I know a little bit about Jesse Rankin.
Jesse was probably born in 1873, the tenth child of Samuel and Ellen Kline Rankin. This is consistent with his age as reported on the 1880 Census.
Jesse's mother, Ellen, died when he was just nine years old. She had given birth to twelve children. She was just 38 years old.
In 1894,when Jesse was about 20 years old, he was living in Mackinac County, Michigan. Many young men living in Missouri traveled to Michigan during the harvest season. Michigan is second only to California in terms of agricultural output.
On 19 September 1894, Jesse and two other boys from Mackinac County, were recruited into the U. S. Army. Pvt. Jesse Rankin served his 1st enlistment of three years, and was discharged on 2 August 1897 from Fort Wayne, Michigan.
About two weeks after leaving the service, Jesse joined the 14th Infantry, Co. H. He was transferred to Co. C of the 19th Infantry, and he participated in the Spanish American War in the Far East. He received his 2nd discharge from Sian [now Xian], China in 1900.
Pvt. Jesse enlisted a 3rd time. He was sent to the Phillipines and quickly became ill. He was in a U. S. Army hospital in Luzon. When he left the hospital, he was sent to the Benicia Arsenal, in Solano County, California. The arsenal still exists, though it's been decommissioned as a military facility.
Strangely, just before his 3rd enlistment was up, Pvt. Jesse deserted. Why would he desert after almost nine years with just a few months to go? It's a mystery. Maybe he had done something that would get him into hot water, so rather than wait around, he just left. His military records from the National Archives are very skimpy and lack the details to answer the question.
Until recently, this was as much as I knew about the elusive Jesse. The next part of the story is new information that I compiled over the weekend.
Jesse was enumerated twice in the US Census in 1900. The first enumeration was on the June 1st, 1900. He stated the name of his home town specifically as "Brewer, Missouri." Brewer is a tiny community in Perry County, Missouri. Most people have never heard of it.
A second enumeration was recorded on the 23rd of June, when he had been admitted to the Santa Mesa Hospital in the Phillippines for an unknown cause. Jesse Rankin told the census taker that he was born in Missouri.
"Jessie" Rankin was enumerated in the 1910 Census, and it shows that he was working as a hired hand for the Adams family in Crawford County, Arkansas. He may not have actually talked to the enumerator. The census shows that Jesse was "32" years old, though at the time his actual age was 37.
In 1913, Jesse was married to Etta (or Elta) Clark on 25 February 1913 in Shady, Polk County, Arkansas. Polk County is just two counties south of Crawford County. There were no children of this marriage. Etta had previously been married to Frank Dickens, and they had one child, Mena Iona Dickens.
Jesse registered for the "Old Man's Draft" on 12 September 1918. His stated age was 45, which is accurate.
In 1920, "Jessie Rankings" and "Ettie," his wife, were again enumerated. Jesse, once again, gave his place of birth as "Missouri."
Jesse Rankin died on the 18th day of August, 1921, at the age of 47. His Arkansas death certificate number is 1114. His widow, Etta, survived Jesse by at least one year.
Thanks to the librarians at the Polk County Library in Mena, I now have an obituary for Jesse, first published in The Mena Star:
Funeral of Jesse Rankin was held Saturday at his home. Burial was at White Oak Cemetery. Mr. Rankin was born in 1873 in St. Mary's, Missouri, and was 18 when he entered the military. He married Ettie Clark, widow of Frank Dickens, about 8 years ago. He is survived by his wife, one step-daughter, Mena Iona Dickens, four brothers and two sisters living in St. Louis.Although the obituary says he was buried in the White Oak Cemetery, there is no record of his burial in the Cemetery Inscriptions of Polk County, Arkansas, printed in 1984 by Kannady & Daniel.
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