UNC Charlotte Special Collections J. Murrey Atkins Library - Special Collections & University Archives

Skip to main content

Bisaner-Rankin families papers

Identifier: MS0425

Scope and Contents

As the name of this collection suggests, it concerns the Bisaner and Rankin families of Gaston and Lincoln counties, in North Carolina. Though the papers date back to approximately 1620 and the latest item in this collection dates to the year 2000, the majority of papers date from around 1860 to 1900. Most of the collection exists in the form of correspondence between Delia, Jacob, Joe and Caleb Bisaner, which mostly concerns the day-to-day matters affecting their family. The Bisaners also wrote about the marble quarry near Marietta, Georgia, where Joe Bisaner worked; the Civil War; Caleb's travels to the American West, and Kathleen Rankin's life while attending the Presbyterian College for Women (now know as Queen's University). Papers in the latter part of Series I concern mainly Frank Battley Rankin, a lawyer who was also involved in such things as nature conservation and the renovation of the Rankin family home--Willowside.


  • 1620-2000
  • 1800 - 1950


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Rankin Family Historical Note

A. Gregg Moore and Forney A. Rankin are two genealogists who spent many years researching the history of the Rankin family, accumulating information from a variety of sources. Among their writings are a variety of stories about the family’s origins, some of which are apocryphal, or whose origins are so antiquated that they cannot be corroborated by any existing documentation. Among these stories is one about Jacob de Rankin, the son of the burgomaster of Ghent, who accompanied the Duke of Flanders on a visit in the late thirteenth century to the Court of King Alexander III of Scotland. Allegedly, it was during this visit that Jacob met and fell in love with Margaret Keith, daughter of Marshall Keith—one of the highest ranking of the King’s courtiers. According to this story, this is the origin of the Rankin family in Scotland. However, there are a number of references to Rankins (with a variety of spellings) in Scotland and England at about the same time, casting this story into doubt.

As far as the Rankin Family in the Carolina Piedmont is concerned, the most current evidence suggests that it was probably Robert and Rebecca Rankin who first migrated from Ulster to Pennsylvania around 1750, moving to Rowan County in North Carolina in 1755. It seems that their son Samuel (who likely was recently widowed) traveled with them. Samuel bought 320 acres in 1760 in Rowan County from David Alexander. Samuel married a woman named Ellen Alexander, suggesting that she and David might have been from the same family. He later moved farther west, buying land in Lincoln County (now Gaston County). John and William Rankin (probably brothers of Samuel) bought a tract of five hundred acres in Guilford County. William moved in with Samuel in 1768, later buying his own farm.

John Rankin, the veteran of 1812, died late in 1876. His nephew, Frank Bisaner Rankin, served in WWI and later became a renowned Presbyterian minister who developed an outstanding reputation for his zeal and dedication to ministerial service. His son, Richard Eugene Rankin Sr., served in WWII and became a medical doctor. This Richard Rankin had a very busy life outside of his medical practice, serving on the local public school board, corresponding with state and national political figures, and writing letters to the editors of local newspapers. His son, Richard Eugene Rankin Jr., earned a Ph.D. in history and developed a career as a university professor and the headmaster of a private school in Gastonia.

By the late twentieth century, the Rankins still held a great interest in land, but by this time it had become a matter of environmental stewardship. The Rankins were one of the charter members of the Catawba Lands Conservancy.

One of the characteristics of the people of this family has been their prolific birth rate. Most of the Rankins had many children, most of their offspring were strong enough to survive into adulthood (a rare thing in the days of old), and most of their descendants also had large families. The most frequently occurring names within the clan have been Richard, William, Samuel, John, Anne, and Jane, making tracing the family lineage a daunting task. As Scots, most of the Rankins were Presbyterian and many ministers are found in the branches of the family tree.

Bisaner Family Historical Note

A certain amount of Bisaner family history can be found through the examination of their family papers. The names of Bisaner family members that appear most often are those of Delia Bisaner, Joseph S. Bisaner, Jacob H. (Jake) Bisaner, and Caleb Bisaner. Delia seems to have lived her whole life in the Lincolnton area of North Carolina, while some of her siblings moved elsewhere. Joe moved to Marietta, Georgia and worked at a marble quarry nearby, and it seems that he married a woman named Alice. Jacob Bisaner served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and enlistment papers in this collection provides very detailed information about him personally. Another Bisaner, Caleb Bisaner, travelled out west to Missouri, Nebraska and Utah in the 1870s and 1880s. The connection between the Bisaner and Rankin families existed in the form of the marriage of Delia Bisaner with Col. Richard Rankin. Delia was the third of Richard's three wives, and with her he had two children: Kathleen B. Rankin and Frank Rankin.

Jacob H. Bisaner biographical note

Jacob Bisaner is one of the more promimently featured members of the family in this collection, as a result of the large number of letters that he wrote to other family members as well as the number of letters that were written to him. In addition, we have a lot of information about him from his military service record. According to a report recorded by the Sanitary Commission on September 4, 1863, Bisaner was enlisted as a private in the 11th North Carolina Infantry Regiment on March 1, 1862 for a period of "three years or the war." In addition to his height and weight measurements, this report also specifies his breadth of neck, breadth of pelvis, circumference of chest, and many other points of physical health. He was born in Lincolnton, in Lincoln County, NC, and was of Scottish and German lineage. At the time of his examination he was eighteen years old, so he must have been born in either 1844 or 1845. His military record also tells us that he had a sandy complection, and that his hair and eyes were both dark brown. Prior to enlistment, he worked as a store clerk. This report goes on to say that he enjoyed riding and shooting, that he had "thoroughly domestic habits" and that he regularly attended church services.


3 Linear Feet




The Bisaner-Rankin Families papers consist of a wide variety of materials, though the majority of the collection consists of letters to and from various members of the Bisaner and later the Rankin families, in Gaston County, NC and Marietta, GA, since the mid-nineteenth century.


The collection is arranged into the following two series: Papers and Photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from John Thomasson in March 2010.

Related Materials

Rankin family papers, MS 365 ; Richard Rankin diary, MS 344

Separated Materials

Books removed from collection for cataloging: (1) Agents' Manual / Eliott & Beezley, RARE Z283 .A44 1890. (2) Children's Treasury / compiled by Marjorie Barrows, 1947-1951, RARE LU PZ5 .C445 1947. (3) Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1842, RARE BV415 .A3 1836. (4) Standing and Select Committees, 1856-1857 (Doc. no. 5), RARE JK4176 .A46 1856. (5) How to describe "Treasures from the Prose World", RARE Z278 .H69 1883. (6) Laws of North Carolina, RARE KFN7425 .A23. (7) Reading-Literature: Second Reader / Treadwell and Free, 1912, RARE LU PE1119. T74 1912. (8) Summer School for Teachers / North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Raleigh, 1903, RARE LD3928 .A22. (9) Wicked House and other poems / A. Gustavus Melton, 1917, RARE PS3525 .E37 W5 1917. (10) Speec[h] of Hon. John W. Ellis, delivered before the Democratic State Convention, in Raleigh, March 9, 1860. RARE E440 .E47 1860. (11) Message from the President of the United States, to the two Houses of Congress, at the commencement of the third session of the thirty-fourth Congress, RARE E431 .U54 1856. (12) Report ... [on] a bill to incorporate a company to construct a railroad from some point on the waters of Beaufort Harbor (to be hereafter determined) to the coal fields via Fayetteville, RARE HE2771.N8 N675 1856. (13) Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, 1834, RARE BX9225.W4 G45 1834. (14) Laws of the United States of America, RARE KF51 1787 .U65 1796.

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes in August of 2011.
Bisaner-Rankin families papers
Finding aid written by Robert A. McInnes
August 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The collection was deposited at the UNCC Special Collections by John Thomasson, as a permanent loan that will convert to a gift at the time of his death.
Edition statement
The collection originated from the same family and the same house as the Rankin Family papers--an estate known as "Willowside" in Gaston County.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte 28223 United Stated