Want to see two characters from Lonesome Dove taking a selfie? Get yourself to Rankin, Texas. The town is perched atop the Edwards Plateau, Smack in the Middle of Nowhere, population 778.
I don’t know what the town is best known for, but I’ll put my money on an old corrugated tin building decorated with a funky Texas flag and portraits of Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow F. Call of Lonesome Dove. Someone with a puckish sense of humor painted the pair on horseback, with Call taking a selfie. Tommy Lee Jones would probably approve.
Google says the town is named for F. E. Rankin, a “local rancher.” In fact, F. E. did receive a grant of 640 acres in Upton County in 1911. However, he apparently never lived in Rankin. Instead, he and his family lived in Midland County. He is listed in the 1910 census there as “Finis E. Rankin” with his wife Eliza and son Porter, age 20 (born about 1890). The name Porter Rankin rang a tiny bell, but I couldn’t get my mind around the memory. Finis, Eliza and Porter were born in Tennessee; the couple’s parents were also born in Tennessee. The 1900 Midland census says that F. E. was born in January 1856 and was a “cattle raiser.”
The Find-a-Grave website often has errors in its unsourced obiter dicta, but the tombstone pictures and obituaries posted there are credible evidence. The Fairview Cemetery in Midland has a tombstone for F. E. Rankin (“father”), 1856 – 1916, and Eliza Rankin (“mother”), 1862 – 1953. Better yet, there is a Midland County death certificate for Robert Porter Rankin (1890 – 1 Nov 1962). It identifies him as a son of F. E. Rankin and Eliza Smith. Even better, it says Porter was born in Belt Buckle, TN. That town is in Bedford County, telling us where to go look for Finis et al. before they came to Texas.
With a name like “Finis” and all that additional information, tracking this line was a piece of cake. There is a marriage record for F. E. Rankin and Elizabeth Smith for 27 Jul 1879 in Bedford County, TN. At age 5, Finis and his younger brother Porter were listed in the 1860 census for Bedford County with their presumed parents Robert and Matilda Rankin. The 1850 Bedford census adds a middle initial: his name was Robert D. Rankin, and there was a David G. Rankin, a child, in his household. The 1880 census identifies David G. Rankin as a son of Robert D. and Matilda.
At this point, bells began to ring in earnest. The names David Rankin and Porter Rankin are firmly planted in my memory … and in my family tree software. A different (and older) David Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln County, North Carolina – my ancestors. David Rankin’s wife was Anne Moore Campbell, and they had a son named James Porter Rankin.
David and Anne Rankin migrated from Lincoln County to Rutherford County, Tennessee. A Rutherford deed identifies Robert D. Rankin as a resident of Bedford County, Tennessee. Other records make it clear that Robert D., father of Finis, was a son of David and Anne.
And that’s enough for Rankin, Texas and its Rankin lineage. I’ve just written more words than there are people in the town.
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 Rankin’s population was 778 in the 2010 census.
 A friend who writes a travel blog called Wanderwiles took the two pictures and kindly sent them to me.
 Texas Land Title Abstracts, Certificate No. 982, file No. 85690, 640-acre grant to F. E. Rankin dated 26 Oct. 1911.
 1910 federal census, Midland Co., TX, household of Finis E. Rankin, age 54, b. TN, parents b. TN, with wife Elisah (sic, Eliza), 48, TN/TN/TN, and son Porter Rankin, 20, TN/TN/TN.
 1900 federal census, Midland Co., TN, T. E. or F. E. Rankin, b. Jan 1856, age 44, married 20 years, cattle raiser. Household includes wife Eliza, b. Feb 1862 who has had 3 children, all living; daughter Maud, b. Apr 1880, son P. B., b. Dec 1881, and son Porter, b. Feb 1890.
 The deceased isn’t ever around to give his/her date of birth, and my experience is that children often haven’t a clue what year their parents were born. Tombstones are subject to that possibility. Also, people have been known to fib about their ages, as one can see frequently in census records.
 See the tombstone image for Finis E. Rankin here.
 1860 federal census, Bedford Co., TN, District 4, household of Robert Rankin, 45, farmer, $16,500 realty, $15,000 personal property, b. TN. Also listed in the household (all born in TN, and all with the surname Rankin), were Matild (sic, Matilda) 35, Nancy 21, David 19, Thomas 17, James 16, Ellen 13, Susanah 11, Malinda 9, Virginia 7, Finis, 5, and Porter, 1.
 1850 federal census, Bedford Dist. 4, Robert D. Rankin, farmer, $7K real property, b. TN. Matilda Rankin, 33, Nancy A. Rankin, 10, David G. Rankin, 9, William Thomas Rankin, 8, Janes? C., female, 6, Martha E., 4, and Susannah M., 1.
 1880 federal census, Bedford Dist. 5, David G. Rankin, 38, farmer, b. TN, parents b. TN, wife Laura T., 30, NC/NC/NC, sons Robert E. Rankin, 12, Wm A Rankin, 10, Leon Augustus Rankin, 7, Albert E. Rankin, 2, and Osman G. Rankin, 1.
 Rev. James Porter Rankin, born May 10th, 1805, died Sep 11th, 1831, aged 26 years 1 mo. & 1 day (obit in National Register & States Gazette, Sept. 17, 1831, says Rev. J. P Rankin died in Rutherford Co.). Tombstone in the Old City Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN shows May 10, 1805 – Sep 11, 1831. His parents David and Anne Moore Campbell Rankin are buried in the same cemetery.
 Rutherford Co., TN Deed Book Z: 93, bill of sale dated 15 Jan 1842 from Robert Rankin of Bedford Co., TN to Martin Alexander of Rutherford, an enslaved person. See also Rutherford Co., TN Deed Book 1: 523, Robert D. Rankin and William C. Rankin, administrators of the estate of their sister Mary (Rankin) Montgomery. Mary M. Rankin married Joseph A. Montgomery in Rutherford County in 10 Sep 1831.
 1880 federal census, Bedford Dist. 5, David G. Rankin, 38, farmer, b. TN, parents b. TN, wife Laura T. Rankin, 30, NC/NC/NC, sons Robert E. Rankin, 12, Wm A Rankin, 10, Leon Augustus Rankin, 7, Albert E. Rankin, 2, and Osman G. Rankin, 1.
 Rev. James Porter Rankin, born May 10th, 1805, died Sep 11th, 1831, aged 26 years 1 mo. & 1 day. Obit in the National Register & States Gazette, Sept. 17, 1831, says Rev. J. P Rankin died in Rutherford Co., TN. His tombstone in the Old City Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN shows dates of birth and death as May 10, 1805 – Sep 11, 1831. His parents David G. and Anne M. C. Rankin are buried in the same cemetery.
 Rutherford Co., TN Deed Book Z: 93, bill of sale dated 15 Jan 1842 from Robert Rankin of Bedford Co., TN to Martin Alexander of Rutherford, an enslaved person. See also Rutherford Co., TN Deed Book 1: 523, Robert D. Rankin and William C. Rankin, administrators of the estate of their sister Mary (Rankin) Montgomery. Mary M. Rankin married Joseph A. Montgomery in Rutherford County on 10 Sep 1831.