Indian traders John Knox Rankin and Hiram Gibbs circulated store
cards to facilitate change-making at their agency in the Sac and Fox
tribal lands in what has become Oklahoma. The example shown is listed
as SNL-5a in George and Melvin Fuld’s U.S. Civil War Store Cards, revised.
Rankin was born in Indiana in 1837, the son of a Presbyterian
minister. Rankin was brought up in a strict abolitionist creed. In
1859, as a college-educated young man, he joined the exodus to
“Bleeding Kansas” to ensure the territory was admitted as a free state.
Rankin came to Lawrence, Kan., headquarters of the Free State
movement. He became doorkeeper for the territorial legislature.
Several months later, he joined the Second Kansas Infantry, and
remained with the unit when it was reconstituted a cavalry outfit. In
1863 Rankin survived the burning of Lawrence by William Quantrill, and
later served in the Army of the Cumberland.
Following the war, Rankin was appointed paymaster and inspector
general of the Kansas militia, with rank of colonel. He was also
elected a state legislator and mayor of Lawrence, and appointed the
town’s postmaster to boot!
Rankin was engaged in various commercial pursuits. By September
1867 he opened a store, J.K. Rankin & Co., at Quenemo in the Sac
and Fox Agency in Kansas’ Osage County, southwest of Lawrence.
In September-October 1867, the United States signed a treaty with
the Sacs and Foxes providing they should be relocated to a new
reservation in Indian Territory (present day central Oklahoma). Rankin
was a witness and signatory to the treaty. He was also permitted to
purchase up to eight acres on which his buildings were located.
Licensed traders were appointed to conduct trade with the Native
Americans on the reservations in Indian Territory.
The natives removed to Oklahoma late in 1869, and the Sac and Fox
Agency there dated to 1870.
The new agency consisted of a mission school and Indian agent
Thomas Miller’s residence. Rankin and Gibbs got the new concession
there. In 1875 and 1876, they were also given permission to transact
business with the Kickapoos at Shawneetown and Kickapoo Springs.
In May 1876, the trader’s store was robbed “by three armed
desperadoes.” Circa 1878, Rankin and Gibbs filed for bankruptcy. Gibbs
reconnected with Whistler, Pickett and Co., and continued as trader at
the Sac and Fox Agency through at least 1885. In 1890 Rankin, was
appointed special disbursing agent to various Indian tribes in the Southwest.
Oklahoma was admitted to statehood Nov. 16, 1907. Rankin died Oct.
29, 1915, after being assaulted by a knife-wielding drunk. The Sac and
Fox Agency was suspended in 1919.
Fred L. Reed iii has been a collector and writer for many years.
Reach him at www.fredwritesright.com.