject nevertheless to their Mother’s thirds thereof (?) of during her natural Life. [RRW note: Joseph Sr.’s will isn’t indexed in the New Castle probate records. Extant records identify William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors of Joseph Sr.’s estate. I’m puzzled by all that and have no explanation.]

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin in his last Will and Testament afsd did also convey unto his two sons John Rankin and William Rankin another piece or parcel of land with the appurtenances lying in Whiteclay Creek Hundred afsd and adjoining the above mentioned tract and containing forty seven acres and the customary allowance of six acres patent for roads and highways being a part of the land belonging to the Pennsylvania land Company in London and was made over and conveyed unto John Rankin the younger by Jacob Cooper Samuel Shoemaker and Joshua Howell, Attornies for John Fothergill, Daniel Zachary, Thomas How, Devereaux Bowley, Luke Hind, Richard How, Jacob Hagan, Sylvanus Grove and William Heron of the City of London Trustees of the Pensylvania land Company in London as afsd to the sd John Rankin and William Rankin their Heirs and assigns in common Tenancy for ever, as in and by the said will proven according to law and filed in the registers Office at Newcastle relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said John Rankin Rankin and Hannah his wife and the said William Rankin of the above mentioned twenty one acres and three quarters of land so being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands & Seals bearing date the ninth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred & sixty eight for the consideration mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said twenty one acres and three quarters of land with the appurtenances unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever as in and by the said Indentures acknowledged in open Court of Common Please held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August term the same year & recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y page 499 et. Relation being thereunto had will at large appear

and whereas the afsd John Rankin and Hannah his wife & the afsd William Rankin & of the aforesaid forty seven Acres and allowance being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals bearing date April the ninth in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty eight for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said forty seven acres with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs and assigns for ever as in & by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August Term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y folio 565 & relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas a certain Charles Jacobs (?) and Grizzle his wife by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals dated the twenty eight of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy two for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin a certain piece or parcel of land situate lying and being in White Clay Creek Hundred afsd adjoining the first above mentioned tract and containing fifty two acres with the appurtenances thereunto belonging to hold the said land and Premises with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs & assigns for ever as in and by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in February term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office of Newcastle in Book B Vol 2d folio 223 relation being theirunto had may more at large appear

and whereas the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin so of the four above mentioned tracts or parcels of land with the appurtenances being seized and having erected a Merchant Mill thereon the said Thomas died intestate without any division or partition having been previously made or done between the two parties

and whereas the administration of all and singular the goods and Chattels rights and Credit which were of the said Thomas Rankin dec’d to wit upon the third day of November in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety five By James Booth Esqr at that time Register for probate of Wills and granting Letters of Administration for the County of New Castle afsd were to us the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin committed (RRW note: Lt. Thomas died in October or November 1795 — his youngest son, Thomas Jr., was born in April 1796).

And whereas upon arranging settling and adjusting the accounts of the said deceased it was to us made known that there were sundry debts to ______ persons due by the said deceased which we had it not out the goods and chattels of the said dec’d then in our hands in any wise then in our power to discharge and pay without selling the Real Estate of the said deceased as abovementioned or at least a part therof

Therefore we took upon ourselves to present a petition to the Honorable the Orphans Court held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle the fifteenth day of december in the year one thousand eight hundred and one setting forth that the said Thomas Rankin died Seized in his ____ of fee and in the one moiety or half part of the aforesaid tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances which was holden by him and the afsd Joseph Rankin one of the Petitioners in moieties and that we had not any means then in our hands out of the goods and Chattels of the sd decd to pay the out standing debts then due but by a sale of the whole or a part of the afsd Real Estate and praying the Court for an order to sell the moiety or half part of the said Real Estate which was of the said deceased or as much thereof as might be deemed necessary to pay and satisfy the said debts pursuant to the directions of the act of Assembly in such cases made and provided

Whereupon it was ordered by the Court that We the administrators as of should make sale of one moiety of the above mentioned tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances or so much thereof as may be deemed sufficient to satisfy and disharge the Just debts of the said in testate and that we should make return thereof to the next Orphans court

and whereas afterwards to wit upon the fourth day of November in the year one thousand eight hundred and two We the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the said Thomas Rankin ________ pursuance of the said Order and I the said Joseph Rankin Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin after we had given due notice of the time and place of such date to be given according to the directions of the act of Assemby in such case made an provided the whole of the before mentioned tracts and parcels of land with all singular the Improvements and appurtenances did set to public auction or _______ and the same was purchased by James Crawford of Mill Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware aforesaid for the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars lawful money of the State of Delaware afsd he being the highest and best bidder

Now know ye that we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the sd Thomas Rankin as afsd and I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in Common in the afsd lands & premises with the said deceased by force and virtue of the afsd Order and the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided and for an in Consideration of the afsd sun of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd to us in hand well and truly pay at and before the ensealing and delivery or these presents the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge and from every part and parcel thereof do acquit release and discharge the said James Crawford his heirs Executors and administrators for ever by these presents

Have granted bargained sold aliened released enfeoffed conveyed and confirmed and by force and Virtue of the afsd Order and the act of Assembly in such case made and provided do grant bargain sell alien release enfeoff convey and confirm unto the same James Crawford heir Heirs and assigns all the above mentioned tracts and parcels of land lying and being situated as afsd and bounded and described [as to the out lines thereof] as followith to wit

Beginning at an old Spanish oak stump on the west side of Whiteclay Creek which is also a corner of Obadiah Sergeants? land and running thence by the lines of the said Sergeants land south seventy two degrees west two hundred and forty eight perches to a forked poplar and South three degrees East forty six perches to a marked corner hickory standing by the great Road leaning from Newark to new London Cross Roads thence by said road North forty two and a half degrees West eighty nine perches and a half Northfourteen and a half degrees West sixty three perches and a half and north thirty three and a half degrees West twenty one perches and a half to a corner Blackoak standing on the east side of the great road afsd which is a corner of land late of Samuel Armitage thence therewith North seventy eight and a half degrees East eighty perches and a half to a corner blackoak in the line of Joseph Rankins first purchase then with the same North three degrees west thirty nine perches and two tenths of a perch to a stake about three perches west of a large Chestnut tree and thence north eighty five degrees East one hundred and twenty perches and eight tenths of a Perch to a stone set in line of a corner whiteoak on the East bank of a small run at the beginning corner of that piece or land bought of Charles Graham _____ thence by the lines of the same North twenty eight degrees West sixty eight perches to a Stone and north eighty one degrees East one hundred and twenty five Perches to a whiteoak standing by Whiteclay Creek and thence down the said Creek by the several courses thereof and binding thereon to the place of Beginning containing in the whole two hundred and eighty acres [RRW note: I get only 249A or 255A. ???] be the same more or less within the said described boundaries

Together with all and singular the Houses out Houses Mills Mill Houses Mill ponds Mill dams Millraces gardens orchards Meadows Woods Ways waters water courses rights liberties Privileges hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to all and every th hereby granted premises belonging or in any wise appertaining and the reversion and reversions remainder and remainders rents Issues and profits thereof and all the estate right title Interest trust property claim and demands which was of the afsd Thomas Rankin decd and now is of the aforesaid Joseph Rankin , of, in, to, or out of the same or any part of parcel thereof

To have and to hold the said plantation and tract of land with all and singular the improvements and appurtenances hereby granted or mentioned and intended so to be unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns to the only proper use benefit and behoof of the sd James Chawford his Heirs and assigns for ever as fully and absolutely as we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin might could or ought to sell and convey the same by force and virtue of of the aforesaid Order and the Act of Assembly afsd in such case made and provided under and subject to the yearly quit Rents payable thereout of to the chief Lord or Lords of the fee thereof

And I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in common with the afsd Thomas Rankin and rightful owner of the one moiety or undivided half of the before mentioned and described lands and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to me belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to be belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the appurtenance unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns from and against myself the said Joseph Rankin and my Heirs and against all & every other person and persons whatsoever _____ claiming or to claim the same by from or under me them or any of them shall and will warrant and for ever defend by these presents

In witness whereof the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin as administrators of Thomas Rankin decd and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in common with the sd Thomas Rankin have hereunto set their hands and seals this               day of              in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three.

Signed sealed and delivered                                                            Joseph Rankin (seal)

In the presence of us                                                                         David Nivin (seal)

Saml Williamson

Joseph Rankin Junr [son of Lt. Thomas, dec’d]

$3710             We do hereby acknowledge to have received of the before named James Crawford the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd in full of the consideration moned mentioned in the foregoing Instruments of writing as witness our hands the day and year last before written.

Same witnesses, same signatures.

Acknowledged in open court May Term 1808 and recorded June 23 1809.

Autobiography of John Rankin, Grandson of Robert & Rebecca Rankin of Guilford, NC

I previously promised to reproduce on this blog H. L. Eads’s transcription of Rev. John Rankin’s 1845 autobiography. That’s not going to happen, for reasons described below. Instead, this article reproduces verbatim only the limited genealogical material in the autobiography. It also contains a general overview of the document and additional details about Rev. John’s family.

Rev. John (1757 – 1850)[1] was the elder son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin.[2] He was a grandson of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Rowan/Guilford Counties, North Carolina.[3] According to the autobiography, Robert, Rebecca and George were originally from Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland, when it was still part of the province of Ulster. Robert was the family’s immigrant patriarch.

Here’s why I must retract my promise to type the entire autobiography.[4] It is impenetrably dense prose. It is dreadfully prolix.[5] The content zooms miles past uninteresting and lands squarely in boring. It would surely cause readers to experience MEGO (“My Eyes Glazed Over”). Also, the type is so blurry it is almost unreadable.

My husband Gary described it as “word salad.” He quit reading on page two of twenty. I persevered through the entire document and expect to receive some sort of Rankin Family Research prize for doing so. A quart of Visine would be an appropriate reward.

Rev. John spent the vast majority of the autobiography recounting his education, religious development, opinions, and mental state — beginning at age six. He was 88 when he wrote the autobiography. His self-absorption and memory are mind-boggling. My overall impression was that the autobiography is primarily theological navel-gazing. E.g., at about age nineteen, “my mind preponderated in favor of the newlight [sic, New Light”] scheme, and I greatly desired living religion that would reach my senses and understanding.”

As an adult, he reluctantly bought an enslaved person. He described the purchase in semi-exculpatory detail. He stated the exact date of his marriage but did not even mention his wife’s name! She was Rebecca Rankin, a daughter of John and Hannah Carson Rankin of Guilford County.[6] John Rankin was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware (1704 – 1764).[7] YDNA testing establishes that John and Rebecca were genetically related, although definitely not closer than second cousins. The couple’s common Rankin ancestor almost certainly lived on the other side of the Atlantic, either in Ulster or Scotland.[8]

Rev. John also failed to mention the given names of his father George, his only sibling Robert, or the stepfather with whom he grew up. Rev. John’s younger brother was Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840), a Revolutionary War soldier who married (1) Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, then (2) Mary Moody. Robert died in McNairy County, TN in 1840.[9] Rev. John’s widowed mother Lydia Steele Rankin married Arthur Forbis (or Forbes) about 1764, when John was seven.[10]

Rev. John was raised and originally ordained a Presbyterian, of course: he belonged to a family of Scots-Irish immigrants. But he was depressed by Presbyterian doctrine and practices. He longed for something more. He finally had some sort of transformative experience while preaching at a revival meeting in Casper’s River, near the place that eventually became the Shaker colony at South Union, Kentucky. His sermon moved many to tears and trembling. He became a Shaker and was essentially the patriarch of the South Union colony.

If I have unfairly characterized his autobiography, I hope someone who has read it will post a comment.

Here are relevant parts of it, quoted verbatim. My commentary is in italics.

“My parents emigrated from Ireland to the state of Pennsylvania & County of Lancaster in their youth – My Mother Lydia Steele, Jun., in the 13th year of her age under the superintendence of my grandmother Lydia Steele, Sen’r & the then single part of her family, in or about the year of 1746 from the County of Derry & parish of Newton; – the elder branches of the family removed before; and after this period, my eldest uncle John Steele, who was educated in Scotland & settled a Presbyterian preacher in the Town of Carlisle, with pay for life. – My father from the County of Donnegal [sic, Donegal] & parish of Letterkenny, about the year 1750, having then arrived to the year of maturity. [This suggests that George Rankin, Rev. Shaker John’s father, may have been born about 1729. George’s wife Lydia was born about 1733.]

… My Parents after a suitable acquaintance entered into that civil connection natural to the human family, who design living according to the order of the first Adam. After their union, they made preparation & emigrated to North Carolina in the month of July 1755 to lands purchased of Earl of Granville, the British proprietor, by a company in Lancaster County Pa. of which my father was a partner. [The Granville grants to Lancaster Co. Scots-Irish were collectively called “the Nottingham Settlement.” Many of the grantees were members of the West Nottingham Presbyterian Church, then located in Lancaster Co., later located in Rising Sun, Cecil Co., MD after the Mason-Dixon survey of the PA-MD line.[11] Most grantees lived in the disputed PA-MD area known as the “Nottingham Lots.”[12]] This grant of land contained 32 tracts of the first choice & was laid off in so many square miles (with some exception) about the center of Guilford County, & of course in the vicinity of Greensboro. The above mentioned company, who were principally Presbyterians of the old order, about this period emigrated, each to their respective possessions …

… I was born on the 27th of November 1757 two and a half years afterwards my Father was removed by death, & my Mother left a widow with two helpless infants, He left each of us children a tract of the above mentioned land. My Mother remained in her widowhood four years …

… On the 5th of December 1786, I entered a new relation in life & settled myself in a family capacity. [This is the date John and Rebecca married. The marriage bond was issued a few days earlier.]

… [I was licensed as a Presbyterian minister in] the year 1795 … and [went to Sumner County Tennessee at a friend’s invitation] … [where] I found the inhabitants of the Presbyterian denomination comparatively a barren waste in a religious point of view … at the approach of Spring [1796], I returned home attended to my farm, and other secular concerns, received my Presbyterial appointments and fulfilled them through the summer … I concluded, in union with my family to remove to the western country [Tennessee] without any visible prospect of regular settlement or congregational support. I sold my lands, crop & other disposable property and set out on the 6th of October in [1796], in company with Jesse McComb & family & arrove [sic] in the vicinity of Gallatin, Tenn. about the 15th of November; tarried there three months and then removed into the bounds of a small society on the ridge in Sumner County. In this place and two others equally destitute, I continued preaching near two years.

I … removed to this place, now, South Union, in December 1798.

John Rankin, sen. Now in the 88th year of my age.”

Unquote. End of excerpts.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print about Shaker Rev. John’s autobiography. Other ancestors are tapping on my shoulder.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Jim Small, Shaker Birth and Death Records, South Union Kentucky, accessed 24 Oct 2019 at this link. See also Shaker Union burial records  here.. The latter says, probably incorrectly, that Rev. John Rankin (shown as John Rankin Senior) was born in Pennsylvania. If John’s autobiography has the correct date for his parents’ move from PA to NC, he was born in North Carolina.

[2] See will of George Rankin dated and proved in 1760. He named his wife Lydia and two sons John and Robert. Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 141. Lydia remarried, and her second husband, Arthur Forbis, named his stepsons John and Robert Rankin executors of his will. Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119.

[3] See deed from Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca to George Rankin, 5 shillings for 480 acres. Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 70-73. The token price establishes the conveyance as a deed of gift as well as a family relationship between grantor and grantee.

[4] If you wish to see the typed transcription of the original autobiography, you can obtain one from the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Library Special Collections, Western Kentucky University. The first page is headed “Auto-Biography of John Rankin, Sen., Written at South Union, Ky. 1845, & copied here, Aug. 1870 by H. L. Eads.” A handwritten note on the first page describes it as “South Union Shaker Record A.”

[5] The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “prolix” as (1) “unduly prolonged or drawn out: too long; (2) marked by or using an excess of words.” See it here. My articles are frequently prolix.

[6] Ruth F. Thompson and Louise J. Hartgrove, Volume I Abstracts of Marriage Bonds and Additional Data, Guilford County, North Carolina 1771 – 1840 (Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1989), marriage bond dated 28 Nov 1786, Rev. John Rankin and Rebecah Rankin, bondsman Robert Rankin. The bondsman was most likely Rev. John’s brother or his uncle, as his grandfather Robert died about 1770. See also Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (facsimile reprint by Higginson Book Company, Salem, Massachusetts) at 55: Rebecca, a daughter of John and Hannah Carson Rankin, m. Rev. John Rankin in 1786, son of George and Lydia Rankin.

[7] Rankin, Rankin and Wharton Families at 52, 55. Rev. Rankin incorrectly identified Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC (wife Eleanor “Ellen” Alexander) as a likely son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle, DE. YDNA testing has disproved this, but the error has a life of its own. See discussion in this article..

[8] See discussion of “Lineage 1” in the horizontal “Results” tab of the  Rankin DNA Project.

[9] There is some information about Shaker Rev. John’s little brother Robert Rankin in this article.

[10] See will of Arthur Forbis dated 10 Arp 1789, proved 1794, naming stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin executors. Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119. The autobiography says that Rev. John’s mother Lydia “remained in her widowhood four years,” so she married Arthur about 1764.

[11] See history of the Mason-Dixon Line, including the PA-MD portion,  here.

[12] You can find information about the Nottingham Lots at this link.