Two Rankin Revolutionary War Pension Applications

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

A comment on an earlier article 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. Those articles undoubtedly made it more difficult to distinguish between them. My bad. 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 (for “Revolutionary,” not “Reverend”) War Robert Rankin” and then his fellow soldier “Mystery Robert Rankin.” There is no proved family relationship between these two men, although descendants are a 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 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 establish 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. Robert 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 of Iredell, 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 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 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 …

Robin

[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] Mystery 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.

 

Some Colonial North Carolina Rankin Lines: an Overview

It is extremely easy to conflate families having the same surname when they lived in the same area at roughly the same time. In North Carolina, all of the Rankin lines first appeared in the area that was originally Anson County. At its formation, Anson included an enormous territory. Its northern border was the Virginia, line until the formation of Rowan County in 1753. It had no western boundary until the formation of Mecklenburg in 1762. Its southern boundary was indeterminate until the survey of the SC line in 1764.

In short, the Rankin families of Rowan, Lincoln, Rutherford, Mecklenburg, Iredell, and Guilford Counties all lived in areas that were originally part of Anson. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all recycled the same male given names ad infinitum: Robert, David, John, Samuel, and William. With that in mind, here is some basic information about several of these colonial Rankin lines. The objective is to help you distinguish among those families when you run across them.

First, a caveat. If you have read my article about the Scots-Irish,[1]  you know that the earliest migrants into the colonies from Ulster arrived around 1700 and settled mostly in New England. Among those were evidently some Rankins. I know absolutely nothing about New England Rankins. What I do know with a modicum of confidence is something about colonial Rankin families of North Carolina. I mucked about the North Carolina records for more than a year, trying to identify the parents of my last conclusively proved Rankin ancestor.

Here are the North Carolina Rankin families briefly sketched in this article: (1) Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), two of whose sons went to Guilford County; (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln (then Gaston) County; (3) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County; (4) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County; and (5) Robert Rankin (wives Mary Withrow and Leah MNU)of Rutherford County. Here are brief descriptions of each family.

Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764) (“Joseph of Delaware”), wife Rebecca MNU. Their sons John and William moved to Rowan/Guilford County.

Joseph of Delaware had definitely arrived in the colonies by 1731, when he acquired a tract in New Castle County, Delaware. He is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Newark, New Castle County, where his tombstone survives. Joseph’s wife Rebecca (MNU) and his son William were administrators of his estate. His place of birth is unproved, although a serious gambler would put a lot of money on Ulster. One local history claims he was born in Clyde, Scotland, which is also possible. He had at least seven children. Four sons are conclusively proved (Joseph Jr., Thomas, John, and William), two sons are suggested by circumstantial evidence (Robert and James), and a daughter Ann, d.s.n.p., is proved by the will of her brother, Joseph Jr.

Joseph’s proved sons Joseph Jr. and Thomas remained in New Castle, where both died. Thomas, a Lieutenant in the Delaware militia, 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.

I have been unable to track Robert or James beyond brief appearances in the New Castle records.

Joseph’s other two sons, John and William Rankin, migrated to that part of Rowan Co., NC which later became Guilford County. John (born 1736, New Castle County, died 1814, Guilford) went to North Carolina first, about 1765-68. His wife was Hannah Carson. William Rankin (born 1744, New Castle, died 1804, Guilford) went to NC about 1768-70, where he married Jennet/Jean Chambers.

John and William are buried at the old Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. They each had many children and grandchildren, and 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. For the record, Rev. Rankin’s book is dead wrong about Joseph of Delaware being the father of Samuel Rankin, see below.

Two of Joseph of Delaware’s proved descendants have YDNA tested and are a 37-marker match with a genetic distance (“GD”) of 1, a close match. One of the men is a participant in the Rankin DNA Project. Joseph’s line is part of Lineage 1B of the Rankin project, see the chart  here. Joseph’s descendants also match the lines of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County and David Rankin of Iredell County. More about them  below. Together, those two families and Joseph of Delaware’s line comprise Rankin DNA Project Lineage 1.

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

Thanks to a family legend and YDNA testing, I am reasonably confident that Samuel and Eleanor are my ancestors. I therefore tend to be a bit prissy with respect to misinformation about them. 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, almost certainly in North Carolina. Their eldest son, William, was born in North Carolina in January 1761.

Some researchers assert that Samuel was born in Paxtang, Pennsylvania, although there seems to be no evidence for that claim. I think it’s highly improbable. Samuel may be the same man as the Samuel Rankin who appeared on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania There were no other Rankins on that list.

Samuel and Eleanor lived on Dutchman’s Creek in the part of Lincoln County that later became Gaston County. His nickname, I was charmed to learn, was “Old One-Eyed Sam.” I don’t know how he lost an eye. He and Eleanor 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 County, or nearby. Richard Rankin died in Mecklenburg County, 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 this website. Three of Samuel and Eleanor’s sons (Samuel Jr., Robert, and David) and a daughter (Eleanor Rankin Dickson) went to Rutherford County, Tennessee. David stayed in Murfreesboro, but his three siblings moved on to Shelby County, Illinois.

Two theories about the father/parents of Samuel Rankin (Sr.) still have proponents on the internet. Both of them have been conclusively disproved by Y-DNA testing, see the article at this link. I have found no evidence in colonial records regarding the identity of Samuel’s parents. He is probably the original Rankin immigrant in his line.

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

This family arrived in the colonies in 1750 from Letterkenny Parish, Donegal County, Ireland, where their children were probably born. [1] They were in Pennsylvania for only a short while. Robert Sr. and his son George Rankin (or perhaps Robert Jr. and his brother George) 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). Here is a map of Chester County in 1712 showing the Nottingham lots, located in disputed territory that wound up in Maryland.

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 that is possible. R&R also had a daughter Ann, whose husband was the William Denny who died in Guilford in 1770. R&R probably had other children as well, including two daughters who might be deemed only likely: Margaret (Rankin) Braly or Brawley, widow of Thomas Braly/Brawley,  and Rebecca (Rankin) Boyd, widow of John Boyd. Evidence concerning those daughters is discussed in this article.

All of the above is conventional wisdom 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, (3) the two likely daughters Margaret and Rebecca, and (4) 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 both written and probated.

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 Elizabeth (ditto). Both James and Elizabeth are established by the will, even though it doesn’t provide their given names, and other records.

Iredell David’s son Robert may be and probably is the same man as the “Mystery Robert” who applied for a Revolutionary War Pension from Gibson County, Tennessee in 1832. I made that argument in this article, although my opinion should be deemed somewhat speculative. The identity of 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 of Guilford married Robert, the son of R&R who died in Guilford in 1795. I disagree, because I believe that Robert (son of R&R) of Guilford was Jean Denny’s uncle. This question requires a fairly lengthy argument 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, Sarah’s sister. 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. They are nice folks.

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 who are proved by Lincoln County guardian records: (1) David Rankin, born by 1781, Lincoln; (2) Margaret (“Peggy”) Rankin who married Thomas Witherspoon in Lincoln, 6 Jul 1801; (3) William Rankin who married. Mary Lourance/Lawrence, 17 Jan 1810; and (4) Jane/Jean Rankin m. William Crays.

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

For a lengthy chart (including supporting records) on the line of David of Iredell, see the article at this link.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, NC (b. 1748-49, d. 1816, Caldwell County, 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, or I would buy it.

Rutherford Robert married Mary Withrow in Tryon County, North Carolina 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 married as his second wife Leah LNU. They wound up in Caldwell County, Kentucky, where Robert applied for tax relief in a document establishing his birth year as 1748-49. 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. At least one of them, Jesse, wound up in Gibson County, Tennessee, see this article about him.

Whew! This article became 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 articles say they never look at the footnotes, which just make them too long. I have started omitting them, for the most part. 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.

Robin

[1] See the article at http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/12/28/reprise-scots-irish-anyway/

[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. See “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

Thanks to a winter storm and black ice on the road, Gary and I abandoned a January 2017 road trip to the North Carolina Archives. Instead, we impulsively turned north at Birmingham and went to the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. With no research plan for Tennessee, I began mucking about aimlessly in various books. When I accidentally stumbled over a passel of unfamiliar Rankins in Gibson County, I had a mission.

What got me started was the Revolutionary War pension application  of a Robert Rankin.[1] He applied in Gibson County in September 1832. His sworn statement is replete with military detail. It reads as though he had a sharp mind and memory. He was in the North Carolina militia. Unfortunately, he did not identify the county where he enlisted, which would probably have led quickly to his family of origin.

I didn’t have a clue who Robert was, which meant he was a puzzle to be solved.

The Gibson County records don’t reveal much. He was born about 1748 and lived in North Carolina at some time when he was an adult.[2] He first appeared in Gibson County in 1827 when he was almost seventy years old.[3] He had no land but owned one enslaved person.[4] He had a daughter named Margaret Finley.[5] He probably died between 1837 and 1840.[6]

None of that was much help in figuring out his family of origin.

The thing about Robert that caused me to sit up and take notice was this: his pension application says that his brother (not named) was killed by Tories at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill.[7] Robert also fought in that battle, which took place in June 1780. About 40 Whig patriots died there, although it was not easy to determine which dead soldiers fought for which side. That is because the combatants wore no uniforms. Loyalist Tories stuck a spring of greenery in their hats; the patriot Whigs had a piece of white paper in theirs. Those identifiers were sometimes missing from the bodies.

The largest number of patriot troops came from Iredell County. About thirteen of the forty dead patriots were members of Capt. Sharpe’s 4thCreek Company, Statesville, Iredell County.

Family history research rarely involves certainty, especially when dealing with 200-year-old records, which may be faded, illegible, or missing entirely. Sometimes one must play the odds. The obvious bet here is that Robert Rankin of Gibson County was originally from Iredell County.

A possibility appears as soon as you hit the Iredell records. Probate records include the will of a David Rankin. It was dated 1781 and proved in 1789, when David presumably died.[8] It names his wife Margaret,son Robert, and three grandchildren: (1) David McCreary, (2) James Rankin, expressly identified as the son of Robert Rankin, and (3) David Rankin. The will does not say that grandson #3 David Rankin was Robert’s son, implying that #3 David had a different fatherThus, David and Margaret probably had a second son who died before David wrote his will.

It wasn’t hard to find a candidate in the area. There was a James Rankin who died before January 29, 1782. James owned land in Burke County,[9] where his estate was administered. He had four minor children for whom a guardian was appointed in Lincoln County.[10] Here are some relevant records:

    • A Lincoln county guardian’s bond identifies John Alexander as guardian of minors David Rankin, Jane Rankin, Margaret Rankin and William Rankin, orphans of James Rankin.[11]
    • A Burke County administrator’s bond dated 29 January 1782 names Robert Rankin asadministrator of the estate of James Rankin.[12] John Alexander was one of the securities on the bond.

On those facts, Robert and James Rankin were close kin, probably brothers. John Alexander was surely part of the same extended Rankin family. Either (1) John Alexander married a Miss Rankin, or (2) John Alexander had a sister who married James Rankin. My friend Jody Thompson, a descendant of John Alexander’s brother, says that John Alexander was not married to a Rankin. Thus, John Alexander probably had a sister who married James Rankin and was the uncle of his four wards.

Here is a fun and critical piece of evidence. The Iredell County Genealogical Society has a collection called the “Philip Langenour papers.” They contain Mr. Langenour’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 in the 1780 Battle of Ramsour’s Mill.

This is the only evidence I have found that a Rankin died at Ramsour’s Mill … other than the Gibson County pension application of Robert Rankin, whose patriot brother was killed in that battle.

The pieces of this puzzle fall together nicely. It is as good a bet as you can find in genealogy that it was James Rankin who died in 1780 at Ramsour’s Mill, his wife was Miss ______ Alexander, and they had a son named David Rankin. John Alexander was guardian for David Rankin and his siblings. The James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill was a son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell and a brother of Robert Rankin who was administrator of James Rankin’s estate.

Here is where we take a plunge off the high diving board without, we hope (as Jody puts it) “forcing Cinderella’s shoe to fit.” Please forgive the mixed metaphors.

Robert Rankin of Gibson County, Tennessee, who fought at Ramsour’s Mill and lost a brother there (and had a daughter named Margaret), is almost certainly the same man as Robert Rankin, son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell and brother of James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill.

Thanks to Philip Langenour, the shoe fits quite nicely.

There is a tiny bit more to the evidentiary trail. Robert Rankin, son of David and Margaret, disappeared from the Iredell records after February 1826 without leaving a will or estate administration.[13] Robert Rankin of Gibson County made his first appearance on the tax list there in 1827. Jody and I long wondered where the heck Robert went after he left Iredell. Had it not been for some black ice on I-20 a few miles east of Oxford, Alabama, we would probably still be in the dark.

There is one more small connection between Gibson and Iredell County Rankins. Robert (proved son of David and Margaret) had two sons who remained in the Iredell/Lincoln area. One of them was Denny Rankin, who married Sarah McMinn. Robert A. Rankin and Samuel Rankin were Denny and Sarah McMinn Rankin’s sons.

 Robert A. Rankin began appearing in the Gibson County records in 1838. Samuel Rankin was there by 1837, when he was security on the administrator’s bond of a John McMinn. In the 1840 census for Gibson, neither Robert of Iredell/Gibson, Robert A., nor Samuel Rankin were enumerated there. Robert A. and his brother Samuel had moved on to Shelby County, where both died; Samuel was Robert A.’s administrator.

Finally, please note that there were two other Rankin lines in Gibson County. I found no evidence to connect any of them to the Rankins from Iredell County. Briefly, here are the other Rankin families:[14]

    • 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, Tennessee. The senior David Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln/Gaston County, North Carolina.
    • 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 County, NC and Caldwell County, KY. Other researchers think Jesse was a son of “Shaker Reverend” John Rankin of Guilford County, NC and Logan County, KY. Both Robert of Rutherford and Shaker John had sons named Jesse.

On that note, it must be time to write an article about Jesse and Cynthia …

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] See a transcription of his pension application at this link: http://www.revwarapps.org/s4042.pdf.

[2] Id. Robert Rankin was 84 when he applied for a pension in 1832 and was thus born about 1748. He was in the North Carolina militia, so there is little doubt that he lived somewherein North Carolina when he enlisted.

[3] Family History.org, Gibson Co., TN, “Tax Lists, Box 1, 1824-1835,” DGS #102863906, 1827 tax list included Robert Rankin with 1 black poll, no land.

[4] Id. The 1820s and 1830s tax records usually include Robert Rankin, although he does not appear on the lists consistently each year. He was never taxed on any land. The tax lists show a black poll with Robert in at least 1827, 1828 and 1830. I haven’t checked thereafter.

[5] The 1830 census for Gibson County had Robert as a head of household in the 80 < 90 age bracket, born 1740–50. His household included a female born 1780–90, a male born 1815–20, and one male slave born 1800-06. Robert gave a slave named Solomon to his daughter Margaret Finley in 1837.  SeeGibson Co., TN Deed Book F: 55. Robert’s daughter may be the Margaret D. Fenly listed in the 1840 census for Madison County, Tennessee, born 1780-90, with a male slave born 1785-1804.

[6] Robert was not enumerated in the 1840 federal census for Gibson Co. and probably died between the 1837 gift deed to Margaret Rankin Finley and the census. I found no probate records for him.

[7] You can find information here  Ramsour’s Mill, also spelled Ramseur or Ramsaur.

[8] NC State Archives and Library Search Room, File Box No. C.R.054.801.11, file folder for Rankin, David, 1789. David’s will is recorded in Iredell Will Book A: 200.

[9] North Carolina Grant No. 211, Grant Book 28: 211, Patent Book 98: 211. Grant dated 14 Mar 1780 to James Rankin, 450 acres on the south side of the Catawba River.

[10] Burke was adjacent to Lincoln County on the northwest when James Rankin obtained a grant in 1780. Iredell was created in 1788, adjacent to Lincoln on the north. See NC county formation maps  here.

[11] Anne William McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers 1771-1806 of the Court of Ps & Qs, Lincoln County, North Carolina(1989). Bond of John Alexander dated 4 July 1793.

[12] NC State Archives and Library Search Room, File Box No. C.R.014.508.45,Burke County Estates Records, 1776 – 1934, Queen – Ritchel, file folder for Rankin, James, 1782. The file contains the original bond of Robert Rankin as administrator of the estate of James Rankin, dec’d, securities John Alexander, Joseph Steele, and Francis Cunningham. See also Family Search.org, “North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,” Burke County, Rankin, James, 1782. If you look closely, you can see the notation “Robert Rankins Admin Bond” penciled in to the left of the signatures on the second page of the bond.

[13] Iredell Co., NC Deed Book M: 271, bond witnessed by Robert Rankin. That is the last “in person” appearance by Robert I have found in the Iredell records.

[14] 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 disagree. One of their descendants says she has seen no evidence the couple lived in Gibson, and I don’t see any room for them in the records.

 

John Allen Rankin & Amanda Lindsey: Another Family Legend

My ancestor John Allen Rankin and his wife Amanda Lindsey have a good story. From one vantage point, it is a war story. It is also a love story. The love story and war story intersect in both my family’s legend and the verifiable facts.

My father’s “how to” genealogy book advised that the best way to begin compiling one’s family history is to interview family members. The oral family history will have errors, but even the misinformation provides clues, says the book.

Dad promptly took that “how to” advice when he was “bitten by the genealogy bug.” He and his sister, Louise Theo Rankin Jordan, set out to talk to their north Louisiana kin. Here is what he wrote to me in a 1969 letter telling me the latest he had learned:

“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. Its chief virtue is that the essential objective elements – location, dates, a soldier’s uniform, the people involved – are readily subject to verification. The legend also comes from an unimpeachable source, because Cousin Norene had lived with Amanda for some time and knew her as an adult. Norene had actually heard that story straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. It was not subject to the vagaries of multiple oral retellings.

I set about trying to confirm the facts in the 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,” and he was still in Monticello 1863. So far, so good – Amanda’s family was right where the legend says they would be.

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] According to the 1860 census for Monticello, William 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 sisterin-law rather than a sister. As legends go, that’s close.

It is also certain that John Allen was a soldier. My father’s 1969 letter 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 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.”

I couldn’t find the war records among my father’s materials, so I started sending off for my own copies. Amanda’s Confederate pension application, a certifiable heartbreaker, arrived by mail first. She filed it 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] Amanda signed the application in the quavery handwriting of an old person although she was only sixty-five, which doesn’t seem all that 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: that didn’t change until my father’s generation of Rankins. Amanda stated further that John Allen volunteered for the Confederate Army in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on March 14, 1862. Captain Henry was his company commander, and he was in the 9th Arkansas Infantry. She also swore that John Allen 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 cannot decide whether Amanda was surprised by the denial of her application. Did she think she was telling the truth about that honorable discharge? 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, the clerk’s handwriting on the forms). The clerk asked when John Allen was discharged, to which Amanda responded truthfully that she did not know. The clerk, who thought she knew her history, said, “well, everyone was discharged by April 10, 1865, so why don’t we just use that date?”[8] Fine, said Amanda. The clerk naturally assumed that John Allen received an honorable discharge, or why else would Amanda even bother to apply?

John Allen’s entire military record arrived next.[9] Amanda did recite some of the facts correctly. He  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 served in both C and K companies of the 9th Arkansas Infantry. He enlisted for a one-year term on July 25, 1861.

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 participate in the Battle of Champion’s Hill in Mississippi on 16 May 1863.

The Confederates were badly out-generaled at Champion’s Hill. The Confederate officer in charge, General Stephen D. Lee (no relation to Robert E.) marched his soldiers piecemeal into Grant’s entrenched position. About 4,300 Confederate soldiers and 2,500 Union soldiers were casualties. It was considered a Union victory and a decisive battle in the Vicksburg campaign.

On our way home from a trip to Nashville, Gary and I drove around the area of the battle. It is a backwoods area just east of Vicksburg, almost entirely forgotten by history. There is no park and no historical markers, except a stone monument where Confederate Brigadier General Leonard Tilghman died.

On 19 May 1863, whatever was left of John Allen’s division after Champion’s Hill arrived at Jackson, Mississippi. He was in the 1st Mississippi CSA Hospital in Jackson from May 31 to June 13, 1863. The diagnosis: “diarrhea, acute.” That was near the end of the second year of his one-year enlistment.

On September 1, 1863, now in Selma, Alabama, the army issued John Allen a new pair of pants, a jacket and a shirt, all valued on the voucher at $31.00. Good wool and cotton, presumably. Probably the best suit of clothes John Allen ever owned.

On October 14, 1863, the Confederate States of America paid John Allen $44 for the pay period from May 1 through August 31, 1863.

And that was the last the CSA ever heard of my great-grandfather John Allen Rankin, who probably just walked away. By November 1, 1863, he was listed as absent on the muster roll for his unit. They finally quit carrying his name on the muster roll after December 1863.

It probably wasn’t too long after John Allen was paid in Selma in October 1863 that he was talking to 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 trek from Selma to Monticello.

On that note, the legend takes a turn for the better. He was wearing an almost brand-spanking new uniform, he was the most handsome soldier Amanda had ever seen, and she fell in love on the spot.

As noted, the last record in John Allen’s file says he was “absent in arrest in Canton by order of Provost Marshall.” By the time that AWOL arrest order was issued, he was already in Monticello, Drew County, Arkansas, making Amanda Addieanna Lindsey swoon. And that is the end of the war story.

By 1870, John and Amanda were living in Homer, Claiborne Parish, with their two eldest children, Anna Belle Rankin and Samuel Edward Rankin. The couple listed $400 in real property and $350 in personal property in the census enumeration. 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. However, he and Amanda sold nine acres in Claiborne Parish for $33 in August 1870.[10]

The sale of land is perhaps a clue that farming did not work out well. By 1880, the Rankin family was living in Webster Parish.[11] John Allen, age 36, was Deputy Sheriff. By 1880, he and Amanda had six children, with one more child yet to come.

The deputy sheriff job was short-lived. A letter saved by the family of John Allen’s brother Elisha Rankin reports that John Allen and family went through Homer in October 1882 on their way to Blanchard Springs to run a barber shop.[12] I don’t know what happened to the barber shop, but the Rankins wound up back in Claiborne Parish for the rest of their lives.

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 must not have had an easy time thereafter, as her widow’s application illustrates. Her anguish is palpable in a letter she wrote to one of John Allen’s brothers, Elisha (nickname “Lish”) and his wife Martha. 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.[13]

“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 Lish] 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”

May you rest in peace, Amanda and John Allen. Both are buried in the Haynesville Cemetery in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, see tombstone image below.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] See “Edward Buxton Lindsey: One of My Family Legends”  here.

[2]  John Allen had two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Rankin. 1860 census for Jefferson Co., AR, dwl. 549, listing for Samuel Rankin included Mary Rankin, age 10; 1870 census, Jefferson Co., AR, 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, household of A. C. sale with mother-in-law Amanda Rankin, wife Annie Sale, and children.

[8] That’s not quite accurate. 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] FHL Film # 265,980, Claiborne Parish Deed Book J: 226.

[11]  1870 census, Webster Parish, LA, dwl 255, J. A. Rankin, wife Amanda Rankin, and children Anna Belle, Edward, Lulu, Joseph, Marvin, and Melvin.

[12] Letter from Washington Marion Rankin (“Wash”), who lived in Homer, to his brother Napoleon Bonaparte (“Pole”) Rankin dated October 1882. See Note 13.

[13]  I do not own, and have never seen, the original of the family letters. 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 has not responded.

The Rankins of Guilford County, NC: the mistaken identity of Robert Rankin d. 1795

A professional genealogist once told me that many trees on the internet aren’t worth the paper it would take to print them. She said the most serious mistake a rookie can make is to use information from someone else’s tree without confirming it. Her advice was too late for me: I had already learned that lesson the hard way.

When I was a still a beginning family history researcher, I sent a chart for one of my lines to the administrator of the Graves Family Association website at his request.[1] The chart included information I had obtained from other researchers on the identity of my early Graves ancestors. Unfortunately, I had not confirmed the information with my own research.

I wish I had remembered that before I forwarded the chart. Ken Graves, the website administrator, replied with a blistering email excoriating me for perpetuating a fiction that serious researchers had long ago discarded. My screen and my red face were both too hot to touch when I read that email.[2]

We all make mistakes, even if we don’t naïvely adopt someone else’s data. Original records are incomplete or the courthouse burned down entirely. The handwriting in films of original records is faded, blurred, or indecipherable. Our ancestors recycled the same given names ad nauseam, producing an error called “same name confusion.” Other mistakes are probably caused by the occasionally unwarranted aura of accuracy enjoyed by books and journals. Some mistakes are just plain ol’ carelessness.

Here’s an example: Robert Rankin who died in 1795 in Guilford Co., NC

An error about one of the early Rankins in Guilford County, North Carolina illustrates several kinds of mistakes.[3] The error combines same name confusion with carelessness. It probably originated in a Rankin compiled history which wrongly interpreted the 1795 will of Robert Rankin as being the will of the “patriarch” – the eldest immigrant – of his Guilford family line.[4] The ease of importing data from online trees probably guarantees the error’s immortality.

Robert Rankin the patriarch (let’s call him “Old Robert” for short) had a wife named Rebecca, maiden name unknown.[5] Old Robert and Rebecca had a son named George.[6] The 1795 will identified the testator as “Robert Rankin Senior”of Guilford County.[7] The will devised land to a son named George. It did not name a wife, who evidently predeceased him. In short, identifying the testator in the 1795 will as Old Robert seems reasonable at first glance. On second glance, not so much.

The problem is that Old Robert and Rebecca’s son George died in 1760 – thirty-five years before some Robert Rankin wrote his 1795 will.[8]

Guilford County is admittedly tough on Rankin researchers. There are a dizzying number of country records referencing, e.g., Robert Rankin, Robert Rankin Sr., and/or Robert Rankin Jr. One state grant mentions all three![9] As was common, the line of Old Robert and Rebecca recycled the same names, and every subsequent generation had at least one Robert.

Guilford is also rough sledding because there were three Rankin “patriarchs” in Guilford: (1) John Rankin (1736-1814) who married Hannah Carson and who is a proved son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware;[10] (2) John’s brother William Rankin (1744-1804), who married Jane Chambers; and (3) Old Robert Rankin and his wife Rebecca, who came to Pennsylvania from Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland about 1750 and moved a few years later to the part of Rowan County that became Guilford.[11]

The facts in brief

Two facts prove that the Robert Rankin who wrote a will and died in 1795 in Guilford County – call him “Robert d. 1795” – was not Old Robert. First, a book about the Buffalo Presbyterian Church of Guilford establishes that Old Robert died well before 1795.[12] Second, the George Rankin issue: Old Robert’s son George, who died in 1760, was obviously not the same man as George, a devisee in the 1795 will. In fact, Guilford records establish that George the devisee was alive and well after 1795.

When did Old Robert with wife Rebecca die? Answer: circa 1770, definitely by 1773

Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin provides information about Old Robert Rankin in his book History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People. Rev. Rankin identified Old Robert as having belonged to Nottingham Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania.[13] Old Robert and his family (or some of them) migrated to North Carolina in the early 1750s.[14] The family acquired land in that part of Rowan County that later became Guilford.[15] Rev. Rankin identified Old Robert’s wife as Rebecca, whose name is confirmed in a 1755 gift deed of land by the couple to their son George.[16] According to Rev. Rankin, Old Robert and Rebecca had children “George, Robert, Rebecca, John and others.”[17]

For purposes of this article, however, we are only concerned with Old Robert and Rebecca, their sons George and Robert, and a grandson named – I’m sure you can guess this one – Robert. A few facts about them are in order. Rev. Rankin says that George died in 1761, although his will was actually written and proved in 1760.[18] George’s will named his widow Lydia (Steele) and two minor sons, John and Robert. The latter is the grandson we have in mind.

George and Lydia’s son John inherited the 480-acre tract on Brushy Fork that Old Robert and Rebecca had given to George. John sold it and left Guilford before 1800.[19] George and Lydia’s other son Robert, grandson of Old Robert, fought in the Revolutionary War and applied for a pension in 1833.[20] Bless his heart, because the application provides information we need here. Let’s call him “Rev. War Robert,” with “Rev.” short for “Revolution,” not “Reverend.” His application establishes that Rev. War Robert was born in Guilford County in May 1759 and that he moved to McNairy County, Tennessee in 1830. It is important for this narrative that Rev. War Robert lived into the nineteenth century: hold that thought.

Meanwhile, Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin had this to say about Old Robert, who was (according to oral tradition) one of the first elders in Buffalo Church:

Robert Rankin is another whom Rev. J. C. Alexander said tradition listed as one of the first elders. He settled here in 1753 … he died before the first date in the minute book.”[21]

Reverend Rankin said there were no records for Buffalo Church “from the organization in 1756 to 1773.” Consequently, Old Robert Rankin, husband of Rebecca, must have died by 1773. Rev. Rankin states that Old Robert died about 1770, although there is no extant tombstone for him in the Buffalo Church cemetery.[22]

What about the George named in the will of Robert Rankin d. 1795?

Let’s look closely at Robert Rankin’s 1795 will, which names the following devisees and beneficiaries:[23]

    • his son George;
    • his three grandsons William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson and Maxwell Wilson, sons of his deceased daughter Mary Rankin and her husband Andrew Wilson. Robert devised land on Buffalo Creek to George and the three Wilson grandsons.
    • his daughter Isobel.
    • and two unnamed living daughters, each of whom was to receive one-fifth of Robert’s personal estate.

Subsequent Guilford County records establish that George Rankin was still alive after 1795, when his father wrote his will. About three years after Robert died, George surveyed the land he and his Wilson nephews inherited. Robert’s will prescribed a detailed metes and bounds description for how his land on Buffalo Creek was to “be divided.” The document filed in the real property records expressly recites that the survey of the tract was required by the will of Robert Rankin, deceased, and by his executor.[24] Some two decades later, George Rankin made a gift of a portion of that tract to his own son – named Robert, of course.[25]

So … who the heck was the Robert who died in 1795?

Naturally, there were several Robert Rankins living in Guilford County in the late 18th century. We can eliminate anyone from the lines of John Rankin and Hannah Carson or William Rankin and Jean Chambers. Their sons named Robert (each couple had one) lived well past 1795.[26] The testator in 1795 was not Rev. War Robert, son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin, because his pension file proves that he died in 1833. The only Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1795 who was old enough to have three grandsons, and who did not live into the nineteenth century, was Robert Rankin, son of Old Robert and Rebecca.

And there you have it. See you on down the road.

Robin

 

* * * * * * * * * *

[1]  See Graves Family Association website..

[2] Ken Graves later sent me and my cousin Barbara Parker (who is also descended from John Graves of Halifax, VA) an email telling us YDNA research had proved that we are not descended from the famous Capt. John Graves of early 1600s Virginia, and are therefore not related to Ken. His email was positively gleeful. So was I.

[3]  See Rankin trees for the line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford on the LDS website and at Ancestry. The former is free. The latter is not.

[4] A. Gregg Moore and Forney A. Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina(Marietta, GA: A. G. Moore, 1997).

[5]  Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., Printers, 1934) at 27. See also the gift deed in Note 6from Robert and Rebecca to their son George Rankin.

[6] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. 1, 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4(Salisbury, NC), abstract of Deed Book 2: 70, a gift deed dated 13 Apr 1755 from Robert and Rebecca Rankin to their son George for 5 shillings (the usual gift deed “price”), 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork. Robert paid 10 shillings for that tract, a Granville grant. Id., abstract of Deed Book 2: 102.

[7] Clayton Genealogical Library microfilm, “NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312, will of Robert Rankin Sr. dated 30 May 1795 proved Nov 1795, devising land on the south side of Buffalo Creek to his son George Rankin and grandsons William Rankin Willson, Andrew Willson and Maxwell Willson. Robert also named his daughter Isobel and two other living daughters who weren’t identified by either a given name or a married surname.

[8] Id., “NC Rowan County Will Books A-B 1767-1793,” will of George Rankin of Rowan County dated 23 May 1760, proved Oct 1760. Witnesses to the will included Robert Rankin (either George’s father or his brother), William Denny (George’s brother-in-law, whose wife was George’s sister Ann Rankin Denny), and John Braley (another possible brother-in-law, see discussion of the daughters in  this article.

[9] William D. Bennett, Guilford County Deed Book One (Raleigh, NC: Oaky Grove Press, 1990), abstract of Deed Book 1: 504, 16 Dec 1778 state grant to Moses McClain, 200 acres adjacent Jonas Touchstone, Robert McKnight, David Allison, Robert Rankin Jr.’sline, along Robert Rankin Sr.’sline, NC Grant Book No. 33: 83. There is one deed in my Lunenburg Co., VA Winn line in which the grantee and two witnesses to a deed were identified as John Winn, John Winn, and John Winn. No “Sr.” or “Jr.,” or “John Winn, carpenter,” or “John Winn of Amelia County.” Those three men obviously had a sense of whimsy. Lunenburg Deed Book 7: 231.

[10] FHL Film No. 6564, New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated Apr 1768 from grantors John Rankin of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor to Guilford County) and his wife Hannah, and William Rankin of New Castle Co., DE, to grantees Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin, both of New Castle, land devised to John and William by their father Joseph Rankin.

[11] Autobiography of George and Lydia Rankin’s son John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed inHarvey L. Eads, ed., History of the SouthUnion Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky. A copy of the transcript can be obtained from the University of Western Kentucky. The autobiography establishes Robert and Rebecca’s migration dates and origin.

[12] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church at 22.

[13] Id. See also Futhey and Cope, History of Chester Co., PA(Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. ,1996). The 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township, Chester Co., PA included George Rankin and Robert Rankin.

[14] Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church, p. 22. See also Note 11, autobiography of Shaker Rev. John Rankin, elder son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin, and grandson of Old Robert and Rebecca.

[15]  E.g., Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. 1, 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4(Salisbury, NC), Deed Book 4: 100, Granville grant dated 24 Jun 1758 to Robert Rankin, 640 acres on both sides of North Buffalo Creek. That creek flows roughly southwest to northeast into Buffalo Creek. The creek, and the grant, are located just south of Buffalo Presbyterian Church.

[16]  See Note 6.

[17]  Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church at27. George and Robert are also proved as sons by deed records. There is only circumstantial evidence for a son John. Deed records also prove a daughter Ann Rankin who married William Denny. Rowan County probate records also suggest daughters Rebecca Braley/Brawley and Margaret Boyd, see article here.

[18]  Clayton Genealogical Library microfilm, “NC Rowan County Will Books A-B 1767-1793,” p. 141, will of George Rankin of Rowan County dated 23 May 1760, proved Oct 1760. The 1761 date for George’s death appears in every family tree I have seen for Robert and Rebecca. Someone read Rev. Rankin’s book and accepted the 1761 date without question.

[19]  Id. George devised to John the 480-acre tract on Brushy Fork or Brush Creek. John sold 200 acres in August 1784, Guilford Deed Book 3: 101, and the remaining 297 acres in Sep 1796, Deed Book 6: 182. John was listed in the 1790 census for Guilford County but not in 1800. He was a Revolutionary War Soldier and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He struggled with what he saw as the abstract and impersonal nature of Presbyterian doctrine and became a Shaker minister. He went to Tennessee in the late 1790s and wound up in Logan County, KY in a place called “Shakertown.” In a Guilford County marriage that makes researchers rip their hair out, Shaker Rev. John married Miss Rebecca Rankin. She was a daughter of John Rankin and Hannah Carson.

[20] Virgil D. White, Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. III: N-Z(Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992), abstract of the pension application of Robert Rankin, W5664. Robert was born 29 May 1759. Wife Mary. NC line. Soldier was born in Guilford and enlisted there. In 1830, he moved to McNairy Co., TN where he applied 20 May 1833. He died there 21 Dec 1840. Soldier had married Mary Moody 22 Nov 1803 in Guilford. Widow applied 12 Jun 1853 from McNairy, age 75. Widow died 11 Jul 1854.

[21]  Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Churchat 122.  

[22] Raymond Dufau Donnell, Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Cemetery Greensboro, North Carolina (Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society (1994), second printing March 1996, p. ii, saying that the “earliest written records of the church date from 1773,” and stating that Robert Rankin Sr., “Pioneer … Ruling Elder” died circa 1770.

[23]  Clayton Genealogical Library microfilm, “NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312, will of Robert Rankin Sr. dated 30 May 1795 proved Nov 1795.

[24]  Guilford Co. Deed Book 6: 346, 16 Feb 1798.

[25]  Guilford Co., Deed Book 14: 11, 23 Mar 1819.

[26] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy(Salem, MS: Higginson Book Company facsimile reprint of the 1931 original), p. 55 (John Rankin and Hannah Carson’s son Robert lived from 1780-1866) and p. 149 (William Rankin and Jane Chambers’ son Robert C. Rankin lived 1791-1853).