“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Martinez in Contra Costa County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

James Rankin

Born in Larnackshire, Scotland, April 25, 1848

James Rankin Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, March 31, 2016
1. James Rankin Marker
Captions: (bottom left) Making Martinez home for over a century; "Nana," Sara Elizabeth Brown Rankin, 1852-1934; Janet Rankin at the Rankin Ranch, circa 1905; Phyllis Butcher Wainwright, daughter of Janet Rankin Butcher. Martinez School Trustee and Chair, Martinez Cemetery Commission; (center column, top to bottom) Rankin Orchards with house in the background. Note poles on the left bringing the County's first telephone service to the Sheriff's home.; Rankin House circa 1884, located in today's Rankin Park. Rankin family members are among those in the foreground.; Rankin Ranch assets as listed about 1910 to prepare for sale of property: 44 English Walnut Trees in bearing • 400 Olive Trees in bearing • 150 Orange Trees in full bearing • 25 Almond Trees in bearing • Small family vineyard • A family orchard of cherries, peaches, pears, plums, French prunes, apples, apricots, and quint of about 4 acres • 40 acres of pasture land • Good fourteen room house with all modern improvements, electric lights, open plumbing, etc. • Good barn, outhouses, and chicken houses in good repairs • A fine spring which supplies the place with water from an elevation • 4 large rain water tanks with a capacity of 16,000 gallons • Rock quarry on place • 79 3/4 acres in all; (top right) Newspaper obituary from the Contra Costa Gazette, October 19, 1901.
Inscription.  Coal miner, store and hotel owner, Justice of the Peace, mine manager and owner, rancher, County Sheriff, banker and community leader.
At seventeen, in 1865, James Rankin left his family and emigrated from Scotland, landing in New York City. In 1869, he made his way to San Francisco and from there to Black Diamond mines, between New York Landing (Pittsburg today) and Clayton.
Between 1868 and 1884, James worked in the mines, rising to mine manager while owning a succession of hotels and general merchandise stores in the now forgotten towns of Somersville, Nortonville, and Stewartsville in steep foothills reminiscent of the Scottish highlands.
In 1879, Rankin married Sara Elizabeth Brown, the sister of his Somersville friend and business partner, Sam Brown.
The year before, Sara had surprised her brother, Sam, when she stepped off the train from Pennsylvania in place of another brother to whom he had sent the ticket she used. The following year, Janet Rankin was born, the first of nine Rankin children.
In 1884, James Rankin was elected Sheriff of Contra Costa County, leading him to bring his growing family
James Rankin Marker and Grave image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, March 31, 2016
2. James Rankin Marker and Grave
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to Martinez where they renovated a home on the west side of town. There Rankin established a fruit ranch whose hillside olive orchard is still visible today.
Rankin served two terms as Sheriff while continuing to manage the mines at Somersville and Nortonville. In 1888, he ran unsuccessfully for State Senator on the Republican ticket.
During the late 1880s and 1890s, Rankin divided his time between Martinez, the mines, a 649-acre grain ranch he had developed at McAvoy, near New York Landing, and Europe where he would go for mineral baths.
In 1899, when Bank of Martinez encountered difficulties, its Board of Directors asked him to become its President. He served in this capacity until his death, October 15, 1901, at the age of 53.

In the death of James Rankin, the town and county loses a very estimable citizen. He was very unassuming in manner, but the good that he has done in many directions cannot be estimated. He was always one of the first to put his hand in his pocket to help out any project that would tend to benefit the people. His loss is one that cannot be replaced. He was charitable to a fault, and many a person has to thank him for his start in life. Mr. Rankin was strictly a self made man, and he knew what it was to get a foundation started by self efforts. The town feels its loss keenly. Any community has few enough of this class of
James Rankin image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer
3. James Rankin
men, and it a blow to have them taken away. The sympathy of the entire public is extended to the family in its time of sorrow.
-- {Editorial from Contra Costa Gazette, October 19, 1901}
Erected by Alhambra Cemetery Commission.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce.
Location. 38° 1.08′ N, 122° 8.7′ W. Marker is in Martinez, California, in Contra Costa County. Marker can be reached from Carquinez Scenic Drive near Talbart Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 9 Carquinez Scenic Drive, Martinez CA 94553, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Captain Joseph R. Walker (here, next to this marker); Pioneer Cemetery (a few steps from this marker); Hook Family (within shouting distance of this marker); Dedicated to the Family of Don Ignacio Martinez (within shouting distance of this marker); Capt. Joseph R. Walker (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); God's Acre (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named James Rankin (approx. 0.2 miles away); Former Anti-Aircraft W.W. II Barracks (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Martinez.
More about this marker. This marker is located in Alhambra Cemetery. Pick up a key at the Martinez Police Department.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on April 2, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 479 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on April 2, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Jan. 26, 2023