Schemes to quell the Revolution, buried treasure, horses in canoes, and more

Imagine a Pennsylvania Tory writing about his plan to kidnap the Continental Congress. The same man proposed several other schemes to “suppress the Rebellion,” some almost plausible. One of his Tory brothers reportedly buried gold coins and other loot before he fled the country, then made a royal pain of himself seeking restitution in London. And, of course, there were the horses in canoes.

But I’m getting ahead of their stories. Here’s the Cliff Notes version …

There were three brothers in York County, Pennsylvania in the late colonial period: William, James (1730-1803), and John (Jr.) Rankin.[1] They were sons of John Rankin (Sr.) and his wife Ann.[2] They owned a lot of Pennsylvania land and lived high-profile public lives. They were Quakers. Each man was married with children. They became Tories, i.e., Loyalists who supported Great Britain during the Revolution. All were “attainted of high treason” and fled to Canada and England to save their necks. One of them left his wife and eight children behind in Pennsylvania. Each man asked the Crown to compensate him for the loss of his estate, which had been confiscated by Pennsylvania.

The information I have about the Tory Rankins is primarily from their “Memorials” — requests for restitution to the British Commission handling Loyalists’ claims. Images of the original Memorials are available online.[3]

William (d. before 1816)

William was a Justice of the York County Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions by at least 1771.[4] He was the commander of the Second Battalion of York County militia, holding the rank of Colonel.[5] He was a representative to the Pennsylvania Assembly.[6] His wife was Jane Rhodes, a Quaker, with whom he had three sons and five daughters.[7] He claimed about 2,500 acres of his land in Pennsylvania were confiscated,[8] including a one-third interest owned with his brothers in the “Middletown Ferry.”[9]

William claimed he was originally a staunch supporter of redress for the Colonies against British oppression. He never resigned his commission in the militia. This required some artful tap-dancing when he made his request for restitution. He explained that he changed his mind about supporting the Colonies after what he considered a generous offer by the British to redress grievances, plus his growing perception that the colonists’ objective was complete independence. That was presumably plain by July 1776, even on the Pennsylvania frontier. He would immediately have resigned his commission, he said, except that he was persuaded he might help the British more if he retained command of the militia.

He concluded that was wise, because the militia was soon ordered to destroy the estates of certain Tories in York County. He claims to have carried out the order in some manner that protected the endangered estates.[10] Gary, the military expert in the family, is skeptical — how does one manage that? “Yeah, we burned ’em to the ground, but please don’t go look.”

By 1778, William was making regular proposals to Sir General Henry Clinton after the British captured Philadelphia. The Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, initially to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They then went to York, where they met in the York County courthouse, virtually under William’s nose. He proposed kidnapping the entire delegation and delivering them as prisoners of war to Philadelphia.[11] Rankin claimed the delegation was guarded by “not more than forty invalids.” The delegation itself was small: by the time it was meeting in York, a mere eighteen delegates were attending.[12]

His strategy was sound, says Gary. Washington’s army was then in camp at Valley Forge. The Susquehanna, rendered unfordable by the spring thaw, lay between Valley Forge and the York courthouse. William proposed taking the captured delegation south to the Chesapeake and delivering the prisoners to a British frigate, presumably a bit north of Baltimore (controlled by the Patriots). The British Navy controlled the Bay.

For reasons William couldn’t fathom, General Clinton did not endorse the plan. Could Clinton have smelled a trap? After all, Rankin was still a Colonel in the York County militia and a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the spring of 1778. Also, Clinton believed — probably correctly — that British efforts should concentrate on defeating General Washington’s army. But Gary would have given the kidnap scheme a thumbs up.

William said he was so demoralized by the rejection of his proposal that he thought about giving up on helping defeat the Revolution. He was persuaded otherwise by a message from Joey Galloway, who had been an influential member of the First Continental Congress but became an opponent of American independence.[13] Galloway, who was the Philadelphia Chief of Police after the British captured the city, encouraged William to continue expanding “the Associators,” a group of Loyalists who took oaths to the Crown and reported to William.

Another scheme of William’s was supported by some in the King’s army. The main supply magazine for Washington’s army was located about midway between York and Carlisle, within spitting distance of William’s residence. It contained substantial stores of beef, pork, gunpowder, guns, and the like. Here, however, Rankin’s tendency to exaggerate and his inevitable request for British help probably doomed the proposal. He claimed that the supply magazine was guarded by 600 people, of whom 400 were “Associators.” Further, he asked for a detachment under British Col. Butler, then in Detroit, to come to Pennsylvania to join up with the Associators, who would seize the depot. Gen. Clinton agreed to the proposal, said William, except he declined to order Butler from Detroit to Pennsylvania.[14] The plan never happened, although it’s hard to understand why the British did not try to capture the supply depot themselves.

The Patriots finally noticed William. In March 1781, he was put in the York Town jail. With the help of friends, he escaped and fled to New York. There, he gave Gen. Clinton a “full account” of the Associators. He claimed a force of the Associators could “put the three provinces of Maryland, Pennsylvania & the Delaware Counties into the peace of the Crown.” Rankin needed only a small detachment of British soldiers and supplies of arms and ammunition for the Associators. Like William’s other proposals, that never took place.

Nevertheless, William persisted. Ultimately, he claimed some 20,000 Associators under his command. By contrast, there were never more than 48,000 men in the Continental Army at any one time.[15] Surely, either William knowingly exaggerated or he was unrealistic.

Gen. Clinton privately expressed his opinion that Col. Rankin was “not much of an officer … but he appears to be a plain sensible man worth attending to.”[16] Perhaps weary of William’s proposals, Clinton sent him to Virginia in May 1781 to present his plans to Gen. Phillips. However, Phillips had died and been replaced by Cornwallis by the time William arrived. Cornwallis also declined to implement any of William’s proposals. One of them required sending a detachment of British troops up the Chesapeake to rescue “upward of 150” Associators who had been betrayed and imprisoned in Maryland.

However, William arrived when Cornwallis was fresh from his purported victory against General Nathaniel Greene’s band of mostly backwoods farmers at Guilford Courthouse in March 1781.[17] The British suffered heavy losses in that battle, prompting a member of Parliament to exclaim that they could not afford any more such victories. Cornwallis cannot have been inclined to use his exhausted forces to rescue some of Col. Rankin’s friends in Maryland.

Having no luck with Cornwallis, William returned to New York. When the British evacuated in November 1783, he went to England, where he lived on a pension of £120 a year and was awarded £2,320 to cover the loss of property confiscated by Pennsylvania.[18]

His mother Ann Noblet helped support William’s wife Jane and eight children during his exile, creating a trust for their use and funding it with land given her by her late husband Abraham Noblet.[19] There doesn’t seem to be a Find-a-Grave memorial for William in London, although he lived in Mill Hill, Hendon Parish, in the County of Middlesex. So did his brother James. His children all remained in America at least through 1816.[20]

James (1730 – 1803)

James was also a delegate in the Pennsylvania General Assembly back when his focus was apparently on acquiring land. When the revolutionary unpleasantness began, he said he “set his face like a Flint” and openly and actively opposed “every measure and step taken by the Seditious leaders.”[21] James claims he broke up “a public Election to constitute a new fangled rebel Provincial Assembly which the populace had conveined [sic] for the purpose … by appearing in person … pointing out to them the illegality of their proceedings and absolutely forbidding them to proceed on pain of having the Court House in which they were then assembled leveled about their Ears.”

Not surprisingly, he says he “soon became the object of Popular outrage and suffered not only every insult hurtful to the feelings of an honest Man and a Man of Spirit but real Injury of his Property and was moreover hourly exposed to emminent [sic] Danger of his person from being considered as the most mischievous Character to the Cause in the part of the Country where he resided.”

His brother John’s Memorial, however, says James “never took any part one side or other,” suggesting that James may not have been the most mischievous character in the area. Or perhaps John Jr. had an agenda: James expressed contempt for his brother in a submission to the Commission, saying John “was never worth £200 in his life.”

In addition to breaking up the election at the York court house, James helped some British soldiers who were imprisoned in York. One of them, a Lieut. Robert Chase, swore that James “always assisted us … for which he fell under the displeasure both of the Committee appointed to sit at York Town as well as the Committee of Safety at Philadelphia.” James was soon sent to jail. He escaped and fled with his family to the British lines in September 1777. From there, he went to Nova Scotia and then to England.

His real work began in earnest in England: convincing the Commission evaluating Loyalists’ claims to pay him more than £74,000 in Pennsylvania currency for his real and personal property. That was then equivalent to £44,000 British sterling. His estate included twenty-two farms and plantations, a fishery, two ferries, a mill, and “seven Negroes.” He was asking for roughly $105,000,000 in today’s U.S. dollars.

He stayed busy in his own behalf. He had (back in the Colonies) boarded a British ship in Chesapeake Bay to ask Lt. Chase to provide evidence of his help to the British prisoners in York. He sought witnesses and dug up old facts — e.g., an arbitration property valuation in 1768 — to bolster his case. He testified to the Commission in person, when (he said) they were “candid” about their view of his claims. One gathers they expressed some skepticism.

Mostly, he bombarded the Commission with letters about his claim. Frankly, he sounds arrogant and entitled. He asked for a speedy hearing because his “allowance is inadequate for support of his family and obliges him to incur debts.” He noted that other claims filed after his had already been considered. He wrote about “a small estate he wants to buy if assured he would participate in the £178,000 granted by Parliament.” He wanted to know if he would come in for payments of 30 or 40% of the last grant for the Loyalists, whatever that means. When the Commission complained that James lacked proper deeds, his reply asked for “Mr. Penn” to testify on his behalf. I can’t figure out who that was, but he sounds like he might be a member of William Penn’s family.

In December 1788, James complained that the amount he had received thus far — £10,772 in total — was “not one half of the real loss” he suffered. The amount received is equivalent to about  £1,889,515.03 in 2013.[22] In 2024 US dollars, that is roughly $2.4 million, which is probably close enough, give or take a million, to explain why James exhausted the Commissioners’ patience.[23] James’s actual award was a substantial multiple of what many others received.[24]

The final straw was apparently James’s letter of 15 March 1790, asking if the Commissioners “had any news” for him about his claim. The Commission responded with asperity a mere two days later: “The Claimant’s case has already undergone a full ______ [unreadable] & the Commissioners have done everything in it which they consider themselves at liberty to do.” With apologies to Peter O’Toole in Becket, one could easily picture a Commissioner saying, “Will no one rid us of this meddlesome claimant?”[25] The documents in James’s file indicate that was his last exchange with the Commissioners.

My friend Jess “Gams” Guyer found an image of James’s will in the prerogative court at Canterbury. James named his wife Ann and eight children, but he probably had another son who had remained in York County and predeceased him. So far as I have found, three children never left in Pennsylvania, one died in the West Indies, one may have returned to Canada from England, and four remained in England.[26] His widow Ann, birth name unknown, was either his second or third wife.[27] And that is all I have found about James Rankin.

John Jr.

Of the three brothers, John Jr. was the least successful financially. He left little information in either his Memorial or York County records. He was a militia Captain, although he doesn’t mention that in his Memorial.[28] His brother William was his agent in John’s claim before the Commission. The information in his Memorial was short and sweet; John claimed two pieces of real property and very little personalty. John said he was living on one of James’s farms at one time. John’s Memorial, bless his heart, identified both James and William as his brothers. I don’t know how much he was awarded for his claim, if anything.

John said that he, too, assisted the British prisoners in York, and thereby “brought upon himself the hatred and Resentment of the Rebels, was obliged to fly for refuge to the Kings Army then at Philadelphia, had his property real and personal sold and his Person proscribed and attainted by High Treason, and is now for Refuge in the Province of Nova Scotia.”

Specifically, John said he “joined the British in March 1778, and remained with them until the evacuation of New York.[29] He came to Annapolis [Canada] in 1783 and settled in New Brunswick.” He went back to Pennsylvania at least once, about 1785, for trading; he was the only one of the three brothers to return, so far as I know.

John’s wife was Abigail Rhodes, sister of his brother William’s wife Jane Rhodes. John and Abigail had three children: two daughters (given names unknown) and a son Rhodes Rankin, a mariner. John also identified himself as a mariner, stating in an affirmation that he owned a schooner named Rebeckah.[30]

Finally, the horses and the canoes: John Rankin Sr., the family patriarch

One of those hoary old histories of Pennsylvania families says that a John Rankin emigrated to Pennsylvania from England before 1735, probably from Yorkshire, and probably by 1730.[31] He is almost certainly the John Rankin who obtained a 1733 grant in what was then Lancaster County on a memorable waterway: Yellow Breeches Creek. The creek location establishes that John’s grant wound up in York County.

Some of the English Quakers, including John Rankin (Sr.), reportedly crossed the Susquehanna from east to west about midway between Lancaster and Carlisle in what is now Middletown, at the mouth of Swatara Creek.[32] That location subsequently became the site of the so-called “Middletown Ferry,” jointly owned by the three Tory brothers. Here’s the canoe story …

“Some of the English Quakers crossed the Susquehanna [in Middletown] as early as 1730.  Five years later a temporary road was opened on the York County side.  Thomas Hall, John McFesson, Joseph Bennett, John Heald, John Rankin and Ellis Lewis from Chester County, crossed the Susquehanna from the mouth of the Swatara, and selected lands on the west side of the river in the year 1732.  It has often been related of them, that when they arrived at the eastern bank of the river, and there being no other kinds of crafts than canoes to cross, they fastened two together, and placed their horses’ front feet in one canoe and the hind feet in another, then piloted the frail crafts, with their precious burden, across the stream by means of poles.”

Glad I didn’t have to help load the horses.

I don’t know anything else about John Sr. except that he died in 1748.[33]  That was the perfect time to insure that his estate administration would fall between the cracks, since York was created from Lancaster in 1748. I didn’t find his estate in either county.

Epilog

 I will be happy to share mostly verbatim transcriptions of the three Memorials with anyone who asks. Will also share my start on an outline descendant tree for this family, just in case someone has a yen to find a living male Rankin who might Y-DNA test.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Birth and death dates are proved only for James Rankin, per his tombstone. Online trees show James as the eldest and William as the youngest, with no evidence that I have seen.

                  [2] Ann Rankin’s birth surname is usually given as either Brown or Moore, although I have found no evidence for either. John Rankin Jr. is proved as a son of John Sr. by a Quaker marriage record; John Rankin Jr.’s Memorial (request to the Crown for restitution) proves that James and William were his brothers; and Ann Rankin Noblit/Noblet is proved as William Rankin’s mother by deeds. In short, there is a wealth of evidence establishing the members of this Rankin family.

            [3] If you are interested in the originals, John Rankin Jr.’s Memorial begins at image 65 of 235 in this link. James Rankin’s Memorial begins at image 115 of 482 here. William Rankin’s Memorial can be found in the same link as James’s, beginning at image 234.

                  [4] York Co., PA Deed Book D: 374, 400, 523, all three deeds dated May 1771, each one acknowledged by the grantor before William Rankin, Justice.

                  [5] Colonel William Rankin is listed as commander of the Second Battalion, York Co. Militia here.

                  [6] William Rankin was reportedly a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778, see info here.

                  [7] The children of William and Jane Rhodes Rankin were James, John, William, Ann (m. Nathan Potts), Abigail (m. William Webb), Catharine (m. Jesse Walker), Mary (m. Isaac Walker) and a daughter who m. a Mr. Branson. York Co., PA Deed Book 3B: 312.

                  [8] William Rankin’s Memorial lists confiscated properties of about 2700 acres, including his one-third interest along with his brothers in the 300 acres with the Middletown Ferry. He removed a 220-acre tract called “Noblett’s Old Planation” from his claim, noting that his mother had claimed and taken possession of it. A deed proves his mother was Ann (Rankin) Noblett. See York Co., PA Deed Book 2I: 305, 1790 deed from Ann Noblet conveying a tract in trust for the use of Jane Rankin, identified as the wife of Ann’s son William Rankin.

      [9] History of York County, Pennsylvania, John Gibson, Editor (Chicago: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886) 630. The Middletown Ferry, located in Newberry Township, opened in 1738. It was originally called Hussey’s Ferry.  The ferry obtained its present name and was licensed in 1760.

                  [10] The story is repeated in an online article in Encyclopedia.com, citing Carl Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1941), at this link.

            [11] William “sent a confidential message to the General [Clinton] proposing that if he would send a Frigate or two (& more would not be necessary) to receive them in the Cheasapeak, he would deliver to him every member of the Congress then sitting & directing the affairs of the Rebellion at the Town of York … he was in his own Mind perfectly convinced that the Attempt would be crowned with Success: Washington’s Army, the whole force of the Rebellion was then at the Valley Forge sixty miles distant from York, a river unfordable at that season lay between his army and York. The place where the frigate was proposed to receive the Congress was about forty miles from the place of their Capture. The associated Loyalists under my command, being reputable farmers of the Country, had provided themselves with horses, arms, & ammunition, & could have delivered the Congress in a few hours to the Captain of the Frigate, which might have been ordered to receive them.”

                  [12] The number of delegates meeting at the York courthouse comes from the Mt. Vernon  website. The reduced delegation nevertheless accomplished some important work, including drafting the Articles of Confederation.

                  [13] Here is an article about Galloway, an impressive character.

                  [14] Christopher Sower, a Pennsylvania Loyalist, told Gen. Clinton that if he would direct that Butler make a raid on the principal rebel supply depot, Rankin and his supporters could not only assist in this operation but could also arm themselves for future action. See this article. Sower was Clinton’s link to the Loyalists in the frontier counties of Lancaster, Northumberland, and York.

            [15] For information on the Continental Army, see article here.

                  [16] Gen. Clinton expressed his opinion of William Rankin in a letter to Gen. Phillips quoted here.

                  [17] The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was a Pyhrric victory for the British and probably the turning point in the Southern Campaign, see this article.

                  [18] See this article for William’s award from the Commission.

                  [19] York Co., PA Deed Book 2I: 305.

            [20] York Co., PA Deed Book 3B: 312, deed dated 17 Jun 1816 from the heirs of Jane Walker (Jane Rhoads Rankin Walker, William Rankin’s wife) to Michael Stormington. The heirs: (1) James Rankin of Missouri Territory; (2) John Rankin of Newberry Twp.; (3) William Rankin of Philadelphia Co.; (4) Nathan Potts of Newberry Twp. and wife Ann (Rankin) Potts; (5) William Webb of Abington Twp., Montgomery Co., and wife Abigail (Rankin) Webb; (6) Jesse Walker of Wayne Co. and wife Catharine (Rankin) Walker; (7A and 7B), two grandchildren, children of Jane Rankin Walker’s daughter ________ Rankin Branson, Thomas Robinson and wife Anna and Charles Branson, all of Chester Co., and (8) Isaac Walker and wife Mary (Rankin) Walker of Washington Co.

                  [21] Here is a link to original images of James’s “Memorial,” available with a subscription on Ancestry. It is undoubtedly also available free at FamilySearch.org, although I have not looked there. James’s claim begins at Image 116 of 482.

            [22] £10,000 sterling in 1788 is equivalent in purchasing power to about  £1,889,515 in 2013.

            [23] £1,889,515 sterling in U.S. dollars = $2,403,211. Wow.

            [24] A mere £1,700 was more than many others received, according to historian Maya Jasanoff. See this article.

            [25] Peter O’Toole said,  as King Henry II, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”  referring to Thomas Becket, played by Richard Burton in Becket.

                  [26] James’s likely eldest son John died in York in 1785; his son Abraham and daughter Ann Rankin Nebinger also probably remained in Pennsylvania. Son William died in Granada in 1820, see info here. Son James Jr. may have returned to Canada. I have no record of the remaining children — Richard, Rebecca, Mary, and a second son John — who may have remained in England.

                  [27] James’s first wife was Rebecca Bennett, named in a family history, see Mary Elizabeth Bennett Durand and Edward Durand, Bennett Family History: William Bennett and Grace Davis (married 1789), their ancestry and their descendants (apparently self-published at Hassell Street Press, 2021). Rebecca reportedly died in 1773. James’s Memorial says he had a wife with him in Nova Scotia after he left NYC in 1783, suggesting he remarried in either Pennsylvania or New York. His Find-a-Grave memorial identifies his widow as Ann, birth name unknown. The transcription of the tombstone says “his tomb is erected by his disconsolate widow as a tribute of respect to his memory and a token of affection to a most tender husband.” See Find-a-Grave memorial here.

                  [28]  Captain John Rankin, 2nd Company, Newberry Twp., 3d Battalion, York Co. militia.

                  [29] On November 25, 1783, Gen. Washington rode into New York City with nearly 800 American soldiers as the British forces evacuated.

                  [30] John Rankin’s statement about the schooner Susannah was erroneously included among the papers filed with James’s memorial.

            [31] Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania: Genealogical and Personal Memoirs (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1932, Vol. 4, editor Wilfred Jordan) 579. John Rankin Sr.’s son James was born in Pennsylvania according to James’s Memorial. James’s tombstone gives his birth date as 1730. Assuming that is correct, then John Sr. must have been in the Colonies at least by then.

                  [32] History of York County, Pennsylvania  (Chicago: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886, John Gibson, editor) 630.

                  [33] John Rankin Sr.’s intestate estate in Newberry Township, Lancaster County was probated in 1748. There do not seem to be records of the estate in either Lancaster or York, except for an index to Lancaster County letters of administration. FHL Film No. 5534638, Image 117, John Rankin, 1748.

A Willis-Rankin connection … with a foray into history

No, I am not talking about the Willis-Rankin connection in our immediate household. Instead, this is about a man named James Lee Rankin. However, the story begins with Gary’s father, Noble Sensor Willis.

Noble was a native of Wilmington, Delaware, but wound up in the deep south during World War II. On June 13, 1942, he graduated from the Navigation School, Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center, at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. His “Certificate of Proficiency” was signed by “D. H. Rankin, Captain, A.A.F., Secretary.”[1] “A.A.F.” stands for Army Air Force.

I saw that record for the first time this week. I wondered which (if any) lineage in the Rankin DNA Project could lay claim to Captain Rankin. I started searching for him the easy way – at Ancestry. How to begin with only the information on Noble’s certificate? Well, to have been a Captain in 1942, he was probably about 25 to 30 years old.[2] He was certainly born by 1920, probably in the 1910s. My search criteria were:

     D. H. Rankin, born 1915, plus or minus 5 years, and lived in San Antonio at one time

A “David H. Rankin” was #42 on the list of hits resulting from that search. Hit #42 showed that David was enumerated in the 1950 census in Ft. Worth, Texas. That made him an attractive choice, so I clicked on his name. The sidebar links suggested for him included a marriage record in May 1945 in Ft. Worth for Major David Henry Rankin, Adjutant, Army Air Force Training Command.

Bingo.

Records for him also included census entries for his family of origin,[3] a World War II draft registration card, the information that he graduated from the University of Nebraska, and a Find-a-Grave memorial.[4] The census entries reveal a brother James Lee Rankin (1907-1996), an attorney who also graduated from the University of Nebraska. He went by Lee.

Bells started ringing in my memory. I ran across Lee several years ago and had intended to write an article about his remarkable career. Something intervened. Here we are, better late than never.[5]

Lee Rankin’s career started with a private law firm in Lincoln, Nebraska. He quickly became involved in politics. A moderate Republican, he helped organize the 1948 campaign for Thomas E. Dewey in Nebraska. In 1952, he managed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign in Nebraska. He became assistant attorney general the following year.

In 1956, he became solicitor general, the third-ranking job at the Justice Department. In that capacity, he was instrumental in resolving claims among Western states to Colorado River water, as well as establishing a balance of Federal and state jurisdictions in offshore oil drilling. He developed the Justice Department’s position in lawsuits concerning legislative reapportionment fights that ultimately led to the principle of “one person, one vote.” If you have never had the pleasure of listening to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, don’t miss this video  in which she and former Justice Stephen G. Breyer discuss Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, two cases dealing with the issue.

After his career in the Justice Department, Lee was chief counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He represented the ACLU as amicus curiae in the 1962 landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right of an indigent person accused of a non-capital crime to legal counsel at public expense.[6] He was former New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s Corporation Counsel from 1966 to 1972, heading a staff of 378 attorneys. Their duties included defending New York City in a wide range of litigation and developing opinions on various municipal issues. Later, Lee taught constitutional law at New York University Law School.

Perhaps the most outstanding part of his career is that he argued dozens of cases before the U. S. Supreme Court in his capacity as solicitor general. The pièce de résistance in that job was his participation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, a consolidation of five separate cases challenging the constitutionality of school segregation. The Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in 1954.[7] Brown reversed the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held that the constitution permitted separate facilities for Blacks and Whites so long as the facilities were equal.[8] For more than a half-century, Plessy had provided the legal underpinning for de jure segregation — i.e., segregation according to law. Brown eliminated that underpinning. The case is probably best known for the principle that “separate facilities are inherently unequal.” Thurgood Marshall, then the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was the lead attorney for the Plaintiffs.[9]

But Lee Rankin also participated in the argument, which took place over several days. As Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel in 1953, he supported the argument that Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.[10]

His New York Times obituary says this about Lee’s further role:

“In an effort to avoid violence that might arise from the decision, Mr. Rankin argued in a presentation requested by the High Court that the effort to desegregate schools — overturning decades of entrenched practices — should take place gradually. Accordingly, he suggested the plan by which local school districts submitted desegregation plans to Federal judges in their states.”

This was a radical departure from normal practice. Usually, the Court’s decision that a law was unconstitutional required an immediate end to enforcing that law, period. After the decision in Loving v. Virginia, for example, all laws forbidding interracial marriage became unenforceable immediately. In Brown, on the other hand, the Court ordered integration “with all deliberate speed.”[11]

Lee lived until 1996, so he was around to see how “all deliberate speed” played out. I would give my right arm to ask him whether he thought the principle gave rise to unconscionable delay, and whether it successfully avoided violence. What, I wonder, did he think of the need to send the U. S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to allow the “Little Rock Nine” Black students to enter Central High School? Or the fact that all of Little Rock’s public schools were not fully integrated until 1972?[12]

On to the genealogy question: does James Lee and David Henry Rankin’s ancestry place them into one of the identified lineages of the Rankin DNA Project? The answer is YES. Their line belongs to Lineage 2, so I can happily claim the brothers as my genetic cousins. Their Rankin line is that part of Lineage 2C which descends from David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. David, who died in Frederick in 1768, was most likely the immigrant Rankin ancestor in that line.

Here is a brief outline chart for Lee’s and David’s Rankin ancestors. When (!!!) I finally do a full-fledged descendant chart for the family of David and Jennett McCormick Rankin, I will include citations to evidence. Meanwhile, here are the bare names and places:

1 David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of (probably) Ulster, Ireland and Frederick Co., VA.

   2 William and Abigail Rankin of Frederick, VA and Washington Co., PA, see an article about them here. William was one of four proved children of David and Jennett. He and Abigail had ten known children.[13]

      3 John and Rebecca Rankin of Washington Co., PA. John predeceased his father William, who devised some Washington County land to John’s two children, James and Mary Rankin.[14] James moved to Harrison Co., KY.

         4 James Rankin Sr., b. Washington Co., PA, d. Harrison Co., KY. His wife was a Miss Montgomery. Two different men in this extended Rankin family married Montgomery women; Gen. Richard Montgomery was a near neighbor of the Rankins in Washington County. James Sr. and his wife had a son named Richard Montgomery Rankin.

            5 James Rankin Jr. m. Anna Dills of Harrison Co., KY and Menard County, IL.[15]

               6 William L. Rankin of Harrison Co., KY – Springfield, IL and his second wife Susan Jane Primm. [16]

                  7 Herman Primm Rankin of Menard Co., IL – Lincoln, Lancaster, NE and his wife Lois Cornelia Gable.[17]

                     8 James Lee Rankin and David Henry Rankin. [18]

And that is all the news that is fit to print about James Lee Rankin. If I could choose my relatives, Lee would be high on my preferred list. I am tickled pink that he actually IS a distant cousin, and that his brother David certified the passing grades in navigation school for Gary’s father Noble Willis.

In a strange coincidence, today is the anniversary of the date the so-called “Little Rock Nine” Black students first attempted to attend classes at Central High School.[19] Gov. Faubus had the Arkansas National Guard surround the school to prevent their entry.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Noble’s certificate was signed on Captain Rankin’s behalf by E. W. Earnest.

                  [2] When Gary was in the Air Force, it normally took three years from an officer’s initial commission as a Second Lieutenant until a promotion to Captain. In the Army, it took two years. Gary doesn’t know what the standard was during WW II. He says there were some Lieutenant Colonels in their twenties, although he suspects they were typically fighter or bomber pilots. David Rankin was not a combat soldier, so his promotion progress would have been considerably less spectacular.

                  [3] 1920 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, household of Herman P. Rankin, 42, printer, b. IL, father b. KY, mother b. VA, with wife Lois C., 39, daughters Marta M., 15, Lois C., 14, and Mary J., 10, and sons James Lee, 12 and David H., 5. All children were born in NE. See also the 1930 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, Herman P. Rankin, 52, wife Lois C. Rankin, 50, sons Lee, 23 and David, 16, daughter Mary Jo, 20, and mother-in-law Josephine Gable, 70. James Lee’s S.A.R. application identifies his father as Herman Primm Rankin, b. 31 Jul 1877, and his mother as Lois Cornelia Gable, b. 20 Mar 1880. It also identifies his paternal grandparents, William L. Rankin, b. 15 Sep 1816, d. 1902, and Susan Jane Primm, b. 20 Mar 1809, d. 1885.

                  [4] David Henry Rankin’s find-a-grave memorial is at this link.

                  [5] For information about Lee Rankin’s career, see obituaries by Robert D. McFadden, “J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor General Who Was a Voice for Desegregation, Dies at 88” (New York Times, June 30, 1996, Section 1, p. 33) and Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 June 1996, at 1, 12. Lee died in Santa Cruz, CA.

                  [6] Before Gideon v. Wainwright, a criminal defendant was only entitled to legal counsel at public expense if he were accused of a capital offense. For a description of the case, see this link.

                  [7] There is a good discussion of Brown at  at this link; see also the second link in Note 11 concerning “all deliberate speed.”

                  [8] For an example of a case dealing with allegedly equal facilities, see Sweatt v. Painter.

                  [9] A number of important SCOTUS cases concerning segregation and involving Thurgood Marshall are described in Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove (New York: HarperCollins, 2012). The central story in the book is a criminal case in Florida in which some Black men were wrongly accused of rape. The book is a clear-eyed and graphic account of Jim Crow-era treatment of Blacks. It won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

                  [10] The fourteenth amendment has two clauses, known as the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses. Section 1 of the amendment reads in part, “[No State … shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Emphasis added).

                  [11] See a brief discussion of the “deliberate speed” notion at this link. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

                  [12] Here are a few facts from post-Brown history. One of our acquaintances would refuse to read any of this, saying he will not participate in what he deems “white shaming.” He does not grasp the fundamental difference between recounting the history of an admittedly shameful event and seeking to make someone feel personally shamed about the event. I certainly don’t want anyone to feel ashamed. If you feel as our acquaintance does, please skip this footnote.

Lee Rankin would probably agree that, as a practical matter, “all deliberate speed” facilitated obstruction and delay. In Shreveport, my high school was still all-white when I graduated in 1964, ten years after Brown. It finally integrated several years later. Many churches in the city promptly opened all-white schools. De jure segregation — segregation as a matter of law under Plessy — became de facto segregation, i.e., separation of Blacks and Whites as a result of segregated neighborhoods, economic status, and alternatives to public schools. Shreveport’s experience was undoubtedly typical of many cities.

Further, gradual desegregation did not prevent violence, as the experience of the “Little Rock Nine” illustrates.  This History Channel article has their story. When nine Black students attempted to enter Little Rock’s Central High School on Sept. 4, 1957, they were met by a mob of 400 people shouting racial epithets and threatening violence. One Black female student was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. Her stoic visage  and the women screaming at her became an iconic image of desegregation. Although the mob had grown to 1,000 by Sept. 24, the Black students were ultimately admitted after the 101st Airborne was called in. Throughout the school year, they continued to suffer verbal and physical assaults. One student had acid thrown in her eyes; one was pushed down a flight of stairs.

The ultimate iconic image of desegregation is probably the famous Norman Rockwell painting of four U. S. Marshalls escorting a six-year-old pigtailed and beribboned little girl into a classroom. The painting pictures stains left by tomatoes thrown at her, as well as a racial epithet scrawled on the wall. Ruby Bridges was probably Rockwell’s inspiration for the painting. As an adult, she recalled people throwing things and screaming by the hostile New Orleans crowd. Her father lost his job; her grandparents were forced off their land in Mississippi. Information on Ruby’s story can be found at this link. And see Rockwell’s painting here.

                  [13] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin of Raccoon Creek identifying ten children, two of whom predeceased him.

                  [14] Will of John Rankin written and proved in 1788 naming his wife Rebecca and children James and Mary. Washington Co., PA Will Book 1 : 81.

[15] Here is a link to James Rankin Jr.’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [16] See Note 3 and William’s Find-a-Grave memorial at this link.

                  [17] See Note 3. Here is Herman’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [18] The Find-a-Grave memorial  for James Lee Rankin has a picture of him from an obituary. See a link to David’s memorial in Note 4.

                  [19] See Note 12.

Who were parents of Lt. Robert Rankin (1753 – 1837)? Part 5B of 5  

Repeating the bottom line from Part 5A: I don’t know. These two articles just present possibilities, hoping someone will comment saying, “Theory #____ is the answer, and here is conclusive evidence!” That hasn’t happened, so we will slog on. So far, we have covered Theories 1 (parts A and B) and 2. To refresh our memories, here are the options.

Old business:

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). This is the conventional wisdom. However, there seems to be no evidence that people by those names ever existed. Further, the people identified as Massena Marshall’s parents are improbable. HOWEVER, I received an email saying there is a family Bible in the DAR Library and Museum proving that Lt. Robert’s mother was “Margaret Massena Marshall, daughter of John of the Forest.” If anyone has seen it, please yell!!!! I searched the DAR Library database for Bibles and had no luck.

… Theory #2 proposes a William Rankin, wife’s name unknown, as Lt. Robert’s father. He reportedly died after 1761 in Frederick County, Virginia. The only William Rankins I can find at that time and place are from the wrong lines. However, research on men named William Rankin in Frederick County is daunting, and I may have overlooked someone. Meantime, this theory remains possible although speculative.

New business:

… Theory #3  says Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

… Theory #4 identifies Lt. Robert’s parents as John and Sarah Woffendale (various spellings) Rankin of King George County.

… Theory #5 proposes that John Rankin and Elizabeth Marshall (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents.

Theory #3: Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

 So far as I know, no researcher has endorsed this theory. I don’t endorse it either, notwithstanding that I may have invented it. However, we are definitely getting warmer. Benjamin can not only be identified as a real person, he appeared in a number of records in Frederick and Berkeley Counties. That’s a pretty low threshold for credibility, but I’m afraid that’s where we are with this puzzle. Benjamin lived at the right time in the right place, in the northern part of Frederick County that became Berkeley County, Virginia (later West Virginia) in 1772.

Berkeley County is what made me sit up and take notice. That is because Lt. Robert’s brother William enlisted from there in 1776.[1] Lt. Robert probably also enlisted in Berkeley, because he and his brother enlisted in the same company in the same regiment in the same month. William was only about seventeen when the brothers enlisted.[2] At that age, one would expect he was still living with family. This provides good geographic plausibility for Benjamin being a relative of some sort. The only other Rankin I can find in Berkeley about that time is a William who was almost certainly a son of Abigail and William Rankin and grandson of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick.[3] That line is not related to Lt. Robert’s family.

Frederick and Berkeley County deeds reveal some interesting connections.[4] Benjamin Rankin lived near Hugh Stephenson and John Berry on Evett’s Run in the part of Frederick that became Berkeley County. You will recall that Lt. Robert and William enlisted in Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. Yes, that is the same Hugh Stephenson. Also, Lt. Robert’s wife was Margaret Berry, daughter of Thomas Berry. He and John Berry were brothers.[5]

This theory has problems. The most daunting is that Benjamin Rankin’s 1787 will didn’t name either Lt. Robert or his proved brothers William and John.[6] Of course, wills sometimes omitted children, especially if they were children of a first wife and had previously been “provided for.” The absence of those names does not eliminate a possible father/son relationship between Lt. Robert and Benjamin. It does throw serious cold water on the possibility.

Benjamin’s will is not the only cold water on Theory #3. Lt. Robert and his wife Peggy consistently named their children for family and friends. Lt. Robert and his proved brothers William and John had twenty-eight children among them. None are named Benjamin. When the evidence in records is scarce, you look anywhere you can … including family names.

Finally, there is the matter of Benjamin’s age. He is a recognized D.A.R. patriot. The D.A.R. indicates his birth year was circa 1740. If so, that is obviously too young to have been the father of Lt. Robert and his siblings. I don’t have any reasonable basis for estimating his age.

If he were actually born in the 1720s, Benjamin could have been another son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin of King George. Robert’s will named sons James, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Hipkins or Hopkins.[7] Theory #2 suggests Lt. Robert’s father was William, the second of those seven sons. Theory #3 suggests Benjamin, possibly the fourth son. Taking the hint from those theories, I turned to King George records.

Theory #4: John Rankin and Sarah Woffendale of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents

It didn’t take long to identify other Rankins in King George County who could have been Lt. Robert’s father. There were two men named John Rankin in King George who might fill the bill. One John was married to Sarah Woffendale. I don’t know who his father was. The second John was a son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, the third name in the above list of seven sons. For that couple, see Theory #5. The two John Rankins were definitely not the same man.[8]

The key to Theory #4 is a man named Reuben Rankin. King George records concerning him prove (1) John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were his parents,[9] (2) he was born between 1734 and 1741,[10] and (3) the Woffendale and Berry families were closely related.[11]

I haven’t identified any other children of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin. I don’t know whether the couple stayed in King George or moved and, if the latter, where. The last record I can find in King George that is definitely John, husband of Sarah, was in 1765. In light of those unknowns, I pursued their son Reuben looking for Rankin connections.

Fast forward to 1770 in Frederick County, Virginia. That year, a Reuben Rankin and a Robert Rankin witnessed two deeds in which Benjamin and Joseph Berry were grantors.[12] Thomas Berry, the father of Margaret “Peggy” Berry Rankin who married Lt. Robert Rankin in 1781, was their brother. The Berrys were related to Sarah Woffendale Rankin and thus to her son Reuben. Lt. Robert would have been seventeen in 1770.

Were those witnesses Reuben, son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin, and Lt. Robert? Certainty is an elusive creature in this puzzle. It is a solid bet, though, that (1) the Rankin witnesses were connected to the Berry grantors and (2) the two Rankins were related to each other. These deeds are surely the records convincing some researchers that Lt. Robert and Reuben were brothers. Others are also convinced that they were sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin of King George.

Naturally, the loyal opposition is poised to identify problems. I mentioned in Part 5A that I had some inchoate resistance to Theory #4. That feeling led me to wade through my voluminous King George data yet again, looking for the source of my unease. Here’s what I found.

Problem #1: George H. S. King, an extremely well-respected genealogist and historian cited the Draper Manuscripts, also an authoritative source, for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were married in 1720 – 1722.[13] In fact, Mr. King abstracted the first volume of King George County wills, see Note 9. The 1720-22 marriage works just fine for Reuben, who was born between 1734 and 1741. But it might be a stretch for Sarah’s childbearing years to throw in Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, birth year unknown, but before 1765.[14] Sarah was still alive in 1762, so a possible second wife for John doesn’t circumvent that problem. In fact, Sarah was still alive in 1790, when her sister Ann Rankin Thornley wrote her will. If she had been married in 1720-22, she certainly reached a ripe old age.

Problem #2: there is another record that unambiguously concerns John, husband of Sarah Woffendale Rankin. In 1765, John Rankin sold the enslaved woman Peg, the subject of the earlier lawsuit.[15] According to the terms of the lawsuit settlement, John would not have had the right to convey Peg unless Reuben died before age 18 or died and left no heirs.[16] That suggests Reuben, son of John and Sarah Woffendall Rankin, died by 1765 without heirs. There seem to be no records in King George for Reuben after 1762, so he either died or migrated, either abandoning Peg or conveying her to his father. I found no such conveyance. Abandoning Peg is highly unlikely in light of the enormous value of enslaved people.

Given the paucity of evidence in actual records for any other theory, the two Berry deeds witnessed by Reuben and Robert Rankin should probably be displayed in neon lights. The glaring issue is the 1765 sale of Peg by John Rankin.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Reuben who witnessed the Berry deeds is NOT the same man as Reuben, son of John and Sarah Rankin. It does seem possible that Reuben and Robert were brothers. But not sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin.

 Theory #5: John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County were Lt. Robert’s parents

 Attorneys say that an equitable claim or defense in a lawsuit is “the last refuge of the desperate.” This is similar to using family names as evidence of a parent-child relationship. Since family names constitute the only rationale I have found supporting John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin as Lt. Robert’s parents, this patently qualifies as a last-ditch, desperate theory.

It does seem likely there was a Marshall on Lt. Robert’s tree, given the recurrence of the name in the Rankin line,[17] the (perhaps) family oral tradition about a maternal Marshall, and deposition testimony of Judge Lippincott in Lt. Robert’s pension application that Robert and Justice Marshall were “near kin.” Massena Marshall, who may never have existed, appears to be a dead end, no pun intended. Further, neither of Lt. Robert’s proved brothers (William and John) gave a daughter that unusual name.[18]

On the other hand, Lt. Robert, William, and John all named a daughter Elizabeth. In fact, Elizabeth was Lt. Robert and Peggy’s eldest daughter — and Peggy’s mother was named Frances, not Elizabeth. The three Rankin brothers also all had sons named John. Further, the name William Marshall Rankin, another son of Lt. Robert and Peggy, points a laser beam directly at one particular Rankin couple in King George. Theory #5 may be the best option for placing the Marshall family in Lt. Robert’s maternal line, if that is your thing. If you are looking for evidence in county records, not so much.

Theory #5 definitely involves people whose existence can be proved, an almost embarrassing threshold question for this puzzle. A John Rankin in King George County married Elizabeth Marshall, a daughter of William Marshall, between July 1746 and September 1752. John was a son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, with whom we are already acquainted.[19]

Here is the evidence that John Rankin married Elizabeth Marshall. First, William Marshall bequeathed to his daughter Elizabeth a “mulatto named Sarah to be delivered on the day of her marriage.”[20] William Marshall’s King George County will was dated July 24, 1746, so Elizabeth was not married as of that date. In September 1752, John and Elizabeth Rankin sold to Thomas Turner the 100 acres where they lived that he inherited from his father.[21] In May 1753, John Rankin, “carpenter of Hanover Parish, King George,” mortgaged a mulatto enslaved person named Sall or Sarah.[22] John Rankin thus married William Marshall’s daughter Elizabeth sometime between July 1746 and September 1752. That couple could easily accommodate Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, born by 1765.

Evidence of this couple’s children eluded me, although there is circumstantial evidence for a son named Francis and possibly another son.[23] John probably died in King George County. His widow Elizabeth is mentioned in a 1783 deed in which Thomas Turner sold the 100-acre tract where Elizabeth then lived, the same tract Turner had previously purchased from John and Elizabeth.[24] She may also be and probably is the Elizabeth Rankin shown on King George tax lists in 1787 – 1790 with one white tithe.

The bottom line, though, is that Theory #5 is pure speculation.

I would love to hear your opinions. I would also love to hear from someone who has some actual evidence on this question. Meanwhile, I may sort through some of the Benjamin Rankins (there is more than one), Reuben Rankins (ditto, probably), Moses, George, and others who hail from King George.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Pension file of William Rankin, S.31315, sworn declaration supporting his pension application dated 22 Nov 1833 in Mason Co., KY. See a good online transcription by Will Graves here.

                  [2] Id. William was 74 when he applied for a pension in Nov. 1833, so he was born about 1759. He would have been about 17 in July 1776.

                  [3] William Rankin of Berkeley was a trustee of the Hopewell Presbyterian Church when it was still located in Frederick. See Berkeley Co., WV Deed Book 1: 83, Nov. 1771 conveyance to six trustees of the Hopewell Presbyterian Congregation, including William Rankin. Lt. Robert’s line of Rankins probably migrated from England and left no evidence of Presbyterianism. William Rankin was listed on the 1783 tax list of John Davenport in the Sleepy Creek Valley, an area now in Morgan and Berkeley Counties in WV. William H. Rice, The 1774 List of Tithables and Wheel Carriages in Berkeley County, Virginia (Parsons, WVA: McClain Printing Co., 2006) 28.  He left a will in Morgan County naming, inter alia, a daughter Abigail. Morgan Co, WV Will Book 1: 199, will of William Rankin dated 1815, proved 1820. Sons Samuel, Simon/Simeon, and William, and daughter Abigail. See Note 20 of Part 5A for William’s probable parents (Wm. and Abigail) and grandparents (David and Jeanette McCormick), all of whom were Presbyterians down to their toes.

                  [4] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 13: 366 and Deed Book 14: 457, conveyances in 1770 and 1771 to Benjamin Rankin witnessed by three Stephensons, including Hugh. The land was on drains of Evets Run (also Evetts or Evatts) and was adjacent to John Washington. John Berry also had land on that creek, see Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 10: 180. William Davis, the grantor in the 1770/71 conveyances, wrote a will witnessed by his neighbors John Berry and Benjamin Rankin, see Berkeley Co., VA Will Book 1: 14. See also 1779 deed to Benjamin Rankin for 313 acres adjacent Col. John Washington, Charles Washington, and “widow Stephenson.”

                  [5] I’m not going to get into the complicated Berry family of King George and Frederick.

                  [6] Berkeley Co., WV Will Book 1: 441, will of Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley Co., VA dated and proved in 1787. George Rankin, relationship unknown, was a witness. Benjamin named his widow Judith, two daughters, and a daughter’s son. Margaret Rankin, one of the daughters, married William Helm who migrated to Mason County, Kentucky, where the three proved Rankin brothers lived.

                  [7] King George Co., VA Will Book 1:A: 201, undated will of Robert Rankins proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Wife Elizabeth, sons William, John, James, Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hopkins, and daughter Mary Green.

                  [8] John, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, married Elizabeth Marshall between July 1746 and September 1752. Sarah Woffendale Rankin, wife of the other John Rankin, married John before 1741 and was still alive in 1762.

                  [9] The agreement in a lawsuit concerning an enslaved person named Peg proves that John Rankin and Miss Woffendale (given name not stated) had a son Reuben. King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1754 at 71, from abstract by Mary Marshall Brewer, King George County, Virginia Orders 1751 – 1754 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2007) 42. The will of Reuben’s aunt Mary Woffendale proves that her sister Sarah Woffendale married a Rankin; Mary named her nephew Reuben executor. King George Co., VA Will Book A: 149, from abstract by George Harrison Sanford King, King George County Virginia Will Book A-I 1721-1752 and Miscellaneous Notes (Fredericksburg, VA: 1978), will of Mary Woffendale dated and proved in 1762.

                  [10] Id. Together, the lawsuit and will establish that Reuben was born between 1734 and 1741. Reuben was less than 18 when the lawsuit was settled in June 1752. He was of age and probably in his mid-twenties when his Aunt Mary Woffendale wrote her will naming him executor.

[11] The will of Mary Woffendale (see Note 9) names a number of her relations, including her sisters Elizabeth Kendall and Sarah Rankins. It also identifies a number of nieces and a nephew, although she called them “cousins.” Those include Reuben Rankin (son of sister Sarah Woffendall Rankin), Elizabeth Butler, Jenny Humston (daughter of Mary’s sister Frances Woffendall Humston), and Catherine Berry. Mary Woffendale’s will and other documents nicely illustrate the relationships between several King George families. (1) Mary Woffendale’s sister Elizabeth Woffendale married Samuel Kendall; Elizabeth and Samuel Kendall were the parents of Frances Kendall who married Thomas Berry; and Frances and Thomas Berry were the parents of Margaret “Peggy” Berry, who married Robert Rankin. (2) Mary’s niece Catherine was the wife of Capt. Joseph Berry. Catherine and Joseph Berry were the parents of the Thomas Berry who married Frances Kendall.

                  [12] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 17: 75, deed dated 13 Nov 1770 from Thomas Berry and wife Frances of Frederick Co., VA to Elisha Williams of Frederick, MD, 337 acres, witnessed by two Benjamin Berrys, Robert Rankin, and Reuben Rankin; Frederick Co. DB 18: 224, deed of the same date from Benjamin Berry to Elisha Williams, witnessed by John Humphrey, Benjamin Berry, James Smallwood, Reuben Rankins, Thomas Berry, and Robert Rankins.

                  [13] George H. S. King cited the Draper Manuscripts for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin married in 1720-22. I have not been able to penetrate the Draper Manuscripts yet. See George’s sterling qualifications at this link.  I have not viewed either the Draper Manuscripts or Mr. King’s collection. The attribution to him for the date of John and Sarah’s marriage can be found at Linda Starr’s website here.  Linda, now deceased, was a serious Rankin researcher. She was led astray about Lt. Robert’s parents by Ms. Cloyd, who was led astray by Ms. Calloway. Otherwise, Linda’s research merits the highest respect.

                  [14] John Rankin’s eldest daughter Nancy was born about 1793; his eldest son Marshall was born about 1800. Four daughters were born 1800-1810. I haven’t been able to get a good handle on John’s likely birth year. The census reveals only that he was born by 1765.

                  [15] King George Co., VA Deed Book 5: 635, deed dated 6 Sep 1765 from John Rankin to Thomas Jett, enslaved person named Peg.

                  [16] Here is the entire order book statement about the lawsuit as abstracted by Mary Marshall Brewer: “John Rankin v. Francis Woffendale, suit in case. Parties agreed (bond posted) to abide by the award of Charles Carter and Thomas Turner, gent. They decided Francis Woffendale should deliver Peg an enslaved person, to John Rankins, who is to have the use of Peg and her increase for his life, and at his death, Peg and her increase to go to Reuben Rankins, a child of the said John Rankins by Francis Woffendale’s daughter. But if Reuben dies before age 18 or without children, then Peg and her increase to remain the absolute property of John Rankins. Woffendale to pay costs.”

                  [17] Lt. Robert’s brother John had a son Marshall Rankin; Lt. Robert had a son William Marshall Rankin.

                  [18] If you Google the name “Massena,” you will come up with an Italian general and the name of a town in New York.

                  [19] Theory #2 proposed that William, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, was Lt. Robert’s father; Theory #3 said Benjamin, son of Robert and Elizabeth, may have been Lt. Robert’s father.

[20] King George Co., VA Will Book A-1: 212-214, will of William Marshall dated 24 Jul 1746.

[21] King George Co., VA Deed Book 3: 496, conveyance dated Sep. 1752 from John Rankins and wife Elizabeth of Hanover Parish, King George, to Thomas Turner, Gent., 100 acres where grantor lives given to him by will of his father Robert Rankin.

[22] King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 36. There are two available abstracts of this mortgage. The Brewer abstract provides the name of the enslaved woman. An abstract by the Sparacios does not. Mary Marshall Brewer, Abstracts of Land Records of King George County, Virginia 1752 – 1783 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2002); Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Deed Abstracts of King George County, Virginia (1763 – 1773) (McLean, VA: The Antient Press, 1986).

[23] A Francis Rankin witnessed the 1779 will of Philip Peed along with John Rankins. King George Co., VA Will Book A: 409. Philip Peed’s wife was Margaret Green, daughter of Richard Green, see Will Book A: 388. Richard Green was married to Mary Rankin, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin. Evidence of a possible second son of John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin is in county tax lists during the late 1780s, when Elizabeth was shown with one tithe. The tithable would necessarily have been a male because free women were not taxable.

[24] King George Co., VA Deed Book 6: 401, Thomas Turner, Gent. and wife Mary convey 100-acre tract in Hanover Parish where Elizabeth Rankin now lives adj. Green’s corner. Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin’s daughter Mary married Richard Green.

Rankin families in the darn book

I hope this is the last time I blather about The Compleat Rankin Book, which continues to nip at my heels. I’m ready to move on to Volume 2.

I’ve received two emails asking me which Rankin families are included in the book. Also, one blog commenter speculated that her line is not in it. In response, here are some short blurbs for the lines in the book to let you know which Rankins are included and generally who they are …

Robert and Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry Rankin of Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. Lt. Robert and his brother William were both Revolutionary soldiers. Their fabulous individual war stories are covered in some detail. Lt. Robert died in Louisiana, but is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin … or so the Cemetery believes, despite some hilarious evidence to the contrary. Lt. Robert’s brother William died in Mason County, Kentucky, as did his brother John. The three brothers (there may be others) left large families — twenty-eight children among them. Their descendants should be legion. Their parents are not proved. The next article I post will share my opinion about their family of origin, assuming I am able to formulate one that isn’t just rank speculation.

Joseph and Rebecca Rankin (“J&R”) of New Castle County, Delaware. Their sons John and William went to Guilford County, North Carolina. Their descendants are well-documented in a book by Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin.[1] J&R’s son James went to Washington County, Pennsylvania. Only J&R’s sons Joseph (Jr.) and Lt. Thomas Rankin stayed in New Castle. J&R’s probable son Robert is a mystery. Their daughter Ann lived with her brother Joseph (Jr.) and apparently never married. No, Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander was not J&R’s son, despite Rev. Rankin’s speculation on that issue.

Four of J&R’s sons fought in the Revolution, assuming Rev. Rankin is correct about John and William fighting at Guilford Court House. His family tradition that they fought in that battle accords with the fact that every able-bodied patriot for miles around reportedly participated. Ostensibly a British victory, it was nevertheless a major blow to Cornwallis in the Southern Campaign. If you haven’t been to the Guilford Courthouse National Park in Greensboro, it is worth a trip.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin (“R&R”) of Guilford County, North Carolina. Their son Robert died there in 1795, leaving one son named George and four daughters. R&R’s son George married Lydia Steele and died in Rowan County (from which Guilford was created) in 1760. George left two young sons, John and Robert, who left Guilford for Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively. R&R also had at least three daughters: Ann Rankin Denny (proved), Rebecca Rankin Boyd (probable) and Margaret Rankin Braly/Brawley (also probable).

R&R’s line includes at least one Revolutionary War soldier and the famous Rev. John Rankin of the Shaker colony in Logan County, Kentucky. Shaker Rev. John was kind enough to pen an autobiography identifying where the family lived before they came to the colonies. That is a rare case of certainty about a Rankin family’s specific Ulster location. Otherwise, Rev. John’s autobiography is a piece of work. I challenge you to get through it.[2]

David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, North Carolina. David may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. Y-DNA tests allow that possibility, although there seems to be no evidence in the paper records. David and Margaret’s son James died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780, leaving four underage children in Lincoln County. Their son Robert survived Ramsour’s and moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed a Revolutionary War pension application.

Robert had proved sons David and Denny Rankin, both of whom remained in Iredell and married McGin sisters. Robert also had a daughter Margaret Rankin Finley, who appeared with him in Gibson County in a deed of gift. Descendants of Robert and his wife, probably Jean Denny of Guilford County, still live in Iredell County.

John Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He died there in 1749, leaving a will naming a wife Margaret, two sons, and eight daughters.[3] His son Richard went to Augusta County, Virginia. Son Thomas also went to Augusta, then moved on to East Tennessee. Thomas was the patriarch of the line of Rankins celebrated in the famous Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery tablet in Jefferson County, Tennessee. This family has also been thoroughly documented, especially by a 19th- century descendant named Richard Duffield Rankin. One descendant is Rev. John Rankin, the famous abolitionist whose home in Ripley, Ohio was a waystation on the underground railroad. He deserves an article of his own. Another fairly well-known descendant is John Knox Rankin, who was among those who faced Quantrill’s Raiders in Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Both Rev. John and John Knox Rankin are high on my to-do list.

Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Adam died there in 1747, leaving a daughter and three sons. This is perhaps the best known of all Rankin families. Adam and Mary’s children, possibly not in birth order, were James, Esther Rankin Dunwoody, William, and Jeremiah. James married Jean/Jane Campbell and lived in a famous location in Montgomery Township, Franklin County called “the Corner.” Tales of “mint julip” (moonshine?), evil groundhogs, and a haunted house in the Corner abound. Story to follow. James and Jean had four sons and two daughters. David, William, and Jeremiah remained in Franklin. The fourth son, James Jr., is elusive.

Adam and Mary’s son William married Mary Huston and had seven sons and a daughter, Betsy Rankin Robison. Four of their sons — William Jr., James, Jeremiah, and John — went to Centre County, Pennsylvania, where they owned land devised by their father. William and Mary’s son Adam, their eldest, became a doctor and moved to Kentucky. Son Archibald married Agnes Long and remained in Franklin County. Son David married Frances Campbell and wound up in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Adam and Mary’s son Jeremiah (wife Rhoda Craig) died in a mill accident in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1760. Jeremiah seems to be totally absent from Pennsylvania records other than his father’s will. His four sons went to Kentucky.

Famous descendants of Adam and Mary include Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, who was the father and grandfather of two major league baseball players. Stovepipe is also buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. He is from the line of William and Mary Huston Rankin through their Kentucky son Dr. Adam. Another famous descendant of Adam and Mary is Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky, a son of Jeremiah and Rhoda. Rev. Adam was well-known among Presbyterians for his obsession with the so-called “Psalmody controversy.”

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln/Gaston Co., NC. His nickname was “Old One-Eyed Sam,” according to a descendant who grew up across the Catawba River from Sam’s home in Lincoln. I haven’t found many good stories about this family, other than their grandson Samuel who was indentured as a thirteen-year-old. Indentured servitude was fairly uncommon in a family as prominent and wealthy as the Lincoln County Rankins. Sam’s two brothers escaped that fate, making me suspect that young Sam was a handful. He married Mary Frances Estes in Tishomingo County, Mississippi and wound up in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

Sam and Mary had eight sons and two daughters. Four of their sons were Civil War soldiers. Two joined the Confederate army and two fought for the Union, probably after having been first captured as Confederate soldiers.[4] One of Sam and Mary’s sons, my ancestor John Allen Rankin, deserted the Army of the Confederacy after a terrible loss at the Battle of Champion Hill east of Vicksburg. Private John Allen’s war story intersects with a good love story about meeting his future wife, Amanda Lindsey. One of John Allen and Amanda’s great-grandchildren still flies a Confederate battle flag on his front porch, citing his “proud southern heritage” as justification. He might not know about his ancestor’s desertion. My cousin and I fly different flags.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, North Carolina and Caldwell County, Kentucky. Robert married Mary Witherow in North Carolina. The couple apparently divorced, which was evidently rare at that time. Alternatively, Robert may have just walked away. He left North Carolina while Mary W. Rankin was still alive. He eventually remarried. I haven’t found any fun stories about his family, although I haven’t looked very hard. Their descendant Francis Gill is the expert on Rutherford Robert’s line. The Compleat Book contains entries from several family Bibles that Francis kindly shared. If this is your crowd, the Bibles provide good information. The book also has an article about Robert’s son Jesse, who married Cynthia Sellers and went to Gibson County, Tennessee. He has been confused with another Jesse Rankin, a son of Shaker Rev. John Rankin.

William and Abigail Rankin of Washington County, Pennsylvania. William was a son of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. William and his brother David were easy to track; their brother Hugh, not so much. That translates to the fact that I have unfinished business with this line. William and his wife Abigail left a passel of children, many of whom remained in Washington County. Their son David left Washington County for Kentucky. One son, Zachariah, died of hydrophobia after being bitten by a rabid wolf. The most charming stories about this family concern the detailed list of Zachariah’s clothing in his inventory and the amount of whiskey purchased for his Washington County estate sale. Who says probate records are dry and boring? You can bet that estate sale was neither.

William Jr. and Jane Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This is an interesting line in early Pennsylvania which also deserves more research. Some of their line remained in Fayette County, where the cemeteries are awash with their descendants. Some went “west,” which often meant “the Ohio Country.” That referred to land roughly west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River.[5] One of their sons who went “west” had accumulated an overwhelming amount of debt from lenders in at least two states, leaving mind-boggling deeds about it. What, I wonder, did he spend all that money on? If I could suss it out, it would surely be a good story.

Jeanette Pickering Rankin and her sister Edna Rankin McKinnon. It isn’t easy finding famous women in family history research. Jeanette is known for her terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she was the first female. She is famous (or infamous) for her votes against entering both World Wars. She was a woman of integrity and courage, no matter what one thinks about those votes. She also did considerable work obtaining the vote for women in her home state of Montana. In her eighties, Jeanette led an anti-Vietnam war march in D.C. The marchers dubbed themselves the “Jeanette Rankin Brigade.” Her little sister Edna is famous for her work in Planned Parenthood. If those two Rankin women had been around at the right time, there would undoubtedly have been some rousing good speeches in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now … I need to see if I have sufficient evidence to formulate a semi-cogent opinion about the parents of Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers William and John. If not, there are plenty of other genealogical mysteries and interesting Rankins waiting in the wings.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] 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).

                  [2] 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). You can obtain a copy of Ead’s transcript from the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU), where it is designated “Shaker Record A.”

                  [3] More accurately, John Rankins’s 1749 will named six daughters and two sons-in-law.

                  [4] Captured Confederates were sometimes allowed to play a “get out of jail free” card by renouncing the Confederacy and joining the Union Army. Usually, the ex-prisoner served in the west, where he was unlikely to be shooting at members of his family.

                  [5] The “Ohio Country” consisted roughly of modern-day Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania, and northwestern West Virginia.

Pennsylvania Rankins: William and Abigail of Washington County

First, a warning: roughly a gazillion Rankins lived in southern Pennsylvania beginning in  the mid-eighteenth century. At least it feels that way. Rankins litter the deed books from Chester County in the east to Washington in the west. You may think you are researching only one Rankin line in only one county. Ha! Before you know it, you have worked your way through every county on the Maryland border.

The bottom line is that undertaking Rankin family research in southern Pennsylvania is a slippery slope … a course of action that leads inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences. This may result in a  scorched-earth march through deed records in multiple counties. Washington County alone had, as nearly as I can tell, seven distinct Rankin families.

Let’s start with one of them: William and Abigail Rankin. He was a son of David Rankin Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia.[1] For the record, David’s wife Jennett did not have the middle name “Mildred.” And William did not have the middle name McCormick.

Two deeds in Frederick prove that William’s wife was named Abigail and that he owned a tract of land in Frederick called “Turkey Spring.”[2] William’s will proves that he and Abigail moved to Washington County from Frederick because his will in Washington names his wife Abigail and devises Turkey Spring to his son William (Jr.). Boyd Crumrine’s 1882 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania says that William and most of his family came to the area in 1774.[3]

William died in Washington County in 1793. He named ten children in his will – eight sons and two daughters – as well as some of his grandchildren.[4] Charles A. Hanna’s book on Ohio Valley genealogies identifies a ninth son James, who was killed by Native Americans while returning to Pennsylvania from a trip to Kentucky.[5]William identified himself in his will as a resident of Smith Township on the middle fork of Raccoon Creek. That location distinguishes this family from other Rankins in the county for the better part of a century. The Raccoon Creek area was incorporated in Mt. Pleasant Township, and many of William’s descendants are buried in Mt. Prospect Cemetery in that township.

Four of William’s sons – John, Thomas, Jesse and Zachariah – served in the Washington County militia.[6]Thomas was a D.A.R.-recognized Revolutionary War veteran.[7] The brothers served in the 4th Company, 4thBattalion, in Washington County. John Rankin was a Lieutenant.[8] An official list of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio names Thomas Rankin, who is buried in Harrison County, and identifies his three brothers and their parents.[9] A Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website says the Rankins’ company was from the area of Raccoon and Millers Run, so we know that we are looking at the right family.

Here is some information about William and Abigail’s sons. I have omitted their daughters Mary Rankin (married Thomas Cherry) and Abigail Rankin (married Charles Campbell), whom I did not research.

David Rankin, born by 1755, died unknown. David, probably the eldest son, inherited the tract where he lived from his father. If you followed the link to Boyd Crumrine’s 1882 History in footnote 3 of this article, you saw Crumrine’s assertion that David remained in Virginia. That wasn’t the case. Charles Hanna made the same mistake. Two deeds involving his inherited tract make it clear that David and his wife Grace (maiden name unknown) lived on Raccoon Creek in the middle of their Rankin family.[10]

David arrived in Washington County no later than 1781, when he appeared on a Smith Township tax list with his father William and brothers John, Matthew and Zachariah.[11] David sold parts of his inherited land in 1799 and 1805.[12] He was listed in Washington County in the 1800 and 1810 censuses. Taken together, the censuses suggest he had at least three daughters and a son born between 1784 and 1810.[13] I haven’t found where David went after 1810, and don’t know the names of his children.

There is at least one online tree that has confused David, son of William and Abigail, with William’s brother David. The latter moved to Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky. This creative tree has David born when both of his parents were less than ten years old.[14] Never a dull moment with online trees!

John Rankin, born by 1760, died in 1788 in Washington County. John left a will naming his wife Rebecca and minor children James and Mary.[15] Their grandfather William Rankin left the two children 253 acres.[16] In 1808, James and Polly sold that tract, located “on the waters of Raccoon Cr.” The deed recited that John’s widow Rebecca Rankin had married Jonathan Jacques, which helped track the family.[17] James accepted notes for part of the purchase price, and the record of the 1808 mortgage identifies him as a resident of Harrison County, Kentucky.[18]There is a listing in the 1810 Harrison County census for a John Jaquess and an Isaac Jaquess. The latter is listed three households down from a James Rankin, who is a good bet to be the son of John Rankin and Rebecca Rankin Jacques.[19] Other members of the Frederick-Washington Rankin family also moved from Washington to Harrison County, but I will save them for another day.

William Rankin (Jr.). William Sr.’s will devised to William Jr. the tract where William (Sr.) formerly lived called “Turkey Spring.”[20] I haven’t attempted to track William Jr. in Virginia. Some online trees identify him as a Revolutionary War soldier (1748-1830) buried in the Mahnes Cemetery in Morgan County, West Virginia. That William may belong to another Rankin family from the Northern Neck of Virginia. It may be that the only way to resolve that question is Y-DNA testing.

Matthew Rankin, born by 1755, died in 1822, Washington County. Matthew’s wife was Charity, maiden name unknown. The couple apparently had no surviving children because Matthew willed all his property to his wife, his brother Jesse, and some nieces and nephews.[21] Matthew was clearly the family caretaker, ensuring enforcement of a family agreement to distribute the family land equally, and acting as executor of his brother Zachariah’s will.[22]

Zachariah Rankin, born by 1760, died 1785, Washington County. Zachariah clearly knew he had a fatal illness before he died, because he executed his will on Oct. 17, 1785 and it was proved exactly one week later.[23]Crumrine tells us that Zachariah died of hydrophobia from the bite of a rabid wolf. What an awful death. His probate file might make you smile, though: his brother Matthew’s spelling (or misspelling) throughout is charming. Zachariah’s wardrobe is described in some detail, suggesting a well-outfitted frontiersman. Here is a list:

    • 2 Shirts
    • 1 coat 1 Jacket ____ & wool
    • one coat & one Jacket of thick cloath
    • one Pair of Buckskin Briches
    • one pair of Cordoroy Ditto & Jacket Nee Buckle
    • one Pair of Leggins one Letout Coat
    • one Jacket
    • one Beaver Hat & one Wool hat
    • three Pair of stockings
    • one Silk Handkerchief & one linnen Ditto

Reading between the lines, there are a couple of other interesting details in Zachariah’s estate files. The only people who bought anything at Zachariah’s estate sale were named Rankin, except for Thomas Cherry, Zachariah’s brother-in-law. That suggests that either (1) the estate sale was attended only by family, which is highly improbable, or (2) the Rankins and Cherry outbid everyone on every item. Also, Zachariah’s brother Thomas bought five gallons of whiskey for Zachariah’s funeral. Either attendance at the funeral was considerably larger than attendance at the estate sale, or the Rankin family had an enormous capacity for alcohol.[24]

Thomas Rankin, born 16 Sep. 1760, died 1832, Cadiz Township, Harrison Co., Ohio.  Thomas’s wife was named Ann (nickname Nancy). Her maiden name was Foreman, according to Charles Hanna. Like his brothers, Thomas inherited land on Raccoon Cr. from his father. He is listed in the 1790 Washington County census adjacent William Sr. That census suggests two sons and one daughter born by 1790.[25] Hanna identifies five children named James, William, David, Jane and Nancy.

Thomas sold his land in two deeds in 1798, which may be when he left Washington County.[26] Thomas appeared on the 1810 tax list and 1820 census in Cadiz Township in Harrison County. In the 1820 census, he is listed adjacent a David Rankin, possibly his son. Thomas is buried in the Rankin Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Cadiz Township.[27]

Jesse Rankin, born 1763, died 21 Sep. 1837, Mt. Pleasant Township, Washington County. Jesse’s probate files conclusively establish the identities of his eight surviving children: sons Matthew, William, Isaac and Jesse, and daughters Margaret (married James Futen or Tuten or Teten), Abigail (married Robert Tenan or Tinan), Jane (never married), and Maria or Mariah (married George Kelso). The probate files are full of information. Some of it suggests that members of this branch of the Rankin family had each other’s backs.[28]

First, there was a quitclaim deed from Jesse’s widow Jane (maiden name unknown) and their four sons to their four daughters, giving each one personal property essential for an early 19th-century female: a bed and bedclothes, saddle and bridle, some flax yarn and flannel, and a cow and calf. Also, a set of silver teaspoons, a luxurious gift in the early 1800s.

Second, the family agreed to give Isaac a share of the estate over and above what he would have been entitled to under the law of intestate descent and distribution. The family did that because Isaac had continued to live with and work for his family as an adult. The family’s agreement recites that “for and in consideration of the labours and services of … Isaac Rankin for and during the time of 6 years 9 months which he … continued with his father and family after he arrived at 21 years of age … $100 per year for the said time … to be paid by the Administrators of Jesse … over and above the legal share of the estate.” Nice.

Samuel Rankin, born about 1767, died October, 1820, Washington County.[29] Samuel died intestate and left little trace in the records. Charles Hanna says his wife was Jane McConahey.[30] Samuel’s brother Matthew named Samuel and Jane’s children in his will:[31] John, David, Samuel, James, Stephen, Matthew, Matilda, Abigail, and Jane. Charles Hanna adds a son William. Matthew’s will in Washington County Will Book 3 is now typewritten, presumably copied from the original handwritten will book. Perhaps either the clerk who first entered the will in the records, or the typist who later transcribed it, omitted William. It’s a solid bet that Hanna was correct, and Samuel had a son William. Further, the 1850 census for Washington County has two William Rankins living in Mt. Pleasant Township, where Matthew’s land had been divided among his brother Jesse and the children of his brother Samuel. One William was likely Samuel’s son, and the other William was Jesse’s son.

And that’s enough for me on the Rankins of Raccoon Creek, Washington County. I have a feeling I will be returning to that county soon enough, because there are a slew of Rankins there just begging for attention.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

[1] Will of David Rankin dated 5 Nov 1757, proved 2 Aug 1768, naming wife Jennett, sons David, William, and Hugh, and daughter Barbara. Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443.

[2] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 5, 6, 7, 8, 1757-1763 (Nokesville, VA: 1990), abstract of Deed Book 5: 343-345, lease and release dated Sept. 3 and 4, 1759, from William Rankin of Frederick to John Smith, a tract on Opeckon Cr. called “Turkey Spring,” part of a 778-acre grant from Lord Fairfax to William and David Rankin (William’s father, David Sr.) on 30 October 1756. William and Abigel (sic) Rankin signed the release. See id., abstract of Deed Book 5: 398-400, lease and release dated Mar. 2 and 3, 1760, from David Rankin Sr. and William Rankin, all of Frederick Co., to David Rankin Jr., 463 acres on a branch of Opeckon Cr., part of a 778-acre grant to David and William dated 30 Oct. 1756 from Lord Fairfax. David Rankin, Jannet (sic) Rankin, William Rankin, and Abigill (sic) Rankin all signed.

[3] Boyd Crumrine, History of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1882). The book is online  here.

[4] Bob and Mary Closson, Abstracts of Washington County Pennsylvania Willbooks 1-5 (1776-1841) (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1995), will of William Rankin of Smith Twp. and the “middle fork of Raccoon Creek,” dated 10 Apr 1793 and proved 21 Oct 1793.

[5] Charles A. Hanna, Ohio Valley Genealogies Relating Chiefly to Families in Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania (New York: Press of J. J. Little & Co., 1900) 104-105. It is online  here.

[6] Jane Dowd Dailey, DAR, under the direction of the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department, The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in the State of Ohio, Vol. 1, p. 300 (Columbus, OH: The F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1929). Here is a  link.

[7] Here is a link to an image of Thomas’s tombstone. Notice the DAR Rev War marker to the left. Crumrine (see note 3) says Thomas moved to Cadiz, Ohio. The Rankin cemetery where Thomas is buried is located there, and there is a tombstone image here.

[8] Pennsylvania Archives Series, Series 6, Volume II 133, 144.

[9] See note 6, Dailey, Official Roster, Vol. 1 300.

[10] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1P: 232, deed dated 8 May 1799 from David and Grace Rankin of Smith Township to James Denny, a tract on Raccoon Cr. adjacent James Leach, willed by William Rankin to his son David; Washington Co. Deed Book 1T: 12, deed of 11 Jan 1805 from David Rankin of Smith Township to William Rankin, son of Samuel Rankin, for love and affection and $100, the tract where David now resides adjacent James Leach.

[11] Raymond Martin Bell and Katherine K. Zinsser, Washington County, Pennsylvania Tax Lists for 1781, 1783, 1784, 1793 and Census for 1790 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1988).

[12] See note 10.

[13] 1800 federal census, Washington Co., Smith Twp., David Rankin, 10001-01001; 1810 federal census, Washington Co., Mt. Pleasant Twp., David Rankin, 01001-20101. The census suggests that David was born by 1755, as was his wife Grace. If the children in his household were his, he had a daughter b. 1784-1790, son b. 1794-1800, and two daughters b. 1800-1810

[14] See this tree on  Ancestry. If you visit that tree, please be advised that it is replete with errors.

[15] Family History Library DGS Film No. 5,537,968, Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 81, will of John Rankin of Smith Township dated 16 Feb 1788 and proved 22 Apr 1788 naming wife Rebecca, father William, and children James and Mary.

[16] Closson, Abstracts of Washington County Pennsylvania Willbooks, 1793 will of William Rankin.

[17] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1U: 130, deed dated 22 Feb 1808 from James Rankin for himself and as attorney for Polly Rankin. The deed recites that James and Polly inherited the tract from their father John Rankin, who left a wife Rebecca, “now married to Jonathan Jacques.”

[18] Id., Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1U: 132, mortgage dated 22 Feb 1808 reciting the sale of land by James and Polly Rankin and stating that James Rankin was “of Harrison Co., KY.”

[19] 1810 federal census, Harrison Co., KY, listings for John Jaquess (32001-03100, 2 slaves), Isaac Jaquess (00100-001), and James Rankins (11000-11001). James is listed in the 10<16 age category, which is too young to be James, son of John and Rebecca. I imagine this is an example of census error, particularly since there is a female in the 26 < 45 age category in the household.

[20] See note 2.

[21] Washington Co., PA Will Book 3: 484, will of Matthew Rankin Sr. of Mt. Pleasant Twp. dated 20 Dec 1821, proved 25 Apr 1822. Matthew named (1) his nephew Matthew Rankin (Jr.), the 4th son of Matthew’s deceased brother Samuel Rankin (60 acres), (2) his brother Jesse (100 acres), (3) his brother Samuel’s other children John, David, Samuel, James, Stephen, Matilda, Abigail, and Jane Rankin (the rest of Matthew’s land), and (4) nephews James Rankin (cash and clothes), son of Matthew’s brother Thomas, and nephew John Cherry, son of Thomas and Mary Rankin Cherry (cash).

[22] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1B: 374, agreement dated 13 Aug 1785 among William Rankin of Smith Township and his sons Matthew Rankin, Zachariah Rankin, and Jesse Rankin, all of Smith Township. The three brothers gave to William Rankin all rights to lands adjacent to the settlement where William Rankin lived that “come to our hands from the office of Philadelphia.” In return, William promised to make “equal division according to quantity and quality” among William’s sons. William’s will failed to honor that agreement by devising to his sons Samuel and Jesse the share of William’s land to which Zachariah (who predeceased William) was entitled. Zachariah’s only heir, his daughter Abigail, was entitled to that land. Matthew remedied that situation with several deeds in order “to do justice and equity” according to the contract and William’s will, ensuring that Zachariah’s daughter received that land. Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1R: 186, Deed Book 1R: 189, and DB 1R: 295. The last deed contains a conveyance from Jesse and Samuel Rankin to Abby Rankin (Zachariah’s only child and heir), “it being the share of William Rankin’s estate to which Zachariah was entitled,” all in order “to do justice and equity” according to the contract among William and his sons.

[23] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 52, will of Zachariah Rankin naming wife Nancy, father William Rankin, and his unborn child (an afterborn daughter named Abigail). Zachariah named his brother Matthew to be his executor.

[24] Family History Library DGS Film 5,558,493, Probate File # R9.

[25] 1790 federal census for Washington Co., PA, Thomas Rankin, 12201 (1 male 16+, 2 males < 16 [ b. 1774-1790], and 2 females, suggesting 2 sons and 1 daughter).

[26] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1N, 665 and 754, conveyances by Rankin and wife Ann in two deeds, 100 acres and 150 acres.

[27] See note 7.

[28] Family History Library Films 5,558,495 and 5,558,496, Probate Files R32, R51 and R52.

[29] Samuel and his wife Jane McConahey Rankin are buried in the Mt. Prospect Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant. Images of their tombstones are available  here.

[30] Samuel’s wife may be the Jane Rankin buried in the Mt. Prospect Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant Township. She died in 1869 at age 95, so was born about 1774. The cemetery was established by the Mount Pleasant United Presbyterian Church sometime between 1790 and 1800 as a graveyard beside the church. There are also McConaheys buried in that cemetery.

[31] Washington Co., PA Will Book 3: 484, will of Matthew Rankin.