Dr. James Cofelt Mitchell Rankin, A Vintage Vignette

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Dr. James Cofelt Mitchell Rankin
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
July 19, 2008

When I moved to Madison in 1986, my attention was totally dedicated to the International Space Station program. After a few more years, I began dabbling in genealogical research as a hobby and gradually began to focus upon pioneer families of the Madison area. At that time, I had no idea of ever discovering any connection of my own family to Madison’s historical period. However, I did discover that the New Hope area was home to one of my Lemley ancestors for a few years in the early 1800s. It was much later that my research ran across a Dr. James Cofelt Mitchell Rankin of Belle Mina, who had land on the arsenal from his 1877 marriage to Julia Alabama Graham. Julia was born in 1843 at Pond Beat, a historical community on the southern portion of the arsenal. She was a daughter of Virginia-born James B. Graham and Nancy Tyree Dickson, a daughter of James Dickson and Keziah Wood of Virginia.

Dr. Rankin was born near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1833 and graduated with a degree in medicine from the University of Nashville in 1858. He married Elizabeth Rasbury in 1861 and had seven children by her. One of their daughters was named Vicheloria. She married as his second wife a man 21 years her senior, Francis Henderson Peebles, son of a Mooresville family with Vermont and Massachusetts roots. They lived in Sheffield in 1900 and later in Texas. One of Dr. Rankin’s sons, Quinton, became a lawyer. In 1908 he represented promoters in a scheme to drain Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee and sell the resulting 30,000 acres for development. Quinton was lynched by nightriders opposed to the project while staying at Walnut Lodge at the lake. Another of Dr. Rankin’s sons, William Rasbury, became a physician and is buried in Decatur. Other descendants by his first marriage connected Dr. Rankin to the surnames of Waddell, Burns, Bradley, Hobbs, and Hunt, among other notables.

Dr. Rankin and his children came to Alabama after his first wife died in 1875. However, according to Chris Edwards and Faye Axford in their book The Lure and Lore of Limestone County it was in 1870 that he bought a house in Belle Mina that had been built for Porter Bibb, Jr., grandson of Alabama’s second governor, Thomas Bibb. Dr. Rankin died in 1906, and Julia died in 1927. They are buried in the Decatur City Cemetery with a large monument. Julia bore five children to Dr. Rankin, but she had first been married in 1867 to Col. Francis Marion Windes, who commanded some of the Confederate troops in a Civil War battle near Madison Station at Indian Creek on December 23, 1864. This battle and another that occurred in the town itself on May 17, 1864, are commemorated on a historical marker erected on the Village Green near the Roundhouse replica, where Church Street crosses the railroad tracks.

Dr. James Rankin treated patients in the Pond Beat area, in Madison, and from Decatur to Athens, as well as in Belle Mina. He was a highly valued member of the medical profession serving this area. His ancestry traces back through his father Thomas Campbell Rankin of North Carolina to David G. Rankin of Mecklenburg County and his wife Ann Moore Campbell. David was a son of Samuel Rankin and Ellen Alexander. Samuel’s parents were identified in The Rankins of North Carolina, Volume 1, by Gregg Moore and Forney Rankin (1997), as being Robert and Rebecca Rankin. They came from Scotland by way of Ireland, being members of the old Nottingham Colony that left Pennsylvania and Maryland in the 1750s to settle what became Guilford County, North Carolina. This Robert Rankin is my 7th great grandfather, having been a “Ruling Elder” of the Old Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. Therefore, my ancestry joins with that of Dr. James Cofelt Mitchell Rankin at Robert, connecting my Rankin line to some of the pioneer families of this area.

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