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Rankin Family History Project

Samuel Rankin
From Ohio to Louisiana, 1790 - 1832

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Ohio Roots

Our earliest known ancestor is Samuel Rankin, who we believe was born in Ohio.   We know that he was born in Ohio because his son, Samuel E. Rankin, listed that state as the birthplace of his father in both the 1880 and 1910 censuses.   By the time of the 1840 census, there were other Rankins living in various parts of Louisiana, but none of them have been found to have Ohio roots.

There were no Rankins in the 1820 Louisiana census, and just one in 1830.   Samuel Rankin makes his one and only appearance in US Census records as the head of household in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana, 1830.   The household included two adult males, age 30-40, and one, age 40-50.   One of the adult men is Samuel, the others may have been farmhands.   Samuel was probably born between 1790 and 1800, and he died between 1832 and 1836.  

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Down the Mississippi

The earliest record of Samuel Rankin's existance in Louisiana is provided by the ledger of an inn in Montpelier, St. Helena Parish.   The inn recorded transactions between 1819 and 1821 of those who brought supplies, obtained lodging or paid tolls on the toll road.   In April 1820 there is an entry for "Rankins".  

What brought Samuel Rankin to Louisiana in 1820 is not known.   Unlike many pioneers to the Louisiana Territory who migrated there in family groups, Samuel seems to have arrived alone.   The main trade routes from the eastern U. S. to the frontier lands at that time were the rivers.   It's quite possible that Samuel started out working on the Ohio and Mississippi, transporting goods to the markets in New Orleans.   He may have decided to find work closer to the markets and avoid the long trip back to Ohio.  

Another possibility is that he travelled to Louisiana with the family of Zelotas Tucker.   The Tuckers were from Maine, and in 1812 they moved to Ross County, Ohio.   In 1817, they travelled down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers on a flatboat to Louisiana and settled in St. Helena Parish.   Samuel may have known the Tuckers in Ohio, and went along with them to help work the boat, then decided to stay.  

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Admiral of Springfield

By April of 1820, Samuel Rankin began to work the shallow, twisting rivers in St. Helena Parish.   It appears to have been a profitable move for the young man from Ohio.   Samuel Rankin became a business partner with Richard Wade, and the two were probably good friends as well.   Since Samuel Rankin does not appear in the 1820 census, he may have been boarding with Wade, who has 4 adult males in his household.  

Richard Wade had been in St. Helena Parish at least since 1812 when this part of Louisiana joined the Union.   He was a cotton planter with almost 1000 acres of land on the Natalbany River.   "Wade's Landing" on the Ponchatoula River was established by him in 1819 and it was where he engaged in commerce with the local residents.   The landing eventually expanded to become the town of Wadesboro.  

On 20 November 1820, Samuel Rankin and Richard Wade purchased a schooner, the Admiral of the Amite from Micajah Spiller for nine hundred dollars.   The ship was rechristened the Admiral of Springfield, and the two operated it until 1824.   Schooner

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Marriage to Elizabeth Richardson

By 1823, Samuel Rankin was about thirty years old, successful, and a very eligible bachelor.   He was typical of the men of this period, who would postpone marriage until at least the age of twenty-five.   In the past three years, he had become acquainted with many of the local residents and their families.   Among the men that he had probably done business with was Samuel Richardson, a successful planter with almost two thousand acres on the Ponchatoula River.  

Samuel Richardson and his wife, Rachel Hamilton, had a large family, including five daughters, who like the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice, were all approaching the age when they would begin looking for husbands.   Unlike the men, women were expected to marry at an early age, usually before age twenty.   Since Samuel Rankin had come to St. Helena Parish, Elizabeth Richardson, the eldest daughter of Samuel and Rachel Richardson, had grown up and was now sixteen years old.  
Regency couple

She probably looked quite charming, in a Jane Austen sort of way, and most likely would have been considered a good match for any ambitious young man.   Samuel Rankin asked for her hand in marriage.  

Image of document, click for a larger view.

On October 29, 1823, Samuel Richardson gave permission for his daughter Elizabeth to marry S. Rankin.   The actual date of their marriage is not known, but we assume it took place within the next few weeks.  

It was early in 1824 that Samuel Rankin decided to give up the shipping business.   By this time, Elizabeth was expecting her first child, a son.   Perhaps with his new family responsibilities, Samuel wanted work that wouldn't keep him away from home for long stretches.   He settled down to the life of a farmer on 100 acres of land right next to that of his father-in-law, Samuel Richardson.   No record of how Samuel Rankin acquired this land has been found, but it's possible that it was a wedding gift from Elizabeth's father.   His name appears on the tax rolls for 1826:

"Samuel C. Rankin, farmer, 100 acres, Ponchatoula,
value 200, state tax .12, parish tax, .09, total .21"

Louisiana Sucessions, pg. 189

13 May 1824, Samuel Rankin and Richard Wade sold the schooner, Admiral of Springfield, to Robert Palmer, for $475.   Two years later, 21 Dec 1826, Robert Palmer became Samuel Rankin's brother-in-law when he married Mary "Polly" Richardson, Elizabeth's younger sister.  

In 1827, Elizabeth and Samuel welcomed their second son to the family, a child they named George.   This happy event was closely followed by the wedding of Elizabeth's sister, Rebecca Richardson to William Durbin, on 28 February 1828.   The ceremony was performed by Zelotas Tucker, Justice of the Peace, and witnessed by John B. Dunnington, James Durbin, and Samuel Rankin.  

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Friends and Neighbors

Over the next few years, Samuel Rankin became a Justice of the Peace, was authorized to perform marriages, and witnessed a number of legal documents.   His name appears frequently linked to those of his friends, neighbors, and relations by marriage:  Durbin, Murray, Richardson, Settoon, Traylor, Tucker, and Wade.  

02 February 1829, Samuel Rankin, as principal, and Elijah Settoon, as security, posted a bond for $2000 for Samuel Rankin, Justice of the Peace, to be authorized to perform marriages in St. Helena Parish.   One of the marriages he officiated occurred in October 1829.  

On 15 October 1829, there was a gathering at the house of Aboslom Traylor, celebrating the marriage of Augustus Richardson to Ann Gainey.   Augustus was a brother of Samuel's wife, Elizabeth Richardson   Witnesses were Benjamin Traylor, Elihu T. Murray, and Samuel's old friend and business partner, Richard Wade.  

There are just a few other records that give us glimpse into the events occurring in this part St. Helena Parish around 1830.   It appears that Samuel Rankin and most of the men doing business with him had received some formal education, as they were at least able to sign their own names.  

  • One month after officiating at the wedding of Augustus Richardson, on 13 November 1829, Samuel Rankin along with Edward Gorman, witnessed a document recording to the sale of 320 acres of land by Richard Wade to Mary Ann Robertson.  

  • On 29 October 1830, when John Harper sold 1/4 part of his land on Joseph Branch to John Settoon, it was sworn to before George McMichael and Samuel Rankin, Justice of the Peace.  

  • In 28 May 1831, Samuel Settoon petitioned Parish Judge, Burlin Childress, to convene a "family meeting" regarding the estate of the late John Sims, who had no relatives.   Samuel Rankins[sic] was one of the "friends of the deceased" invited to the meeting along with Richard Wade, Zelotas Tucker, James Settoon, and Bartholomew Settoon.  

  • 24 October 1831, Henry Arnold sold a tract of land to John Boganwright.   Witnesses were Samuel Rankin and John Holloway.

  • 20 April 1832, James Ballard sold his property to his two sons, John and Ira on the condition that they comfortably maintain and support himself and his wife, Eleanor, until their deaths.   Witnessed by James H. Hanney and Samuel Rankin.  

We don't know what Samuel Rankin's beliefs were regarding slavery.   No records have been found of Samuel Rankin either buying or selling slaves.   This is particularly unusual in that he was surrounded by slave owners, including his father-in-law, Samuel Richardson, his brothers-in-law, and most of his neighbors.   Perhaps this was a legacy of his Ohio roots.  

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Children of Samuel Rankin

By the time the 1830 census was taken, Samuel and Elizabeth were the parents of three sons.   George Rankin was born in 1827, was probably named for George Richardson, Elizabeth's uncle who was also a neighbor.   Sanford Rankin was born in 1830.   The origin of his given name is not known, but it is unique enough to speculate that it may have been a family name, possibly the maiden name of Samuel Rankin's mother or the name of another close relative.   A third male child, age 5-9 is listed.   His name is not known as no records for him have been found.  

Samuel RANKIN, born Abt. 1790 in Ohio; died Abt. 1832-1836, probably in Livingston Parish, Louisiana.   He married Elizabeth RICHARDSON October 29, 1823 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana.   She was the daughter of Samuel RICHARDSON and Rachel HAMILTON.  

Children of Samuel RANKIN and Elizabeth RICHARDSON are:

  1. Son1(name unknown) Rankin, born 1824 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana.
  2. George Rankin, born 1827 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana; died November 21, 1870 in Perry County, Missouri; married Mary-Elizabeth Dean Abt. 1856 in Perry County, Missouri.  
  3. Sanford Rankin, born 1830 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana; died Abt. 1865; married Mary Abt. 1854 in Perry County, Missouri.  
  4. Samuel E. RANKIN, born December 02, 1832 in Livingston Parish, Louisiana; died October 05, 1914 in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Missouri; married Ellen M. KLINE May 02, 1859 in Perryville, Perry County, Missouri.  

The section of St. Helena Parish where the Rankins and their neighbors lived became Livingston Parish in October 1832.   The last known public record of Samuel Rankin occurred on 20 April 1832, when he witnessed the Ballard document.   Although no will or other records have been found in either Parish, it is estimated that Samuel Rankin died between 1832 and 1836 in Livingston Parish.   Possibly he fell victim to the epidemics that swept Louisiana in 1832-1833.   According to the History of Louisiana by Alice Fortier:

In 1832...Asiatic cholera...over 5000 persons in New Orleans died and many negroes on the plantations.   December 1833, Governor Roman announced to the Legislature that cholera had ravaged nearly the whole state with almost the same intensity as in 1832, and that yellow fever had appeared in New Orleans when people had scarcely had time to congratulate themselves on their deliverance from the cholera.  
(House journal, 2nd session, 12th legislature, p.2.)

Samuel E. Rankin, the youngest son of Samuel and Elizabeth, was born on 02 December 1832.   Perhaps he was given the name Samuel in honor of a recently deceased father.   As Samuel Rankin's name had appeared in the public records about every six months, it is estimated that he died before the end of 1833.   Between September 1836 and April 1837, Elizabeth Richardson Rankin was remarried to Thomas McCabe.  

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Family History Pages
Descendants of Samuel and Elizabeth Richardson Rankin

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The Rankin Family History Project began in 1997 with a simple 3 generation family chart.   Inspiration came from our grandmother who has shared a lot of great stories and really got us going when she loaned us her copy of Maryland Catholics on the Frontier by Timothy O'Rourke;   and also from Alex Haley, whom we had the pleasure of meeting shortly before Roots was published.   This site is dedicated to our great-grandparents.   Without them, we would not be here.  

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Rankin Family History Project     Sonoma County, California

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Updated September 2000
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