Rainey Family History, Following the Rainey family from North Carolina, Alabana, Kemper County, Mississippi and then Attala County, Mississippi from whence they scattered like the wind. ...
Kildalton Cross




Celtic Migrations





Celtic Square

Rev. William R. Rainey Homestead, Sturgis, Oktibbeha, Mississippi

Rainey Family
North Carolina - Alabama - Mississippi

William Rainey was born in North Carolina ca. 1792 and died about 1859 in Attala County, Mississippi.  Some time between 1812 and 1816, William married Mary Duncan.  Mary was also born ca. 1792 in North Carolina.

Research would indicate that William Rainey and Mary Duncan were likely born in Orange County, North Carolina.  There were a number of Rainey families in Orange and Caswell Counties back to 1790 (and quite likely further back in time), that are related to one another.  Orange was at one time part of Caswell County.  In 1810 there were four or perhaps five brothers living in these two counties named David, William, John, James and Ben.  Collectively, these brothers had twenty-eight children as of 1810 and three or four of them were males in the 16 – 26 age range.

There were also a large number of families with the surname Duncan in North Carolina in 1810.  Several of these families lived in Orange County but none in Caswell County.  One cannot necessarily conclude that Mary Duncan's parents are among those in Orange County, or that William Rainey, later of Attala County, Mississippi, is in fact related to the aforesaid Rainey families, but it is a good possibility and certainly worthy of further investigation.

Some time after their marriage William and Mary Rainey began a westward movement that would span a period of thirty years before they arrived at their final resting place.  In 1817 they were in South Carolina where the first (James David) of their ten children was born.  By 1819 they were in Alabama.  In 1830 (1830 Federal census), a William Rainey family is found in Jefferson County, Alabama, but it does not appear to be our William Rainey.  The 1830 Jefferson County census information is as follows:

William Rainey
free white males 30-40 1
free white fe-males 30-40 1
free white males 10-15 1
free white males 5-10 1
free white females under 5 2
free white females under 5 1

In 1830 William and Mary would have both been 37.  Seven of their children would have been born prior to the 1830 census enumeration.  This family shows only five children and the ages are not right.

Land records in Alabama show that a William Rainey, on September 25, 1835, purchased 35.8 acres of land in Greene County, Alabama.  This land was located in Section 31 Township 20-N Range 3-E.  On October 20, 1835 a William Rainey purchased an additional 35.8063 acres of land in Greene County, Alabama located in Section 31 Township20-N Range 3-E.  Then on March 15, 1837 William Rainey bought 80 acres of land located in Section 31 Township 21-N Range 3-E in Greene County.  And finally, just a few weeks later, (March 30, 1837), a William Rainey purchased 39.41 acres of land located in Section 36 Township 21-N Range 2-E, also in Greene County, Alabama.  View images of the land patents.

It is not known if William Rainey owned all of this property at one time or if some of it had been sold before the purchase of subsequent acquisitions.  It is not even clear that this is the same William Rainey in all instances or if there were more than one William Rainey buying property.  Some of these purchases were made after William and his family were suppose to be in Kemper County.  This in of itself does not mean anything as the Alabam county and the Mississippi county were just across the State line from one another.  Deed books in Greene County, Alabama would need to be searched to ascertain the transfer of property originally acquired from the government under the public lands acts. There does appear to have been two individuals in Alabama with the name William Rainey.

All of William and Mary Rainey’s children were born in Alabama except for the first, James David Rainey.  The children of William Rainey and Mary Duncan Rainey are as follows:

James David Rainey, 1817, South Carolina
James C. Rainey, 1819, Alabama
Peter Rainey, 1820, Alabama
Sarah W. Rainey, 1821, Alabama
John W. Rainey, 1822, Alabama
William Rufus Rainey, 1828, Alabama
Thomas F. Rainey, 1829, Alabama
Eli Needham Rainey, 1830, Alabama
Mary H. Rainey, 1833, Alabama
Frances L. Rainey, 1835, Alabama

It was about this time, 1835, that the family relocated across the state border into Kemper County, Mississippi where they would remain for a period of years.  Although William and Mary Rainey had not yet ceased their quest for a better life in the west, some of their offspring would become scattered and a few of thier sons and daughters and their grandchildren would remain in Kemper County when the time came for them to move further westward.

While living in Kemper County, David Rainey, as he was known, would marry his first wife, Laura Ann Pace. James C. Rainey met and married Martha A. Scarbrough.  About 1837 Sarah W. Rainey married Burrell Holland Pace, Laura Ann’s older brother. Peter H. Rainey would, at some time, marry a woman by the name of Mary _______. When or where this marriage occured has not been determined.

Sarah W. Rainey Pace (22 June 1821), and her husband, Burrell Pace (28 June 1817), relocated to Lauderdale County, Mississippi shortly after their marriage. They would have thirteen children.

There is a William Rainey listed in Kemper County in 1840.  Unfortunately, only the head of household was listed in the 1840 censuses.  There were thirteen individuals reported in the Rainey household in this 1840 census.  The makeup of the household was as follows:

1840 Federal Census - Kemper County, Mississippi

Male 5-10 1
Male 10-15 2
Male 15-20 3
Male 20-30 1
Male 40-50 1
Female under 5 2
Female 10-15 2
Female 40-50 1
Total 13

Is this unequivocally the correct William Rainey household?  Who knows!  Do the ages match up with other information presently available to us on the William Rainey family that settled in Attala County, Mississippi.  No, not entirely.  However, there are any number of scenarios that could explain this.  Sarah had already left the household.  It is possible that J. David, James C. and Peter had also left the household.  This of course would have the effect of reducing the household and there were thirteen people living there at the time.  Maybe some of the sons were still living at home.  Perhaps James C. Rainey had already divorced amd was in the household at the time of the 1840 census.  Any number of possibilities exist as to who was in the household at the time, and the numbers and ages may never make complete sense, but it is still a good bet that this is indeed the household of our William Rainey.

When some family members removed to Attala County, Mississippi in the late 1840’s, Peter Rainey apparently had removed to Newton in Newton County, Mississippi.  He and his family are listed in the 1870 census for Newton County. In 1840 in Kemper County there was a Peter Raney.  At one time I thought this was the correct Peter, but that was not the case.  Additional information is available on the descendants of Peter and Mary under the heading, Peter Rainey.

It is also not clear what became of John W. Rainey.  It is reported that a John Rainey had unclaimed mail in the post office in Kosciusko, Miss (Attala County) in 1846.  If he relocated to Attala County, he had moved on by 1850.  Further investigation reveals that William A. Rainey, son of John Y. Rainey, was already in Attala County as early as 1837. At present, there is no information to connect this Rainey family to William Rainey other than that both our William Rainey and John Y. Rainey were born in South Carolina. Nor is there any reason to believe that John W. Rainey ever lived in Attala County.

Thomas F. Rainey was also somewhat elusive in the years immediately following the family relocation to Attala County.  Some information for Thomas F. Rainey is available under the section titled 'Additional Information'.

Sarah Rainey Pace had already removed to Lauderdale County with the family of her husband. David, who by now was divorced from Laura Ann, relocated to Attala either prior to the family or possibly with the family, while Laura Ann and their two daughters, Elizabeth Rose and Martha Ellen would remain behind in Kemper County.  Laura Ann Pace Rainey would eventually remarry and she and her husband, Alexander “Sandy” Palmer, would have eight children.  She would, in later years, be known as Grandma Palmer to her many grandchildren.

The remaining offspring of William and Mary Rainey relocated to Attala County with their parents to Attala and were still living in their parents household in 1850.

On October 22, 1847 William Rainey received a land patent on acreage located in southwest Attala County just south of the Durant road and very near to the Big Black River.  The description of the land is the East ½ of the Southwest ¼, Section 19 of Township 14, Range 5 East.

In 1850 the family members in Attala County, Mississippi were as follows:

  • James C. Rainey and his wife, Martha A. Scarborough, were residing on a farm in Township 13, Range 4 East with their two children, Thilishia J. A. Rainey and Thomas F.Rainey.

  • William Rufus Rainey and his wife, Mary E. Porter were living on a farm in Township 15, Range 5 East with their young son Samuel.  Although William Rufus had converted and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and was a church deacon, he was not yet licensed to preach.

  • Very close by to the William Rainey household is the farm of David Rainey with his new wife, Elizabeth Russell.  Although David and Elizabeth would later have offspring, in 1850 they did not as yet have children.

  • Not far from his sons, the household of William and Mary Rainey (shown as William Raney in census images), included; Eli Needham Rainey, Mary H. Rainey, Frances “Fannie” L. Rainey , and Martha A. Kirkpatrick, a girl of ten years of age. This appears to be an error on the part of the census enumerator. This individual is believed to be Martha E. Kirkpatric Rainey, daughter of J. David Rainey and Laura Ann Pace Rainey. Her presence in the Rainey household in Attala County is as yet unexplained.    Why she would be in the William Rainey household instead of that of her father is a bit of a mystery.  There is also the question of the whereabouts of her older sister?  The census indicates this Martha to have the initial A' which, of course could simply be a mistake.  The name KIRKPATRICK was written by the census taker as a different last name than other members of the household.  But this could have been a misunderstanding as to her status in the household.  In the 1860 Leake County census, Martha E. K. Rainey (it is listed exactly that way), age 20 is in her father's house. So, we can probably surmise that Martha Rainey was simply visiting her grandparents. Her father would have been a newly wed with a young wife and Martha perhaps preferred to be in the household of her grandparents during her visit. Additional information can be found with the information for J. David Rainey.

William Rainey passed away in Attala County in 1859.  It appears that Mary Duncan Rainey had pre-deceased him.  They are buried in unmarked graves somewhere in Attala County.  By 1860, many of the Rainey descendants had departed Attala County.

It has not yet been determined if William Rainey left a will. He most likely died intestate.  Following William Rainey's death, his property was apparently distributed to his heirs in ten equal shares, as follows:

  • William R. Rainey

  • Peter H. Rainey

  • Mary H. Russell

  • Sarah Pace

  • Thomas Rainey

  • Martha A. Woods  *

  • David Rainey

  • Fannie Weatherly

  • John W. Rainey

  • _____?________  **

*Martha A. Woods is probably the widow of James C. Rainey.
** Most likely Eli Needham Rainey possessed the tenth share.

The above data is from information supplied by a Rainey researcher, Kathryn Luke Kensleigh, Shuqualak, Mississippi in September 1982.  The information purportedly came from land records and deeds of sale recorded with the Probate Court, Attala County, Mississippi.  The transactions were recorded at various times over a period of years.  In other words, there is no known record of the original distribution and it is only with the subsequent sale of the individual shares that the whole was pieced together.  Apparently, no record of a sale by Eli Rainey could be located in the records search that was performed in the 1980's.  That does not mean it doesn't exist but that it was not found.

For the present, this is as much information as time permits me to post.  There is always more.  Some data for each of William Rainey's offspring has been posted and can be accessed by clicking on the link 'Additional Rainey Information' shown below.

Resources - Rainey Research      

Additional Rainey Information      

Rainey Family Photographs      

  E-mail:  Everette Carr

Scotland Rainey Family