Jonathan Rinker Biography

1841 - 1910
Jonathan Rinker

Jonathan Henry Rinker was born May 9, 1841 at the town of Woodstock, Shenandoah County, Virginia. He was the eldest of twelve children and son of farmer Henry St. John and Mary (Fravel) Rinker. His grandfather Colonel Jacob Rinker was a land surveyor of the same region, and served in the Revolutionary War. Military and census records indicate that as many as fifteen relatives with the surname "Rinker" from Shenandoah County, Virginia mustered into service with the Civil War Confederate forces between 1861 and 1862.

On 18 April, 1861 a 19 year old Jonathan and his 18 year old brother Robert Douglas Rinker joined "C" Company VA 10th Infantry, signed into service by Capt. J.P. Rinker at Edinburg, Virginia. The brothers are listed as serving first "C" Company VA 10th Infantry, then later with "C" Company, VA 7th Cavalry, a unit known as the "Shenandoah Rangers." This unit eventually joined "K" Company, 12th Virginia Cavalry.

By 1893, Jonathan attained the rank of 2nd Sergeant, his brother Robert being recorded as a "Teamster" or horse drawn wagon driver. Disbursement records bearing Robert’s name and signature indicate that he was paid for two horses that were killed in battle – one in June of 1863 that appraised for $700, and one in October of 1863 that appraised for $800.

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A younger brother Jacob George Rinker joined the fight on March 20th, 1864 at New Market VA -- also serving in the same "K" Company 12th VA Cavalry. Young Jacob was wounded twice during his one year of service -- first in the arm, and then in the neck in the battles of Wilderness and Cedar Creek, but survived these injuries. One can imagine that the three young brothers were in regular contact, if not in close proximity to one another during these final and most bloody battles known as the Shenandoah Campaigns of 1864.

According to Public Domain information, "K" Company 12th VA Cavalry fought in Northern Virginia, in the Maryland Campaign, at Brandy Station, then was involved in various conflicts in the western part of Virginia. The regiment continued the fight at Bristoe and Mine Run, in the battles around The Wilderness and Cold Harbor, and in Early's operations in the Shenandoah Valley. During mid-April, 1865, it disbanded.

April 1865 marked the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. Confederate soldiers were required to sign a ‘parole’ document, a contract in which they agreed to "...not take up arms against the United States Government until I am regularly exchanged, and that if I am permitted to remain at my home, I will conduct myself as a good and peaceable citizen, and will support the laws in force where I reside, and will do nothing to the detriment of, or in opposition to the United States Government."

Jonathan's parole document is dated 24 April 1865 and was signed at Winchester, Virginia. Jacob and Robert's parole documents were both signed on the same day - 4 May 1865 at Edinburgh, Virginia -- indicating that they were together at that time.

Only two months before the end of the war, Jonathan (now 23) married Sarah Catherine Hoover (22) on February 15, 1865. Sarah's older brother Harvey Hoover had been an apprentice carriage maker also from Woodstock, Virginia. He had joined up on that same day as the two Rinker brothers back in 1861, but died July 23rd, 1862 in Richmond, VA two months after being "slightly wounded" on the battlefield. In 1866, Jonathan and Sarah named their firstborn son "Harvey Hoover Rinker" after her brother who was lost to the war.

Note: Harvey Hoover's passing is documented in the Civil War diary of Sgt. George Christopher Hamman of Company F, 10th Virginia Volunteer Regiment - August 14th 1862: I omitted here to fore to mention the deaths of HARVEY HOOVER in Richmond on July 23rd & of ED CATON on July 31st last. No drills today.

According to Civil War pension records of 1888, Jonathan had moved his family to McLean County Illinois, Robert was living in Ohio, and Jacob was in Arkansas. In 1891, Jonathan and his eldest son Harvey traveled to Beaver, Iowa with the intention of locating land for purchase. They had been experiencing water shortages in Illinois and found property that had a naturally flowing artisan well and that was situated near Beaver Creek as an ideal water source for raising livestock. According to family history, Harvey said ‘…this is it, Pap’ and this location eventually became the Rinker farmstead, with the entire family relocating to the area from Illinois by 1893.

Family patriarch Jonathan was known to his children and grandchildren by the nickname “Little Reb” that his wife often used. A history of Boone County, Iowa published in 1914 references Jonathan, stating “…in connection with his son he purchased 240 acres of land on section 16, Beaver township, and to its further development and improvement devoted his remaining days. He enlisted for service with the Confederates and was at the front throughout the Civil War. Honest in his opinions and from his convictions he did not deviate from a course which he believed to be right. He died February 3, 1910, at the age of sixty-nine years and is survived by his widow, who is living upon the old home place at the age of seventy-two years. Click image for further description of who is in photo

After the turn of the century and through the Great Depression, five of Jonathan and Sarah’s sons were situated on farms in Beaver township engaged in farming and raising livestock in close proximity to one another. Most of the homesteads were situated close to the meandering Beaver Creek where cattle were raised on pasture. Today one can still view what remains of those green pastures and tree lined vistas along the Beaver Creek bottom south of Beaver, Iowa. They are reminiscent of the Iowa prairieland that gave way to farmland, roads, and fences. The author of this account (a great-great grandson) believes that Jonathan spent his last years situating his sons and daughters on farms with the goal of recreating what had been lost back in ‘The Old Dominion’ to the war -- a peaceful place where families could raise children and work together.

Jonathan Henry Rinker died in 1910 at the age of 69 years. He is buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Ogden, Iowa next to his wife Sarah of 45 years, who lived until 1929 and 87 years old. They raised eight children that lived to adulthood, establishing a family legacy of agriculture that still exists today in future generations.

Posted May 2015, K. Kittleson

Submitted to IAGenWeb by Mark Rinker, 5/14/2015