William Rinker, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of William Rinker


It is with pleasure that we recount the experiences of those of the citizens of Porter County, Indiana, who came here in the early days and underwent hardships and privations that they might develop the rich resources of this region and bring about the condition which we see to-day. Among these brave and hardy men was the father of our subject, Henry Rinker, who was one of the original pioneers. He came originally from Virginia, his birth occurring in Shenandoah County, in 1794, and was of an old Colonial family, the members of which fought bravely for Independence. For generations the Rinker family resided in the Shenandoah Valley, and were wealthy and influential people. Henry Rinker married Miss Dorothy Helseley, and their children were: Joseph, Annie, Catherine, Amos, John, Lydia, Levi, William, and Henry. The three eldest children were born in the Old Dominion. At an early day Henry Rinker left his native State and turned his face westward in an immense old fashioned wagon, drawn by four horses, and capable of carrying tons. He made his way to Ohio, and locating, resided there eleven years. About 1833 he pushed on to the Hoosier State, and settled in LaPorte County, where he remained a year. From there he came to Porter County and built a house on the LaPorte road, four miles east of Valparaiso, where he lived many years. In 1841 he moved to Rock Island County, Illinois, where he ran a saw-mill for a number of years, and then moved to Madison County, Illinois. Still later, or in 1859, he located in Grundy County, Missouri, and there died when nearly eighty years of age. He was a strong man physically - one of the strongest of his day in Porter County - and was industrious and progressive. In politics he was a Democrat. Four of his sons were in the Civil War: Levi, Henry, William, and John. Levi was in a Missouri regiment, was taken prisoner at the battle of Shiloh; Henry was in the Ninth Illinois, and was in many skirmishes, and John was in a Kansas regiment. In a new and unsettled country our subject grew to mature years, and he well remembers the appearance of the country at that time, and that he played with Indian children when a small boy. In the log school house of those days he secured a fair education, and Judge Talcott, of Valparaiso, was one of his first teachers. The Judge did not spare the rod, and our subject, with others, resolved that when they became men the Judge would have to suffer, but time, the healer of all wounds, soothed their tempers. The Judge is now preaching "peace on earth, good will towards men." Our subject attended school but a short time, for, from the time he reached that period of life when his physical strength was sufficient to enable him to wield the implements of husbandry and guide the plow, he began to contribute to the earning of his own bread. On the 27th of September, 1855, when twenty-one years of age - for he was born in Porter County, September 11, 1833 - our subject was married to Miss Mary Parker, daughter of Miller and Orinda (Jones) Parker. Mr. Parker was one of the very first settlers of Porter County, as there were but three white families in the county when he settled in Pleasant Township, about four miles south of the home of our subject. These three families were those of Henry Adams, John Adams, and William Eaton. Mr. Parker became a wealthy farmer and owned large tracts of land in Pleasant Township, besides a valuable tract of woodland near Logansport. On the 24th of December, 1829, he married. Miss Orinda Jones, the daughter of John and Elizabeth (Richardson) Jones, John Jones having been born June 12, 1783, and his wife September 15, 1808. Mr. Jones was a famous pioneer Methodist minister of this county, and his double log house was the home of all the traveling Methodist ministers of that day. To Miller Parker and wife were born three children: Elizabeth, who died when nineteen years of age; John W., who died when nearly sixty years of age, leaving a family; and Mary, wife of our subject The latter was born in this county May 29,1837. Miller Parker died at the early age of thirty-two. He was a man of high character and uprightness, and he and wife were members of the Methodist Church. To Mr. and Mrs. Rinker have been born seven children: John W., born July 31, 1856; Henry M., born February 14,1859; Lennie O., born February 9, 1861, and died October 13, 1862; William A., born September 11, 1867; Maggie, born July 24,1871; Kittie B., born October 5, 1878; and Mantie E., born July 22, 1874, and died February 28, 1876. After marriage Mr. and Mrs. Rinker resided in Tassinong for about four years, and then moved to the farm where they now live. This is one of the pleasantest rural homes in the section, and everything about the place shows that an experienced hand is at the helm. On the 10th of September, 1861, Mr. Rinker enlisted at Chicago in Capt. N. M. Buel's Company Q, Ninth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, for three years or during the war, and was honorably discharged at Chicago, May 15, 1865. He served principally in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The first year, in Missouri and Arkansas, was against the rebel General Price and the guerrillas, and was very severe and dangerous. One sharp skirmish was fought at Peach Orchard Bluffs in 1862, on the Arkansas and Missouri line. The regiment then went to Memphis to recruit and watch the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and later participated in the battle of --------. After the Confederates attacked Colliersville, Tennessee, a hard fight occurred, and the Ninth Illinois Cavalry took an important part and distinguished itself. At Salem, Mississippi, another hard fight occurred, and the Union army, running out of ammunition, retreated. Another severe engagement took place at Tupelo, and numerous brisk skirmishes. Between La Fayette and Moscow, Tennessee, December 8, 1863, a few days before the fight at Moscow, a detail of one hundred men was sent to burn a bridge. On crossing this bridge, which was guarded by a heavy rebel picket, the Union lieutenant ordered his men not to fire, but to take them prisoners. The Confederates retreated to a washout and here Mr. Rinker's horse fell and injured him. He was taken to Fort La Fayette, but in a day or two partially recovered and was sent with eight men to guard a bridge. There he was captured and taken to Hull's Springs, Mississippi, thence to Oxford, from there to Brandon, and then to Cahala, Alabama, where he was kept for two months in a stockade and a tobacco warehouse. He was fed and treated fairly well for a prisoner. He was sent to Andersonville, Georgia, March, 1864, and remained there until October 1 of the same year, when on the threatened attack by Sherman's troops, he was sent with all the able bodied prisoners to Charleston, South Carolina. The prisoners numbered about four hundred souls, and were marched through the city and encamped in the court house yard, directly under fire from the Federal forts. The city was being bombarded and the bursting shells were very numerous. It was expected that the Federals would cease firing when they learned that the Union prisoners were exposed. Under a flag of truce the Confederates sent word to the Federal commander that the Union prisoners were under fire. Word was sent back to immediately remove the prisoners out of range of the guns, or ten Confederates would be executed for every Union prisoner killed. After this the prisoners were removed to the fair grounds, a safe place, but received very little attention, their rations being a little raw corn meal. Our subject remained there two weeks and was then taken to Florence, South Carolina, to a stockade, where he remained until the last of December, 1864. From there he was sent to Charleston, and thence to Annapolis, Maryland, where he was exchanged. He was in the Andersonville prison more than six months and witnessed all its horrors. With the help of three comrades he made a little hut out of some dry bricks and covered it with sticks, brush, and mud, and in this he lived while in Andersonville. They got the brush and sticks from outside while carrying out the dead. The prisoners were divided up into regiments of 1,000, companies of 100, and over every hundred was placed a sergeant, who received and divided the rations. These companies were further divided into squads of twenty-five. Prisoners died every day, and any soldier who found a dead body would claim the right to carry it out. Fights sometimes occurred for the privilege, for in that way the prisoners could get outside and obtain wood, pine brush, perhaps some roots, or trade a little, the guards being quite lenient. Mr. Rinker being sergeant over a squad of one hundred men, received an extra ration, which he divided with the three companions with whom he lived, and every morning called the roll, a small blank book being furnished for that purpose. When a death occurred he would put down the name, company, regiment, State, and pin these on the soldier's breast. Those who buried the dead would cut on a rude board, in rough letters, these marks; but many received no marks at all. Mr. Rinker saw the raiders plunder men and saw six of these raiders executed. He saw the famous Capt. Wirz, and saw many men shot for crossing the "dead line." At one time he heard Wirz order the guard on the wall at the South gate to shoot an old soldier whose leg had been shot off at Chickamauga, and the soldier fell right by Mr. Rinker, shot through the heart. He has seen men shot for reaching over a log just outside the dead line, trying to fill their canteens with water a little purer. Mr. Rinker well remembers a heavy storm of rain which flooded his hut, overflowed the creek and washed out the stockade on both sides, quite a gap being made on the east side. He also remembers the breaking out of the spring of pure water which relieved the prisoners. Mr. Rinker's rations were a pint of raw corn meal every evening, a little molasses, and a piece of pork or beef, about two inches square. For a change he sometimes had a little rice cooked with a piece of spoiled meat, a horrible mess indeed. He suffered much with scurvy, and many prisoners died from this disease. Although he became weak, Mr. Rinker endured the life better in Andersonville than at Charleston or Florence, but when he reached home he was nearly dead. It was thought by all that he could not live a month, but he gradually came out all right. When first captured, he was relieved of money, watch, knife, blanket, etc. He procured a rebel battle flag in the Confederate camp at Panola, Mississippi, the army having left, sent it home and has it now. It was a beautiful flag at onetime, but was badly torn and used up when found by our subject. It was made of white silk, and presented by the ladies of Panola, Mississippi, to the Sixth Mississippi Confederate Infantry, and bears the following motto: "Our country, right or wrong." Thirteen stars were worked in red silk, one large star was worked in yellow, and there were five red silk bars. After returning home Mr. Rinker was ill for four years, and since then he has followed farming. In politics he is a staunch Republican, and he and wife are worthy members of the Christian Church. Our subject has a good home and an intelligent family of children, who stand high in the community.

Source: Goodspeed Brothers. 1894. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Brothers. 569 p.
Page(s) in Source: 164-168

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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