Rev. and Abolitionist John Thomas Rankin

Male 1793 - 1886

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  • Name  Rev. and Abolitionist John Thomas Rankin 
    Title  Rev. and Abolitionist 
    Born  4 Feb 1793  Jefferson Co., TN Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Occupation  preacher, Carlyle, KY, 1817-21, Ripley, OH 1822-66 
    Died  18 Mar 1886  Ironton, OH Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • funeral in R., W.F. Goudy, more in Notes
    Buried  Maplewood Cem., Ripley, OH Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • monument dedicated, 5/5/1892
    • Commenced a literary course in 1813 under Rev. David Ware at Dandridge, TN-State Abolition Society, at Cincinnati, he being present at its organization in 1835. They are a sturdy, determined & intellectual family. He died of a terrible cancer of six months growth, which had entirely eaten out one eye and part of his face. finally it struck the brain.
      4 of his sons, 2 sons-in-law, & 6 colored men acted as pall bearers.

      Removing to KS in 1870...engaged zealously the ch. of Lyndon...& supplying the ch. of Quenomo &c. [other eloquent tributes]
      Rev. Andrew Ritchie, The Soldier, the Battle, and the Victory, being a brief Account of the Work of the Rev. John Rankin in the Anti-Slavery Cause, 1793-1888 [sic] (Cincinnati, 1876)
      Eliza story to HB Stowe,
      arrived Ripley, 1/1/22
      built house on Liberty Hill, 1829
      Henry Ward Beecher--Rev. Jn Rankin & his sons did it [abolished slavery]
    • Mrs. Leslie Powers
      306 Elizabeth Street
      Augusta, Kentucky
      April 19th 1950
      Dearest John,
      Grandfather Rankin [by whom she means John, her great grandfather, not his son David] had a farm on the top of the Ripley, Ohio hill. I do not know anything about his fruit trees, when Grandmother [by the same logic, Jean Lowry] canned tomatoes, they were taken down into Ripley to have the sealing wax used on them.

      I do not know that Grandfather designed the house and built the one on the hill, I know he had a house built in Ripley

      The house on the hill is the same as when built

      There were a hundred steps from the hill into Ripley. Papa, when he was courting Mamma, would wait until the boat would whistle, would then go down three steps at a time. he prided himself upon that he never missed a boat.

      In the house there is a long closet, (I have seen it) where the slaves were hidden

      I have read in one of Grandfather’s books, where two Kentuckians climed [sic] the hill, carrying guns, they told Grandmother they were going to search her house for missing slaves, she told them, We harbor no stolen goods, her oldest son, Samuel, heard them, went to the porch with his gun, told them not to dare to come a step nearer, they turned and went down the hill I think I can not remember to tell, what ex-slaves said about the beacon light always kept burning in the window of Grandfather Rankin’s house on the hill.

      Harriet Beecher Stowe did visit Grandfather and Grandmother Rankin, they gave her information and told her about Eliza crossing on broken pieces of ice in the Ohio river, with her little son Harry and being directed to their house on the hill.

      Charles Dickens visited the house but after Grandfather was not living there [seems I recollect that Dickens visit to America was during the time when JR would have been there. Don’t know what to make of this, jbp]. I have been told by Mrs. Curren, she was living there, a little girl at the time

      I feel I have one heirloom in our house, I have been told that Grandfather’s Bible is in the house now – given by Cousin Calvin Rankin

      Next to the last question, you will likely find some information in the little book, I gave you. “The Soldier”

      I believe there is no other view, more beautiful, than this (on the top of the hill, Grandfather’s former house,) along the Ohio river

      Grandfather had seven sons in The Union Army of the Civil War, more sons, than any other Minister in the United States. He had five brothers, or perhaps it was his Father, who had five brothers fighting, in the Revolutionary War.

      I saw where Mamma [Mary F. R. Nixon] had written she had five Great Uncles fighting in this War.
      Goodnight, my precious John
      P.S. Dearest, I have heard my Great Aunt Isabella Humphres, Grandfather’s daughter, tell many times about Eliza. she was in the home, the night she came
      Affectionately, Mother

      [material is reproduced with her spelling, punctuation and spacing. I have made minimum use of sic and do not attempt to correct or question every fact which might be doubted. I do not have the list of questions my father asked her but they can be fairly accurately inferred from her answers. Apparently he was dubious about the Eliza story since the mainstream histories didn’t pick up what was established family and Ripley lore. This transcript was made from the original in my possession since my father’s death in 1964. James B. Powers, 2/11/2003]
    • The Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio June 8, 1948
      Dedicate Museum
      Ripley, O., June 7 (AP) - The Rankin house, Ohio's first stop on the underground railroad for fugitive slaves, will be dedicated Sunday. The house, now state property, was occupied before the war between the states by the Rev. John Rankin, a leader in the abolitionist movement.
    • Source: Tennessee and Tennesseans page 675:
      Granddaughter of Samuel Doak

      It is difficult to say which was the more heroically devoted to duty as each saw it, Rev. John Rankin or his wife, Jean Lowry Rankin.

      The former was born in Johnson county, Tennessee, February 4, 1793, and died in Ironton, Ohio, March 18, 1886. He married Jean, a daughter of Adam Lowry, and granddaughter of Rev. Samuel Doak, pioneer preacher and teacher. Both were educated by Doak. Rankin became a celebrated abolitionist, and was mobbed for his views more than twenty times. He assisted Eliza and her child, the originals of those charcters in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," to escape. While they passed their last years outside of Tennessee, it is interesting to mention these bits of history concerning the granddaughter of the founder of the first college west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Rankins had eight sons and one grandson in the Union army, and held one "in reserve." One of her sons says: "My mother made the coat in which my father was married, also the one in which he celebrated the golden wedding, and the same busy fingers made the entire outfit in which I delivered the valedictory of my class at college *** the same hands that fashioned the clothes in which I did the honors at Lane Seminary, and then buttoned them up for my wedding. Though she had nine boys to sew for, none went in rags."

      That indicates the Spartan mother, but probably the following told by another of her sons will be regarded as a more pertinent example:

      "Such was her devotion and patriotism for the country's salvation during the late Civil war, that she said to me as I was on my way down to the Cumberland:

      "Samuel, will you see Arthur on the way?'
      "'Yes,' I replied; 'have you any message for him?'
      "'Yes, tell him he is the only one left and I only hold him as a reserve. As soon as he hears of a break in the line, tell him to step into the gap. God be with him, and I will take care of his children."

    • (c) 2006 Kouns Family Archives

      Ironton Journal May 5, 1869 - Rev. John Rankin, of Ripley, will deliver a lecture in the Presbyterian Church this evening, upon the moade and subject of Baptism.

      I.R. April 5, 1883 - FATHER RANKIN, 94 years old, walked from Col. Gray's residence to the Water Works, through the snow, last Monday to vote. He believes in putting himself to some inconvenience in order to perform the duties of a citizen.

      I.R. March 25, 1886 - REV. JOHN RANKIN - AN INTERESTING FUNERAL SERMON - Rev. John Rankin died at the residence of his grand-daughter, Mrs. Col. Gray's last Thursday evening. Old age and a cancerous affliction combined, brought him to the grave. His death, at any moment, had been expected for some days. On Friday afternoon, at 4 o'clock, the funeral services were conducted at the Presbyterian church. Dr. W. F. Willson, C. Ellison, Jno. Campbell, Wm. Hamilton, J. P. Shaw, R. McConaughy were pallbearers. Nearly all the ministers in town were present and Revs. Robinson, Lindsey, Hill and Mortimer officiated.
      There was a large audience, among whom were several colored people.

      The pastor, Rev. Robinson, delivered an eloquent and instructive funeral sermon, from which we note a few prominent facts: The deceased was born in Jefferson county, Tenn., February 4, 1793, and died March 18, 1886, being over 93 years old. He was one of ten sons, four of whom, with himself, were preachers. His parents were of the old Scotch Presbyterian stock. He entered Washington college, Tenn., when 20 years old and graduated in four years. He volunteered in the war of 1812, but was refused on account of bad health. He married the granddaughter of President Lowry, of the college he attended, before he graduated. He was licensed to preach in 1816. On his way north, he stopped at West Lexington, Ky., where he took charge of a Prebyterian church in 1822, and continued there for a few years, when he went to Ripley, where he preached for 44 years. During all this time he was an active man, lecturing, preaching and founding churches. He established eight new churches in the region of Brown county, and got pastors for them; wrote and published four books and many pamphlets - all, too, outside of his regular church work which he did on a salary of $350 a year, and much of the time bringing up a family of thirteen children. He was a tireless worker for good. Want of means never kept him still. He was the Paul of the 19th century. He founded the Western Tract Society, and begged money to keep it going. His life was full of zealous work for his church.

      As a citizen, he was a great lover of his country, of freedom and equal rights, and he had the courage to stand up for his opinions on all occasions. He organized an abolition society in 1818 and was the first man in this country to take a public stand for immediate emancipation. This he did in pamphlets and lectures; and for which he was mobbed and rotten-egged repeatedly. A price was set on his head. He was a member of the American Anti-Slavery society and one of its lecturers, whose arguments brought into the society some of the leaders whose renown afterward overshadowed their brave and humble teacher. As a helper to slaves escaping northward, he was ever ready, and from his thrilling experiences in this, he recounted some facts on which Harriet Beecher Stowe based some of the most interesting characters of Uncle Tom's Cabin - notably, Eliza and George Harris.

      After Mr. Robinson's discourse, Rev. Mortimer, pastor of the A.M.E. church, made some very appropriate remarks, referring particularly to the gratitude his people owe to the deceased.

      At the close of the services, the remains were taken to the boat, and then to Ripley where they were interred.

      I.R. May 12, 1892 - UNVEILING - The Bronze Bust of Rev. John Rankin - Rev. John Rankin, the noble hero of Freedom, lies buried in the cemetery of Ripley, amid the scenes of his great conflict for liberty a half century ago.

      Last Thursday occurred a beautiful tribute to his memory, when a bronze bust was placed over his grave. The bust is the work of his granddaughter, Mrs. Ellen Rankin Kopp, a teacher in the Chicago Art School. It is life size and is a fithful representation of the brave abolitionist when he was in his prime. The bust crowns a five foot shaft of Vermont granite, resting on a base 2 1/2 feet high. The general effect of this monument is very pleasing; it is harmonious and effective at every point. This beautiful work of art bears this inscription: 'John Rankin and Jane Lowrie Rankin - Freedom Heroes." Beneath the stone rests the wife, too, the faithful ally of the champion of abolition in all his struggles.

      The ceremonies attending the unveiling were beautiful and suggestive. First there was an address at the Presbyterian church by Mr. J. C. Liggett, a merchant of Ripley. There was a large audience and a choir of 100 school children. Then a procession formed and proceeded to the cemetery, where the unveiling of the monument was conducted by Jackson Atwood, a colored man, who made a very eloquent address. He was followed by Rev. S. G. W. Rankin, of Glastonbury, Conn., a son of John Rankin, who spoke to the relatives. Rev. A. T. Rankin of Greensburg, Ind., also addressed the people. A colored choir furnished the music at the unvieling. Capt. A. C. Rankin, of Ripley, was the Mastor of Ceremonies.

      Upon returning from the cemetery, 37 of the decendants of Rev. John Rankin sat down to dinner together. There were five sons and one daughter present. Attending the ceremonies that day were about 50 of the 100 descendants of John Rankin.

      The occasion was a solemn but an enjoyable one, for it was a tribute to sterling worth and heroic duty. Heaven smiled upon the occasion in the form of one of the fairest days of the year.

      I.R. June 30, 1892 - (SEE CHAMBERS BAIRD, he wrote a Sonnett to the Rev. John Rankin)

      S.W.I. Sept. 24, 1912 - MEMORY OF EMANCIPATOR AND REV. JOHN RANKIN HONORED BY COLORED FOLKS - Emancipation Day, the greatest holiday in the calendar of our colored citizens, was duly celebrated Monday by the members of the race in Ironton, assisted by a large gathering and representative colored people from surrounding towns. The memory of the great emancipator and his proclamation were commemorated in a style befitting the occasion and in the festivities of the day the true import of the holiday was not overlooked.

      The exercises of the day began in the forenoon, with a grand parade, in which appeared a large number of our colored citizens, with their families. It consisted of a goodly number of automobiles, wagons, carriages and floats and the colored band from Huntington furnished the music. There were two floats, one bearing colored boys and the other a bevy of little colored girls, who sang patriotic songs along the line of march which extended over the principal streets and up to Beechwood Park, wher the stated program for the day was carried out. The parade was in charge of R. V. Thomas a grand marshal.

      A very touching feature of the day's exercises and one which carried with it a note of deep sentiment was the depositing of flowers on the lawn of the residence of Mrs. Gray, widow of the late Col. Geo. N. Gray, at Sixth and Adams streets. This was in memory of the late Rev. Rankin of Brown county, grandfather of Mrs. Gray and one of the greatest friends of the Negro in slavery days. It was Dr. Rankin who conducted the Ohio end of the famous underground railway and it was at this point that Eliza, the heroine of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's great work was supposed to have crossed on the floating ice. At least it was here that she secured the local color for the story.

      At Beechwood Park, a large crowd assembled in spite of the inclement weather and enjoyed to the fullest the barbecue feast and the oratorical menu incident to the celebration. The big outdoor feast was served free to all and as there was a bounteous supply of fried chicken, cornpone, hot coffee, vegetables, watermelon and cooling refreshments, it goes without saying that the gastronomical feature was great.

      The following program was carried out: . . .
      From the Files of:
      Sharon M. Kouns


      Ironton Register, Thursday, February 03, 1876

      Many of our readers know Rev. John Rankin. He has preached here several times, and has contributed interesting articles to the REGISTER. He lived at Ripley 44 years, and is now at his son’s in Lawrence, Kansas. Recently his wedding of sixty years ago was celebrated. We copy from the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal, an account of it.

      The marriage took place at Washington College, Washington County, East Tennessee. Mr. Rankin was licensed to preach the gospel there. Shortly after the birth of his oldest son, he started with his wife and child to go to Ohio, leaving his native State because it was a slave State; but when he reached the town of Paris, in Kentucky, he was influenced by some of the clergy of that region to accept a settlement in the church of Concord, where he was ordained and installed as pastor. Several of his children were born there. He remained there four years, successfully preaching the gospel; then, determined to carry out his original intention, he moved to the State of Ohio; was settled as the pastor of the church at Ripley, where he preached forty-four years. In his advanced age, he resigned the charge of the church, and lived now with his youngest son at Emporia, Kansas. He is now eighty-three, and his wife, eighty years of age.

      The reunion took place at the residence of Hon. John K. Rankin, Mayor of the city of Lawrence, Kansas. The relatives of the family in attendance were Rev. Alex. Rankin, of Baltimore, Maryland, a brother of the groom, and Mrs. Adams, youngest sister of the bride and her three children, Alex. Rankin, Mary Merryweather, and Jno. K. Rankin, a grandson of the oldest brother of the groom, Joseph Rankin, of Kansas City. The children present were R. C. Rankin and wife of Ripley, Ohio; J. T. Rankin of Mississippi; A. C. Rankin, M. D. and wife, of Illinois; Rev. A. T. Rankin, of Indiana; W. A. Rankin and family of Lawrence, Kansas; T. L. Rankin and family, of Emporia, Kansas; Mrs. Jas. Wiley and husband, of Quenemo, Kansas; Mrs. Fletcher and husband, of Douglas County, Kansas. The children absent were Rev. A. L. Rankin, of California; Rev. S. G. W. Rankin of Connecticut, and Mrs. Humphreys, of Huntington, West Virginia. Also cousins present were Mr. Thomas Rankin and wife, of Olathe, Kansas, and a grandson; John C. Rankin and wife, of Osage County, Kansas.

      The meeting was opened by Rev. John Rankin, his golden wedding having been celebrated ten years before at Ripley, Ohio.

      Received August 20, 2006
      From: Lkpaul425

      I am related to John K. Rankin of Ripley, Ohio. He was the brother of my gggreat-grandfather, Robert Henderson Rankin.

      Received email August 13, 2007 - another descendant of Rev. John Rankin: James Powers,

      Thanks Jim for sending me the names and dates of Rev. Rankin's children. -


      On the other hand, as late as 1835, William Lloyd Garrison was mobbed in the streets of Boston, because he was an abolitionist. About 1827, Benjamin Lundy could not find an abolitionist in that city. In 1826, of the one hundred and forty-three emancipation societies in the United States, one hundred and three were in the South, and not one, so far as I know, in Massachusetts. John Rankin, the noted abolitionist of Ohio, who went from East Tennessee in 1815 or 1816,--a Covenanter and from a Covenanter neighborhood,--declared in the latter part of his life that it was safer in 1816 to 1820 to make abolition speeches in Tennessee or Kentucky than it was in the North.

      *John Rankin's father was a Pennsylvanian and was in the Revolutionary War. John was the founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and organized the first "underground railway" in Ohio.
      ** This is likewise true of Benjamin Lundy, who first interested Garrison in abolition
    • 1860 United States Federal Census
      Name: John Rankin
      Age in 1860: 67
      Birth Year: abt 1793
      Birthplace: Tennessee
      Home in 1860: Union, Brown, Ohio
      Gender: Male
      Post Office: Ripley
      Value of real estate: View image
      Household Members: Name Age
      John Rankin 67
      Jane Rankin 65
      Thomas Rankin 21
      Mary F Rankin 18
      Jane B Rankin 16
      John Rankin 13
      Catherine McCascal 17 mulatto
      James L Jackson 17 mulatto

      1870 Putnam, Illinois Granville Census
      Rankin, John age 77 Presbyterian Minister b. TN
      Jane age 74 Keeping house b. TN
      Thomas L. age 31 Patent Right Agent b. OH
      Charlotte age 30 keeping house b. OH
      Chas. C [not sure of name -smk] age 7 b. OH
      Loila I ? age 3 b. OH
      Louis B. age 5/12 b. IL
      Tweed, Evaline age 20 b. OH

    Person ID  I15  Powers-Nixon-Rankin
    Last Modified  19 Aug 2007 

    Father  Richard Rankin,   b. 4 Nov 1756, Cumberland Co., PA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 May 1827, Jefferson Co., TN Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother  Jenette Steele,   b. 4 Apr 1764, Cumberland Co., PA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Jan 1846, Jefferson Co., TN Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  Abt 1782 
    Family ID  F10  Group Sheet

    Family  Jane Gilfillen Lowry,   b. 01 Dec 1795, Jonesboro, TN /NC (?) Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Dec.1878, Lyndon, KS Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  2 Feb 1816  Jonesboro, TN Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • other 1/2/1814
    • Source: History of the Republican Party in Ohio, page 783 ...It may be well to mention that the wives of the three brothers - Revs. John, Alexander and Robert - were three sisters and were granddaughters of the Rev. Samuel Doake, D. D., who founded the first institution of learning west of the Alleghanies, at Jonesboro, Washington county, east Tennessee. They were also blood relatives of General Sam Houston, of Texas fame, and of Robert McUen, over whose house in Nashville, Tennessee, the stars and stripes floated during the Rebellion.
     1. Adam Lowry Rankin,   b. 4 Nov 1816, Jonesboro, TN Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Apr 1895, Petaluma, CA Find all individuals with events at this location
     2. Isabella Jane Rankin,   b. 16 Jun 1818, Carlisle, KY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aft 1 Jun 1880, Ironton, OH Find all individuals with events at this location
     3. David Wilmont Rankin,   b. 18 Sep 1819, Carlisle, Nicholas Co., KY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Dec 1847, residence near Ripley, OH Find all individuals with events at this location
     4. Richard Calvin Rankin,   b. 24 Jul 1821, Carlisle, KY Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1899
     5. Samuel Gardner Wilson Rankin,   b. 28 Dec 1822, Ripley, OH Find all individuals with events at this location
     6. Julia Doak Rankin,   b. 2 Nov 1824, Ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location
     7. John Thompson Rankin, Jr.,   b. 25 Feb 1826, ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location
     8. Mary Eliza Rankin,   b. 21 Feb 1830, ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location
     9. William Alexander Rankin,   b. 15 Sep 1832, Ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1900
     10. Lucinda Rankin,   b. 3 May 1834, Ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Mar 1856, Urbana,IL Find all individuals with events at this location
     11. Arthur Tappan Rankin, D.D.,   b. 5 Mar 1836, Ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Oct 1911, Greensburg, IN Find all individuals with events at this location
     12. Thomas Lovejoy Rankin,   b. 16 Jun 1839, Ripley, Brown Co., OH Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Nov 1915, Sacket Harbor, New York Find all individuals with events at this location
     13. Andrew C. Rankin
    Last Modified  18 Aug 2007 
    Family ID  F9  Group Sheet