James Rasco Rayner, Frances Lawrence, & Mary Collins Howe

Sally’s great-great Grandparents:

James Rasco Rayner 1807 – 1852| his parents
& 1831 Frances Florenteine Levana Lawrence 1813 – 1847 | her parents
& 1850 Mary Elizabeth Collins Howe [Mebane] 1805 – 1855 |her parents
of near Windsor, Bertie County, North Carolina

 my working hypothesis – the way I see it as of this moment!!

James Rasco Rayner

– James Rasco Rayner, son of Enoch Rayner and Penelope Rasco his wife, was born 31 August 1807 in Bertie County, NC. They were members of Cashie Baptist Church near Windsor.
– Frances Florentine Lawrence, daughter of Rev. Reuben Lawrence and his wife Frances was born on 29 October 1813.
– James’ father Enoch died in Dec 1823.
– James received his education at Columbian College in Washington, D.C. [At a very extravagant cost according to his Uncle Elijah Rayner, executor of his father’s estate, in his deposition in a court case.]
– James Rasco Rayner and Frances Florenteine Levana Lawrence were married in Bertie County NC 27 February 1831. [Marriage Bond 26 Feb 1831; Henry D Johnston, bondsman.]
– James served in the House of Commons in 1838 and again in 1842.
– From a letter from James Rasco Rayner in Raleigh to his wife dated Nov 24, 1842:
“I hope you will endeavor to manage to the best advantage. Have the pork killed as soon as the acorns are gone. You must get your father to get salt for you or if you will send to Windsor to Roulhacs you can get it. Keep Rose ploughing all the time that the weather will admit of it. Inquire about those staves at Mr. Riddick’s if they are not in danger of being stolen. If your father sells his, see if you can get him to sell ours. When Ganza and Dick are done getting those dead trees up make Dick plough and Ganza clear up that piece of land on the road. . . get James Mack to build that house I was talking to him about.”
– From another letter to his wife dated 13 Jan 1843 from Raleigh:
“I would rather that you would attend to the instruction of the children than anything else in the world. I know our children are not lacking in sense but it is the lack of instruction that makes them behind others that I have seen here.”
– On 14 Feb 1844 he certified a document signed by Jon S Tayloe, clerk of the court as James R Rayner, Chairman of the County Court of Bertie.
– Frances Florentine Lawrence Rayner died 20 December 1847 age 34 years.
– James Rayner is listed as a trustee of Chowan College 1849-50.
– James R Rayner married (2nd) Mary Elizabeth Collins Howe Mebane on 2 April 1850 [bondman W P Gurley.] (She was the daughter of Thomas Howe and wife Elizabeth Wood. She was the widow of Dr. A W (Alexander Wood) Mebane who served in the house in 1829 & 1830 and was the state senator 1833, 34, 35, 36. Also, both Dr. Mebane and Mary E. were first cousins of Julia, wife of Dr. Godwin Cotten Moore who are another set of my great, great grandparents).
– J R Rayner died 27 September 1852 age 45 years at “The Hermitage” his wife’s Chowan River plantation. Mary, his widow, had died by Nov 1855.

hermitage-1 hermitage-2
photos of the Hermitage by James Moore ca 1970

about life on the River plantations in Bertie County 1840.

Children of James Rasco Rayner and Frances Florentine Lawrence:
1. Aura Elizabeth Rayner 29 Sept 1832 NC – aft 1920 Pasadena CA
married 1851 James Bryant ca 1830 NC – aft 1880/ bef 1910 went to Indiana
in 1860 he is the State Librarian; 1870 farmer, 1880 merchant
2. Alice Z Rayner 26 Sept 1834 – 15 July 1853 age 17 years 10 mo
3. a son [un-named] 10 April 1836-10 April 1836
4. Frances Penelope Rayner 22 Jan 1838 – 7 January 1866
5. Mary Winifred Rayner “Mollie” 3 Feb 1840 – 26 Apr 1925 Hertford Co NC
married 1860 John Alexander Rayner Private 55 Reg NC Troops Co F
also known as 4 Reg. NC Cavalry

6. Cecilia Octavia Rayner 3 Apr 1842 – 20 Apr 1916
married 1865 William T Northcott ca 1841 – 1870/1880 census
son of Andrew Northcott & wife Sally Ann Leary dau of Charlton Leary
7. James Thomas Rayner 22 Jan 1844 – 6 Mar 1892
Bertie Volunteers – Private – enlisted in Bertie Co at age 17 – May 1, 1861
for six months. mustered out Nov 12-13, 1861. Co L
also, Sgt. 11 Reg Co C CSA

married 1867 1st Celia A Holly 1845 – 1876
ts Holly, Celia Rayner, 31 years 1 mo 12 days; daughter of James & Mary Holly
married 1884 2nd Margaret E Mitchell 1866 –
she married 2nd Thomas T. Smallwood
8. Joseph Reuben Rayner 25 July 1846 – 9 July 1909
(never married– lived Gates Co, NC)
Private 68th Reg Co F CSA
9. Francis Samuel [Samuel Francis] Rayner 30 Nov 1847 – went to Indiana
in 1870 he is living with his sister Aura’s family in Indiana
? married St. Joseph Co IN 3 Jan 1872 Lillie Riskets
? married 24 Oct 1878 Montgomery Co IN Clara A Hughes
? married 17 Aug 1898 Montgomery Co IN Ella Thompson

Step-children of James Rasco Rayner
children of A. W. Mebane and Mary Elizabeth Collins Howe:
1. William A. Mebane bef 1831-
married Feb. 1852, Mary Ashburn
married 2nd 15 Mar. 1866 Margaret M. Bond
2. John Thomas Mebane 13 April 1838 – 15 Nov 1867
married 29 Nov 1865 Julia Munro Wheeler 28 Nov 1843 – dau of S J
3. Mary E Mebane
married 15 Dec. 1857 John Pool 1826 – 1884
4. A. Wood Mebane 1841-30 Nov 1871

Letter: from Jame Rascoe Rayner to his daughter Aura dated May 10, 1850, while she was a student at Chowan.
“I have no doubt Dr. Wheeler told you I was not at all pleased with your not having made more progress in writing and composition than you have. I do not believe there is enough attention paid to your studies in that respect for certainly if there had you would do better than you are. You are put under no restraint and not compelled to study and improve as you ought, it does appear to me your teachers think more what sort of appearance you will make upon the promenade, at church, at parties and concerts and how well you will sing than they do about storing your mind with useful knowledge such as would be useful to you in the afterlife. There have been more wrangling about promenading and getting to concerts and parties than there has been in any other school in the state. My patience is threadbare. I have almost come to the conclusion to resign as one of the trustees and have nothing more to do with it unless I could conduct it as it should be, for when there is a teacher that places the girls under restraint as Miss Haskell, she is passed by ——. I hope you will make good use of your time and try to improve in letter writing and composition and not go on any excursions or parties unless every person concerned is agreed to it.” James Rascoe Rayner did not serve as a trustee after 1850.

Letters of James Rasco Rayner to his wife and daughter were in Jan 1973 in the possession of his descendant — Mrs. James H. Cable of Altadena, Calif.

Will of James R Rayner: I James R Rayner of Bertie County and state of North Carolina being of sound and disposing mind and memory do this 29th day of September one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two make and ordain this my last will and testament as follows.
first I loan to my beloved wife the use of my property of every kind whatsoever to use as she may desire during her natural life with the exception of what I may hereinafter designate provided she pay all of my debts of every kind whatsoever with the money on hand and the money due me in Baltimore and elsewhere. I have full confidence in the honesty and capacity of my wife to have the management of my little children and to assist them in any way she may think proper.
I desire my friend William Leary to accept the Guardianship of my children not married. I desire that my son James Thomas as soon as he is old enough to be put out to learn a good trade and that my son Frank be well educated. I desire that my daughter Mary be sent to school two or three years longer (Miss Mollie attended the school conducted by Mr. Alfred Darden at his plantation Elm Grove at Mapleton) and my other children I leave to the option of my wife to manage in any way she may think best. I want all my books and tools to be kept and given to my boys when they need them or as their guardian may think best.
At the termination of my wife’s natural lifetime, I want my property as equally divided as it can be amongst all my children that may be then living except my two Daughters Aura and Alice their heirs and assigns forever and to them, I give and bequeath one dollar each. In witness thereof I the said James R Rayner have affixed my hand and seal this day & date above written James R Rayner (seal)
Signed Sealed presence of John B Gilliam Wm A Ferguson

Grandchildren of James R Rayner and Frances F Lawrence:

James Bryant and Aura Elizabeth Rayner of Indiana had:
in the 1910 census Aura said she had had 7 children and 3 were living at that time
1. William A Bryant 1855/56 IN –
a. Lorena Bryant Cable (who corresponded with James Moore, my nephew, for years)
2. Fannie R Bryant 1858/59 IN –
3. Benjamin F Bryant ca 1865 IN – bef 1880
4. Jennie Bryant 1867 IN –
married 7 June 1892 Newman Essick 1867 –
a. Bryant Essick ca 1899 –

Aura Rayner Bryantphoto made in Crawfordville, Indiana Aura Rayner Bryant's daughter photo taken Crawfordsville, Indiana aura-gs

Aunt Aura – her daughter – Aura & grandson Bryant Essick

Frances Penelope Rayner 22 Jan 1838 – 7 January 1866:
“Neppie” went blind at an early age. Eunice Waters had a little box with the braille characters she used for writing.
She was in a school in Philadelphia when Lincoln was shot. The girls in the dormitory had hung crape on the Bedposts.
Being a good Southern girl, she went into a rage and tore it all down
On the 28th October 1855, Mary E C Howe Mebane Rayner added this codicil to her will. In addition to the above legacies, I give and bequeath to Penelope Rayner daughter of Jas Rayner dec’d the sum of Six hundred dollars to be appropriated by her guardian to her support and education at some Blind Institute in witness whereof I have set my hand and seal this 28th day of October 1855.

John Alexander Rayner and Mary Winifred Rayner had:
1. Gustave Beaureguard Rayner 3 Aug 1861-1952
Farmer & Baptist preacher Texas
married 1886 1. Louanna Mitchell 1868-1912
married 1913 2. Francis Elizabeth Hale 1888-1960
2. Johnnie Florentine Rayner 14 Dec 1863-21 Mar 1926 Maple Lawn
married 24 Oct 1886 Arthur Cotton Moore (1854-1926), Farmer
3. Percy Lockhart Rayner 12 Oct 1866-1930
General Store- Powellsville, N C
married c 1912 Ella Jones (1882-1961)
4. Morton Lacy Rayner 1 Feb 1869-1927 Farmer- home place
married c 1900 Hattie Parker (1879-1958)
5. Beulah Elizabeth Rayner 3 June 1871-1937
married 1890 Elisha Sessoms (1849-1923), Farmer
6. James William Rayner 14 Feb 1874-1932
Railway Freight Agent-Powellsville, NC
married 3 Sept 1902 Annie Ward Pruden (1876-1944)
7. John Armstead Rayner 16 May 1875-1919 Farmer- Powellsville
married 1899 Betty Moore (1879-1919)
8. Martha Penelope Rayner 22 Mar 1878-1967
married 1899 David Lawrence Myers (1868-1956)
Mercantile and Jewelry Stores-Ahoskie, NC
9. Fredric Lawrence Rayner 2 Feb 1882 (twin)-11 July 1882

William T Northcott and Celia Octavia (Ocky) Rayner had:
(lived between Trap and Colerain, NC)
1. Sarah L Northcott ca 1867 – bef 1895
married ca 1885 Joseph Deans 1853 – aft 1910
[he married 2nd Jan 1895 Amanda White [Merry Hill]]
a. Frank R. [Dick] Deans Apr 1887 –
b. Julius Deans Oct 1889 –
2. William J [Willie] Northcott ca 1868 – single 1910
3. Joseph Andrew Northcott Aug 28, 1871 – 9 Feb 1925
married ca 1895 Nannie J Valentine May 1877 – aft 1930
she reports having had 8 children 5 living in 1910
a. Irene Northcott May 1897 –
b. Ester F Northcott May 1898 – bef 1910
c. Joseph Earl Northcott Jr. 23 July 1900 – 19 May 1983 Bertie Co NC
d. William David Northcott 24 Jan 1902 – 20 April 1965 Colerain
married Stella Parker
e. Thomas A Northcott ca 1906 –
f. Hubert H [Dave] Northcott ca 1910 –
g. Clarence Andrew Northcott ca 1912 – 25 Dec 1980 Ahoskie
h. Myrle Northcott ca 1915 – son
i. Virgil Northcott ca 1915 – ”
j. J A Northcott ca 1917 – ”
k. Lellie? Northcott ca 1919 – ”

James Thomas Rayner and Celia Holly had no issue.
James Thomas Rayner and Margaret E Mitchell had:

(lived at the Mill Landing Farm between Windsor and Eden House)
DIED. — We regret to hear of the death of Mr. James Thomas Rayner, which sad event occurred at his home, Mill Landing, this county, early Sunday morning from Bright’s Disease. He was a very large man, and a large merchant and farmer also. Another good citizen has gone that journey from whence no traveler returns. Our sympathy is extended to his bereaved family.

“Windsor Ledger”, The Ledger Publishing Co., Windsor, [Bertie Co], N.C. Wed, March 9, 1892 [Vol. IX, No. 28]
[excerpt from “From Time into Eternity” CD-ROM by David Powell, Winton NC: Liberty Shield Press ¬©2004]

Mill Landing Farm ca 1970
photo by James

1. James Thomas Rayner Aug 22, 1885-Jan 1896
2. Frances A. Rayner July 1886
3. James Joliff Rayner Sept 28, 1887-Sept 1887
4. Maggie C. Rayner Jan 1889
5. Joseph R. Rayner Oct 1891 –
(Joseph disappeared during the Depression. He went to Edenton for the day and never came back.
His mother and sisters spent everything they had on detectives trying to find him.
They finally had to sell the farm and moved to Virginia Beach.)

Margaret E Mitchell and Thomas T Smallwood had:
1. Sallie L Smallwood Nov. 1894 –
2. Mary W. Smallwood Nov. 1896 –


James Thomas Rayner and son Thomas

Samuel Francis [Francis Samuel] Rayner:
1. James R Rayner 19 Dec 1884 Ind –
born with harelip – janitor in 1919
2. Harry M Rayner ca 1889 Ind –
3. Mary Rayner Ind –
married — Wiley (corresponded with Cousin Eunice)
Were there others?

One thought on “James Rasco Rayner, Frances Lawrence, & Mary Collins Howe”

  1. Thank you so much for this site and the wealth of information provided. I have been researching my family history for a few years but I had a late start ( I am 76). I was raised on a farm near Trap, NC and was in the last class to graduate from Mars Hill High School(1963). You and I share some ancestry. I am a great grandson of William Turner Northcott(ca 1840-before 1880) and Cecilia Octavia Rayner.

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