Biography of William Ranck

WILLIAM RANCK. – This representative citizen of Clarke county was born at East Waterford, Pennsylvania, in 1829. At the age of five years his parents moved to Huntington county in the same state, one and one-half miles from Shade Gap postoffice, where he received the common-school education of that early time which consisted chiefly of the “three R’s.” At the age of seventeen he went to Shirleysburg to learn the trade of a wagon and carriage maker. After some years of employment at Germantown, and at other points in Pennsylvania and Virginia, on the 1st day of April, 1852,he left his father’s home for the West, going via Pittsburg and the Ohio river through Illinois to Dixon on Rock river. He spent the winter at Petersburg, and from that place, having concluded to go to California in company with Albert Simons and James Davis, fitted out a wagon with three yoke of oxen to cross the plains.

Early in March, 1853, they struck out across the prairies, crossing the Mississippi at Burlington, and the Des Moines river at Martin’s ferry, twenty miles below Fort Des Moines. There he found Mr. Harrison B. Oatman, now a resident of Portland, Oregon, and his wife, with his brother Harvey and his wife. Waiting there, as it was yet too early in the season to make the start, the company was organized. After passing through Iowa to Council Bluffs, they crossed the Missouri river about the 2d of May. On the Lower Humboldt, the Oatman brothers and their wives turned off for the Rogue river, while Mr. Ranck continued on to California, and arrived at Marysville about the middle of October. At the request of Mr. James Davis, one of the party, who had stopped at Shady creek near the middle fork of the Yuba river, in Nevada county, Mr. Ranck returned and joined him in mining for two years, meeting with varying success. Tiring of the mines, he then went to the Santa Clara valley, and after various occupations at San Jose’ and about Gilroy found employment at Santa Clara with Mr. Edwin Smith, who was engaged there largely in the manufacture of wagons and carriages, remaining until October, 1857.

Looking to the North, he now determined to pre-empt a piece of government land, and, coming by water to Crescent City, remained some time, making examinations of the coast country even into Oregon; but, finding nothing satisfactory in that rough section, he continued his explorations as far as Portland, and by New Year’s day, 1858, was at Vancouver. After a stop of some three months there, he went to Portland, Oregon, and obtained employment with James Burke, who was then engaged largely in the manufacture of wagons. In 1859 he returned and made his permanent home at Vancouver, Washington Territory, and, opening a wagon shop, followed his business until the fire of August 23, 1866.

At the general election in June, 1862, Mr. Ranck was chosen a member of the house of representatives, and served in the session of the legislature of Washington Territory of 1862-63, representing in part the county of Clarke, and being the first Republican member ever elected from that county. He was married in November, 1864, at Vancouver, to Miss Kate Neer of St. Helens. She was born in Butler county, Pennsylvania, in 1844, and removed with her parents to Iowa in 1847, crossing the plains in 1852, and residing with her parents on their old Donation claim at St. Helens. They have three children, Lulu, Bertha and Glenn Neer.

Mr. Ranck’s public services in Vancouver have been numerous and eminently satisfactory. He served one term as city marshal, one term as chief engineer of the fire department, of which organization he has been an active member for twenty-one years, three years as school director, and twelve years as member of the city council. He has also been probate judge of Clarke county for eight years.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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