JOSIAH REID RANKIN
PASTOR [of the First Methodist Church of Sharon], 1901-1903
Josiah Reid Rankin stood high in the ministerial ranks of Erie Conference. He seemed endowed with the ability to take a difficult situation, straighten it out and bring it into harmonious working order. For this very reason he was asked to leave the Dunkirk, New York, Church
(whose people were broken-hearted over it) and take the Sharon Church. It seemed that a forerunner of dissension was apparent there which could injure the cause of Methodism. They asked him to go and weld it together. His success is evidenced in the records of the Official Board minutes and Quarterly Conference reports which reveal the fact that his salary was voluntarily increased three successive years and at close of each year of his pastorate here his return was urgently requested.
Dr. Rankin was a noted and eloquent speaker. His ministry was never confined to the particular church he served but rather he served the community in which he lived. He drew to him friends of every walk of life because he was genuinely interested in people and endeavored to help them.
He had a delightful sense of humor which was a great asset. A day or so after his arrival in Sharon he went into a barber shop on State Street run by the Daus Brothers. The one working on Dr. Rankin asked: "Are you with the Shakespearean Troupe in town?" "Well, not exactly," replied Mr. Rankin. "I do, however, play a leading role at the First Methodist Church this year."
When the old Methodist Church was built on North Main Avenue and Silver Street there was no thought of a railroad ever coming through that part of town. Years later, however, when the Erie Railroad was built the tracks were laid just a step or so from the sidewalk in front of the church. The noise from the trains was sometimes deafening. Many times Dr. Rankin had to stop talking and wait until the train passed. He often remarked: "I believe in competition, but the good Lord did not equip me to compete with a steam engine."
During the years that Dr. Rankin served the Clintonville appointment he organized a new congregation. He conducted a wonderful revival in what was called "The Lovell" school house, in the vicinity or not too far from Barkyville, Pennsylvania. He had wonderful success there-later building a nice little church, which is known as the "Rankin Church."
His career was a consistent record of all the little things well done. Those who were numbered in his wide circle of acquaintances regarded him as the very essence of a Christian and patriotic American.
Throughout his retirement years he enjoyed and used his keen mentality. Well informed on all current issues of the day, he was in
constant demand as a speaker for the service clubs and various organizations right up to his closing 87th year.
Josiah Reid Rankin, native of Butler County, Pennsylvania, was born on a farm in Fairview Township, November 10th, 1847. he received his education in the common schools and attended the Select School in Fairview. Later he continued his studies at the West Sunbury Academy and was graduated from Waynesburg College in 1874.
Prior to his college career, however, the excitement and unrest of the country during the Civil War appealed to his youthful imagination and as a lad of sixteen years, he ran away from home and enlisted. He became a private in Company F, 100th Regiment, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers of which Captain Moffett of New Castle was in command. This regiment was known as the famous Roundhead Regiment and was organized in White Hall in New Castle in 1861. It consisted largely of men from Lawrence County.
The young soldier's fighting experiences were destined to be brief. In the Spring of 1865 he was taken prisoner at Petersburg. Virginia, and was confined in the Libby prison. He received his honorable discharge from the army at Harrisburg on July 27th, 1865. He suffered severe illness contracted in the unsanitary and ill-kept prison, but eventually regained his health and went back to school to finish his education.
After graduating from Waynesburg College, he taught school and continued to prepare himself for the ministry. He entered the ministry in 1889 and became a member of the Erie Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1902 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Harriman University.
In 1869 he was united in marriage to Miss Martha Rodgers of Brady's Bend, Pennsylvania, who was his loyal companion and fellow- worker for 53 years until her death in Long Beach, California, May 14, 1922. Their family consisted of two sons and three daughters, David M., Joseph R., Maude, Sallie, and
Death came April 14, 1934, in Butler, Pennsylvania. Dr. and Mrs. Rankin are entombed in beautiful Forest Lawn Mausoleum at Glendale, California.
Surviving are two daughters-Sallie Rankin hover, Fullerton, California, and Alwilda Rankin Mertz, Long Beach, California.
One Hundred Fifty Years of Methodism, by Roscoe C. Wilson, pages 63-65