Carroll Watson Rankin – Marquette’s First Author

The following post is from My Marquette in the section on historical homes and the Carroll Watson Rankin home specifically. Carroll Watson Rankin was the first person to write books set in Marquette, although she changed the name to Lakeville. She is my predecessor who helped to form the beginnings of what is today a flourishing and vibrant UP literature.

From My Marquette  (a photo of Carroll Watson Rankin is included in the printed version of the book):

 

The Rankin Home (a private residence today)

219 E. Ridge ~ Rankin Home

 

Local author Carroll Watson Rankin wrote her many novels, beginning with Dandelion Cottage (1904), in this home. Born Caroline Watson in Marquette in 1864, she would later use the male spelling of her name, Carroll, to help her career as an author; she would alternately use other pen names to disguise her gender, but always retained the initials C.W.R.

The Rankin home was built in 1877 by Rankin’s mother, Emily Watson, following the death of her husband Jonas Watson. Carroll Watson Rankin would inherit the property and live there with her husband and children. Later, the home would be inherited by her daughter, Phyllis Rankin, long-time librarian at Peter White Public Library.

Born in 1864, Carroll Watson Rankin began writing in childhood and published her first short story at age eleven. At sixteen, she became a reporter for the Daily Mining Journal, a job she kept until her marriage in 1886 to Ernest Rankin. The Rankins would have four children, Imogene, Eleanor, Ernest Jr., and Phyllis. While raising her family, Rankin would continue to write and be published in major national magazines including Harpers, Ladies’ Home Journal, Gardening Magazine, Century, Youth’s Companion, and Mother’s Magazine. She was inspired to write her first children’s book, Dandelion Cottage, after her daughter Eleanor complained that she had read all the books ever written for children. The book would be based on a real cottage in Marquette and the antics of Rankin’s daughters and their friends. (More information about the book and cottage is under the section for 440 E. Arch Street).

Dandelion Cottage quickly found a publisher and was successful enough that Rankin went on to write many more children’s books. Altogether, three sequels to Dandelion Cottage would be written (The Adopting of Rosa Marie, The Castaways of Pete’s Patch, and The Girls of Highland Hall), as well as the boy’s book Wolf’s Rock and six other novels for children. Today the books are out of print except Dandelion Cottage (published by the Marquette County Historical Society) but copies can still be found at the Peter White Public Library.

Carroll Watson Rankin and her son Ernest Jr. also recorded their memories of early Marquette, which are available as an unpublished manuscript at Peter White Public Library. I am sure Rankin would appreciate that her own memory lives on in Marquette as does the small cottage she made famous. Copies of Dandelion Cottage continue to sell as generation after generation falls in love with the charming story.

Like their mother, the Rankin children would contribute a great deal to Marquette. Phyllis Rankin would be the head librarian at Peter White Public Library for over forty years and be well known for promoting reading in the community, especially to children. Ernest Rankin Jr., as a member of the Marquette County Historical Society, would do much to preserve the area’s history. Imogene would marry and move away but return later to Marquette. (For more information about Imogene, see the section on 209 E. Arch Street in My Marquette as well as more information on the real Dandelion Cottage and the book it inspired).

Explore posts in the same categories: Marquette History, Upper Michigan Books and Authors, Upper Michigan History

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2 Comments on “Carroll Watson Rankin – Marquette’s First Author”


  1. Miss Rankin was the fierce children’s librarian. As a child, I was very afraid of her.


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