By Jared Olar
Following on last week’s portrait of the life of Pekin Mayor Daniel Sapp, we turn this week to the life of another early settler of this area who also had the name of Daniel – Daniel M. Rankin (1803-1877), whose family surname is today borne by Rankin School on South Fifth Street, a few miles south of Pekin. The residence and farm building of Rankin’s farmstead were situated on the east side of the road that is today South 14th Street, but the Rankin family farm stretched west to Fifth Street.
A native of Lancaster County, Pa., Rankin arrived in Tazewell County in the autumn of 1828. Consequently, he was one of the survivors of the extremely harsh winter of 1830 which the county’s pioneers remembered as “the Deep Snow.” As one of Tazewell County’s “Old Settlers,” his biography was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 58. A lithograph of Rankin’s farm, called the “Odley Farm,” is found on page 117 of the same atlas.
Excerpts of Rankin’s biography from the “Atlas Map” here follow:
“Daniel M. Rankin, the subject of our sketch, was born in Lancaster county, Pa., on the 31st day of October, 1803, where he received his early education, and where he remained until seventeen years of age engaged in working upon the farm, and at which time he concluded to learn a trade. Choosing the blacksmithing, he engaged with one of his brothers, John Rankin, with whom he remained three years, at the expiration of which he began journey work, and worked two years at Hawksville, Pa.
“On the 7th of July, 1825, he was married to Miss Esther Lefevre, a native of Lancaster county, Pa., and in the spring of 1826 he began housekeeping. In 1827 he sold out, and in the month of September, 1828, he bid farewell to the hills and valleys of his native state and emigrated to the Great West, making Tazewell county, Ill., his point of destination, coming all the way by wagon, which required about six weeks’ time. He says he had splendid weather for traveling. When he first saw Pekin, it was but a small village composed of a few log houses.
“He settled on section 27, Sand Prairie township, Tazewell county, where he moved into a log cabin, and he immediately began opening up a farm. He remained there until 1864, when he sold out his farm and moved into the city of Pekin, where he remained some two years, and in 1866 he purchased the farm where he now resides, three miles southeast of Pekin, consisting of four hundred acres of good land – in fact, some of the most valuable in the county. . .
“He had the misfortune to lose the companion of his early life. She died on the 6th of August, 1855. They had fourteen children, seven of whom are now living and are comfortably situated. His son, George W., has charge of the farm, and is one of the most active young men in the county. He possesses all the qualifications necessary to success in life. He is thoroughly posted in every department of agriculture, and his farm is stocked with fine herds of cattle, hogs, and horses. . .”
At the time his biography was written, Rankin was living with his son George and two of his daughters on the Odley Farm. The biography concluded with the hope that he would “long live to be a blessing in the future, as he has been in the past, to his family and the society which he has been identified with for so many years.”
However, by the time Charles C. Chapman had published his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” Rankin had passed away, as Chapman noted on page 422 of his history. Rankin died July 30, 1877. He is buried just at the northeast corner of his old farm, in Rankin Cemetery, also known as Haines (or Haynes) Cemetery, located on the north side of Veterans Drive.