Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: a Few Corrections to the Record

Here we are, tilting at windmills again, just for the fun of it. The idea is to correct some frequent errors about Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin, who appeared in the records of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties. A cousin has asked why I write these “correction” articles. That’s an easy one. Thanks to the the ease of “copy and paste” and importing other peoples’ family trees in a few clicks, online genealogy errors have multiplied exponentially, like the Tribbles in the original Star Trek. Anything that has appeared in print is taken as gospel. While it is a truism that every family history contains errors, I assume that most people prefer to eliminate them when possible. Thus, cousin, I’m providing a Tribble extermination service here, even though some of these errors are minor. <grin>

So let’s turn again to Samuel and his wife Eleanor. Two previous articles on this website dealt with erroneous theories about Samuel’s parents. The first article dealt with the persistent notion that he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware. The second article addresses speculation that Samuel was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina. Y-DNA testing has conclusively disproved both possibilities. So far as I have found, there is no evidence on this side of the Atlantic as to the identity of Samuel’s parents.

And now, on to new territory. Here are the positions I’m taking with regard to some of the conventional wisdom on Samuel and Eleanor:

  • Samuel was probably born in 1734 (not 1732) and he probably died in 1816 (not 1814).
  • There is no reason to believe that Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. There is no evidence where he was born, so far as I know.
  • He and Eleanor married in Rowan County, North Carolina, and not in Pennsylvania.
  • Samuel had arrived in North Carolina by no later than April 1760.
  • His wife’s given name was Eleanor. “Ellen,” the name on her tombstone, was a nickname.
  • Eleanor was born in 1740, not 1743.
  • Eleanor’s father was not the David Alexander who sold Samuel a 320-acre tract on James Cathey’s Mill Creek aka Kerr Creek. David was her brother. Her parents were James and Ann Alexander.

Let’s start at the top.

What were Samuel’s dates of birth and death?

Samuel’s birth: many Rankin researchers, including a “findagrave” website for the Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont where Samuel was buried, say that he was born in 1732.[1] His tombstone has disappeared, or at least my husband and I couldn’t find it when we visited the cemetery in August 2001. I haven’t seen any evidence that he was born in 1732, although that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. So far as I have found, the only evidence of his birth date is on a film titled “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.”[2] That survey, taken during the Great Depression when the tombstone was obviously still extant, says that Samuel Rankin was born in 1734. Of course, even in the 1930s, the stone was already more than a century old and could easily have been misread. Or Samuel’s children might not have known his actual date of birth – and Samuel wasn’t around to correct them. However, the WPA survey is apparently the only available evidence.

Samuel’s death: findagrave and many online family trees give Samuel’s date of death as December 16, 1814. That is the date that Samuel executed his will, and the probability that he died on the same day is slim to none.[3] In fact, the actual probability is zero, because he appeared in the Lincoln County records in 1816. On July 26 of that year, he conveyed to his son James a tract on Stanleys Creek adjacent James’ brothers William and Alexander (and Thomas Rhyne, see my article about Samuel’s grandson Sam, son of Richard).[4] That is the last entry I found for Samuel in the Lincoln records until his will was proved in 1826.[5] The WPA cemetery survey says Samuel died in 1816.

Where was Samuel born?

Many Rankin researchers claim Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. That is probably a holdover from when many believed he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. Since that has been disproved, there is no logic for placing Samuel’s birth where Joseph lived. In fact, I found no evidence of a Rankin named Samuel in New Castle County in the relevant time frame, although there are many records concerning Joseph’s proved sons (Thomas, Joseph Jr., John and William) and possible sons (Robert and James). There seems to be no evidence for any place of birth for Samuel, or even any evidence that he was born in the colonies rather than on the other side of the Atlantic.

Where did Samuel and Eleanor marry, and who were her parents?

The couple undoubtedly married in North Carolina, not Pennsylvania, despite the view of Minnie Puett, who wrote a history of Gaston County. Eleanor’s family – her parents James (not David) and Ann and her brothers William, James, John, David and Robert – were in that part of Anson County that became Rowan by at least March 1752, when there was a Granville grant to James Alexander “of Anson Co., Gent.”[6] Eleanor Alexander was the grantee in a gift deed of livestock from her father James on January 12, 1753, when she was not quite thirteen. Before they came to North Carolina, the Alexander family was in Amelia County, Virginia. Here is an article about Eleanor’s family.

 When did Samuel come to North Carolina, and from where?

It is possible that Samuel came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, as many Rankin researchers think. So did many other Scots-Irish settlers of the Piedmont Plateau. If you had to guess, you would probably say that Samuel came to NC from either Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, or Virginia. The only evidence I have found for a man who might be the same man as Samuel Rankin prior to his arrival in NC is in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Some Samuel Rankin is listed as a freeman (i.e., age 21 or over and single) on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township of Chester County.[7] There are no other Rankins on that list, although there are a number of other Scots-Irish whose names will be familiar to Lincoln/Rowan County researchers. There were several Moores, Beatys and Campbells, as well as a McCleary, Erwin and Kerr. The Samuel Rankin taxed as a freeman in 1753 was born by at least 1732, which might be why some researchers have deduced that date for his birth.

Wherever he came from, the evidence establishes that Samuel was in North Carolina earlier than some researchers believe, including Minnie Puett. His first land acquisition was a purchase from David Alexander in a deed dated July 14, 1760.[8] The tract was on James Cathey’s Mill Creek (also known as Kerr Creek), and not on Kuykendahl/Dutchman’s Creek, where the family eventually settled. The Revolutionary War Pension application of Samuel’s son William says that William was born in January 1761 in Rowan County, which puts Samuel in NC no later than April 1760.[9] Assuming he took more than a few months to court Eleanor and that William was their eldest child, one would conclude Samuel was in NC by no later than 1759.

Samuel’s wife was named Eleanor and she was born in 1740, not 1743

Her Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery tombstone, which was still intact (although barely legible) when we visited in 2001, calls her “Ellen.” So did the Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin in his book about the Rankin and Wharton families, probably based on that tombstone.[10] Her family and friends undoubtedly called her Ellen. Almost all Rankin researchers do the same, and I have been corrected more than once for calling her Eleanor. Nevertheless, I persist. <grin> The records establish that her given name was Eleanor. Period. Her father called her “Elener” [sic] in a gift deed.[11] A Rowan County court called her “Elinor.”[12] At least three deeds (one with her signature as “Elender”) do the same.[13] She and Samuel had a daughter and at least five granddaughters, all named Eleanor rather than Ellen.[14] Those facts surely establish that her given name was Eleanor, or I will eat my hat. If I owned one. Her nickname was Ellen.

Eleanor was almost certainly born in 1740, not 1743. The Rowan County court allowed her to choose her own guardian in 1755.[15] Doing so required her to be at least fourteen, so she must have been born by at least 1741. Two tombstone surveys say the date of birth on her tombstone was 16 April 1740.[16] The date is now so eroded, however, that it could reasonably be read as 1743 – although that date is foreclosed by the court record.

… and that’s it for now. I’m not done with this family, though: there is more to come.

[1] The findagrave website contains several errors about Samuel and Eleanor, mostly minor, some not so minor. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rankin&GSiman=1&GScid=1192379&GRid=127500305&

[2] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2.

[3] North Carolina State Archives, File Box C.R.060.801.21, will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826. Recorded in Lincoln County Will Book 1: 37.

[4] Lincoln County Deed Book 27: 561, conveyance from Samuel Rankin to James Rankin witnessed by William Rankin and Benjamin Hartgrove. The grantor is not Sam Jr., who owned land in Mecklenburg, not Lincoln and had already sold his Mecklenburg tracts before 1816.

[5] There was no hurry to probate Samuel’s will because he left each of his surviving children $1, except for James, to whom he left the rest of his estate. With nobody anxious for their payout, there was no reason to rush to the courthouse.

[6] Rowan County Deed Book 3: 547, Granville grant of 25 Mar 1752 to James Alexander, 640 acres in Anson adjacent Andrew Kerr. James gifted half of that tract to his son David Alexander, and David sold it to Samuel Rankin in 1760. See Anson County Deed Book B: 314 et seq. for charming gift deeds of land and livestock from James Alexander and his wife Ann to five of their six children, including Eleanor.

[7] J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[8] Rowan County Deed Book 5: 272, deed dated 14 Jul 1760 from David Alexander to Samuel Rankin, 320 acres both sides of James Cathey’s Mill Cr. (AKA Kerr’s Cr.).

[9] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992).

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co, 1931).

[11] Personal copy of Rowan County Deed Book B: 315 (obtained by mail from the clerk of court), gift deed from James Alexander to his daughter Elener.

[12] Jo White Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1762 (Salisbury, NC: 1977), abstract of Order Book 2: 90, entry of 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander (spelling per abstractor) came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian.

[13] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. II. 1762 – 1772 Abstracts of Books 5, 6, 7 (Salisbury, NC: 1972), abstract of Deed Book 6: 225, deed dated 31 Aug 1765 from Samuel Rankin and wife Eleanor (spelling per the abstractor) to John McNeeley, 320 acres on James Cathey’s Mill Creek; original of Lincoln Co. Deed Book 1: 703 (viewed by me at the courthouse), deed of 26 Jan 1773 from Samuel Rankin of Tryon to Philip Alston, 150 acres on Kuykendall Creek signed by Samuel Rankin and Elender Rankin.

[14] At least five of Samuel and Eleanor Rankin’s children named a daughter “Eleanor” (not “Ellen”), including Samuel Rankin Jr., Jean Rankin Hartgrove, Robert Rankin, David Rankin, and Eleanor (“Nellie”) Rankin Dickson. See, e.g., an image of the tombstone of Eleanor, wife of Joseph Dickson, Ellis Cemetery, Shelby Co., Ill., died 4 Apr 1848, age 62, at www.findagrave.com.

[15] Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes, abstract of Order Book 2: 90, 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian; the court appointed Ann guardian for Robert, about age 12, son of James Alexander, dec’d.

[16] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2. See also Microfilm at Clayton Genealogical library titled “North Carolina Tombstone Records, Vols. 1, 2 and 3,” compiled by the Alexander Martin and J. S. Wellborn chapters of the DAR; transcribed lists were filmed 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Tombstone of Ellen Rankin, b. 16 April 1740, d. 26 Jan 1802.

More on the Line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: Richard Rankin’s son Samuel

This article is about a Samuel Rankin – just call him “Sam” – who last appeared on this website playing a minor supporting role as the spouse of Mary F. Estes Rankin. She was a daughter of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn Estes, whose nine children shared the spotlight in my most recent Estes article. The only mention of Sam in that article was a brief description of him as an “incorrigible character.”

Sam earned that characterization fair and square. First, his year of birth varied so wildly in the census that he must have fibbed about his age for the fun of it. Second, he named a son Napoleon Bonaparte Rankin. What kind of merry prankster lays that on a newborn? Third, I had the very devil of a time trying to identify his parents: it seemed he was being deliberately evasive. I spent months poring over North Carolina records in the library, back when there were virtually no records available online. Fourth, there is evidence that Sam may have been an unmanageable child, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

There isn’t much information in the records about Sam’s adult life. He was a farmer in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and then he was a farmer in Jefferson County, Arkansas. He and his wife Mary married about 1836 in Tishomingo, moved to Arkansas about 1849, and had ten children who reached adulthood. Sam died in 1861 or early 1862, when his youngest child was on the way. One branch of the family thinks he died in the War, but that is highly unlikely. He was too old to be conscript fodder, four of his sons enlisted, his wife was pregnant, and the National Archives has no record of him.

Let’s begin at the beginning of the search for Sam’s family of origin. A researcher typically starts with two basic questions in the search for an ancestor’s parents: where and when was he/she born? Here are the facts about Sam. Federal censuses prove that he was born in North Carolina.[1] Unfortunately, his birth year is elusive. The 1837 Mississippi state census and the 1840 federal census suggest Sam was born between 1792 and 1820.[2] The 1850 census gives his age as sixty-two, or born about 1788.[3] In the 1860 census, Sam was sixty-one.[4] Thus, during the decade of the 1850s, Sam managed to get a year younger, a skill I wish I could master. If one had to pick a sort of median value, one might guess Sam was born circa 1800.

Mississippi records reveal one other thing: Sam almost certainly had a brother. A William Rankin was listed near Sam in the 1837 state census in Tishomingo County, Mississippi.[5] William did not own any land, but Sam had ten acres under cultivation.[6] Neither man owned any slaves, and they were the only two Rankin heads of household in Tishomingo in 1837 and 1840. William was born between 1800 and 1810, so that he and Sam were probably from the same generation.[7] Finally, William married Rachel Swain, and the JP who performed the ceremony was Sam’s father-in-law Lyddal Bacon Estes.[8] Sam’s wife Mary Estes Rankin had a sister who also married a Swain.[9]

On those facts, it is likely that Sam and William Rankin were brothers and that they were farming Sam’s tract together. If that is correct, then I was looking for a Rankin family having sons named Samuel and William who were born about the turn of the century in North Carolina.

Big whoop. If you have spent any time among the many North Carolina Rankin families, you know the above information is a wretchedly slender reed upon which to hang an ancestor’s identity. I therefore left the records and turned to oral family history. It led me to conclude that Sam’s parents were Richard Rankin and Susanna (“Susy”) Doherty, who were married in 1793 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.[10] There is no doubt about the identity of their parents. Richard was a son of Samuel Rankin (“Sam Sr.”) and his wife Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin.[11] Susy Doherty Rankin was a daughter of John Doherty and his wife Agnes, maiden name unknown.[12]

I found the key oral family history in a biography of Claude Allen Rankin, a grandson of Sam and Mary Estes Rankin. Claude reported that his grandfather Sam Rankin “reached manhood in Lincoln County, North Carolina,” and then “removed to Murfreesboro, Tennessee,” which is in Rutherford County.[13]

My instinct told me to accept those facts as the gospel truth. For one thing, the specific locations convey a bulletproof certainty. Moreover, there is no reason on God’s green earth that Claude would have invented those locations out of thin air. Consider the odds: Lincoln is one county out of one hundred in North Carolina; Rutherford is one county out of ninety-five in Tennessee. The odds are therefore 9,500 to one that Claude would have identified both of those counties as places his grandfather Sam had lived in just those two particular states. Claude no doubt heard those locations from his father Elisha Thompson Rankin, who, in turn, learned them from his father Sam.

If Lincoln County, North Carolina and Rutherford County, Tennessee are places where Sam lived, then it is a virtual certainty that Sam was a grandson of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Rankin, who lived in Lincoln (Gaston) County, North Carolina. Three of their sons and one daughter moved to Rutherford County.[14] I have found no other Rankin family that was in both Lincoln and Rutherford counties for the relevant time period.

The search thus boiled down to identifying which of Sam Sr. and Eleanor’s sons could have been the father of Sam. Four of the couple’s sons – William,[15] David,[16] Alexander,[17] and James[18] – are eliminated by their locations and children. The three remaining sons – Robert, Sam Jr. and Richard – were possibilities to be Sam’s father.

I started with Richard Rankin and his wife Susy Doherty because Sam and Mary named their eldest son Richard, and the Anglo naming tradition dictates naming the first son for his paternal grandfather.[19] Richard and Susy lived on Long Creek in Mecklenburg County, just across the Catawba River from the home of Sam Sr. and Eleanor in Lincoln (now Gaston) County.[20] Richard’s brother Sam Jr. also lived in Mecklenburg with his first wife, Susy’s sister Mary (“Polly”) Doherty.[21] Richard Rankin and his sister-in-law Polly Doherty Rankin are buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church on Beatties Ford Road, just northwest of Charlotte, alongside John Doherty, father of Susy Doherty Rankin and Polly Doherty Rankin.[22] Richard’s headstone is in the left foreground of the photograph below, which is the banner photo for this website. The headstones of Richard’s sister-in-law and father-in-law are in the right foreground.

Richard and Susy appeared in the 1800 census for Mecklenburg with three sons and a daughter, all born between 1794 and 1800.[23] The “family tree” of Sam Sr. and Eleanor (a somewhat mysterious source mentioned in Gregg Moore’s book about Sam Sr.’s family) indicates that Richard and Susy had five children, one of whom was born between 1800 and 1804.[24] Only four children survived until 1807, however. In April of that year, the Court of Common Pleas & Quarter Sessions for Mecklenburg County appointed Richard’s brother Sam Jr. as guardian of Richard’s four children: Joseph, Samuel, Mary and William Rankin.[25]

When I found that record in a Clayton Library abstract, I sprang from my chair and did a little victory jig, earning some disapproving glares from a couple of blue-haired ladies at the next table. It was my first real break in the search for Sam’s family of origin. First, it eliminated Sam Jr. as a candidate to be my Sam’s father. Second, it put Richard and Susy at the very front of the pack, since they had sons named Sam and William. After tracking Richard’s brother Robert from Rutherford County, Tennessee to Shelby County, Illinois and identifying some of his children, I concluded that Richard was the only son of Sam Sr. and Eleanor who could have been the father of my great-great grandfather Sam.

I don’t know how Richard Rankin died, although the fact that he was only thirty-five and left no will indicates his death was probably sudden and unexpected. He was a sheriff, patroller, justice of the peace and tax collector, all public positions of trust and responsibility; he ran unsuccessfully for other county offices (coroner and high sheriff).[26] He had a hard time managing money in the course of performing his official duties, because the court had to haul him up short more than once.[27] Unfortunately, that was a harbinger of things to come.

Richard died up to his eyeballs in debt, although that wasn’t immediately apparent. Right after he died, Richard seemed to have been a reasonably well-to-do man. The estate administrator’s bond was either £1,000 or £2,000, neither of which was inconsequential.[28] The sale of his estate (excluding land) brought in £935.[29] The 1806 and 1807 Mecklenburg tax lists indicate that Richard’s estate owned 800 acres there.[30] The honorific “Esquire” with which he appeared in court records squares with the image of a prosperous and respected man.

Reality soon reared its ugly head in the form of lawsuits and  jugments against Richard’s estate. I quit taking notes on these suits, although there were many more, after the trend became painfully obvious.

October 1804, Andrew Alexander’s Administrator v. Richard Rankin’s Admr., verdict for plaintiffs, damages of £103.50.[31]

April 1805, William Blackwood’s Administrators v. Richard Rankin’s Admr., verdict for plaintiffs, damages of £38.18.1.[32]

April 1805, Robert Lowther v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., verdict for Plaintiff, damages of £34.18.9.[33]

January 1806, Trustee Etc. v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., verdict for Plaintiffs, damages of £18.9.0.[34]

October 1807, Richard Kerr v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., judgment for Plaintiff for £7.15.9.[35]

Here is the most depressing court record of them all. Creditors finally had to go after Richard’s land because the estate had no more liquid assets with which to discharge judgments:

Oct 1807, John Little v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs, judgment and execution levied on land for £16, administrator pleads no assets. Ordered that the clerk issue scire facias against Samuel Rankin, guardian of the heirs, to show cause.[36]

The minute book abstract is silent regarding the purpose of the show cause hearing. In context, it is clear that Sam Jr. was to show cause, if any, why Richard’s land should not be sold to pay the judgment creditor. Sam Jr. made no such showing, because the Mecklenburg real property records contain a sheriff’s deed dated October 1807 reciting as follows:

“[B]y execution against the lands of Richard Rankin, dec’d … being divided by the administrator and Samuel Rankin off a tract of 500 acres held by Richard Rankin … [the tract sold] containing 200 acres including the old house, spring, meadow and bottom on both sides Long Creek.”[37]

Wherever Susy and her children were living, it was clearly not in the “old house.” Some of Richard’s land remained after this sale, but I did not attempt to track its inevitable and dreary disposition.

It eventually dawned on me that I was mucking about exclusively in the records of Mecklenburg County looking for evidence of Susy’s family. However, Claude Allen Rankin’s biography said that Sam “reached manhood” in Lincoln County, not Mecklenburg. I belatedly went to the Lincoln records looking for evidence regarding Susy’s whereabouts after Richard died.

Lo and behold: Susy was living in Lincoln County by at least 1808, when she was a defendant there in a lawsuit.[38] I did not find her listed as a head of household in the 1810 census, although she was alive until at least 1812.[39] The family was undoubtedly still residing in Lincoln County in October 1812, when the Lincoln court ordered that “Samuel Rankin, about thirteen years old, an orphan son of Richard Rankin, dec’d be bound to John Rhine until he arrive to the age of 21 years to learn the art and mistery [sic] of a tanner.”[40]

If the indentured Sam Rankin was the same man as my ancestor Sam Rankin, which is highly likely, then there is no doubt that Sam “reached manhood” in Lincoln County, as Claude said. That is where John Rhyne lived, and the indenture lasted until Sam reached legal age.[41]

Sam’s indentured servitude was not an unusual fate for a destitute child whose father had died. Five years before the indenture, it was abundantly clear that Richard Rankin’s estate was rapidly vanishing. None of Richard’s other three surviving children were indentured, however, which is puzzling. Why just Sam? And why wasn’t he indentured earlier?

Perhaps Sam had become incorrigible – the child who was designated to “act out” the Rankin children’s collective anger and grief at the loss of their father and economic status. It would certainly go a long way toward explaining a man who didn’t marry until his late thirties and who named a son Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps it would also explain why the prominent and wealthy Rankin family of Lincoln County did not prevent the indenture of a 13-year-old Rankin whose father died when he was five. Indentured grandsons/nephews don’t exactly enhance a family’s reputation in the community.

Nothing like a strict German master to straighten out a wild Scots-Irish teenage boy, I guess.

Whatever Sam’s temperament, or the reason his rich Rankin relatives consented sub silentio to his indenture, his mother Susy had been having an abjectly miserable time of it. In 1803, she lost her sister Mary Doherty Rankin, the wife of Richard’s brother Sam Jr.[42] In 1804, her husband Richard died, leaving her with minor children.[43] One of their children also died, because (according to the Rankin “family tree”) Richard and Susy had five children: the court appointed a guardian for only four in 1807.[44] Also in that year, Susy’s mother Agnes Doherty died[45] and a part of Richard’s land was sold to pay a judgment debt.[46] In 1809, Susy sold via a quitclaim deed her dower right to a life estate in one-third of Richard’s land.[47] Do you think she may have needed cash?

In the midst of those excruciating losses, Susy’s brother-in-law William Rankin (and former co-administrator of Richard’s estate) sued her.[48] In 1808, William obtained a judgment against Susy for £106.7.6, about half of which he collected by garnishing the funds of a man who owed Susy money.[49] William is enumerated in the 1810 census (immediately followed in the list by Thomas Rhyne, John Rhyne, and Samuel Rankin (Sr.), which indicates geographic proximity) with eleven slaves, so the suit against Susy was obviously not a matter of economic need. I trust that his orphaned nephews and niece were not going hungry. He was obviously a vengeful and greedy sonuvabitch, and I don’t like him one whit. Whatever Susy’s sins may have been, Richard’s children deserved better from his brother.

As for Susy, I haven’t found a worse record of persistent and pernicious emotional and financial calamity among any of my other ancestors. If she managed to remain moderately sane through all that, she must have had some backbone. However, she evidently couldn’t cope with her son Sam, about age thirteen.

It turns out that John Rhyne, to whom Sam was bound, was connected to the family of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Rankin. William Rankin (the mean SOB) and his son Richard Rankin both witnessed the will of John Rhyne’s father Thomas.[50] Thomas Rhyne was bondsman for William’s marriage bond to Anne Moore Campbell. The Rhynes lived on land adjacent to Samuel Sr. and Eleanor’s plantation on Kuykendall Creek (later renamed “Dutchman’s Creek”).[51] Susy’s son Sam Rankin therefore served about four years of his indenture within walking distance of his wealthy grandfather Sam Sr.[52] No wonder Sam declined to pass on his given name to any of his eight sons. Sam did, however, have children who shared the name of each of his three surviving siblings: Joseph, William and Mary.

Sam probably remained with his master John Rhyne through the 1820 census.[53] There was a male age 16-26 listed with Rhyne that year who was not the Rhynes’ child and who would most likely have been Sam, the indentured tanner, born about 1799.[54] The 1820 census for John Rhyne also indicates that one person in the household was engaged in manufacturing, and tanning was deemed a manufacturing business.

Meanwhile, some of the Lincoln/Mecklenburg Rankins had begun moving to Rutherford County, Tennessee in the early 1800s. Richard’s brother David and his wife Anne Moore Campbell may have been in Rutherford by August 1806, when David acquired a tract there.[55] In 1810, both David and his brother Robert Rankin appeared on the Rutherford County tax rolls.[56] By the 1820 census, David, Robert and their brother Sam Jr. were all listed as heads of households in Rutherford County.[57] Sam undoubtedly made a beeline for Tennessee the day he turned twenty-one: recall that his uncle Sam Jr. had been Sam’s guardian, and his siblings may have migrated with Sam Jr.

For various reasons, I vacillated for years as to whether my great-great grandfather Sam Rankin was, in fact, a son of Richard and Susy and grandson of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. At bottom, all I had were Claude’s oral family history, family migration from North Carolina to Rutherford County, a guardianship record, an indenture, and the name of Sam’s brother. Most disconcerting is the fact that Sam Rankin essentially disappeared from all records after that 1812 indenture until he showed up in Tishomingo County – a lapse of a quarter-century. That would make anyone uneasy. Fortunately, Y-DNA testing resolved my uncertainty. My first cousin Allen Rankin is a close match to proved descendants of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor.

MORAL: if you are a Rankin male (or have a Rankin male relative) and you/he have not done Y-DNA testing, please go to FTDNA.com ASAP, sign up for a 37-marker or 67-marker test, and join the Rankin DNA project. There are now enough participants in the project that you are almost certain to find a Rankin match, assuming there is no “non-paternal” event among your male Rankin line (e.g., an adoption or illegitimate birth). I would be thrilled to help you and to provide whatever information I have about your Rankins.

See you on down the road!

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

[1] 1850 federal census, Jefferson Co., AR, dwelling 426, Samuel Rankin, born NC; 1860 federal census, Jefferson Co., AR, dwelling 549, Samuel Rankin, born NC. Several of Sam’s children lived to be counted in the 1880 census, which asked where each person’s parents were born. Sam’s children fairly consistently identified their father’s state of birth as North Carolina. E.g., 1880 census, Dorsey (Cleveland) Co., AR, dwelling 99, Richard Rankin, 43, b. MS, father b. NC, mother b. AL.

[2] Laverne Stanford, Tishomingo County Mississippi 1837 State Census, 1845 State Census (Ripley, MS: Old Timer Press, 1981), Samuel Rankin, age 21 < 45, born 1792-1819; 1840 federal census, Tishomingo Co., MS, Samuel Rankin, age 20 < 30, born 1810-1820.

[3] See note 1, 1850 federal census, Samuel Rankin, age 62.

[4] See note 1, 1860 federal census, Samuel Rankin, age 61.

[5] Stanford, Tishomingo County Mississippi 1837 State Census, listing # 54 for William Rankins, age 21 < 45, a female > 16, no slaves, and no acreage under cultivation.

[6] Id., listing # 64 for Samuel Rankins, age 21 < 45, no slaves, 10 acres under cultivation.

[7] 1840 census, Tishomingo Co., MS, listing for William Rankin, 1 male 30 < 40 (born 1800-1810) and 1 female 60 < 70 (born 1770-1780). The woman with William in the 1837 and 1840 census, which were taken before William married in 1843, may have been his mother.

[8] Irene Barnes, Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi,Volume I 1837 – 1859 (Iuka, MS: 1978), marriage bond for William Rankin and Rachel Swain dated 7 Sep 1843, married by L. B. Estes, J.P., on 14 Sep 1843. Lyddal Bacon Estes was Sam Rankin’s father-in-law.

[9] Martha Ann Estes, Mary Estes Rankin’s sister, was married to Wilson Swain.

[10] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[11] Richard was not named in his father Sam Sr.’s will because Richard predeceased Sam Sr., but other evidence is conclusive. First, William and Alexander Rankin, proved sons of Sam Sr. and Eleanor, were administrators of Richard’s estate along with Richard’s wife Susy. NC State Archives, C.R.065.508.210, Mecklenburg County Estates Records, 1762 – 1957, n.d. Queen – Rankin, file folder labeled “Rankin, Richard 1804,” original bond of Susy, William, and Alexander Rankin, administrators of the estate of Richard Rankin. Second, Samuel Rankin Jr. (another proved son of Sam Sr. and Eleanor) was the guardian for Richard’s children after Richard died. Herman W. Ferguson, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina Minutes of the Court of Pleas Volume 2, 1801-1820 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1995), abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, court order of April 1807 appointing Samuel Rankin guardian for the children of Richard Rankin.

[12] Herman W. Ferguson and Ralph B. Ferguson, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Will Abstracts, 1791-1868, Books A-J, and Tax Lists, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1806, & 1807 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1993), abstract of Will Book C: 21, will of John Doherty of Mecklenburg dated 20 May 1786 naming wife Agnes, son James, and daughters Susanna and Mary; id., Will Book C: 34, will of Agnes Doherty of Mecklenburg dated June 19, 1807, proved Jan. 1808, naming daughter Susanna Rankin and granddaughters Violet and Nelly Rankin. The latter were children of Sam Rankin Jr. and his wife Polly Doherty, who died before her mother Agnes.

[13] D. Y. Thomas, Arkansas and Its People, A History, 1541 – 1930, Volume IV (New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1930), biography of Claude Allen Rankin at p. 574.

[14] Sam Sr. and Eleanor’s children who moved to Rutherford County were David, Robert, Samuel Jr., and Eleanor Rankin Dixon. Eleanor Rankin married Joseph Dixon; David Rankin married Jane Moore Campbell, a widow. Jean or Jane Rankin, another daughter of Sam Sr. and Eleanor, married James Rutledge. The Rutherford County records are full of entries in which the Rankins were associated with Dixons, Rutledges and Moores. E.g., WPA Tennessee Records Project, Records of Rutherford County, Tennessee Vol. C, Minutes 1808 – 1810 (Murfreesboro: 1936), abstract of Minute Book C: 197, entry of 1 Jan 1810 regarding a lawsuit styled William Dickson v. Robert Rankin, George Moore, Robert Rutledge and Joseph Dickson, Jr.

[15] William Rankin, the eldest son of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Rankin, remained in Lincoln County and did not have a son named Samuel. See A. Gregg Moore & Forney A. Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina (Marietta, GA: A. G. Moore, 1997).

[16] Id. David Rankin and his family moved to Rutherford County. Their son Samuel King Rankin, born 1818, is not the same man as the Sam who married Mary F. Estes.

[17] Id. Alexander Rankin remained in Lincoln and had no son named Samuel.

[18] James Rankin had a son named Samuel, but he was born in 1819 and married Nancy Beattie. See also NC State Archives, CR.060.508.105, Lincoln County Estate Records, 1779 – 1925, Ramsour, George – Rankin, John, file folders for James Rankin labeled 1832 and 1842, naming the heirs of James Rankin as Robert, Rufus, Caroline, James, Louisa, Samuel, Richard, and Mary Rankin.

[19] Sam and Mary F. Estes Rankin’s children were, in order, Richard Bacon Rankin, William Henderson Rankin, Joseph Rankin, John Allen Rankin, Elisha (“Lish”) Thompson Rankin, James Darby Rankin, Mary Jane Rankin, Washington (“Wash”) Marion Rankin, Napoleon (“Pole”) Bonaparte Rankin, and Frances Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Rankin.

[20] Microfilm of Mecklenburg County Deed Book 18: 365, Sheriff’s deed dated Oct. 1807, execution against the lands of Richard Rankin, dec’d, 200 acres off a tract of 500 acres owned by Rankin crossing Long Creek, widow’s right of dower excepted.

                  [21] Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg, Nov. 16, 1791 marriage bond of Samuel Rankin and Mary Doherty, bondsman Richard Rankin (Sam Jr.’s brother); 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Samuel Rankin, 1 male age 26<45 (Sam Jr., born 1755-1774), 1 female same age, 3 males < 10, and 2 females < 10.

[22] Charles William Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church (Charlotte, NC: 1939, 1981). This source incorrectly states that Richard Rankin was married to Mary (nicknamed “Polly”) Doherty Rankin because their graves are side-by-side. The records, however, are clear that Richard married Susy Doherty, Sam Jr. married Polly Doherty, and Richard’s surviving widow Susy was still alive after Polly died.

[23] 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Richard Rankin, age 26 < 45, with four children under the age of ten, a female 26 < 45, and a female > 45, most likely Richard’s widowed mother-in-law Agnes Doherty.

[24] The Rankin “family tree” is referred to as a source in Moore and Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina.

[25] Ferguson, Mecklenberg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, April 1807 order appointing Samuel Rankin guardian of Joseph, Mary, Samuel and William Rankin, orphans of Richard Rankin, dec’d. “Orphan” just meant fatherless. Susy, the children’s mother, was still alive in 1807.

[26] Id., Minute Book 4: 314, entry in Oct 1801 recording votes for the election of two coroners (John Patterson 11 votes, Robert Robison 8 votes, Richard Rankin 2 votes); Minute Book 4: 375, Oct 1802, Richard Rankin was appointed “Patroller” by the court, having authority to search for and recover runaway slaves; Minute Book 4:387, Jan 25 1803, Richard Rankin et al. “being commissioned by his excellency the Governor to act as Justice of the Peace in this county, appeared in open court and was duly qualified as by law accordingly;” Minute Book 4: 397, Jan 1803, records of the County Trustee indicated that Richard Rankin was sheriff, 1797-1798; Minute Book 4: 409, Apr 1803, Magistrates appointed to take tax returns included Richard Rankin; Minute Book 4: 421, Jul 1803 election for high sheriff (7 votes for Wm Beaty, 5 for Richard Rankin).

[27] Id., Mecklenburg Minute Book 4: 281, entry for Apr 1801, notice issued to Richard Rankin, former sheriff, to appear and show cause why he hasn’t satisfied a judgment; id., Minute Book 4: 300, entry of Jul 1801, motion of County Trustee, Richard Rankin ordered to appear and render to the trustee all money due him for county tax & stray money collected by Richard for 1797 and 1798. Richard confessed judgment for £104.12.2.

[28] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 458, April 1804, ordered that Susannah Rankin, William Rankin and Alexander Rankin administer on the estate of Richard Rankin, Esquire, dec’d, bond of £2,000. Another record shows the bond as £1,000. See North Carolina Archives, C.R.060.801.21, copy of original bond.

[29] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 478, Jul 1804 inventory and amount of sale of the estate of Richard Rankin returned by William Rankin, Alexander Rankin and Susy Rankin, £ 935.1.11.

[30] Ferguson and Ferguson, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Will Abstracts, abstract of the 1806 and 1807 tax lists, entry for Richard Rankin’s estate, adm. by Wm. B. Alexander, 800 acres.

[31] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 501.

[32] Id., Minute Book 4: 530.

[33] Id., Minute Book 4: 531.

[34] Id., Minute Book 4: 592.

[35] Id., Minute Book 4: 704.

[36] Id., Minute Book 4: 706.

[37] FHL Film No. 484,186, Mecklenburg Deed Book 18: 365.

[38] Anne Williams McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullilvan, Courts of Pleas & Quarter Sessions, Lincoln County, North Carolina, Apr 1805 – Oct 1808 (Lenoir, NC: 1988), William Rankin v. Susy Rankin, court case record for Jan 1808. The county court had no jurisdiction over a defendant who was not a resident of the county, so the fact that Susy was sued in Lincoln and the case was not dismissed for lack of jurisdiction proves that she lived there.

[39] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 5: 277, entry of Aug 1812, on petition of Susannah Rankin, widow of Richard Rankin, regarding her right of dower in the land of her deceased husband. Although a court did not have jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, anyone could petition a county court for relief, whether a resident or not. The land in which Susy had a dower right was located in Mecklenburg. She therefore had to file in that county and nowhere else in order to assert her dower right.

[40] North Carolina State Archives CR.060.301.4, “Lincoln County, County Court Minutes Jan 1806 – Jan 1813” at p. 589.

[41] 1820 census, Lincoln Co., p. 224, listing for John Rhyne.

[42] Sommerville, History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church, tombstone of Mary (“Polly”) Doherty inscribed, “Here lies Polly Rankin, died Jan. 30, 1803 in her 33rd year. She left 5 motherless children and a discomfortable husband.”

[43] See notes 25 and 28.

[44] See note 25, appointment of guardian for four children of Richard Rankin; Gregg & Forney, Rankins of North Carolina, citing the Rankin “family tree.” None of Richard and Susy’s children were of age in 1807, since they were married in 1793. Thus, all of their living children would have required a guardian in 1807.

[45] Ferguson & Ferguson, Mecklenburg Will Abstracts, Will Book C: 34, will of Agnes Doherty dated June 19, 1807, proved Jan 1808, naming daughter Susanna Rankin.

[46] See note 37, sheriff’s deed for part of Richard Rankin’s land.

[47] FHL Film No. 484,186, Mecklenburg Deed Book 19: 606, quit claim deed dated 15 Apr 1809 from Susy Rankin, widow and relict of Richard Rankin of Mecklenburg, $200, to David Smith, her right of dower in all land which her late husband died owning.

[48] See note 38.

[49] Anne Williams McAllister and Kathy Gunter Sulliver, Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions Lincoln County, North Carolina April 1805 – October 1808 (1988), abstract of court minutes for January 1808, William Rankin v. Susy Rankin, jury awarded plaintiff damages of £106.7.6, of which judgment was rendered against Samuel Lowrie Esq. for £48.16.

[50] Miles S. Philbeck & Grace Turner, Lincoln County, North Carolina, Will Abstracts, 1779-1910 (Chapel Hill, NC: 1986), abstract of Lincoln Will Book 1: 405, will of Thomas Rhyne naming inter alia son John Rhyne, witnessed by William Rankin and Richard Rankin, 2 Jun 1834.

[51] E.g., microfilm of Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 543, deed of 19 Apr 1780 from James Coburn of Lincoln to Samuel Rankin, same, 180A on Kuykendall’s Cr. adjacent Thomas Rhine’s corner.

[52] NC State Archives, C.R.060.801.21, Lincoln County Wills, 1769 – 1926 Quickle – Reep, file folder labeled “Rankin, Samuel 1826,” original will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826, recorded in Will Book 1: 37. According to a transcription of Sam Sr.’s tombstone, now lost, he died in 1816.

[53] 1820 census, Lincoln Co., NC, p. 350, listing for John Rhyne, 26 < 45, 1 female 26 < 45, 1 male 16 < 26, 4 males < 10 and 2 females < 10; one person engaged in manufacturing.

[54] John Rhyne didn’t marry until 1808, so it is fairly certain that the male in the 16 < 26 age bracket listed with him in the 1820 was not John’s son. Frances T. Ingmire, Lincoln County North Carolina Marriage Records 1783-1866, Volume I, Males (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1993).

[55] Helen C. & Timothy R. Marsh, Land Deed Genealogy of Rutherford County, Tennessee, Vol. 1 (1804 – 1813) (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 2001), abstract of Deed Book A: 194.

[56] FHL Film No. 24,806, Item 3, Tax List, 1809-1849, Rutherford County, Tennessee.

[57] 1820 census, Rutherford Co., TN, listings for Robert Rankin (p. 109), David Rankins (p. 121), and two listings for Samuel Rankin (p. 94 and p. 116).

Two Rankin Revolutionary War Pension Applications

Robert Rankin of McNairy Co., TN and Robert Rankin of Gibson Co. TN

A comment from a reader on an earlier post illustrated how easy it is to confuse some of the Rankins who lived in North Carolina and Tennessee in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. That includes two men named Robert Rankin who fought in the Revolutionary War. They were both originally from North Carolina and then moved to Tennessee about 1825 – 1830.

I wrote about these men in two different articles on this website, which undoubtedly made it more difficult to distinguish between them. Who can remember which Robert is which? To clear up the confusion, let’s revisit each man briefly to contrast their histories and pension applications. We will look first at the man I call “Rev. War Robert Rankin” and then his fellow soldier “Mystery Robert Rankin.” There is no proved family relationship between these two men, although their descendants are a very close Y-DNA match (assuming that I am correct about Mystery Robert’s identity).

Rev. War Robert Rankin of Rowan/Guilford, NC and McNairy, TN (1759 – 1840)[1]

Rev. War Robert was a son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin of Rowan/Guilford County, North Carolina.[2] He married twice: first, to Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, probably in the early 1780s, and then to Mary Moody in 1803.[3]

He applied for a Revolutionary War pension in McNairy Co., TN on May 20, 1833.[4] Among other things, he testified as follows:

  • He was born in Guilford Co., NC on May 29, 1759 (at the time, it was Rowan County; Guilford wasn’t created until 1770).
  • He was in the battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781.
  • He lived in Guilford until 1830 and then moved to McNairy County, Tennessee, where he was residing when he applied for a pension.

Here is an online transcription of his full pension application (and additional information from his widow’s application) prepared by Will Graves. Rev. War Robert died in McNairy County and  is buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery, see military tombstone here.[5] For more information on Rev. War Robert and his children, see the article at this link discussing him and three other men named Robert Rankin from the Guilford County line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin.

“Mystery Robert Rankin” of Gibson County, TN (1748 – after 1835)[6]

I refer to the second Robert Rankin as “Mystery Robert” because his family of origin is not proved. In fact, the records of Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed for a Revolutionary War pension, reveal very little about him. I found no probate records naming Robert, one gift deed in which he may or may not have been the grantor, and no court records other than his pension application. He only appeared in the 1830 census and a few tax records in Gibson County.

One thing, however, is certain: the Robert Rankin who applied for a Revolutionary War pension from McNairy County, Tennessee (“Rev. War Robert”) was not the same man as Robert Rankin of Gibson County, Tennessee (“Mystery Robert”). Their pension applications leave no doubt about that.

Mystery Robert testified in open court on September 7, 1832 in support of his application. He said this, inter alia:

  • He was 84 years old, and thus born about 1748.
  • He served in the North Carolina militia. This almost certainly means that he lived in North Carolina when he enlisted.
  • He was in the battle of Ramsour’s Mill, where, he testified, “I lost a brother, killed by the Tories.” That battle took place in June 1780 in Lincoln County, NC.

You can find his pension application testimony online here, also transcribed by Will Graves.

Most of the patriot troops who fought at Ramsour’s Mill were from Iredell County, NC. About forty patriots died in that battle. The Philip Langenhour (I am uncertain of the spelling of that surname) papers owned by the Iredell Genealogical Society in Statesville establish that one of the dead patriots was named Rankin. Other Iredell and Lincoln County records lead to the conclusion that a James Rankin died at Ramsour’s, and that he was a son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell.[7] David and Margaret also had a son named Robert, who appeared frequently in the Iredell County records through the 1820s and then disappeared without leaving any probate records. Given the real and personal property ownership of the Iredell Rankin family, it is unlikely that Robert died there. Instead, he probably moved on.

The evidence strongly suggests that Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin, moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he stated in his pension application that he had a brother who died in the battle of Ramsour’s Mill. I marshaled the evidence for that conclusion in this article.

I hope you will take the time to read the pension applications of these two men. The amount of detail these old vets recalled is amazing – in 1832 or 1833, a full half-century after their service. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. My husband is a Vietnam vet, and it is abundantly clear that a war experience leaves one with very strong memories.

See you on down the road! The Rankins and I are not yet finished with each other … <grin>

[1] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications. The pension application of Robert Rankin of McNairy Co., TN gave his date of birth as May 29, 1759. His widow, in her pension application, said he died on Dec. 21, 1840.

[2] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert and wife Lydia; autobiography of Rev. War Robert’s brother John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky. The autobiography identifies Lydia Steele as George Rankin’s wife and the mother of John and Robert Rankin.

[3] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming three daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and testator’s deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, identifying Rev. War Robert’s second wife as Mary Moody, married in Guilford County Nov. 22, 1803.

[4] Id., National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

[5] The Findagrave site claims that Rev. War Robert married Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in 1781, although there seems to be no evidence in the records for a specific year. A compiled Rankin family history by Gregg Moore and Forney Rankin makes that claim without citing any records, so far as I know.

[6] Gibson County Robert’s pension application states his age, establishing his date of birth as about 1748. He was on the Tennessee pension roll in 1835, and may have been the grantor in an 1837 deed and a poll on the 1838 Gibson tax list.

[7] See the evidence concerning the family of David Rankin and his sons Robert and James Rankin in this article.

 

Four Robert Rankins of Guilford Co., NC

If you have searched for a Robert Rankin in Rowan/Guilford counties, North Carolina during the century or so beginning in the 1750s, you really hit the jackpot. There were at least six men named Robert Rankin who lived there during that time. This article is about four of them, and includes some recent Y-DNA test results. I’ve obsessively, perhaps maniacally, provided citations (see endnotes), because some of what I propose is not mainstream Rankin thought, to put it mildly. Specifically, here’s what may be controversial:

I have identified three “new” daughters of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford – one who may be deemed proved (who does show up in one or two Rankin trees online), one who is a likely daughter, and one who is absolutely speculative. None have been identified in any compiled family history or other published sources, so far as I know. Ditto most online Rankin family trees.

the identity of the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795 is controversial, at least in the sense that I disagree with darn near every other person who has ever said anything about the Guilford County Rankins.

This article ignores two of the six Robert Rankins who lived in Rowan/Guilford during that time.[1] Both were grandsons of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), whose sons John and William migrated to Guilford. It is fairly easy to avoid confusing Joseph’s line with the other four Robert Rankins, thanks to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin’s exhaustive genealogy of Joseph’s line in Guilford.

By way of introduction, here are the nicknames that I will use to distinguish among the four Robert Rankins covered in this article. This is the only way I can keep them straight.

  1. R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca.
  2. Robert d. 1795 – a son of R&R.
  3. Rev War Robert – a grandson of R&R.
  4. Arkansas Robert – a great-grandson of R&R. 

And here we go, off to the world of Guilford County Robert Rankins, from the top …

R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca

I have written briefly about R&R before. Some of this article will be repetitive if you already subscribe to this blog, see article here. To atone for the redundancy, I’ll introduce the controversial R&R daughters mentioned above.

R&R were the original immigrant ancestors in their Rowan/Guilford line. According to a grandson’s autobiography, R&R came to Pennsylvania from Ireland in 1750 along with some of their children, although the autobiography expressly mentions only their son George.[2] The family resided briefly in Chester County, Pennsylvania,[3] then settled in what was then Rowan County (the part that became Guilford) by 1755.[4] According to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin, R&R are both buried at Buffalo Church in Greensboro, although no markers for them survive.[5]

Robert died about 1770, but in any event by no later than 1773.[6] He left no will. The Rowan and Guilford records establish that R&R had at least children (1) George, (2) Robert, (2) Ann who married William Denny (William Denny Senior, for purposes of this article) and (4) a probable son John.[7] Rev. Rankin also names a daughter Rebecca who married James Denny, although that is almost certainly wrong.[8] Rev. Rankin also erroneously omitted Ann Rankin Denny (see information on her at the discussion of her brother Robert d. 1795, below). Rev. Rankin thought that R&R had other children. That seems likely.

Tantalizing probate records in Rowan County suggest two other possible daughters of R&R besides Ann Rankin Denny. These two women – Margaret (Rankin?) Braly/Brawley and Rebecca (Rankin?) Boyd – should be deemed *** SPECULATIVE ***. My friend Jody Thompson would probably wag her finger at me for even introducing these possible daughters. I weighed the genealogical ethics and concluded that the upside that a Braly or Boyd descendant might identify a maternal ancestor outweighed the negatives of people adding these women to their families as though they are proved. They are not, but keep reading and judge for yourself …

First, Robert Rankin was a security on the Rowan County bond of Margaret Braly/Brawley and John Braly, administrators of the estate of Thomas Braly. A man who acted as security on such a bond was frequently a family member. Even better, John Braly witnessed the 1760 will of George Rankin, along with Robert Rankin. Both George and Robert were proved sons of R&R. Witnessing a will is obviously also compelling evidence of a family relationship. Two such strong Rankin/Braly connections make me think Margaret could be deemed a “likely” daughter of R&R rather than merely “speculative.”

The Braly administrator’s bond was dated 8 Jan 1765. Thomas’s noncupative will established that his wife was pregnant, and was thus of childbearing age. She therefore belonged to the same generation as R&R’s proved children.[9]

Second, Robert Rankin was also security on the Rowan County administrators’ bond of Rebecca Boyd, widow of John Boyd, in January 1767.[10] His signature on the Boyd bond is identical to Robert Rankin’s signature on the Braly bond, so it was the same Robert Rankin – this was not the clerk’s handwriting in either case. There is also circumstantial evidence of Boyd/Rankin connections in the Guilford deed records.[11] However, Rebecca’s name, plus Robert Rankin providing security on her administrator’s bond, is probably the strongest circumstantial evidence suggesting she may have been a daughter of R&R. I still consider her speculative. However, if I were descended from either Thomas Braly or John Boyd, I would take a close look at their Rankin connections.

With that, here is a brief chart of R&R’s line including the four Robert Rankins covered in this post and adding Margaret Braly, Rebecca Boyd and Ann Denny as daughters. R&R’s children are not necessarily in birth order; only George’s 1729 birth date is proved.[12] The men who are the subjects of this post are shown in boldface type.

Outline Chart #1

1 “R&R,” Robert Rankin, b. ca 1700, probably Ireland, d. Guilford, NC abt 1770, wife Rebecca LNU.

2 George Rankin, b. 1729, Letterkenney Parish, County Donegal, Ireland, d. 1760, Rowan, NC. Wife Lydia Steele Rankin (m. Arthur Forbis after George died).[13]

3 “Shaker” Reverend John Rankin, b. 1757, Rowan, NC, d. 1850, Logan, KY.[14] Married Rebecca Rankin, a granddaughter of Joseph of Delaware, in Guilford in 1786.[15] None of his children married: Shakers practiced celibacy.[16]

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, more on him below.

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795, more on him below.

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford, NC, in Jan. 1791.[17]

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

2 John Rankin, lived in Guilford Co. No proved children of whom I am aware.

2 Ann Rankin m. William Denny Sr., lived in Guilford Co., more on them below.

2 Rebecca Rankin (speculative) m. John Boyd who d. Rowan, NC in 1767.

2 Margaret Rankin (possible) m. Thomas Braly/Brawley who d. Rowan, NC, Dec. 1764.

Next up: R&R’s son Robert.

Robert Rankin d. 1795

Robert Rankin died in Guilford in 1795 and left a will.[18] I have written about him before, see the article here. For some new material, I’ve added the controversy about his wife’s identity.

Robert’s 1795 will did not name a wife, indicating that she predeceased him. He identified only one son by name (George). Based on the express language of the will, Robert had four daughters. He identified only two of them by their given names, i.e., Mary Rankin Wilson, who died before Robert wrote his will, and Isabel Rankin, clearly unmarried in 1795. The other two daughters, whose given names Robert did not provide, were apparently already married. One daughter was Rebecca Rankin who married William Denny Jr.; I have not identified the other daughter. Robert also named his three Wilson grandsons (William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson, and Maxfield Wilson).

With the information from his will, we can expand Robert d. 1795’s section of Chart #1 as follows:

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford Co., Jan. 1791.

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

3 Mary Rankin, d. before 1795, married Andrew Wilson as his second wife.[19]

4 William Rankin Wilson, b. abt. 1788, moved to McNairy Co., TN.[20] Wife’s name was Lydia, reportedly Rev. War Robert’s daughter.[21] Ancestry.com claims that W.R. married Lydia in 1807 in Guilford, although I didn’t find a marriage record for that couple there.

4 Andrew Wilson, b. abt. 1790, m. Permelia/Pamela Denny in 1812, daughter of William Denny Jr. and Rebecca Rankin.[22] Moved to McNairy Co., TN, then Perry Co., AR to live with his son after his wife died.[23]

4 Maxfield Wilson, b. by 1795, m. Sarah Baily in Guilford, 1829. Went to Orange Co., IN.[24]

3 Isabel Rankin, b. before 1795. Probably died single.[25]

3 Rebecca Rankin, b. before 1795, m. William Denny Jr.[26]

3 Daughter Rankin, given name unknown, probably married by 1795 (husband unknown).

A number of online trees and at least one compiled Rankin history wrongly conflate Robert d. 1795 with his father, who died about 1770. But there’s a tougher controversy about Robert d. 1795: the identity of his wife. Many Rankin researchers identify her as Jean (or Jane — the names were usually interchangeable) Denny. They have good reason to do so. The Guilford County marriage records indicate that some Robert Rankin married some Jean/Jane Denny in February 1775. William Denny Sr. (wife Ann Rankin) definitely had an unmarried daughter named Jean/Jane when he wrote his will in August 1766.[27]

A serious problem with the theory that the Robert who died in 1795 married Jean/Jane, daughter of William Denny, is this: Robert was almost certainly Jean’s uncle. We are all accustomed to seeing marriages between cousins, but … an uncle and a niece? Has anyone seen that before?

The evidence about Jean/Jane Denny’s parents, William Denny (Sr.) and Ann Rankin Denny, is in the Rowan County deed records. Here it is. On back-to-back days in April 1755, Robert Rankin Sr. (i.e., R&R) executed deeds to his son George (480 acres) and William Denny (640 acres).[28] The consideration recited in both deeds was 5 shillings, clearly marking them as deeds of gift. Consider this: Robert Sr. paid 10 shillings for the 640A tract he “sold” to William Denny Sr. for 5 shillings.[29]

That gift deed constitutes unassailable proof that William Denny Sr. was part of R&R’s family. There is more, of course. William Denny also witnessed the will of George Rankin (along with Robert Rankin and John Braly).[30] Further, John Rankin, probably a son of R&R, witnessed William Denny’s 1766 will.[31] If you don’t believe Ann Denny was born a Rankin, well, geez … it’s hard to do any better with late 1700s records.

William & Ann Denny’s daughter Jean/Jane, unmarried in 1766, is the only Jean/Jane Denny I can find in Guilford who might have been the right age to marry some Robert Rankin in 1775. I just don’t believe that the Robert Rankin she married was her Uncle Robert d. 1795. She must have married a different Robert Rankin. Her husband might have been a Robert Rankin from Iredell County.[32] Iredell Robert was definitely a genetic relative of the Guilford County line of R&R Rankin.

Let’s divert for a moment into the wonderful world of Y-DNA testing, which is a gift from the family history gods to genealogists.

Iredell Robert was a son of David Rankin who died in Iredell in 1789.[33] Two men who are proved descendants of David Rankin are members of the Rankin DNA project: Steven Ross Rankin and Bill Rankin. Steve has a mutation in his line that occurred after the ancestor he shares with Bill, so that Bill’s Y-DNA profile is a better genetic gauge of any earlier Rankin relationship. Two other men in the Rankin DNA project (Rollie and Michael G.), both of whom are descended from R&R, are a 37-marker match with Bill. Rollie and Bill have a genetic distance of one (one of 37 markers doesn’t match); Michael and Bill have a genetic distance of three.

One cannot conclude from those results that David of Iredell was a son of R&R – although the results don’t preclude a father-son relationship, either. In any event, Y-DNA proves that the Iredell Rankins and the line of R&R of Guilford were closely related, genetically. If David Rankin of Iredell was a son or cousin of R&R, and if Jean Denny of Guilford married David’s son Iredell Robert in 1775 (which I believe to be the case), then Iredell Robert and Jean Denny were cousins of some degree.

That’s a lot more palatable than a man marrying his niece. Perhaps not coincidentally, Robert Rankin of Iredell and his wife Jean (1755 – 1779, per her tombstone in Centre Presbyterian Church in Statesville) had a son named Denny Rankin.[34] I would be happy to wager that his mother’s surname was Denny, but I’ll bet I won’t have any takers.

Whatever the identity of his wife, Robert d. 1795 has only one proved son. That was George, who married Nancy Gillespie (a daughter of Daniel Gillespie and Margaret Hall) in Guilford in 1791. Note also that George was born in 1767, so he was clearly not the child of some Jean Denny who allegedly married his father in 1775. George and Nancy went to McNairy Co., TN, where George died in 1851. The important thing here is that George and Nancy had a proved son (among other children) named … you can no doubt guess this … Robert. George and Nancy’s son was the man I call Robert of Arkansas, but we haven’t gotten to him quite yet.

Rev War Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840).

Rev War Robert, a grandson of R&R, was one of two sons of R&R’s son George and his wife Lydia Steele.[35] Robert was a Revolutionary War veteran who applied for a pension, which told us when and where he was born and when he moved to McNairy County.[36] Rev War Robert married first Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in Guilford in the early 1780s.[37] He married his second wife Mary Moody in Guilford County in 1803.[38]

Rev War Robert’s children by Polly Cusick – there were apparently seven – are fairly easy to identify by tracking census records. His children by Mary Moody are a tougher nut to crack, and I have identified only two. Here’s how I would expand Rev War Robert’s part of Chart #1:

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, b. Rowan, NC, 29 May 1759, d. McNairy, TN on 21 Dec 1840. Buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery in McNairy. Married #1 Mary (nickname “Polly”) Cusick in Guilford, probably in the early 1780s. Married #2 Mary Moody in Guilford in 1803.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary (“Polly”) Cusick:

4 George Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1783, d. bet. 1828-1830 in Arkansas Territory. Married Ann McMurray in Guilford, 1803. They were in Arkansas Territory by 1816 and eventually lived in Pulaski Co. May have had as many as six children, but I can only identify three possible sons: Robert, William D., and John J. Rankin.

4 Jedediah Rankin, b. 1785-86, m. Rebecca Rankin in Guilford, 1811. Rebecca was a daughter of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. Jed and Becky were both great-grandchildren of R&R and were therefore second cousins. They were in Arkansas by at least 1830, when he was listed in the 1830 Arkansas Territory census.

4 Lydia Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1789, assuming that she was the Lydia who was listed in the census in the family of William Rankin Wilson, b. abt 1788. They went to McNairy Co., TN. For some unaccountable reason, online trees ID her as “Lydia Lea Isabella.” I would love to see proof for that name, especially since Lydia had a proved sister named Isabel.

4 Isabel Rankin, b. 1791, Guilford, NC, d. 1861, Pope, AR. Married Arkansas Robert Rankin, her second cousin (he was a son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin) in Guilford in 1812. They went to McNairy Co., TN and then to Arkansas Territory, Conway and Pope Counties. See more below.

4 John Rankin, b. 1797, Guilford, d. 1846, McNairy Co., TN. Wife Mary Kirby/Kerby.

4 William Rankin, b. 1799, Guilford, m. Isabel Woodburn in Guilford in 1823. They went to McNairy, TN and DeSoto Co., MS. Both are buried in Bethesda Cemetery, Tate Co., MS.

4 Thankful Rankin, b. bet. 1790-1800, Guilford, m. Hance McCain in Guilford, 1818. May have lived in McNairy Co., TN, where Hance appeared in some records. I haven’t found them enumerated there in a census, however.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary Moody:

4 Thomas M. Rankin, b. 1813-16, Guilford, NC, died without issue, 1885, McNairy.[39]

4 Letha Rankin, b. abt 1820, m. Robert D. Wilson, undoubtedly a relative. Lived in McNairy, TN.[40]

On that note, let’s move on to the last Robert in the line of R&R.

Arkansas Robert Rankin

Here is another case in which Y-DNA provides compelling evidence. Back up for a moment to Isabel Rankin, a proved daughter of Rev War Robert.[41] She married a Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1812.[42] Rollie Rankin, a descendant of Robert’s and Isabel’s son Reuben Burr Rankin, has taken a Y-DNA test and is a member of the Rankin DNA project. A problem is that Rollie can prove he is descended from R&R via their great-granddaughter Isabel Rankin. Of course, Isabel didn’t have a Y-chromosome to pass on: Rollie inherited that from Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin. The thing is, Rollie’s family hasn’t been able to prove Robert’s parents via traditional paper genealogy.

Considering all the Robert Rankins floating around Guilford, that’s perfectly understandable. AND there were also two sons of Joseph of Delaware in Guilford … so that Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin may have been from EITHER R&R’s line or Joseph’s line. Or he may have parachuted into Guilford from Mars. I am convinced that he is not from Joseph’s line (well-documented by Rev. Rankin), and heavily discount the Mars theory. That leaves the line of R&R.

Y-DNA testing AND land records to the rescue. George Rankin (son of Robert d. 1795) and his wife Nancy Gillespie Rankin had a son named Robert who is conclusively proved, although he is unaccountably missing from many lists of George and Nancy’s children.[43] He was the right age to be the Robert Rankin who married Isabel. Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the marriage bonds or elsewhere to prove that Isabel’s husband was Robert, son of George and Nancy – although that Robert, as far as I can find, was the only Robert Rankin in Guilford available to marry Isabel.

More Y-DNA: Michael G. Rankin, a proved descendant of R&R’s grandson George Rankin and his wife Nancy Gillespie, recently took the Y-DNA test. Lo and behold, he is a 67-marker match with a GD (genetic distance) of 2 from Rollie Rankin, meaning only 2 markers out of 67 are different.

That is a darn good match. I think it establishes (although I would defer to people who know more about DNA than I do, which is darn near everyone) that Isabel and Robert’s line and George and Nancy’s line share a common Rankin ancestor not very long ago. The common ancestors, based on the paper evidence, are almost certainly R&R. That’s sufficient DNA evidence (in my opinion) to establish that Isabel’s husband Arkansas Robert Rankin was the same man as Robert, proved son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin.

And that’s it for now. I will (soon, I hope) combine the several charts in this table, add a bunch of names, and post a loooonnnnnggggg chart for the descendants of Robert and Rebecca under “Rankin Charts” – see the menu at this website.

[1] Robert C. Rankin, d. Guilford 1853, and Robert Rankin, d. Guilford 1866, were both grandsons of Joseph of Delaware through his sons William Rankin and John Rankin, respectively.

[2] The grandson was “Shaker John” Rankin (1757-1850), a Shaker preacher who wrote his autobiography at age 88. He died in Shakertown, Logan Co., KY. The only reference to a full transcription of his autobiography (cited hereafter as “Shaker John’s Autobiography”) that I found is as follows: John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky (SMSU), 29-30. For a typescript of Eads’s history, see Shaker Record A at the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU).

[3] George Rankin and Robert Rankin appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester Co., PA. Rev. Samuel M. Rankin (see note 5) claims the family lived in Lancaster Co., but I didn’t find any records for them there. See J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[4] Shaker John’s Autobiography (see note 2); see also deeds dated April 1755 in which Robert Rankin Sr. gifted land to his son George Rankin and son-in-law William Denny Sr. in Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67, 70.

[5] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: Jos. J. Stone & Co., 1931), cited hereafter as “Buffalo Church History.”

[6] Rev. Rankin says in one place in Buffalo Church History that Robert with wife Rebecca died before the church started keeping minutes, which was in 1773. In another place, he says Robert died about 1770.

[7] Rev. Rankin names George, Robert and John as sons of R&R in his Buffalo Church History. George is proved by a gift deed and Robert is proved by circumstantial evidence in numerous Guilford records. The evidence for a son John is thin.

[8] James and Rebecca Denny (née Rankin, according to Rev. Rankin) are buried in the Buffalo Church cemetery. Rebecca was born in 1760 and died in 1816. She was probably born too late to be a daughter of Robert and Rebecca, unless Rebecca was Robert’s second wife. Buffalo Church cemetery records are available online at this link.

[9] George Rankin, a proved son of R&R, had two sons born in 1757 and 1759. See Shaker John’s Autobiography and Rev. War Robert’s pension application, abstracted in Virgil D. White, Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. 3 (Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). Robert Rankin d. 1795, another proved son of R&R, had a son George born in 1767. See will of Robert Rankin dated and proved 1795, Guilford Will Books A-B, File #312 (naming a son George).

[10] Rowan County Court Order Book 2: 667.

[11] E.g., deed of 1 Feb 1780 from James Boyd to William Boyd, both of Guilford, 20 shillings (a deed of gift), 630A on Little Troublesome Cr., Granville grant to John Boyd Sr. 15 Jul 1760. This land winds up in Rockingham County. John Boyd Sr., the original grantee, is probably the deceased in the 1767 administrator’s bond. Witnesses Robt. Bell, John Rankin, John Bell. Guilford Co. DB 2: 437. See also deed of 18 Oct 1803, James Boyd of Guilford to Henry Fryar, same, £100, 150A waters North Buffalo. Witnesses William Denney and Rebekah Denney. The witness Rebekah was a daughter of Robert Rankin d. 1795 and a granddaughter of R&R. Guilford Deed Book 8: 230.

[12] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[13] See will of Arthur Forbis dated 10 Apr 1789, proved 1794, naming as executors his “stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin” (Shaker John and Rev War Robert). Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119.

[14] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[15] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984). Another source for Guilford marriage records is 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).

[16] At least one Rankin researcher at Ancestry.com believes that one of Shaker John Rankin’s children did not convert to Shakerism and that he married and had children. The Logan County census and burial records, however, suggest that all ten children died single in Logan County. There is some information about Shaker John in this article.

[17] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[18] NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312 (will of Robert Rankin d. 1795).

[19] See NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312 (will of Robert Rankin d. 1795, naming as guardian of his Wilson grandsons Andrew Wilson, Robert’s “former son-in-law); Buffalo Church History, listing the three wives of Andrew Wilson (Jr.).

[20] See 1850 census, McNairy Co., TN, p. 14, William R. Wilson, 62, farmer, b. NC, Lydia Rankin, 61, b NC, Washington Wilson, 33, NC, Lucinda Wilson, 26, TN, Lydia Wilson, 8, TN, Adaline Wilson, 5, TN, Jesse Wilson, 3, TH, and Louisa Wilson, 1, TN.

[21] Rev. War Robert did have a daughter Lydia, who would have been William Rankin Wilson’s second cousin. See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin. Both Lydia and William Rankin Wilson were great-grandchildren of R&R. I’ve found no evidence in the Guilford records that WRW married Lydia, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t marry. This crowd definitely had a penchant for marrying cousins.

[22] Will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming daughter Pamela Wilson; see also Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[23] See 1850 census, McNairy Co., TN, Andrew Wilson, farmer, 60, b. NC, dwelling #90, with Parmelia Wilson, 59, NC, Jane Wilson, 30, NC, Maxfield Wilson, 28, NC, Nancy Wilson, 25, NC, Parmelia Wilson, 21, NC, James Wilson, 19, NC, Eli Wilson, 16, NC, and Mary J. Black, 7, b. MO; see also 1860 census, Perry Co., AR, household of William Wilson, 45, farmer b. NC, with Andrew Wilson, 70, b. NC, also listed in his household.

[24] Thanks to my new cousin-by-marriage Peggy Derryberry Gould for that information. See 1860 federal census, French Lick, Orange Co., IN, dwl #1131, Maxfield Wilson, 70, b. NC; Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[25] Isabel Rankin, daughter of Robert d. 1795, probably died single and without children. She was still single in 1795, when her father wrote his will, and she was probably about 30 at that time. Her father specifically bequeathed a slave to provide for her, which may mean he considered her unmarriageable. I found no marriage record for her in Guilford.

[26] Guilford County will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming as executor his brother-in-law George Rankin (and children Rebecca Black, Pamela Wilson, William, Nancy, Isabel and Allen). 1803 deed from James Boyd to Henry Fryar witnessed by William Denny and Rebeckah Denny, Guilford Co. Deed Book 8: 230.

[27] Will of William Denny (Sr.), Rowan Co. Order Book 3: 200; Rowan Co. Will Book A: 31. An abstractor of this will, Jo White Linn, made (for her) a rare error about 3 of William Denny’s daughters. Ms. Linn read the will to say that all of William and Ann’s daughters were married, but three of them – Hannah, Agnes, and Jane/Jean Denny – were clearly identified as single in the 1766 will.

[28] Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67 and 70.

[29] Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 86, Granville grant to Robert Rankin dated 3 Dec 1753, ten shillings, 640 acres adjacent “Irish Tracts” #14 and #15 (part of the Nottingham Colony grants).

[30] Rowan Co., NC Will Book A: 141.

[31] Rowan Co., NC Order Book 3: 200; Will Book A: 31.

[32] Jean Denny may have married Robert Rankin of Iredell Co., son of David Rankin d. 1789.

[33] Will of David Rankin of Iredell proved Dec. 1789, original will viewed at the NC Archives in Raleigh, C.R.054.801.11, recorded at WB A: 200

[34] Lois M. P. Schneider, Church and Family Cemeteries of Iredell County, N.C. (1992); Iredell County, NC Deed Book D: 650, deed dated 17 May 1802 from Robert Rankin to his son Denny Rankin.

[35] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert.

[36] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[37] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and William’s desceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin.

[38] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[39] See McNairy Co., TN Will Book 1: 53, will of T. M. Rankin of Bethel Springs dated 18 Jun 1885 naming two nieces and a nephew. One niece, M. E. Wilson, was the daughter of Letha Rankin and Robert D.Wilson, according to Melinda’s TN death certificate.

[40] Letha’s Daughter Malinda Wilson Lee was named as a niece in the McNairy will of Thomas M. Rankin.

[41] Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful).

[42] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[43] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 14: 11, deed of 23 Mar 1819 from George Rankin Sr. to his son Robert Rankin Jr., both of Guilford, 110.5 acres on the south side of North Buffalo. George Sr. at that point is George, son of Robert d. 1795 (who devised that tract to George). George Jr. is probably the eldest son of Rev War Robert. Also, Robert Rankin Sr. was Rev War Robert.

Some Colonial Rankin lines: a Primer

© Robin Rankin Willis

I recently spent some time in the Tennessee Archives researching Rankins who were in Gibson County, Tennessee beginning about 1830. It was a good reminder about how easy it is to conflate various families with the same surname when they live in the same general geographic area at roughly the same time. It occurred to me that I should have prefaced any Rankin posts on this website with some basic information about certain colonial Rankin lines, hoping to help you distinguish among those families when you run across them … or read the detailed Rankin articles I post. I apologize for my lack of foresight. This post is my belated remedy.

First, a caveat. If you have read my post about Scots-Irish migration, you already know that the earliest colonial immigrants from the Ulster plantations of Ireland (around 1700) settled mostly in New England. Among those were evidently some Rankins. I know absolutely nothing about New England Rankins. I know next to nothing about most of the Rankin families who settled initially in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s, moved to the Shenandoah Valley and then, in the case of some, on to eastern Tennessee.

What I do know with at least a modicum of confidence is something about colonial Rankin families of North Carolina. That is my Rankin wheelhouse. When I started this hobby, I soon learned that my last conclusively proved Rankin ancestor was born in North Carolina around 1800. That was my only clue as to his origin. Searching for his parents consequently involved mucking about in North Carolina Rankin families. I acquired a ton of records in the process, because there weren’t any quick answers.

These are the Rankin families with whom I became acquainted during that research: (1) Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), two of whose sons went to Guilford Co., NC; (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC; (3) Robert & Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC; (4) David & Margaret Rankin of Iredell Co., NC; and (5) Robert Rankin (wives Mary Withrow, Leah LNU) of Rutherford Co., NC. Here are brief descriptions of each.

Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764) (“Joseph of Delaware”), wife unknown, two of whose sons moved to Rowan/Guilford Co., NC.

Joseph of Delaware had definitely arrived in the colonies by 1731, when he acquired a tract in New Castle County, DE. He is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Newark, New Castle Co., where his tombstone survives. Joseph’s wife’s identity is unproved, despite some claims to the contrary. His place of birth is likewise unproved, although a serious gambler would put a lot of money on the Ulster Plantations of Ireland. He had at least seven children, including four proved sons, two sons established by strong circumstantial evidence, and a daughter Ann, reportedly proved by a will I haven’t yet found. Joseph’s proved sons Joseph Jr. and Thomas remained in New Castle County, where both died. Thomas, a Lieutenant in a Delaware militia company during the Revolutionary War, is buried in the same grave as his father. The DAR placed a “patriot” marker on the grave, probably giving rise to a claim by one researcher that Joseph (who died in 1764) was a Revolutionary War soldier. If so, he was a ghostly presence. It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry.

I have been unable to track Robert or James, Joseph’s two sons who are convincingly established by circumstantial evidence. His two other proved sons migrated to that part of Rowan Co., NC which later became Guilford Co.: (1) John Rankin (b. 1736, New Castle Co., DE, d. 1814, Guilford Co., NC, wife Hannah Carson) went to NC about 1765-68; and (2) William Rankin (b. 1744, New Castle Co., DE, d. 1804, Guilford Co., NC, wife Jean or Jennet Chambers) went to NC about 1768-70.

John and William stayed in Guilford County, had many children and grandchildren, and are buried at the old Buffalo Church in Greensboro, NC. Their lines were meticulously researched by Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin. His research is documented in his book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy, originally published in 1931 and now available online in its entirety at at the UNC library website. My Rankin “to do” list includes writing an article about Joseph of Delaware’s other children. It’s still on the list.

Samuel Rankin (1734 – 1816) of Lincoln Co., NC and wife Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander (1740 – 1802)

Thanks to a family legend and Y-DNA testing, I am confident that Samuel and Eleanor are my ancestors. I therefore tend to be a bit prissy with respect to misinformation about them, having something of a proprietary interest. Some researchers claim Samuel and Eleanor were married in Pennsylvania, which is demonstrably incorrect. Eleanor appeared in North Carolina deed and court records with her Alexander family of origin as a child in 1753 and 1755. She married Samuel about  1759-60 (their eldest son William was born in NC in January 1761), almost certainly in North Carolina. Also, some researchers assert that Samuel was born in Paxtang, PA, but none whom I have contacted have any evidence for that claim. Frankly, it is nonsense. Samuel may be the same man as the Samuel Rankin who appeared on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township in Chester Co., PA. There were no other Rankins on that list. There is no evidence whatsoever as to the identity of Samuel’s parents so far as I have found.

Samuel and Eleanor lived on Dutchman’s Creek in the part of Lincoln Co., NC that later became Gaston Co. They had seven sons (William, Samuel, Robert, David, Richard, Alexander, and James) and three daughters (Jane/Jean, Anne, and Eleanor). William, Alexander, James, Jane, and Anne stayed in Lincoln, or nearby. Richard Rankin died in Mecklenburg Co., just east of the Catawba River. (You can see Richard’s headstone on Beatty’s Ford Road north of Charlotte in the left foreground in the banner photo on the home page of this website.) Three of Samuel and Eleanor’s sons (Samuel, Robert, and David) and a daughter (Eleanor Rankin Dickson) went to Rutherford Co., TN. David stayed in Murfreesboro, but his three siblings moved on to Shelby Co., IL.

Two articles on this website argue that (1) Joseph of Delaware was not Samuel’s father ( find it here: Y-DNA evidence is conclusive on that question) and that (2) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford were not his parents (read it here.) I also posted charts for the line of James Rankin, a son of Samuel and Eleanor, in two formats: a bare outline chart and a longer chart containing documentation. One of these days, I will complete and publish my research on several of Samuel and Eleanor’s other children … including their eldest son William, a man who lost my respect on account of the way he treated Richard Rankin’s widow Susannah Doherty Rankin. It’s amazing how one can acquire likes and dislikes for people who have long since turned to dust.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC (“R&R”)

This couple arrived in the colonies in 1750 from Letterkenny Parish, Donegal County, Ireland, where their children (or at least some of them) were born. They were in Pennsylvania for only a short while. Robert and his son George Rankin were included on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester County. R&R then came to Guilford County in 1755 as part of the Nottingham Colony, a group of Scots-Irish members of Nottingham Presbyterian Church, now located in Maryland (it was then in Pennsylvania). [1]

R&R had at least two proved sons who died in Guilford County: George (died in 1760), whose wife was Lydia Steele, and Robert (died in 1795), whose wife’s identity is a matter of controversy among Rankin researchers. Some Rankin family trees and at least one compiled Rankin history conflate the Robert who died in 1795 with his father Robert (husband of Rebecca), who died about 1770-73. The article at this link addresses that issue.

According to Rev. S. M. Rankin, R&R also had a son John who proved to be a research dead-end for me, although the Guilford records suggest such a son. R&R also had a daughter Ann, whose husband was the William Denny who died in Guilford in 1770. Rev. Rankin identifies a daughter Rebecca, although I found no evidence on that issue, and he failed to mention Ann (a rare Rev. Rankin error). R&R probably had other children as well.

All of this is uncontroverted so far as I know, except for (1) the identity of the wife of R&R’s son Robert Rankin who died in 1795 (see discussion under David Rankin of Iredell, below), (2) Ann as a daughter of R&R, and (3) the death date of George Rankin, son of R&R. Rev. Rankin said George died in 1761, but that was probably a typo. George actually died in 1760, when his will was probated. Here is an outline chart for R&R’s line. By the way, I found a couple of really egregious errors in my previously published chart at that link … if you relied on it for any information, please look at it again.

David Rankin of Iredell Co., NC (d. 1789), wife Margaret LNU (“Iredell David”)

David Rankin’s 1789 Iredell will and other records establish a wife Margaret and three children: Robert, James (not explicitly named in the will), and a daughter (ditto).

Iredell David’s son Robert may be the same man as the “Mystery Robert” who applied for a Revolutionary War Pension application from Gibson Co., TN in 1832. I made that argument in this article, although my opinion should be deemed **speculative.** Robert’s wife is also a matter of controversy. Some researchers believe his wife was a Jean Denny (1755-1779) from Guilford County. Some Jean Denny definitely married some Robert Rankin in Guilford County in 1775. Other researchers believe that Jean Denny married Robert, the son of R&R who died in 1795. I disagree, because I believe that Robert (son of R&R) was Jean Denny’s uncle. This question requires a fairly lengthy discussion which I will save for another day.

In any event, Robert and his wife Jean had two sons: (1) Denny, who married Sarah McMinn, and (2) James, who married Elizabeth McMinn. Both families remained in Iredell. Two of Denny’s sons moved to Gibson County, TN (home of “Mystery Robert”) and then to Shelby Co., TN, where they both died. Many of James and Elizabeth’s descendants remained in Iredell; some are still there today.

Iredell David’s son James died in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in Lincoln Co. in June 1780. His wife was a Miss Alexander (probably Susannah), and they had four children proved by Lincoln Co. guardian records.

Iredell deed records suggest that Iredell David’s daughter was probably  Elizabeth, wife of Samuel McCrary (or McCreary and other variant spellings).

For an extremely lengthy chart (including supporting records) on the line of David of Iredell, check out this link.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, NC (b. 1748-49, d. 1816, Caldwell Co., KY), m#1 Mary Withrow, m#2 Leah LNU (“Rutherford Robert”)

Francis Gill did the definitive research on Rutherford Robert and published a book about him and others. I cannot find a copy of his book available for either purchase or loan. Nor can I find Francis, with whom I communicated in the late 1990s. I lost most of my own research on Rutherford Robert in one of those “black screen of death” incidents more than a decade ago.

All I now know for sure about Rutherford Robert is that he married Mary Withrow in Tryon Co., NC in 1769. He owned land on Second Broad River in what ultimately became Rutherford County. He and his future Withrow in-laws may have been listed on the tax list for Aston Township, Chester Co., PA in 1768, before going to NC. Rutherford Robert and Mary Withrow divorced, and he wound up in Caldwell Co., KY, where he left a will naming his children Margaret, James, John, Rachel and David (children of Mary Withrow) and Elizabeth, Jennet, Jesse and Elias (children of his second wife Leah).  The children evidently scattered to the four winds. I must do some research to track them down.

Whew! That was longer than I expected. Hope this helps a bit in keeping these families straight. One final note: a couple of people who have read my posts admit they never look at the footnotes, which just make the articles too long. I have started omitting them. However, if anyone wants a citation to a source for anything in this or any other article, please let me know and I will be happy to provide it.

See you on down the road …

[1] John Rankin, a Shaker preacher and grandson of R&R, hand-wrote his autobiography at age 88. These details about the migration of R&R are from that autobiography. The only reference to a full transcription of the autobiography which I can find is as follows: John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky (SMSU), 29-30. For a typescript of Eads’s history, see Shaker Record A at the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU). The above citation can be found at this link.

The Mysterious Robert Rankin of Gibson County, TN

© Robin Rankin Willis

Gary and I recently returned from a week in the Tennessee Archives in Nashville, where I wound up mucking about in Gibson County for some reason I cannot recall. I stumbled over a passel of Rankins there. They are my favorite line for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that I was nèe Rankin.

What got me enmeshed in the Gibson County Rankins was the Revolutionary War pension application of one Robert Rankin among the court records. Let’s call him Mystery Robert because his family of origin is a puzzle. He applied for a pension in Gibson in September 1832. His sworn statement is replete with military details. Unfortunately, he did not say where he enlisted, which would likely have led us to his family of origin without much difficulty

I cannot find anyone who claims descent from Mystery Robert among online family trees. This is unusual, because the general rule is that whenever one finds a Revolutionary War soldier, one finds many descendants. I have found no one claiming a revolutionary war soldier ancestor who applied from Gibson County in 1832.

If you know who this man’s family is, please let me know. I’ll send you a box of chocolates, provided that you have proof other than some online tree which cites as sources other online family trees.

Here is what the Gibson records reveal about Mystery Robert, which is precious little.

  • Mystery Robert was 84 when he applied for a pension under the Act of 1832. That was the first Congressional act in which the applicant did not have to prove that he was destitute in order to be eligible for a pension. Since Robert had not applied earlier, we know that he wasn’t destitute. He was born about 1748. He was in the North Carolina militia, which means he almost certainly lived in NC when he enlisted. His pension allowance was $50/year, and the 1835 roll of Tennessee pensioners says that he had received $150 through June 1834. Here is a transcription of his pension application.
  • Robert appeared in the 1830 census for Gibson County in the 80 < 90 age bracket (born 1740 – 1750), consistent with the stated age in his pension application. There is a female 40 < 50 (born 1780 – 1790) listed with him and a male 10 < 15 (born 1815 – 1820). This could be a young wife and son, or a widowed daughter or daughter-in-law who was his caretaker (and her son). I don’t know. The 1830 census only gives names for the head of household. I haven’t been able to identify those two other members of Robert’s 1830 household.
  • The 1830s tax records in Gibson County occasionally list a Robert Rankin, although not consistently every year. It is fairly clear that he owned no land. His only taxable item was “one white poll,” which was undoubtedly himself. However, he was charged no tax, which probably means he was exempt from taxes on account of his advanced age. I don’t know when he died, although he did not appear as a head of household in the 1840 census. I found no probate records for him in Gibson Co.

The thing about Mystery Robert that caused me to sit up and take notice was this: his pension application says that his brother was killed by Tories at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. I ran into that battle a long time ago when I was first doing genealogical research. Because it has been a while (pre-Google, in fact), I did some online research about Ramsour’s Mill (also spelled Ramseur or Ramsaur). It took place in June 1780. About 40 patriots (Whigs) died there, although it was not easy to ascertain which bodies fought for which side. The combatants wore no uniforms. The loyalists (Tories) stuck a spring of greenery in their hats; the patriots had a piece of white paper in theirs. These identifiers were sometimes missing from the bodies.

Here is the piece about Ramsour’s Mill where I found this information.

The largest portion of the patriot troops were from Iredell County, NC. About thirteen of the dead patriots were from Capt. Sharpe’s 4th Creek Company, Statesville, Iredell County. (“Company” in this context may refer to a militia company and/or to a tax district).

Family history research, of course, rarely involves dead solid certainties, especially when one is dealing with facts from more than two centuries ago. Sometimes one must play the odds. The obvious odds were that Mystery Robert and his dead brother were from Iredell County, so I went digging among the Iredell records for Rankin families. This was simply a matter of looking up the Iredell research I had done almost two decades ago, when I was a rookie researcher and fixated on finding the family of origin of my last proved Rankin ancestor.

What I found in Iredell was the will of a David Rankin who died in 1789. I looked at the original will in the Raleigh Archives (found in File Box No. C.R.054.801.11 and recorded in Iredell Will Book A: 200). The will names his wife Margaret and son Robert. David also named three grandchildren: (1) David McCreary (obviously the son of David’s daughter Mrs. _______ Rankin McCreary), (2) James Rankin (expressly identified as the son of Robert Rankin) and (3) David Rankin. Grandson David Rankin’s father was not identified, so he wasn’t another son of Robert. He was a minor, under age 21 in 1781, when David’s will was written.

The express language of David’s will – with a Rankin grandson whose father wasn’t Robert – raises the inference that David and Margaret had another son who may have predeceased David.

The next step, of course, was to cast about in nearby records to find a candidate for grandson David Rankin whose father may have died before 1781. This wasn’t difficult, and was also buried among my old research. David was in Lincoln County and was the son of a James Rankin. Here are some relevant Lincoln County records:

  • July 1783, a lawsuit styled the Executors of James Rankin vs. Reuben Simpson. Plaintiff won. So there was a James Rankin who had died before July 1783. The description of plaintiffs as “executors” suggests that James Rankin died testate, but I have found no will.
  • The lawsuit resulted in the public sale of defendant’s land to satisfy the plaintiff’s judgment. Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 756, deed dated 21 Sep 1784 from Joseph Henry, Sheriff of Lincoln Co., to Francis Cunningham of same, levy on Reuben Simpson in suit of James Rankin, land on Beaver Dam Branch on the west side of the Catawba River adjacent Francis Cunningham, part of 640 acres granted to Reuben Simpson. A witness to the deed was Robert Rankin, who was almost certainly kin to the dead James Rankin. Perhaps the witness was Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin.
  • A Lincoln county promissory note (or was this simply security on a guardian’s bond? My rookie notes aren’t clear) from Francis Cunninghan and Daniel McKissick to John Alexander, guardian of minors David Rankin, Jane Rankin, Margaret Rankin and William Rankin, orphans (meaning their father was dead, not necessarily their mother as well) of James Rankin. Generally, children were named in order of age, so David was probably the eldest. Source: Anne William McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers 1771-1806 of the Court of Ps & Qs, Lincoln County, North Carolina (1989).

David Rankin was still in the area on 14 Oct 1800, when he witnessed a deed from James Alexander to Horatio Gates Alexander adjacent the land of David’s guardian John Alexander. Lincoln Co. DB 22:65. John Alexander was almost certainly David Rankin’s uncle, so John was probably either (1) married to a Rankin or (2) the brother of David’s mother, Miss ___?___ Alexander who married a Rankin.

The final piece of evidence here: the Iredell County Genealogical Society has a collection called the “Philip Langenhour papers,” which were Mr. Langenhour’s collections of stories about local families. His papers mention a Miss Alexander (no given name stated) who married a Mr. Rankin (ditto) who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. Given the fact that the guardian of James Rankin’s children was John Alexander, it is as good a bet as you can find in genealogy that it was James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. This is the only piece of evidence I have found that a Rankin died in that battle … other than the pension application of Robert Rankin, whose patriot brother was killed there.

The pieces of this puzzle fall together quite nicely. It is reasonable to conclude that David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell had two sons named Robert and James. James married a Miss Alexander and died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780. James and Miss Alexander had children named David and Margaret (for their Rankin grandparents?), as well as Jane and William. Their uncle John Alexander became their guardian.

And here is where we take a plunge off the high diving board without, we hope (as my friend Jody McKenney Thomson, a descendant of these Lincoln County Alexanders, puts it) “forcing Cinderella’s shoe to fit” – and please forgive the mixed metaphors. Robert Rankin, Revolutionary War pensioner from Gibson County, TN, had a brother who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. There were only 40 dead patriots in that battle, for pete’s sake, including 13 from the Statesville area. What are the odds that there is ANOTHER dead Rankin in that crew besides James?

I think Mystery Robert is Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, and a brother of the James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. Too much speculation? I confess to feeling a bit out on a limb. Jody, does the shoe pinch?

Please note also that Robert Rankin, son of David and Margaret, disappeared from the Iredell and Lincoln county records after 1826 without leaving any probate records. Jody and I have long wondered where the heck he went.

There is a bit more to this story. Robert had two sons who remained in the Iredell/Lincoln area: Denny, born in 1775, and James, born about 1778. Denny and James married sisters, Sarah and Elizabeth McMinn. Two of Denny and Sarah’s proved children were named Robert A. Rankin and Samuel Rankin.

Robert A. Rankin appeared in the Gibson County records starting in 1838. Samuel Rankin began appearing in Gibson in 1837, acting as security on the bond of the administrator of one John McMinn. Keep in mind that these 19th century folks typically migrated in groups of extended family members. In 1838, the Gibson County tax list included Samuel Rankin, Robert Rankin, and Robert Rankin Jr. (and no other Rankins). (“Junior,” of course, didn’t necessarily imply a father-son relationship; it was frequently used to distinguish an elder man from a younger man having the same given name). The fact that known members of the Iredell Rankin family (and a McMinn) appeared in Gibson along with Mystery Robert provides additional circumstantial evidence regarding Mystery Robert’s identity.

I think the shoe fits quite nicely.

Finally, please note that there were other distinct Rankin lines in Gibson County beginning in roughly the mid-1800s. However, I found no evidence to connect any other Rankin line to Mystery Robert. In the 1840 census for Gibson, there was no listing for either of the two Roberts or for Samuel. Robert A. Rankin and his brother Samuel moved on to Shelby County, where both died; Samuel was Robert’s administrator.

Briefly, here are some other Rankins who lived in Gibson County:

  • David F. C. Rankin (1823 – 1885) and his wife Susan Young. David was a son of David Rankin and Anne Moore Campbell of Rutherford County, TN. The senior David Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC.
  • Jesse Rankin, who was born in Kentucky about 1795, and his wife Cynthia Sellers. Some researchers think Jesse was a son of Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC and Caldwell Co., KY and his second wife Leah. Other researchers think that Jesse was a son of “Shaker Reverend” John Rankin of Guilford, NC and Logan Co., KY and his wife Rebecca. Both Robert of Rutherford and Shaker Reverend John had sons named Jesse. I don’t have an opinion yet.

Some Rankin researchers think that Robert Rankin and his wife Isabel (maiden name Rankin) of Guilford Co., NC, McNairy Co., TN and Pope Co., AR may have also lived in Gibson County. I don’t think that is the case, and one of their descendants tells me she has no evidence for that, either.

I’ve clearly got some more digging to do trying to sort out the Gibson County Rankins. Meanwhile, as my cousin Roger Alexander likes to say, “Nobody has more fun than we do!”

Samuel Rankin, b. abt. 1734, d. abt. 1816, Lincoln Co., NC, m. Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander: Who Was His Father? (Part II)

Let’s continue the conventions from the earlier post about the Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor Alexander and call him “Sam Sr.” To reprise Part I of this article briefly, there are two persistent theories concerning the identity of Sam Sr.’s father that are favored by Rankin family history researchers:

  • Theory #1 is that Sam Sr.’s father was Joseph Rankin of White Clay Creek Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware (1704-1764). That was the topic of the first part of this article. Y-DNA evidence establishes that Sam Sr. was not Joseph’s son. Here is a link to Part I.
  • Theory #2 is that Sam Sr.’s parents were Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC. Before migrating to North Carolina in the mid-1750s, Robert appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.[1] I’m going to call him “Robert Sr.” because he was the patriarch of his Rankin line (which included many Rankins named Robert) in Guilford County.

This article asks whether Theory #2 is correct, i.e., whether Sam Sr. was a son of Robert Sr. First, we start with the probable printed origin of that theory and the merits of its argument. It may be that many family researchers have concluded that Sam Sr. was a son of Robert Sr. However, the first place I found that notion argued was in a book written by A. Greg Moore.[2] Second, we look at the Y-DNA evidence about the line of Robert Sr., which is inconclusive. The third step should be the evidence in the records establishing (or even suggesting) a connection between Robert Sr. and Sam Sr. That’s pretty easy, because I found no such evidence. The only thing even remotely resembling a connection is that Robert Sr. and some Samuel Rankin were both in Chester County, PA at the same time, although they didn’t live near each other.[3]

I have concluded that Robert Sr. is not the father of Sam Sr., although – until we get a more Y-DNA evidence – it is still a remote possibility. Moore doesn’t provide any convincing reason to conclude that Robert Sr. was Sam Sr.’s father. If I had nothing but the paper trail to go by, I would characterize the claim that Sam Sr. was a son of Robert’s Sr. as speculative. Fortunately, Y-DNA evidence can resolve the issue with a fair degree of confidence. A new volunteer who descends from Robert Sr. has just tested (January 2017) and results should be in by the end of February. Absent an NPE in his line, we should have (I hope!) some good answers. If his Y-DNA is not a match with descendants of Sam Sr., then we can kiss Theory #2 goodbye.

The origin of the Robert and Rebecca theory

Moore’s book – the first place I ran across Theory #2 – notes that Rev. S. M. Rankin argued that Sam Sr. was a son of Joseph of Delaware, and then continues:

“While this argument must be given weight, a stronger argument can be made that Samuel is actually a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin … [who moved from Pennsylvania] to Rowan County, NC in 1755. The first instance of Samuel in the records of North Carolina occurs in Rowan County where he purchased 320 acres there on 14 July 1760 from David Alexander, probably the father of Samuel’s wife, Ellen Alexander … Samuel is thought to have been born between 1732 and 1740, the two dates most commonly attributed to this event. Thus, he is certainly of an appropriate age to be either Joseph’s or Robert’s son.”

For the life of me, I cannot see why this is “a stronger argument” than Rev. Rankin’s argument that Sam Sr. was a son of Joseph of Delaware (whose logic was discussed in Part I). Moore acknowledges that Sam Sr. was the right age to be a son of either Joseph of Delaware or Robert and Rebecca. The only new argument offered by Moore is that Sam Sr. first appeared in the records of Rowan County … and so did Robert Sr.

That’s a flawed argument. That is because location (taking into account county formation history) is equally persuasive whether one argues (1) Sam Sr. belongs to the family of Joseph of Delaware or (2) Sam Sr. was part of Robert Sr.’s family. Robert Sr. was located in a part of Rowan that became Guilford County. John Rankin and William Rankin, proved sons of Joseph of Delaware, also lived in Guilford County. All three of those Rankins – Robert Sr., John and William – attended the same church and are buried at the Buffalo Creek Presbyterian Church in Guilford County, now in Greensboro, NC.[4] They obviously didn’t live far away from each other.

So … how does one choose between Robert Sr.’s line or Joseph’s line as Sam Sr.’s family of origin on the basis of location, when both lines lived in a relatively small community in Guilford County?

Another problem with Moore’s “location” argument is that Sam Sr.’s first land purchase (and apparently his first appearance in the North Carolina records) was not in an area that became part of Guilford County. The land Sam Sr. bought from David Alexander in 1760 was located on James Cathey’s Mill Creek, also known (and shown on current maps) as Kerr Creek.[5] That creek is still in Rowan County. I have a copy of a map showing exactly where Sam Sr.’s land on Kerr Creek was located, but the copy is too poor to reproduce.

If you want to see a very rough location of Sam Sr.’s first land purchase on a current map, go to Google Maps and search for Sloan Park NC. Kerr Creek runs along the northwest side of the Park. Follow Kerr Creek southwest toward its headwaters. Sam Sr.’s land was located about where the creek crosses Caldwell Road, or NC Highway 1547. That location is a SWAG, at best. It could be off by several miles either upstream or downstream.

In any event, Sam Sr. was clearly not buying land near either the two sons of Joseph of Delaware or Robert and Rebecca, all of whom lived near Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Guilford County. Instead, Sam Sr. was buying land near his wife’s family of origin. The David Alexander who sold Sam Sr. the tract on Kerr/James Cathey’s Mill Creek was Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin’s brother (not her father, as Moore speculated). Eleanor’s parents James and Ann Alexander gave that tract, which was half of a 1752 grant to James, to their son David.[6] For more information on the Alexanders, see this article about Eleanor’s family of origin.

Enough of that. Let’s leave the art of family history research and turn to the science of DNA.

The Y-DNA Evidence: the line of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford County, NC

The short answer is there is no definitive evidence whether Sam Sr. was a son of Robert Sr. – so far. That is because the only proved descendant of Robert and Rebecca (Rollie B. Rankin) who has participated in Y-DNA testing and joined the Rankin DNA project is descended from their great-granddaughter Isabel Rankin and her husband Robert Rankin. It is Robert’s Y-DNA which his Rankin male descendants inherited. Isabel, of course, had no Y-DNA to pass on. Whoever Rollie’s male Rankin ancestor might be, he is definitely not related to Sam Sr., because Rollie’s Y-DNA is a total mismatch with the Y-DNA of Sam Sr.’s descendants.

The $64,000 question, of course, is who was the father of Robert ???? Rankin? That is a long story however, and I think I will save it for another day, after we have the results of the new Y-DNA volunteer. That will be a fun article to write, because there is nothing cooler than the solving puzzles at the intersection of conventional family history research and genealogical DNA.

The bottom line, however, is that the paper evidence is all we have to go on right now to answer the question whether Robert Sr. was the father of Sam Sr. Based on actual evidence in the records, the answer is probably “no.” We will be able to answer that question with confidence, I hope, when we have the Y-DNA results from the new volunteer.

Stay tuned!

[1] J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc., 1996).

[2] A. Gregg Moore & Forney A. Rankin (as added author), The Rankins of North Carolina : A Genealogy and History of Those Who Can Trace Their Ancestry to One of the Several Rankin Families Native to the Tar Heel State (Marietta, GA: A. G. Moore, 1997) (two volumes).

[3] Robert Sr. and his proved son George Rankin appeared in the West Nottingham Township, Chester Co., PA tax list for 1753. A Samuel Rankin (who may or may not have been the same man as Sam Sr.) appeared as a freeman on the Sadsbury Township, Chester Co., PA tax list that same year. See Futhey and Cope, History of Chester County. A “freeman” was a free male age 21 and over who was not married and who did not own any land. If Samuel were a part of Robert Sr.’s family, one might reasonably have expected them to appear on the same tax list. West Nottingham Township, where Robert Sr. and George appeared, was in the very southwest corner of Chester County on the Maryland border. Sadsbury Township was roughly in the middle of Chester County on a north-south axis and on the western border of Chester with Lancaster County. Sadsbury was five townships north of W. Nottingham.

[4] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: Jos. J. Stone & Co., 1931). According to Rev. Rankin, Robert Rankin Sr. and his wife Rebecca, John Rankin and his wife Hannah Carson, and William Rankin and his wife Jennett Chambers are all buried in the Buffalo Church cemetery, although there is no extant tombstone for Robert Sr. or Rebecca. There are numerous records in Guilford County for all three men and their children (or some of them). There is no evidence that Robert Sr. and Rebecca had a son Samuel, and Rev. Rankin doesn’t name a son Samuel.

[5] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. II. 1762 – 1772 Abstracts of Books 5, 6, 7 (Salisbury, NC: 1972), abstract of Deed Book 5: 272, 14 Jul 1760 deed from David Alexander to Samuel Rankin, 320 acres on both sides of James Cathey’s Mill Creek.

[6] Anson County, NC Deed Book B: 314 et seq., five gift deeds dated 12 Jan 1753 in which James and Ann Alexander gave land and/or livestock to five of their six children: James Jr., John, David, Eleanor and Robert. See also Rowan County, NC Deed Book 3: 547, 25 Mar 1752 Granville grant to James Alexander of Anson Co., Gentleman, 640 acres adjacent Andrew Kerr (notation in the margin: “to his widow”).

Samuel Rankin, b. abt. 1734, d. abt. 1816, Lincoln Co., NC, married Eleanor (nickname “Ellen”) Alexander: Who Was His Father? Part I.

This is the first of two articles concerning the family of origin of Samuel Rankin of Rowan, Mecklenburg and Lincoln Counties, North Carolina (call him “Sam Sr.”). He lived in North Carolina from roughly the mid-1750s until he died in about 1816. Rankin family history researchers have at least two theories about the identity of Sam Sr.’s father:

  • Theory #1 — Sam Sr.’s father was Joseph Rankin of White Clay Creek Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware (1704-1764). The identity of Joseph’s wife is unknown.[1] Let’s call him “Joseph of Delaware.”
  • Theory #2 — Sam Sr.’s parents were Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC. Call them “R&R.” Before migrating to North Carolina in the mid-1750s, Robert appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township, Chester County, PA.

This article addresses the first theory, i.e., that Sam Sr. was a son of Joseph of Delaware. The article has three sections. First, we start with the probable origin of that theory, a book published in 1931 by Rev. S. M. Rankin about Rankin genealogy. Then we look at the evidence in the county and other records concerning Sam Sr. and the family of Joseph of Delaware. We conclude with the Y-DNA evidence about the descendants of Sam Sr. and Joseph of Delaware.

To take the mystery out early, Joseph of Delaware was not the father of Sam Rankin Sr. Although Rev. Rankin appears to have been a meticulous researcher, his notion that Joseph of Delaware was Sam Sr.’s father is speculative. There is no evidence whatsoever in the county, church or other records to support a close family connection between Joseph of Delaware and Sam Sr. As we might suspect, the Y-DNA of two proved descendants of Joseph of Delaware is not a match – not even remotely close – to a proved descendant of Sam Sr.

The origin of the theory that Joseph of Delaware was Sam Sr.’s father

There are a nunber of family trees on Ancestry.com, in compiled (paper) genealogies, and elsewhere on the web in which a researcher has identified Joseph of Delaware as the father of Sam Sr. So far as I have found, the first instance of that theory is in the Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy.[2]

Here is what Rev. Rankin has to same about the family of Joseph of Delaware, with some material that I have italicized for emphasis:

“The children of Joseph Rankin were James, John, Robert, Thomas, William, Joseph and Anne and perhaps Samuel. We are sure about all of these except James, Robert and Samuel

[i]t is thought that Samuel was also a son of Joseph Rankin, Sr. The dates fit in. John [one of Joseph’s proved sons] was born in 1736, Samuel in 1740 and William [another proved son of Joseph] in 1744. The family names also indicate that Samuel was a brother of John and William … both John and Samuel had a child named Samuel, and both William and Samuel had a child named William. Furthermore the personal appearance and personal traits of characters of the descendants of these three men indicate that they were brothers. Professor Jesse Rankin Wharton, who was in college with some of the descendants of Samuel Rankin, and who prepared a partial genealogial tree of the descendants of John and William Rankin, gave it as his fixed judgment that Samuel was a brother of John and William. The fact that no record of Samuel was found in New Castle County, Delaware, does not prove that he was not a son of Joseph. Only one record, and that in a deed, was found to prove that John and William were sons of Joseph.”

Rev. Rankin essentially makes four arguments: (1) Sam Sr. was the right age to have been a son of Joseph of Delaware; (2) there are similar names in Sam Sr.’s family and the families of two proved sons of Joseph of Delaware, John and William Rankin of Guilford County, NC; (3) someone who went to college with descendants of Sam Sr. firmly opined that they were related to John and William; and (4) simply because there is no proof in the records doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

I choose to ignore the “personal appearance and personal traits of character” argument Rev. Rankin makes. The Scots-Irish were always described by other Scots-Irish as hard-working and upright Presbyterians, and never as the hard-drinking and occasionally rowdy characters their English and German neighbors occasionally accused them of being.

In the same vein as that silly argument, my husband once found a picture of a man named Rufus Grady Rankin in the genealogical section of the Charlotte, NC library. Gary was struck by how much he resembled my father, Jim Leigh Rankin. Grady Rankin is a conclusively proved descendant of Sam Sr. and Eleanor. I subsequently exchanged emails with a charming grandson of Grady’s, who told me that a receding hairline leaving behind a “topknot” was a characteristic of Rankin males in his family. My father definitely had one of those topknots. Unfortunately, I doubt that any serious genealogist would accept that physical trait as evidence that my father was a descendant of Sam Sr. and Eleanor (although that is actually the case). I still have that picture of Rufus Grady Rankin, but the copy is too poor to scan and include in this post. If it were any good, I would paste it in here along with a picture of my father. What the heck: here is my sweet father about 1952, with the incipient topknot and kind smile that he shared with Grady.

JLR abt 1952 favorite

And here is the topknot in full flower in 1960.

Jim Rankin abt 1960

Back to Rev. Rankin’s logic. Argument number one – that Sam Sr. was the right age to have been a son of Joseph of Delaware – is unpersuasive. First, Sam Sr.’s birth year is a matter of controversy. Various family history researchers give his birth year as 1732, 1736, or 1740, all without citing a source. The most credible evidence I have seen for Sam Sr.’s birth year is a DAR compilation of North Carolina tombstone records that was filmed in 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. That compilation indicates that Sam Sr. was born in 1734, a date that doesn’t seem to have much of a following on the web.[3]

Whichever date is correct – and I’m voting for 1734 – Sam Sr. was probably born sometime during the 1730s. That would be consistent with the birth of his eldest son, William Rankin, in 1761.[4] However, if being born in the 1730s is evidence re: Sam Sr.’s father, then we should consider not only Joseph Rankin of Delaware, but also Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC … and most male Rankins of a certain age (say, between 20 and 70) living in Ireland or Scotland during the 1730s.[5]

The second argument — “similar names” in the family — is even more flimsy. How many Scots-Irish families used, ad nauseam, the names William, James, John, Samuel, Richard, or Robert? Some names are good evidence of a family relationship, such as Esom Graves and Esom Logan Burke. Or Parasida Burke, another name found among my Burke relatives. John and William, et al., aren’t much good as evidence of a genealogical relationship.

Third, the “fixed opinion” of Professor Wharton, who went to college with descendants of Sam Sr. and prepared a genealogy of John and William, is nice. Throw his vote in the pot with all the other family researchers’ opinions, but let’s not give it too much more weight than yours or mine.

As to Rev. Rankin’s last argument, the one I highlighted in italics. It is the most fun. Rev. Rankin says, in essense, that the fact there is no proof in the records doesn’t disprove the hypothesis that Sam Sr. was a son of Joseph of Delaware. True. Just because I have never seen a ghost doesn’t mean that ghosts don’t exist.

What Rev. Rankin says has some depressing truth, though: sometimes there just isn’t any evidence in the records. When there is no such proof, we deem the theory speculative. Period. As much as I admire Rev. Rankin’s research on the descendants of John and William Rankin, he deserves a C- on his theory about Sam Sr. as a son of Joseph of Delaware. Further, there is more than one deed to prove that John and William were sons of Joseph, and the recitations of names, relationships and locations in those deeds provide conclusive proof that William Rankin and John Rankin of Guilford County, NC were sons of Joseph of Delaware.[6]

I hope that, if nothing else, this highlights the fact that even careful and conscientious researchers like Rev. Rankin make mistakes. We all do, of course. In his defense, I note that Rev. Rankin carefully qualified his opinion of Sam Sr. and Joseph with this phrase in the passive voice: “it is thought that Samuel was also a son of Joseph.” That doesn’t say that was what Rev. Rankin thought. It just means somebody thought that, and that person (reading between the lines) was Prof. Jesse Rankin Wharton. Rev. Rankin also admits that “we” aren’t sure that Samuel is a son of Joseph. He thus expressly admits that he isn’t sure.

The evidence in the New Castle County, Delaware records about Sam Sr.

Rev. Rankin already said it all: there is none. Nada. Zilch. Zero. He claims that doesn’t disprove anything, but … hey … you can’t prove anything with no evidence, either. Every attorney in the world knows which side of that argument she or he wants to be on.

There are actually a fair number of records in New Castle County regarding the family of Joseph of Delaware, including deed, probate, church, tax, and military records. I will save all that information for another article, because it is fairly extensive. Suffice it to say that four sons of Joseph of Delaware are conclusively proved by New Castle County deed and probate records and two more sons are proved by good circumstantial evidence, including tax and military records.[7] Admittedly, the New Castle records are not complete – for example, Joseph of Delaware clearly left a 1764 will (at least two deeds recite that fact) – but there is no extant record of such a will that I can find. However, the county records aren’t exactly spotty, either. William Tecumseh Sherman didn’t burn down that courthouse.

The bottom line is there is no evidence in the New Castle County records so far as the eye can see – not even circumstantial – which suggests that Sam Sr. was a son of Joseph of Delaware. If you had to prove that Joseph of Delaware was the father of Sam Sr. to a jury, they would look you squarely in the eye and vote unanimously against you. Jury deliberation would take fifteen minutes, max.

The Y-DNA evidence

There is a Rankin DNA Project which provides (anonymously, if desired) Y-DNA results online.[8] One member who has taken a Y-DNA test has a solid paper genealogical trail showing him to be a descendant of Joseph of Delaware. His name is Doug Rankin. I found another proved descendant of Joseph of Delaware by conventional paper research (let’s call him “Mr. X”), and Doug convinced Mr. X to test. Turns out that Mr. X and Doug are 37-marker matches with one mismatching marker, which genetic genealogists call a “37-marker match with a genetic distance of one” (or “GD=1”). That is a darn good match. With two closely matching Y-DNA samples and two solid paper trails, there is a high degree of confidence that Doug and Mr. X provide a good picture of the Y-DNA of descendants of Joseph of Delaware – as well as those who aren’t his descendants.

There is more, of course. The Rankin DNA project has two members (call them Mr. A and Mr. B) whose paper trail proves them to be descendants of Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. Neither of them is a match – not even remotely close – to Doug Rankin and Mr. X. Based on the tests from Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. X. and Doug Rankin, the Y-DNA evidence proves conclusively that Sam Sr. is definitely not a son of Joseph of Delaware.

The Y-DNA evidence thus confirms what the paper trail establishes: there is neither a genetic link nor a link in the records from Sam Sr. to Joseph of Delaware.

* * * * * * * * * *

[1] There is speculation about the identity of the wife of Joseph of Delaware, although there is no evidence whatsoever to support it.

[2] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931, reprint by Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA).

[3] Microfilm at the Clayton Genealogical Library, Houston, TX, titled “North Carolina Tombstone Records, Vols. 1, 2 and 3,” compiled by the Alexander Martin and J. S. Wellborn chapters of the DAR; transcribed lists filmed 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah.

[4] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). William Rankin’s pension application states that he was born in January 1761 in Rowan County, NC.

[5] Robert Rankin (wife Rebecca) of Guilford County, NC. died by 1773; he had grandsons born in 1757 and 1759, so he was clearly old enough to have a son born in the 1730s.

[6] FHL Microfilm 6564, New Castle County Deed Book Y1: 499 and 565.

[7] Insert New Castle County deed, probate, military and tax records here. Alternatively, save them for a separate article about the family of Joseph of Delaware. <grin> If anyone reads this footnote, please let me know in a comment and I will promptly provide citations!!!!!

[8] http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/rankin/ This website has links to Y-DNA results (incomprehensible if you aren’t both a Rankin and Y-DNA expert) and to a “patriarch page” with lots of Rankin descendancy charts. For the most part, all participants provide their own ancestry and get to say from whom they are descended. When two different people whose Y-DNA does NOT match claim descent from the same Rankin ancestor, the editors of the patriarch chart intervene to either make corrections or at least file disclaimers. If you have questions about that website, please let me know.

 

Who Are the Scots-Irish, anyway?

© June 2016 Robin Rankin Willis

Introduction

This article is a non-academic description of Scots-Irish (or Scotch-Irish) history from about 1600 to roughly the mid-eighteenth century, with emphasis on the factors influencing Scots-Irish migration.[1] I wrote it for family history researchers who want an overview regarding where their Scots-Irish ancestors came from, and when and why they migrated.

When I started doing family history research, I had no idea what “Scots-Irish” meant. I had a vague idea (I must blush) that it meant one had mixed Irish and Scottish ancestry. Turns out that I am an awful student of history. The Scots-Irish were Protestant Scots who settled in northernmost Ireland – specifically, in the province of Ulster – and later migrated from Ireland to the colonies.

Background

First, a bit of Irish political history and geography.

Ireland was traditionally divided four provinces: Ulster, Connaught, Leinster, and Munster. Ulster, the focus of interest in this article, was located in the northernmost part of Ireland. Nine counties made up Ulster: (1) Antrim, (2) Down, (3) Armagh, (4) Derry, (5) Fermanagh and (6) Tyrone, plus (7) Cavan, (8) Monaghan, and (9) Donegal.

Here is a map showing the four traditional Irish provinces and the counties which comprise them.

The history of the relationship among Ireland, Scotland and England is way beyond my expertise. Suffice it to say that, in 1603, the Kingdom of England – including England, Wales and those parts of Ireland controlled by the English – was united with the Kingdom of Scotland.[2] King James VI of Scotland became James I of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

King James is a big star in this narrative.

Fast forward in time two centuries. In 1800, the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” came into being, composed of all of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. In 1922, the Republic of Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom. Oversimplifying the matter considerably, a vocal Protestant minority concentrated in Ulster – whose existence can be traced back to James I (more on that shortly) – wanted no part of a predominantly Catholic Ireland. To prevent civil insurrection, the British allowed the nine Ulster counties to decide by vote whether they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. The very northeasternmost part of Ulster (the first six Ulster counties in the list above) voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom. The British partitioned those six counties to form Northern Ireland. The remaining three counties which had been part of the province of Ulster – Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal – became a part of the Republic of Ireland. After the partition and Ireland’s independence, the U.K. was composed of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.[3]

Perhaps you have an ancestor with a classic Scots-Irish name – Alexander, Rankin, Gillespie, Ewing, Steele, Kerr, Caldwell, McQuiston, Denny, or Wallace – who was born, say, in Letterkenny, County Donegal in the 1600s. In light of Irish history, it would be correct to say he or she was born in Ulster (the province), or (more colorfully) the “Ulster Plantation,” or (geographically) the northern part of Ireland. It would not be correct to say he or she was born in Northern Ireland, a country that didn’t come into existence for another three centuries. I am still trying to correct all the instances in which I have made that error.

It would, however, almost certainly be correct to say that your ancestor was Presbyterian. Solid fact #1: it is redundant to describe someone as a Scots-Irish Presbyterian.

The factors that drove the migration of the Scots-Irish from Scotland to Ulster and then to the colonies are more complicated. What ultimately became known as the “Irish Troubles” is a cautionary tale, I suppose, about unintended consequences.

Original settlement of the Ulster Plantation

As noted above, James I of Great Britain, aka James VI of Scotland, became the first king of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1603. James was a Protestant rather than a Catholic or an Anglican (the official church of England after Henry VIII’s dispute with the Pope over his divorce).

Also in 1603, the leading Irish Catholic families of Ulster surrendered to end the Nine Years War, which had been waged in an effort to stop the expansion of English power in Ireland.[4] Large Irish landowners fled the country, leaving behind estates of roughly 500,000 acres. James appropriated those estates for the crown. In 1607, James claimed almost six counties of additional land. Not surprisingly, many of those who lost their land had been the leading opponents of English control of Ireland. They were native Irish and Catholic.

While he was at it, James ordered thousands of remaining Irish Catholic tenants to move from Ulster to other parts of Ireland. James thus created the opportunity to repopulate land taken from rebellious Irish landowners with more reliably loyal Protestants from England and Scotland. The crown made liberal offers of land and other inducements to accomplish that end. People heard; they came.

James predicted, correctly, that more Scots than English would relocate to Ulster, a fairly barren place (then), too rough for what James perceived as the more delicate English temperament. A sizeable population – notable primarily for their Presbyterianism – made the short trip across the channel from Scotland into the northern part of Ireland. During 1610 through 1612, an estimated ten thousand Scots, mostly from the Scottish Lowlands, settled in Ulster. As many as 50,000 Lowland Scots had settled in Ulster by 1620.

Needless to say, the remaining native Irish Catholics thoroughly detested the Protestant Scots settlers, and vice versa. By 1922, when Ireland was partitioned, nothing much had changed in that regard. Wow.

The Irish Rebellion of 1641

It didn’t take long for the simmering Ulster caldron to boil over. Beginning in October 1641, a bloody episode called the “Irish Rebellion” began. It first erupted in Ulster, when native Catholic Irish surprised Protestant settlers and killed them in large numbers. The Irish were apparently afraid that the English Parliament was going to gin out some new repressive anti-Catholic legislation. The attacks may have been preemptive action to “disarm” the Ulster Protestants, who would have been charged with enforcing any such laws. Considering the “legacy of hatred built into the Ulster Plantation,” the violence – says The Oxford History of Britain, in a masterful case of British understatement – “inevitably got out of hand.” A Covenanter army arrived from Scotland to help protect the Ulster Scots, to little avail.[5] “Massacre” is the appropriate term. Although estimates vary wildly, a BBC website suggests that thirty percent of the Protestant population in Ulster died.

The Irish Rebellion lasted for almost ten years, spreading to other areas of Ireland during the English Civil Wars. It ended when the armies of Oliver Cromwell landed in Ireland and slaughtered the inhabitants of Drogheda and Wexford, Irish Catholic towns on the east coast. Cromwell, apparently an Old Testament kind of guy, evidently still believed in the “eye for an eye” theory.

Not long thereafter, across the channel in Scotland, other religious persecution blossomed. Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II and James II set about trying to force Episcopacy down the throats of the Scottish, leading to conflicts between Presbyterians and the Bishops of the Anglican establishment. This culminated in an intense phase of persecution in the 1680s, a period appropriately referred to as “the killing times.” The victims were Presbyterian Scots.

The killing times gave rise to the second large migration of Protestants from their homeland in Scotland to the relatively safe Ulster. Imagine thinking of Ulster as safe, after that 1641 massacre! This second migratory wave took place from about 1663 to 1689, when William and Mary (Protestants) assumed the throne.

Economic troubles

It wasn’t just religious persecution that drove these migrations. Economic issues also played a major role, of course. Government – both the English and Irish Parliaments – got in the act, as did Mother Nature.

Beef and beef products were the first legislative target. After the Cromwellian civil wars of the 1640s, the export of cattle from Ireland to England increased substantially, as did exports of beef, cheese and butter. This adversely impacted English cattle raisers, who persuaded the Parliament of Charles II (after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660) to pass an act prohibiting the shipping of cattle, beef, cheese and butter from Ireland to England or to any of the English colonies. I imagine that cut into the profitability of raising Irish cattle, although I haven’t found any relevant data.

The next legislative blow was to the Ulster wool industry, which had grown rapidly in northern Ireland in the late 1600s. Irish wool and wool product exports hurt sheep raisers in England, so Parliament swung into action. In 1698, under pressure from the English government, the Irish parliament placed heavy duties on Irish export of manufactured wool. In 1699, the English parliament passed an act forbidding (among other things) the export from Ireland of all goods made or mixed with wool – except to England and Wales. This immediately crippled the wool industries in Ulster: woolen factories closed down virtually overnight. This started the first migration of the Scots-Irish to America, right at the turn of the century. Most of those early Scots-Irish immigrants settled in New England.

Meanwhile, taxes on the Ulster Scots were going up, as were rents. “Rack renting” became the practice, i.e., raising the rent on land and evicting tenants who couldn’t pay, then renting to the highest bidder. By the early 1700s, most of the leases granted to settlers in the 1680s migration from Scotland to Ulster were expiring, making this practice widespread. Annual “rack rents” were sometimes equal to the total value of the land.

1717: the “Great Migration” to the colonies begins

Religious persecution reared its ugly head again, with Anglicans back in charge in England. In 1704, the English Parliament passed the Test Act, which required all government officials, and all town, county and army officers, and all lawyers, to take communion according to the forms and rites of the Church of England. This effectively wiped out most of the civil service in northern Ireland. Then, in 1714, the Schism Act required all school teachers to secure a license from a bishop of the Anglican Church. A bishop could grant a license only to those who conformed to the Test Act. Goodbye, teaching jobs.

Nature piled on. There was a serious drought in Ireland caused by six years of insufficient rainfall during 1714 through 1719, and that was undoubtedly the final straw. The first wave of the “Great Migration” began in earnest during 1717-1718. During 1717, more than 5,000 Ulster residents left for the colonies. During the next three years, nearly a hundred ships sailed from ports in the north of Ireland, carrying as many as 25,000 passengers – virtually all Presbyterian.

Most of these original migrants settled in the Delaware River Valley, primarily in Pennsylvania. It was attractive because of encouragement by that colony, whose Secretary invited settlement by the immigrants. The process of elimination probably also played a role. Virginia, where the Anglican Church of England was established, was not attractive. Neither was Maryland, which had an established Roman Catholic church. Land in the Hudson River Valley of New York was owned in great estates. By 1720, “go to America” from Ulster meant taking a ship to one of the Delaware River ports. For most of the Great Migration, the majority of Scots-Irish entered the colonies through Philadelphia, Chester, or New Castle. Most of the early immigrants settled in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester and Lancaster counties, Pennsylvania.

During 1725 through 1729, the exodus from Ulster became so large that the English Parliament appointed a commission to investigate the cause, fearing a loss of the entire Protestant population in Ulster. The main problems were identified as rack rents and general poverty.

The largest wave of migration began in 1740-41, when an estimated 400,000 Irish died in the famine of those years. For the next decade, Scots-Irish arrived in the colonies in huge numbers. By then, the power elite in Pennsylvania had become alarmed at the prospect that the Scots-Irish would take over the government. Consequently, Pennsylvania landowners quit selling land to the immigrants. Lord Granville, however, was advertising cheap and abundant land for sale in North Carolina. Thus began a huge migration from Pennsylvania down the Great Wagon Road of the Shenandoah Valley, heading for the Piedmont Plateau of North Carolina. One landowner on the Great Wagon Road route estimated that 5,000 wagons crossed the James River in Virginia in 1755, bound for the huge area that was then Rowan County, North Carolina.

In 1771, a final large wave of immigration from Ulster began, again caused by rack rents. There was some violent and ultimately useless resistance to rent increases by Ulster residents, all Presbyterians, known as the “Hearts of Steel” or “Steelboys.” Landowners, with the law and the army on their side, won. In the few years left before the Revolution, an additional 30,000 Ulster residents reportedly left for the colonies.

Estimated numbers of Scots-Irish in the colonies vary wildly, and I have no basis for discriminating among them. One source estimates that, by 1776, 300,000 people — one-sixth of the (white) population of all the colonies — was Scots-Irish. Yet another source puts the number of Scots-Irish in the colonies at the start of the Revolution at 230,000. In any event, with a total white and black population of about 2.5 million in the mid-1770s, even the smaller of those estimates is a significant percentage of the total.

Those Ulster immigrants obviously had no love for the English. They became the heart of the American Revolution – not the intellectual heart, but the muscle. George Washington said that, if the Revolutionary cause was lost everywhere else, he would make a last stand among the Scots-Irish of Virginia. Captain Johann Henricks, a Hessian mercenary in the British army, wrote, “[c]all it not an American rebellion, it is nothing more than an Irish-Scotch Presbyterian Rebellion.”

Solid fact #2: “Scots-Irish” and “Tory” are mutually exclusive terms. If you have a male Scots-Irish ancestor who was in his twenties or thirties during roughly 1775-1785, you almost certainly have a Revolutionary War veteran on your family tree.

Rankins and Alexanders

My Alexander family was among those who left the Pennsylvania and Maryland area about 1740-ish, settled in Virginia during 1742-1749, and then arrived in Anson/Rowan County by 1752. See my article about them here.

My last known Rankin ancestor probably arrived in Rowan a bit later, but in any event by 1759. If you have Scots-Irish ancestors from south-central North Carolina, I would bet they also left Scotland for the Ulster Plantation in the 1600s, departed Northern Ireland for Pennsylvania between 1717 and 1750, and arrived in North Carolina about the middle of the eighteenth century. If you have a story along those lines, I would love to hear it.

Sources. As usual, I careened among websites looking for information, e.g., Googling “when was the Restoration,” without making good notes of my sources. This list undoubtedly omits dozens of other credible websites containing historical information which I used to help prepare this post, and I apologize for failing to list them.

  1. “Scotch-Irish.” Dictionary of American History. 2003. Retrieved June 19, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401803772.html
  1. “Henry the VIII and Ireland.” 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2016 from The History Learning Site.co.uk: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/henry-viii-and-ireland/
  1. Kenneth O. Morgan, The Oxford History of Britain (Oxford: The Oxford University Press, 1999, upated edition 2010).
  1. Online excerpts at various websites from James G. Leyburn, The Scotch-Irish, A Social History (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1962).
  1. “Wars and Conflict: the Plantation of Ulster.” Retrieved June 25, 2016: bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/plantation/planters/es10.shtml. This location has been archived and is no longer being maintained.
  1. Scottish Covenanters Memorial Association, retrieved June 24, 2016: http://www.covenanter.org.uk/WhoWere/
  1. Ulster Historical Foundation retrieved June 25, 2016: http://www.ancestryireland.com/history-of-the-irish-parliament/background-to-the-statutes/manufacturing-mining/

[1] Some people prefer the term “Scotch-Irish” rather than “Scots-Irish.” I’m agnostic on the issue, and either one works for me. I frankly don’t know which, if either, is considered correct.

[2] In 1707, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland merged. I don’t know the difference between the 1707 “merger” and the 1603 “union,” described in a couple of the articles I read as a “personal union” under the crown.

[3] After the disaster known as Brexit, Scotland may depart the U.K. to rejoin the European Union. Likewise, predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland – in what now seems like fine irony – may reunite with the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland, which remains part of the European Union.

[4] The Nine Years War officially ended with the surrender of the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, chiefs of the O’Neills and the O’Donnells, the leading Irish Catholic families of Ulster.

[5] “Covenanters” were Scots who were opposed to interference by British royalty in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. See Scottish Covenanters Memorial Association, retrieved June 24, 2016: http://www.covenanter.org.uk/WhoWere/

 

 

John Allen Rankin & Amanda Lindsey — Another Family Legend

by Robin Rankin Willis © June 2016

My ancestor John Allen Rankin and his wife Amanda Lindsey, daughter of Edward Buxton Lindsey, have a good story. (See http://digupdeadrelatives.com/category/articles/lindsey-articles/ for my article on the legend concerning Edward Buxton Lindsey.) From one vantage point, John Allen and Amanda’s story is a war story, pure and simple. It is also a love story. The love story and war story intersect in both my family’s legends and the verifiable facts.

My father’s “how to” genealogy book advised that the best place to start compiling one’s family history is by interviewing family members. A goodly part of the oral family history is invariably wrong, but even the misinformation contains clues aplenty, says the book. In my experience, the book is dead right.

As I noted in another article on this website about Edward Lindsey, my father promptly took that “how to” advice when he was “bitten by the genealogy bug.” He and his sister, my Aunt Louise, set out to talk to all their north Louisiana kin to see what they could learn about the Rankins et al. Here is what Daddy wrote to me in a 1969 letter – yes, we actually did once communicate via snail mail in writing — telling me the latest he had learned about his family. This qualifies as my favorite family legend, bar none:

“Dearest Robin Baby: ….Cousin Norene Sale Robinson at Homer told us that Grandma [Amanda Lindsey] was living in Monticello, Arkansas in 1863 when she met John Allen [Rankin]. He came to their door one night looking for a sister who lived there in town. Grandma said that she went to the door and ‘there stood the most handsomest soldier that she had ever seen and that she fell in love with him right there.’ They were married some time after that.”

There is a wealth of information in that legend. One of its chief virtues is that its essential objective elements – location, date, a soldier’s uniform, the people involved – are readily subject to verification among actual records. The legend also comes from an unimpeachable source, because Cousin Norene, who was twenty-eight when Amanda died in 1920 and had lived with Amanda for some time, had actually heard that story straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This legend was not subject to the vagaries of multiple oral retellings.

When I starting digging around amongst my Rankin and Lindsey relatives, I set about trying to confirm the objective facts about that legend.

First, Amanda’s father, Edward B. Lindsey, was living in Monticello, Drew County, Arkansas in 1860.[1] During the war, he was a member of the Monticello “Home Guard,” so he was still in Monticello in 1863. So far, so good – Amanda’s family was right where the legend says they would be in 1863.

However, John Allen did not have a sister who was old enough to be married or living on her own when he was knocking on Monticello doors in (according to the legend) 1863.[2] John Allen did have a married older brother, William Henderson Rankin, living in Drew County.[3] William, I discovered as I looked at the 1860 census for Monticello, was listed just a few dwellings down from Amanda’s father Edward B. Lindsey.[4] However, William was still off fighting in the War in 1863.[5] Thus, John Allen was almost certainly looking for his sister-in-law rather than a sister. As legends go, that’s close enough.

It is also certain that John Allen was a soldier. My father’s 1969 letter to me continued with the war part of the family legend.

“Cousin Norene said that [John Allen’s] war record was never discussed by the family. It does seem funny that he was out of it in 1863. I have always thought that he was wounded in the war and that was one reason that he died at a fairly young age. It seems that was what we were told. So there could be a body hidden in the closet. Anyway we will find out for I am going to send off for his war record tomorrow, and if he did desert we will keep that out of the record.”

When I started writing short articles about my ancestors to preserve the history for our children, I looked for John Allen’s war records among my father’s materials. I couldn’t find them anywhere. Perhaps, I thought, the National Archives had lost John Allen’s records, and Daddy never received anything. Many records from the Civil War have just flat disappeared. However, I had a clear recollection about Daddy telling me about some of the information he learned from those war records.

Unable to find anything in his materials, I started sending off for records of my own. Amanda Lindsey Rankin’s Confederate pension application, a certifiable heartbreaker, arrived by mail first. She filed the application from Haynesville, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana in April 1910.[6] She was living with her daughter, Anna Belle Rankin Sale (Cousin Norene’s mother), as of 1900.[7] I cannot find her in 1910, although she was obviously still alive. Amanda signed the application in the quavery handwriting of an old person although she was only sixty-five, which, at this point, doesn’t seem at all old to me. The rest of it, though, is filled out in a strong feminine hand.

Amanda swore in her application that she had no source of income whatsoever, no real property, and no personal property worth a spit. That is all unquestionably true, from what I know of my north Louisiana relatives: that didn’t change until my father’s generation. She certainly couldn’t get much help from her son John Marvin (“Daddy Jack,” my grandfather), who at that time was struggling to make ends meet with a wife and four children, a rented house, and a job driving a dray wagon.

Amanda stated further that John Allen volunteered to serve the Confederate Army in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on March 14, 1862 (turns out that was the wrong year), that Captain Henry was his company commander, and that he was in the 9th Arkansas Infantry. She also swore – under oath, mind you – that he was honorably discharged on April 10, 1865, which just happens to be one day after Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

Here we have an apparent disconnect between the legend and the pension application. The legend says that John Allen and Amanda met in 1863. Amanda swore that he was discharged two years later.

The Office of the Board of Pension Commissioners of the State of Louisiana sent Amanda’s application off to the War Department in Washington, D.C. The War Department had this to say in response.

“The records show that John A. Rankin, private, Captain Phillip G. Henry’s Company C, 9th Arkansas Infantry, Confederate States Army, enlisted July 25 (also shown August 9) 1861. On the muster roll covering the period from November 1 to December 31, 1863 (the last on which his name is borne), he is reported absent in arrest in Canton, Mississippi by order of the Provost Marshal. No later record of him has been found.”

With that information in hand, the Louisiana Pension Board Commissioners rejected Amanda’s application. “Absent in arrest” means “AWOL.”

I don’t think Amanda ever knew the truth about her husband John Allen’s service, unless she figured it out after her pension application was denied. What do you think?

I wonder who came up with a discharge date one day after Appomattox? In my imagination, which badly wants to give the destitute Amanda the benefit of the doubt, some nice female clerk was helping Amanda fill out the application (it is, I surmise, her handwriting on the forms, although it might have been Amanda’s daughter, Anna Belle Rankin Sale). The clerk asked when John Allen was discharged, to which Amanda responded truthfully that she did not know. The clerk, who knew her history, said, “well, everyone was discharged by April 10, 1865, why don’t we just use that date.”[8] Fine, said Amanda. The clerk naturally assumed that John Allen received a normal discharge, or why else would Amanda even bother to apply?

John Allen’s entire military record arrived in the mail shortly thereafter.[9] Here are the facts, along with some great images from records that are more than 150 years old. Ironically, when I retrieved these records from my own notebooks, I found my father’s copies stashed in the same clear plastic page cover. So I have a spare copy of these records, if anyone in the family needs one!

Amanda did have some of the facts about her husband’s war record down pat. John Allen Rankin did enlist in the Confederate army at Pine Bluff, Arkansas – near where his family farmed, in Jefferson (now Cleveland) County. He was a private, and is shown as having served in both C and K companies of the 9th Arkansas Infantry. He enlisted for a one-year term on July 25, 1861 and served under Captain Henry.

At the beginning of the Vicksburg Campaign, the brigade of which the 9th Arkansas Infantry was a part was located at Port Hudson, Louisiana. It was ordered to Tullahoma, Tennessee on or about 15 April 1863, but was recalled on 18 April 1863 and sent to what was called the Battle of Champion Hill on 16 May 1863.[10]  Here is a weird historical coincidence. I have looked at the Confederate military history of only two families among my ancestors: the Confederate Estes brothers and John Allen Rankin’s family (John Allen’s mother, Mary Estes Rankin, was a sister of the Confederate Estes crowd). John Allen was in a different unit than his three Estes uncles, who served in Ham’s Calvary, from Tishomingo Co., Mississippi.  The Estes brothers and John Allen were nonetheless commanded by the same incompetent Confederate general — at two different battles. Gen. Stephen Lee (no relation to Robert E.) was the commanding Confederate general at both Champion Hill and the Battle of Ezra Church, where Capt. Allen W. Estes was killed. See my article about the three Confederate Estes brothers here:

 http://digupdeadrelatives.com/category/articles/estes-articles/

At Champion Hill, about 4,300 Confederate soldiers and 2,500 Union soldiers were casualties. That battleground is just east of Vicksburg, where the main action took place. It was considered a Union victory and an important battle in the Vicksburg campaign. I find it difficult to grasp applying the term “victory” to that carnage.

On our way home from a trip to the Tennessee Archives in Nashville, Gary and I drove around the area of the battle of Champion Hill, a backwoods area east of Vicksburg. It has been almost entirely forgotten by history: no park, no historical markers, nothing except a decent-sized stone monument where Confederate Brigadier General Leonard Tilghman died.

On 19 May 1863 – near the end of the second year of his one-year enlistment – whatever was left of John Allen’s division after Champion Hill arrived at Jackson, Mississippi. He was in the 1st Mississippi CSA Hospital in Jackson from May 31 to June 13, 1863. Here is an image of the explanation for his hospital time that appeared in his military record:

 

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The problem, in case you cannot read that record: “diarrhea, acute.” Can’t say that I am surprised. I’d have diarrhea, too, if someone had been shooting at me, and I was getting a pretty good fix on which side would win, and the Confederate general in charge at Champion Hill had — incredibly — marched my unit piecemeal straight into Sherman’s entrenched troops. However, the records certainly don’t provide any support to the “war wound” theory that somebody in the family concocted to explain John Allen’s reluctance to talk about The War.

On September 1, 1863, now in Selma, Alabama, the Army of the Confederacy issued John Allen a new pair of pants, a jacket and a shirt, all valued at $31.00. Good wool and cotton stuff, presumably. Probably the best suit of clothes John Allen ever had in his young life. Here is the record:

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There is more. On October 14, 1863, the Confederate States of America paid John Allen $44 for the pay period from May 1 through August 31, 1863. I assume that he was paid in Confederate dollars. Whatever — he was paid in something. Here is the record of his last pay:

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And that was the last the CSA saw of my great-grandfather John Allen Rankin, who evidently just walked away. His original enlistment for twelve months was long up. By November 1, 1863, he was listed as absent. They finally quit carrying his name on the muster roll after December 1863.

It probably wasn’t too long after he was paid in Selma in October 1863 that John Allen met his future wife at the front door of Edward B. Lindsey’s home in Monticello, Arkansas. That had to have been about the middle of November 1863, assuming he made about twenty miles per day on the 400-mile walk from Selma to Monticello.

With that, the legend turns happy. He was wearing an almost brand-spanking new uniform, he was the most handsome soldier Amanda had ever seen, and she fell in love with him on the spot.

Here are the last two records – “muster rolls,” a regular record of who showed up in a military unit at periodic intervals – for John Allen’s Confederate service.

Confed 1

The last record says “absent in arrest in Canton by order of Provost Marshall.” That means the equivalent of an arrest warrant was issued after he was declared AWOL. John Allen never did any time in the pokey, or there would be other records in his file. By the time that AWOL order was issued, he was undoubtedly already in Monticello, Drew County, Arkansas, making Amanda Addieanna Lindsey swoon.

I once had a huge Rankin portrait that hung in my grandmother Rankin’s house in Gibsland, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, where my father graduated from high school in 1925.[11] My cousin Ellis Leigh Jordan (son of Aunt Louise Theo Rankin Jordan) gave it to me in consideration of my promise to photograph or somehow reproduce it for all the Rankin cousins. The man in the photograph is definitely good looking – no big ears or nose like his son John Marvin. He did have the classic male Rankin receding hairline and “topknot” that is shared by the Lincoln County, NC Rankins. He had a fabulous mustache. My Rankin cousins were unanimous that our grandmother positively identified this man as a Rankin, but the cousins don’t know which Rankin he is. We all agreed that the picture cannot possibly be our grandfather John Marvin (“Daddy Jack”) Rankin. It follows that it must be John Allen or his father Samuel Rankin. However, it cannot conceivably be John Allen’s father Samuel, who died in 1861-62. The quality of the photograph was just too good, and Sam hadn’t been as young as the man in that picture since the 1840s.

Besides, it seems highly unlikely that our grandfather would display a huge portrait of his grandfather, rather than his father, in his parlor. That photograph must have been John Allen Rankin, probably in the early 1880s at about age forty, not long before he died. Unfortunately, that fabulous photograph was lost, which breaks my heart. I would pay a small ransom to have it back.

Back to the story. In 1870, John and Amanda were living in Homer, Claiborne Parish, with their two eldest children, Anna Belle Rankin, age three, and Samuel Edward Rankin, age one – the latter undoubtedly named for his two grandfathers, Samuel Rankin and Edward Buxton Lindsey.[12] John Allen and Amanda listed $400 in real property and $350 in personal property in the census enumeration, and John Allen identified himself as a farmer. They apparently owned some land, although I cannot find a deed of purchase or a land grant to John Allen. I do know, however, that he and Amanda sold nine acres in Claiborne Parish for $33 in August 1870.[13]

The sale of land is perhaps a clue that farming did not work out well. By 1880, John Allen and Amanda were living in Webster Parish.[14] John Allen, age 36, was Deputy Sheriff. By 1880, he and Amanda had six children, including my grandfather John Marvin “Daddy Jack” Rankin, who was born in 1875. Their seventh and last child, Mary Alice, was born in September 1880, too late to appear in that census.

The deputy sheriff job apparently did not work out well, either. A letter that was saved by the family of John Allen’s brother Elisha Rankin reported that John Allen and family went through Homer in October 1882 on their way to Blanchard Springs (north of Shreveport) to run a barber shop.[15] I don’t know what happened to the barber shop, but the Rankins wound up moving back to Claiborne Parish, where they stayed.

The next thing you know, John Allen was six feet under. According to Amanda’s pension application, John Allen died of “congestion of the brain,” an obsolete medical term. It most likely means that John Allen had a stroke. He was only forty-five years old. There were five children age fifteen and under still at home.

Amanda obviously did not have an easy time thereafter. She expressed her anguish in a letter she wrote to one of John Allen’s brothers, Elisha (nickname “Lish”) Rankin, and Elisha’s wife Martha, who lived in Arkansas. Amanda wrote the letter three months after John Allen died on Sunday, October 13, 1888. She was forty-four years old. Here is a transcription, with spelling and punctuation (or lack thereof) exactly as transcribed, and question marks where the language is uncertain or totally illegible.[16]

“Dear Brother and Sister, it is with pleasure tho a sad heart that I try to answer your kind letter I received some time ago   Would have written sooner but I was in so much trouble I could not write soon   We had to move   Dear brother you have no idea how glad I was to get a letter from you   I feel like one forsaken   My happiness on earth is for ever gone of course I know you grieve for the Dear (?) house (?) but oh what is the grief to be compared to misery when a woman loses her husband. How sad I feel today for the dear one was a corpse on sunday. how long seems the days and nights to me.

Brother Lish you wanted to know how we are getting along   We are in det over one hundred dollars and no hom. I have moved to Mr. Weeks to work on ????? Jimmy Burton my Nephew is going to ??? after the little boys and show them how to manage this year. Eddie [Amanda’s son, Samuel Edward] is at Harrisville [Haynesville?]. I could not depend on him to ?????? He is not settled yet. I will ???? ???? me and the children a longe time to pay our det. It was the oldest children that caused me to be so bad in det. If I was young and able to work I would feel like maybe in two or three years we wold get out of det. I will do all I can to help the boys make a crop. Joe [Amanda’s son, Joseph D. Rankin] is 16 but he don’t now how to work much. I have got a few hogs and cowes all I have got. Annie and Lula [her daughters Anna Belle and Lula, both of whom married men named Sale] married brothers. They have got good homes. They live 3 miles from me. They live in site of each other.

Brother Lish be sure to write as soon as you get this   it does me so much good to get a letter from any of you how proud I was to think you thought enough of me to inquire after my welfare tho it is quite different to what you thought it was   some times I all most give up and not try to work then I think of the poor little children and no father to provide for them   I try to pick up courage to work all I can for there was ????? she is no longer a pet we sent her to school last year   teach come to see me about the pay I told him I could not pay it. He said he would wait untill next fall or the next year untill I could pay it ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????with me for it   if she had a ??? and out of det maybe we could make a living but in det and no home ???? and little childern no father oh lord father give me

Brother Lish I am a fraid you cant read this. It has been so long since I wrote a letter. Give Mother my love [presumably, “mother” refers to Mary Estes Rankin, the mother of John Allen and Elisha] and tell her to pray for me that I ???? ???? my children ???? I will have to be Father and Mother both. Give my love to all the connection and tell them to write. My love to Martha and the children write soon and often I remain ever ?????? ???? Sister.

Amanda Rankin”

Goodness gracious. Her anguish is overwhelming. Wouldn’t you like to see Elisha’s reply, if any? I wonder how he handled Amanda’s letter. Did he read it as a plea for funds? Or did he just see it as someone describing her feelings in the context of a desperate financial situation and emotional loss? No telling. May you rest in peace, Amanda and John Allen. Both are buried in the “Old Town” Haynesville Cemetery in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. Be careful if you visit there – no matter where you step, I will guarantee you are treading on someone to whom I am related at least by marriage!

J A & Amanda Rankin 3

[1] See “Edward Buxton Lindsey: One of My Family Legends” on this website under “Lindsey Articles.”

[2] John Allen had two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Rankin. 1860 census for Jefferson Co., AR, p. 848, dwl. 549, listing for Samuel Rankin included Mary Rankin, age 10; 1870 census, Jefferson Co., AR, p. 575, dwl. 17, listing for Mary F. Rankin (Sam’s widow) included Elizabeth Rankin, 8. The elder daughter, Mary, would only have been about thirteen in 1863.

[3] Jennie Belle Lyle, Marriage Record Book B, Drew Co., Arkansas (Little Rock: Democrat Printing & Lithography Co., 1966), William H. Rankin, 20, married Eliza Jane Law, 21, July 1, 1858.

[4] 1860 census, Drew Co., AR, p. 101, dwelling 155, listing for William Rankin and p. 103, dwelling 167, E. B. Lindsey.

[5] William H. Rankin’s service record at the National Archives indicates that he enlisted from Monticello in the Confederate Army on 8 Feb 1862 for three years or the duration of the war. He was listed as present on his company’s muster roll through Oct. 31, 1864.

[6] Louisiana State Archives, “Widow’s Application for Pension” of Amanda A. Rankin, widow of John A. Rankin, P.O. Haynesville, LA, filed 4 Apr 1910.

[7] 1900 federal census, Haynesville, Claiborne Parish, LA, p. 55, household of A. C. sale with mother-in-law Amanda Rankin, wife Annie Sale, and children.

[8] That’s not accurate, of course. Some fighting continued after Lee’s surrender on April 9.

[9] National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., Civil War record for Rankin, John A., Companies C and K, Arkansas Infantry, Private.

[10] I will add a brief description of the Battle of Champion’s Hill at the end of this article. On second thought, I will write a separate article about that battle.

[11] Unfortunately, John Allen’s portrait is now lost, as is a portrait of his mother, Mary Estes Rankin, which was taken at the same time, in (probably) the early 1880s.

[12] 1870 census, Claiborne Parish, LA, Homer PO, p. 59, dwl #39, listing for John A. Rankin, 27, b. MS, Amanda Rankin, 25, b. MS, and the two children, both b. LA.

[13] LDS Film # 265,980, Claiborne Parish Deed Book J: 226.

[14] 1870 census, Webster Parish, LA, p. 219, dwl 255, J. A. Rankin, wife Amanda Rankin, and children Anna Belle, Edward, Lulu, Joseph, Marvin, and Melvin.

[15] Letter from Washington Marion Rankin (“Wash”), who lived in Homer, to his brother Napoleon Bonaparte (“Pole”) Rankin dated October 1882.

[16] I do not own, and have never seen, the original of this letter. I obtained a transcription from Megan Franks, a descendant of Elisha Rankin, John Allen’s brother. Another distant cousin reportedly owns the original of Amanda’s letter, as well as several other Rankin letters from the 1880s. I have called and written him (he lives here in Houston) but he never responded. That is a shame, because I could probably clarify some of the “X”ed material.