Sic semper tyrannis
Virginia is nicknamed “The Old Dominion” and sometimes “The Mother of Presidents”, after the eight U.S. Presidents born there. Virginia was one of the 13 Colonies in the 13 Colonies in the American Revolution and joined the Confederacy in the American Civil War, during which Richmond was made the Confederate Capital. Virginia voted to succeed from the United States on April 17, 1861 after the Battle of Fort Sumter and Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers. On April 12th, Virginia joined the Confederate States of America which chose Richmond as its Capital.

William Silling Rankin

By Danella Dickson

William Silling Rankin was born September 15, 1832 in Virginia. He was the son of John Bell Sr. and Elizabeth (Sheets) Rankin. William grew up in Augusta County, Virginia and as a young man worked at his father’s mill. Following the invention of the horse-drawn reaping machine, farmers increased their growth of wheat thus leading to a demand for more mills. William and his brother Andrew Jackson Rankin contracted and built flour mills in Augusta and surrounding counties.

William Silling Rankin married Hester Hannah Jones August 8, 1853 in Augusta County, Virginia. She was the daughter of Preston and Elizabeth Litton Jones. When the 1860 census was taken William and Hester with their three young children, were living at Burke’s Mill, Augusta County. Burke’s Mill was located on the Naked Creek, in the neighborhood of Staunton where William’s family lived.

When Virginia seceded from the Union the young men of Augusta County rushed to enlist. Apparently William was among those eager young men, however few records have been found to document his service. The meager records tell us he enlisted September 4, 1862 in Company D, 1st Regiment Virginia Partisan Rangers which was later transferred to the 18th Virginia Cavalry. The other surviving muster roll dated January – April 1, 1863 describes William as present for duty but detailed as a carpenter as of December 12, 1862. There are no details on what kind of carpentry work he was doing or if he had been detached to another location. A history of the 18th Virginia Cavalry records it’s participation in the Battle of Gettysburg followed by skirmishes with the enemy in Western Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.

William S. Rankin survived the war and returned to his family in Augusta County. On both the 1870 and 1880 census William and his family were living in Augusta County and his occupation was millwright. Sometime after William was listed in the 1888 Augusta County Gazetteer and Classified Business Directory the couple moved to Roanoke, Virginia where their daughter Isabella is believed to have been living. William Silling Rankin died December 12, 1893 probably in Roanoke, but was returned to Augusta County for burial. His obituary was published in the Augusta County Argus Newspaper on December 26, 1893, “W.S. Rankin, aged 61 years, 2 months, 27 days. Interment was on the 14th at Mount Tabor Lutheran Church Cemetery. Deceased left a widow and nine grown children to mourn their loss. He was a standing member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Roanoke, Virginia”. Hester was living with her daughter Cordelia and son-in-law David F. Early in Fauquier County, Virginia at the time of her death in 1907. She is buried in the Cedar Grove Cemetery, Fauquier County, Virginia.

Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts

Andrew Jackson Rankin

By Danella Dickson

Andrew Jackson Rankin was born January 19, 1829 in Virginia. He was the son of John Bell Rankin Sr. and his wife Elizabeth Sheets. Andrew grew up in Augusta County, Virginia where his family farmed and operated a mill.

About 1853 Andrew contracted to build a mill for the James Johnson family, to be located on the Buck Horn Creek in Pendleton County, which was adjacent to Augusta County. Andrew and his men were invited to take meals with the family. Andrew was described as a handsome young man with dark hair and rosy cheeks, a young man of splendid physique, tall and straight. The first day at dinner when Mary Ann Johnson met him she decided he would be her husband. (Mary Ann was the youngest daughter of James Johnson and his wife Mary Ann Fisher originally of Hardy County, Virginia.)

Andrew Jackson Rankin and Mary Ann Harness Johnson were married February 14, 1854 in Augusta County, Virginia. After their marriage they settled in the vicinity of Franklin, Pendleton County, Viginia where Andrew operated the McCoy Mill on the Thorn River.
Following the secession of Virginia from the Union Andrew Jackson Rankin tried to enlist in the Confederate Army but local officials convinced him to stay home and continue to operate the mill during the war to supply the countryside with flour.

Andrew’s daughter Lucie told her children about the day Colonel Moumaw’s company prepared to march out of town. Andrew Jackson Rankin was dressed in his black suit wearing a cocked hat with a plume and sat astride his beautiful horse watching the men as they left. He was ask to “stand by” and he did although his father and younger brother went in the service and lost their lives.
Pendleton County, Virginia was split between Northern and Southern sympathies during the Civil War. In June 1863 the county was included by the federal government in the new state of West Virginia against many of the inhabitant’s wishes. (Wikipedia – Pendleton County, West Virginia)

The historic McCoy Mill survived the war and it is assumed Andrew Jackson Rankin continued to operate it until he left Pendleton County in 1867. Andrew took his family to Missouri where an aunt of Mary Ann’s had moved prior to 1861. In 1870 Andrew and his family were in Calloway County, Missouri where Andrew’s occupation was listed as farmer. Andrew and Mary Ann’s two youngest children were born in Missouri; they were the last of seven children born to the couple.
Mary Ann and her daughter Lucie yearned for their Virginia home throughout their lives. That yearning prompted first mother and then daughter to keep the memory green in the hearts of their children. Lucy committed to memory all the songs she knew from childhood, old Southern folk songs and religious songs.

In the 1870’s Andrew moved his family to Texas to escape the rigorous Missouri climate. They settled first at Pilot Point where Lucie met her future husband Henry James Cloyd. The young couple met at the Methodist Church the family attended. The Rankin’s later moved to Sherman, Grayson County Texas where Andrew continued his milling business as a partner in the firm Stinnett and Rankin.
Mary Ann Harness Johnson Rankin died November 28, 1886; she is buried in West Hill Cemetery, Sherman, Texas. About 1893 Andrew married Betty Kittrell, possibly in Tennessee. When the 1900 census was taken the couple was living in LaJunta, Otero County, Colorado where Andrew’s occupation was listed as Millwright. Andrew died in Colorado in June 1901 and was returned to West Hill Cemetery, Sherman, Grayson County, Texas to be buried beside Mary Ann.

Note: Andrew and Mary Ann’s daughter Lucie Dayer Rankin married Henry James Cloyd November 28, 1876 in Graryson County, Texas. They were the parents of seven children; Lelia E. born 1877 Texas, Flossie born 1879 Texas, Marvin K. born 1882 Kentucky, Otis M. born 1886, Georgia P. born 1888 Tennessee, Dick born 1891 Tennessee and Ruth born 1895 Tennessee.
For many years Flossie Cloyd devoted her free time to expanding her knowledge of the Rankin family genealogy for the purpose of writing a family history. She contacted many cousins including Ramona Roberts with whom she exchanged information during the 1970’s. Time ran out for Flossie before she was able to complete her planned book but her stories about her grandfather, Andrew Jackson Rankin, have survived and are being shared by Ramona Roberts. Thank you Flossie Cloyd for being so generous with your research, may your stories live on.

Andrew Jackson Rankin is an approved ancestor of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The UDC originally accepted only military service as a qualification for ancestors but about 2007 the service requirement was expanded to include civil service which could be county official or some other occupation considered necessary for the civilian population.

Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts

John Bell Rankin Junior

by Danella Dickson

John Bell Rankin Jr. was born January 4, 1841 in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of John Bell Senior and Elizabeth (Sheets) Rankin. On April 17, 1861 Virginia voted to leave the union causing a flurry of military enlistment in Staunton where the Rankin’s lived. A flyer circulating in the area warned of the invasion of Abolition forces and called for volunteers. (Valley of the Shadow Rosters Discussion – Virginia). John Jr. enlisted April 17th as a private in Captain Robert L. Doyle’s Company (Mountain Guards), Company C, 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment. His sixty year old father, John Bell Rankin Senior, enlisted as a drummer in the same regiment on the same date. The men were transported by train to Harpers Ferry, a distance of 125 miles, where they were mustered into service on May 1st. Soon after the 5th Virginia Infantry was placed under the command of Col. Thomas J. Jackson, later known as Stonewall Jackson.

Camp life did not agree with John Jr., official military records list his death on July 25, 1861. The cause of death was inflammation of the brain, today the diagnosis might be meningitis which can be caused by bacteria or a virus.

John Bell Rankin Junior was buried in cemetery located on his father’s farm, now known as the Burnett-Rankin Family Cemetery near the village of Spring Hill, Augusta County. The inscription on his grave marker was recorded by a family member who visited the cemetery on November 9, 1949 and described the stone as about three feet tall, it read “ In Memory of John B. Rankin A Member of the Mountain Guards – Capt’n Doyle – Commanding, Died July 18, 1861, aged 20 years, 6 months, 14 days. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord & they shall rest from their labor’s. The last recorded visit to the cemetery was September 2003 and at that time his stone was still standing. The cemetery was described at that time as a fairly typical family cemetery; it was fenced with a locking gate but had only 2 or 3 headstones.

Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts

William H. Curry

by Danella Dickson

William H. Curry was born about 1832 in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of William Curry. On June 1, 1856 he married Diana A. Litton at Long Glade, Augusta County, Virginia. They were the parents of two children; Laura Mae born in 1857 and Albert T. born in 1858.

In 1860 William H. Curry was working in Augusta County as a laborer, possibly with his father who was a stone mason. On April 17 1861 Virginia voted to leave the union that caused a flurry of military enlistment in Staunton where William lived. A flyer circulating in the area warned of the invasion of Abolition forces and called for volunteers. (Valley of the Shadow Rosters Discussion –Virginia). William enlisted April 17, 1861 in Company C, 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment under the command of Captain Robert L. Doyle. The men were transported by train to Harpers Ferry where William was mustered into service on May 1, 1861. Soon after that the 5th Virginia Infantry was placed under the command of Col. Thomas J. Jackson. His command was later to become the famous “Stonewall Brigade” of the Army of Northern Virginia.

During William’s military career the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment took part in the battles of First Manassas, First Kernstown and Jackson’s Valley Campaign. In May of 1862 the Army was in Staunton as Union forces approached. Major General Thomas J. Jackson marched his army west to confront the enemy and after fierce fighting repulsed them. On September 17, 1862 the Army of Virginia met the Army of the Potomac on the banks of Antietam Creek near the small town of Sharpsburg. The North called it the Battle of Antietam and the South the Battle of Sharpsburg, but they could agree on one thing, it was the single bloodiest day of fighting of the War Between the States. The battle lasted three days (September 16-18) with estimated casualties of 23,100. William was wounded September 17th and probably treated in a field hospital prior to being transferred to a hospital in nearby Winchester. He died there October 10, 1862 and may be buried in an unmarked grave in Stonewall Confederate Cemetery. The cemetery is the final resting place for 2, 574 Confederate soldiers, it was dedicated in 1866. In 1879 the Ladies Confederate Memorial Association erected a monument to honor the unknown soldiers buried in Stonewall Confederate Cemetery, Winchester, Virginia.

October 21, 1862 the Staunton Spectator Newspaper published a list of local men serving in Company C, 5th Virginia Infantry who had been killed or died from disease since the beginning of the war. William Curry was on the list of men killed but no other details were given. Military records list William’s promotion to Corporal on September 8th, 1862. In May, 1863 his final pay covering the period April 30 to October 10, 1862 was paid to his widow, Diana A. Curry, it amounted to $69.76.
Diana continued to live in Augusta County and raised her children there. During the difficult years following the war she made her home with her parents, Samuel and Sarah Litton, and later with her married daughter and son-in-law, Robert and Laura Van Lear.

In 1888 the Virginia Assembly passed a Confederate pension act providing pensions to Confederate soldiers disabled in action and to the widows of those killed in action. Diana A. Curry filed an application in March of 1888, the pension awarded her was $30.00 a year. Since she never remarried it can be assumed she drew this pension until her death April 5, 1918. Diana is buried in Pleasant View Lutheran Church Cemetery, Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia.

Note: William’s older brother Samuel S. Curry (b. ca. 1827 Augusta Co., VA) married Eliza A. Rankin in 1853, Augusta County, Virginia. Following the birth of two sons Samuel left Virginia and went to Iowa, possibly planning to send for his young family later. In 1860 Samuel Curry was living in English River, Washington County, Iowa, he enlisted August 24, 1861 in the 10th Iowa Regiment Infantry, Federal Army. Samuel was wounded severely in the side January 8, 1862 near Charleston, Missouri. He died February 6, 1862 at Bird’s Point, Missouri and his body was returned to Washington County for burial in Richmond Cemetery where his graveside service was attended by hundreds of locals due to his dubious distinction of being the first local man to die in service. The Curry’s provide a sad example of brothers serving on opposite sides during this terrible conflict.

Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts

John Bell Rankin Senior

by Danella Dickson

John Bell Rankin Senior was born about 1798 in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of James and Mary (Kerr) Rankin. He married Elizabeth Sheets on February 2, 1820, in Augusta County and they were the parents of seven children.

In 1860 John and Elizabeth were living in Augusta County with their eighteen year old son John Jr. and two married daughters. Census records list John’s occupation as farmer but later military records say he was a millwright, probably he was involved in both occupations.

On April 17, 1861, as Virginia went through the process of leaving the union, John Bell Rankin Senior, at the age of sixty enlisted in Company C, 5th Virginia Regiment (Mountain Guards). We can only wonder if this enlistment was prompted by patriotism or concern for his 20 year old son, John Bell Rankin Junior, who enlisted at the same time. The men were sent 125 miles by train to Harper’s Ferry where they were mustered in. John B. Sr. enlisted as a drummer; possibly he had previously been a member of a local band. On June 15, 1861 he was discharged from the 5th Virginia Infantry and returned to Augusta County.
On July 23, 1861 John B. Sr. re-enlisted as a drummer in Company H, 52nd Infantry. The military rank of drummer was the equivalent of being a private. The drummer was an integral part of any military unit, needed to establish communication and keep order among the men in the field. Certain drum beats communicated messages that were conveyed for a long distance – such as reveille, breakfast call or bedtime. The drummer was responsible for drum calls used for assembling officers for meetings and sounding retreat in the midst of a battle. A drummer was always located near a high ranking officer ready to alert the troops of upcoming movements.

Soon after John Bell Rankin Senior’s enlistment in the 52nd Virginia Infantry he was notified of the death of his twenty year old son, John Bell Rankin Junior, who died July 25, 1861 from what was described as inflammation of the brain. John Bell Rankin Sr. served the remainder of 1861 during which time the 52nd took part in several battles, the roster for March and April, 1862 recorded his absence due to illness. He was discharged July 24, 1862 at Liberty Mills, Virginia. According to the Certificate of Disability the sixty three year old man was described as six feet, two inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and grey hair. The military record stated “during the last two months said soldier had been unfit for duty sixty days”, the order was signed by Captain John D. Lilley.

John Bell Rankin Senior died in Spring Hill, Augusta County, Virginia on July 26, 1863. He was buried next to his son, John Bell Jr., in the family cemetery located on the Rankin farm. The graves were still marked in 1963 when visited by family members. The cemetery is now known as the Burnett-Rankin Cemetery. Elizabeth Sheets Rankin continued to live in Augusta County and died there between 1870 and 1880.

Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts