Fred H. Keller | Retrospect
James and Mary Rankin, early Lisbon pioneers
The Rankin family was once a mighty Lisbon family, as they pioneered the central part of Lisbon, on what is Plainview Road, west of Hillside Road and east of Highway 164. They were a major factor in the community, even serving on school boards and as supervisors for Lisbon.
They spread out, helped found a local church, and now in the later years of the 20th century and into the 21st, are fast disappearing from the scene. There was a start with James Rankin and his wife Mary Keyes.
James Rankin was born in 1804 in Donegal, Ireland of Scotch-Irish parents. He left from Dublin, Ireland, bound for the United States on Oct. 26, 1826 on the Brig, Hibernia. Initially he stayed in New York, but later moved to Massachusetts.
Mary Keyes was born in 1811 in Ireland, and also came to the United States, where she met James Rankin. They married on July 3, 1833 when she was 22 and he was 29 at the Trinity Parish Church in New York City.
In 1843 they took heed of the reports of homestead lands being offered for $1.25 per acre in the Wisconsin Territory and proceeded west to make a claim.
They were on their way to having a large family of 10 children, with five born in the east and five in Wisconsin.
A thumbnail sketch of their children goes this way: 1. Margaret, born April 15, 1835 in Massachusetts, died July 3, 1897 in Friend, Neb.. 2. William born Oct. 28, 1836 in Homer, New York, died June 11, 1908 in Whitewater, Wis.. 3. Joseph, born Oct. 20, 1838 in Massachusetts, died June 9, 1930 in San Jose, Calif. 4. Humphrey, born June 28, 1840, in Chester, Mass., died April 11, 1901 in Lisbon, Wis. 5. Just before they left the east, Mary Jane was born on March 4, 1843 in Massachusetts and died Feb. 16, 1918 in Racine, Wis. 6. James Jr. was born April 24, 1844 and died at age 29 in Lisbon on Oct. 14, 1873. 7. John was born March 14, 1847 in Lisbon and died March 24, 1902 in Waukesha, Wis. 8. Stephenson, born Feb. 14, 1847 in Lisbon died March 6, 1925 in Lisbon. 9. David, born April 4, 1851 in Lisbon died Oct. 19, 1922 in Lisbon. 10. Martha, born Feb. 1, 1854 in Lisbon died Nov. 15, 1939 in Hampton, Iowa.
Now of these 10 children, the most important for Lisbon were future landowners David (Home farm) and Humphery, Stephenson and John who bought area farms. Over a period of time, the Rankins owned over 375 acres in the Town of Lisbon. Meanwhile, some of the girls married into Lisbon farm land.
In this time, the James and Mary Rankin stretched from Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, North Dakota, California and Florida. However, there is a large contingent that is buried at the Lisbon Central Cemetery.
The Rankin family was part of the founding families of the Lisbon Presbyterian Church with a family tradition of joining on Feb. 20,. 1848. The Rankins have used this church for baptisms and funerals and all sorts of in-betweens for 165 years now.
Today, only one large Rankin spread is left , the remnant of the Stephenson, Stanley, Gordon and Mahala Rankin farm on Silver Spring Drive, just west of Color Ink.
Old James would die at age 70 on Feb. 20, 1874. His wife died at nearly 79 years on May 7, 1880. both were laid to rest at the Lisbon Central Cemetery.
The Rankin blood has spread far and near through marriage. Today, the most notable local personalities are former and the current Sussex fire chiefs, Bob and Tom Schlie and Corky Curtis.
The Sussex Olde Engine Show had a vast contingent in its formative years of Rankin participation and leadership in Wes Rankin and his son David Rankin. David now lives on a 4-acre residence of the former Wes Rankin farm on Highway 164.
There are very few Rankins left in Lisbon today, less than a handful from a once powerful, wealthy and influential group, as the main pioneering farmstead of 140 acres and the adjacent Wes Rankin farm are today parts of a vast multi-gravel pit enterprise with most of it just north of Plainview Drive.
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