Two Rankin Revolutionary War Pension Applications

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

This article is about men from two Rankin lines: (1) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford, North Carolina and (2) David Rankin of Iredell, North Carolina. The families are a good YDNA match. David could be a son of Robert and Rebecca, although that is unproved. They are undoubtedly cousins of some degree. Both fall in Lineage 1 of the Rankin DNA Project.[1]

It is easy to confuse some of the Rankin men who lived in North Carolina and Tennessee in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. That includes two named Robert, both of whom fought in the Revolutionary War. They were both originally from North Carolina, but moved to Tennessee about 1825-1830. A commentor on our website made it clear that I had done a bad job of distinguishing them.

To clear up the confusion, lets revisit each man briefly to contrast their histories and pension applications. First, the man I call “Rev War Robert Rankin” (“Rev” stands for “Revolutionary,” not “Reverend”), then his fellow soldier “Mystery Robert Rankin.

Rev War Robert Rankin of Rowan/Guilford, NC and McNairy, TN (1749 – 1840)[2]

Rev War Robert was a son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin of Rowan/Guilford County, North Carolina.[3]He married twice: first, to Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, probably in the early 1780s, and then to Mary Moody in 1803.[4]He applied for a pension in McNairy Co., TN on May 20, 1833.[5] Among other things, he testified as follows in his application:

  • He was born in Guilford Co., NC on May 29, 1759. (At that 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. Then he moved to McNairy County, Tennessee, where he was residing when he applied for a pension.

Rev War Robert died in McNairy County on Dec. 21, 1840.[6] He is buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery; there is an image of his military tombstone at findagrave.com.[7]

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

I refer to the second Robert Rankin “Mystery Robert” because his family of origin is not conclusively proved. In fact, the records of Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed for a Revolutionary War pension, reveal little about him. He only appeared in the 1830 census, one deed, the pension application, and a few tax records in Gibson County.

One thing, however, is obvious: 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”). The two pension applications leave no doubt about that.

Mystery Robert testified in open court on September 7, 1832 in support of his application for a pension. [8]He said the following, inter alia:[9]

  • 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, North Carolina.

Most of the patriot troops who fought at Ramsour’s Mill were from Iredell County, NC. 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 provide evidence that James Rankin died at Ramsour’s and that he was a son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell.[10] David and Margaret also had a son named Robert, proved by David’s will. Robert appeared frequently in the Iredell County records through the 1820s, then disappeared without leaving any probate or cemetery records. Given the real and personal property ownership among the Iredell Rankins, it is unlikely that Robert died in Iredell. Instead, he most likely moved on.

And he probably landed in Gibson County, Tennessee. The circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Robert, brother of James, son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, moved to Gibson County, where his pension application proves that he had a brother who died at Ramsour’s Mill.

I hope you read the pension applications of these two men. The amount of detail these veterans recalled is amazing – usually 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

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[1] See identified Rankin lineages on the project website here.

[2] 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. See also an online transcription  online transcription  of Rev War Robert’s full pension application, with additional information from his widow’s application, prepared by Will Graves.

[3] 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. See also the autobiography of Rev War Robert’s brother Shaker Rev. 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. See an article about the autobiography here. .

[4] 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.

[5] See Note 1.

[6] For more information on Rev War Robert and his children, see the article discussing him and three other men named Robert from Robert and Rebecca’s line here.

[7] The Findagrave.com site entry for Rev War Robert claims that he married Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in 1781, although there seems to be no evidence for that date. A compiled Rankin family history by Gregg Moore and Forney Rankin also makes that claim without providing evidence. See Fineagrave image here.

[8] Mystery Robert’s Gibson Co. 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 taxable on the 1838 Gibson tax list. This website shows both Roberts who applied for Revolutionary War pensions. pensions.

[9] Here is Mystery Robert’s pension application testimony, transcription by Will Graves.

[10] See the evidence concerning Mystery Robert and James Rankin and his family here.