Rankin key to Ironton’s history

Published 9:45 pm Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Easter Bunny has come and gone. Now we look forward to the next program at the Lawrence County Museum.

Our sports exhibit was very successful. The exhibit is still on display at the museum for those who want to stop by and see it.

We talked last week about John Rankin’s bedroom. In this room you will find many interesting items and historical pictures and clippings. John Rankin was the grandfather of Mrs. George (Elizabeth) Gray. He came from Ripley, Ohio, where his home was a beacon for slaves escaping across the Ohio River.

Email newsletter signup

John Rankin was born Feb. 4, 1793. His father, Thomas Rankin, was born in Ireland. Thomas married Isabelle Clendenon and they had 12 children, six sons and six daughters. John’s grandfather on his mother’s side was Samuel Steele, who was from Scotland.

John was a Presbyterian minister who traveled throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and

New York. He was a nationally known abolitionist.

One of the women he assisted was the inspiration for the character, Eliza, in the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

In 1878, after the Gray family purchased the house that is now our museum, Mrs. Gary’s parents, the Wilson Humphries, came to live with them.

Rev. Rankin was the father of Mrs. Wilson Humphries and after Mrs. Rankin died, he also came to Ironton and resided at the Gray house with his granddaughter.

You will find some interesting photos in Mr. Rankin’s room. He had a rope bed and a rocking chair.

His family photos are there, along with some clippings for your reading.

Rev. Rankin lived until March 18, 1886, in his Ironton home in the Rankin district. He was called the “conductor” because he worked on the Underground Railroad.

We may talk about Harriet B. Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in the near future.

Historical fact: Ironton’s population was 11,211 people in the year 2000. That is the same as it was in 1890.