Monday, December 30, 2013

Supreme Court Case File of Rankin v State

Today I made a visit to the National Archives in DC to find and examine the case file in Rankin vs State of Tennessee (see the Timeline in case of Captain John Thornhill, posted on 3 November 2013). I am still amazed that one can go to the Archives and touch actual historical documents from over 140 years ago. Doing this brings my search for information on the case to a close. I plan to write an article on the case for the Tennessee Genealogical Society Magazine sometime in 2014, as this is useful history for other Jefferson County researchers.
The case was appealed to the US Supreme Court by Samuel E. Rankin (a bio on Rankin can be found here), who was courtmartialed then later charged and acquitted for the murder of Captain John Thornhill. The Supreme Court received the case in its December 1867 term (15 February 1868), and issued its ruling on 10 April 1871 as part of the December 1870 term.

The transcript of the case looks like it survived a fire. It consists of 84 pages handwritten on legal size paper. There are also a few other loose letters written by Samuel Rankin asking for a status update on the disposition of the case.
The transcript confirmed that my 3rd-great-grandfather Joseph Jones appeared as a witness for the state, and that he was compensated $17.20 for 10 days and 180 miles. Sarah Jane Thornhill Ryan, aunt to both John Thornhill and Joseph Thomas Jones, also appeared as a witness in the case.

There's a lot more in this file, and on the disposition of the case, which I'll cover in a subsequent post.

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