Gayle Alexander, the great-great-granddaughter of David Rankin, unveiled the David Rankin historical marker that was erected near the North Polk Schoolhouse in Tarkio at 10th and Park streets on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

The Rankin mansion at 10th and Park Streets, Tarkio, c. early 1900’s is pictured above. The home was located where the one-room schoolhouse museum now stands. David Rankin is standing at right in the photograph. (Rankin Family Collection Photograph)

David Rankin is pictured at his home in Tarkio. This photograph appeared in a major story in the Saturday Evening Post April 2, 1910, titled “America’s Greatest Feed­­­ing Farm.” Rankin died at age 85 on October 18 of that year. (Rankin Family Collection Photograph)

This is a close-up of the Mule Barn with cupola, from a postcard published at the time of Rankin’s exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.   (Rankin Family Collection Photograph)

Horses were auctioned at the mule barn, circa 1910.
(Rankin Family Collection Photograph)

Keena Merriweather checks out the one-room schoolhouse at 10th and Park streets in Tarkio following the unveiling of the David Rankin historical marker that was erected nearing the building.


A class of kindergartners were able to see the David Rankin marker unveiling on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

The first historical marker in Tarkio was unveiled on Thursday, November 16, 2017. The new sign shows where David Rankin’s iconic Mule Barn and home once stood, at the corner of Park and 10th Streets in Tarkio.
A pioneer farmer and entrepreneur, David Rankin (1825-1910) was the eldest of nine children. He left school at age 11 to help support his family. Starting with nothing, he persevered through hard work, instinct and risk-taking to build a business. He began with farms in Illinois, then open range ranching in Nebraska, and, finally, established farming operations that eventually involved more than 24,000 acres in Atchison County and the surrounding area.
In addition to his nationally recognized farming success and innovations in agriculture, he helped found the town of Tarkio and Tarkio College. He also helped to bring the railroad to eastern Atchison County, and established a bank, manufacturing plant, utilities, as well as other ventures and community institutions.
Built in 1892, the 114-foot tall, octagonal brick barn became a landmark for the town and the region. Originally constructed to house mules or horses, hay and farmhands, it burned in 1907, but was quickly rebuilt. It entered its second life in the 1970s, when it was declared a national historic place and became the home of Tarkio College’s theatre program until the barn burned in 1989.
The mansion was built in 1890 as an expansion of one of the first homes in Tarkio. Occupied by Rankin family members until about 1932, it served as the residence of Tarkio College’s president from 1932 to 1948. It was razed in 1958.
On November 16, the two-sided, cast aluminum marker, manufactured by Sewah Studios of Marietta, OH, was placed along Park Street, near the North Polk Schoolhouse museum that stands on the actual site of the mansion.
The marker was developed jointly by Rankin descendants and the Mule Barn Theatre Guild. Representing the family at the marker’s unveiling was Gayle Hanna Alexander of Lincoln, NE, a great-great-granddaughter of David Rankin, while Anne Amthor officiated on behalf of the Mule Barn Theatre Guild. Local donors to the marker included: Mule Barn Theatre Guild, Tarkio Chamber of Commerce, Tarkio Lions Club, Tarkio Rotary Club and the City of Tarkio. Descendants of all four of David Rankin’s children also contributed to the marker.