Kenneth Rayner

Kenneth Rayner

Bertie County, North Carolina, USA
Death 5 Mar 1884 (aged 75)
District of Columbia, USA
Burial Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 28289210 · View Source
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Kenneth Rayner was born in Bertie Co, NC, the 5th of 6 known surviving children (5 boys/1 girl) born to Baptist Minister/planter and Revolutionary War veteran, Amos Rayner and his wife, Hannah Holladay (the widow Williams). He is descended from John & Ann Rayner who first came to Chowan County, NC from Norfolk Co, VA ca. 1685.

Educated at the Tarboro Academy, he read law under Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin but never practiced. He entered politics, and in 1835 was elected to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention. Here Rayner, the youngest delegate present, associated with Nathaniel Macon, William Gaston, David L. Swain, John M. Morehead, and other prominent leaders of the state. Rayner participated in the debate and attracted statewide attention. Despite his antislavery views he served in the state House of Commons in 1835, 1836, and 1838 and in the U.S. Congress during the period 1839-45. Returning to the General Assembly, he served in the lower house between 1845 and 1851 and in the senate in 1854-55.

On July 12, 1842, the 34-year old career politician married 20-year old Susan Spratt Polk, daughter of Col. William J. Polk and Sally Hawkins of Raleigh. Political prominence enabled Rayner, whose own background was among the plain folk, to marry into an elite family. After his marriage to Susan, he converted to his wife's religion and joined the Episcopal Church, abandoning his Baptist roots.

This union resulted in 8 known surviving children being born:

* Mary Brown Rayner (1843-1844)
* Sarah "Sallie" Polk Rayner HYMAN (1845-1905)
* Henry Albert Rayner (1847-1859)
* Kenneth Rayner, Jr. (1849-1885)
* Frances Polk Rayner (1851-1855)
* Susan "Susie" Polk Rayner GLENNAN McMILLAN (1855-1910)
* William Polk Rayner (1857-1885)
* Hamilton Polk Rayner (1859-1932)

At one point, the Rayners lived in Col. William Polk's house who had died in 1834. The house, which was a grand residence in those days, had built by the Colonel just out of the city limits, fronting Blount Street. Later, in 1872, this house, after being owned by Hon. Kenneth Rayner for many years, was moved to one side to allow for the extension of Blount Street in Raleigh.

Kenneth's father died in 1843, at at the age of 35, he inherited the bulk of his father's estate, including the main house and slaves; but he also inherited a large plantation near Winton, NC through his mother's side of the family. Rayner liberally used the Polk family's wealth to acquire an Arkansas plantation that yielded spectacular cotton crops for its absentee landlord. By 1860 he owned
at least 200 slaves. One of them was his illegitimate mulatto son, John Baptist Rayner, born of the slave woman, Mary Ricks, on November 13, 1850. (It is reported he fathered 2 more mulatto children as well.)

While in Congress Rayner acquired a national reputation. He had entered politics as a supporter of Andrew Jackson, but he followed John C. Calhoun as an advocate of strong states' rights and throughout his congressional career was a consistent and vocal antagonist of John Quincy Adams. During his stormy congressional service, he opposed the annexation of Texas and fought the policies of both Martin Van Buren and John Tyler. A man of fiery temper, Rayner on several occasions came to blows on the floor of the House and at other times served as a second in duels between political figures of the day.

In 1848 Rayner sought an honor, which had he achieved it, would have made him president of the United States. His close personal friend, Zachary Taylor, was seeking the Whig nomination for the presidency, and it was Rayner's desire to join him on the ticket as candidate for the vice-presidency. Taylor's nomination was assured inasmuch as he had the backing of Thurlow Weed, of New York, the powerful boss of the Whig party. Rayner's opponent for the vice-presidential nomination was Millard Fillmore. The two men were close friends and agreed to submit their pretensions to a caucus of party leaders to choose between them. There Rayner lost to Fillmore by one vote. Taylor and Fillmore went on to victory. After but a year in office, Taylor died, and it is reported that Rayner was among those attending the inauguration of President Millard Fillmore on Wednesday, 10 July 1850, at noon in the hall of the House of Representatives.

Following his failure to win the vice-presidential nomination, Rayner's political career began to decline. In 1852 he repudiated the nomination of Winfield Scott and became a leader of the new American or Know-Nothing party. Within his new political affiliation he obtained the party's agreement to defend the Union under all circumstances, a sentiment that he personally never completely abrogated.

When President Abraham Lincoln called for troops, however, Rayner's states' rights philosophy forced him to support secession, and he was a member of the Secession Convention of 1861. He personally disliked Jefferson Davis and refused to vote for him, however, the Rayners remained in Raleigh throughout the war. Publicly he was an enthusiastic supporter of the southern war effort, but secretly schemed in 1863 and 1864 to withdraw North Carolina from the Confederacy. In 1863 he secretly joined a peace movement and the following year, as General William T. Sherman approached the city, Rayner was part of the group that formally surrendered North Carolina's capital to the Union army.

When the war ended he first ingratiated himself with Andrew Johnson, going so far as to write a laudatory biography of
Abraham Lincoln's successor, but by the 1870s he was an avowed Republican who shamelessly sought and received federal patronage job. After the war, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and from there to Mississippi (much to Susan's dismay, as she hated country life), where he owned cotton plantations as he did in Arkansas. These ventures went belly up, and Rayner, ill and depressed, declared bankruptcy in 1868.

Although for almost 30 years, Susan Polk Rayner had refused to spend Summers on the NC plantations they owned, after Rayner went bankrupt, she boldly checked out land without consulting her husband. In 1869, she used the remainder of her own legacy to purchase a farm south of Memphis in Desoto Co, MS, where she moved the family. This moved helped the family recoup their finances, and but she was delighted when her husband received the political appointment in 1874, and they could move to Washington, DC.

It was in 1874 that President Grant appointed him judge of the Alabama Claims Commission, a position he resigned in 1877 to become solicitor of the U.S. Treasury, a post he held until his death.

Many years later when Rayner, then a poor old man and no longer a power in public affairs, was solicitor of the U.S. Treasury (1877-84) under appointment of President Ulysses S. Grant, the incumbent president, James Garfield, was urged to turn Rayner out because he had not been a Garfield supporter. Garfield refused, stating: "I won't do it. Though an old man, and out of favor with fortune he was a host in his day. He is still an able and accomplished lawyer. He fills the office admirably, and he needs the salary. He may not have many friends—but he has at least one and a mighty important friend, for it is I myself—and I am not going to turn him out. I am not going to remove from a little place in the Treasury, whose duties he fully meets, an old man who came within a single vote of filling the place I fill, and being President of the United States."

The Hon. Kenneth Rayner died in Washington, DC in 1888, at the age of 75. His remains were returned to Raleigh where he was interred at Old City Cemetery near 3 of his children: Mary Brown Rayner, Henry Albert Rayner, and Fannie Polk Rayner.

His widow, Susan Polk Rayner, moved to Texas, as did her surviving children. She died 25 years after her husband, passing in 1909 at age 87. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas.

His sons seemed to have inherited is fiery temper and penchant for brawling. While deputy US revenue collector in Fort Worth, William Polk Rayner, killed the proprietor of a gambling hall in a conflict over a woman of dubious character. He pleaded self-defense at his trial and was acquitted. He was a Deputy US Marshal in Dallas, then moved to El Paso where late one night in 1885 while he was gambling in a saloon with Wyatt Earp, a brawl erupted among the patrons during which Rayner was shot in the arm and abdomen. He died over a month later of his wounds.

Son, Hamilton Polk Rayner, was appointed the town Marshal of Hunnewell, Kansas, a rough cattle town where at the age of 23 he cleared out a gang of ruffians, six-guns blazing. Later served as deputy sheriff in Tarrant and Hood counties, Texas. He was the last surviving son (died 1939) and moved to El Paso to be special agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad and a Texas Ranger.

Daughter, Susan Polk Rayner, married (1st) on April 28, 1881 to Dr. Arthur Henry Glennan (1853-1926)and by him had 4 children: Arthur Wyman Glennan (1882-1939); Kenneth Rayner Glennan (1884-1928); Rosebud Denver Glennan (1886-1891); and Susan Polk "Pansy" Glennan (1887-1891). Her married life was one of constant travel as her husband was Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health and (U.S.) Marine Hospital services and, among his many posts, served as the quarantine officer during the yellow fever epidemic in Cuba in 1902. After the death of her two daughters in 1891, her marriage fell apart and she reportedly divorced Dr. Glennan and ran off to Pittsburgh with a "drummer" (salesman) by the name of Arthur L. Silling, whom she reportedly married. Sometime after 1897, Arthur Silling disaappeared and Susie married (3rd?) to a Mr. McMillan of Pittsburgh, believed to be Claude Leroy McMillan (1855-1931), another saleman. Susie died in Pittsburgh on March 2, 1910 of pulmonary edema and neuralgia of the right eye. Her body was returned to Raleigh for burial near her two daughters and other Rayner family members.



  • Created by: pbfries
  • Added: 14 Jul 2008
  • Find a Grave Memorial 28289210
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Kenneth Rayner (20 Jun 1808–5 Mar 1884), Find a Grave Memorial no. 28289210, citing City Cemetery, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by pbfries (contributor 46951237) .