Select Rutherford Miscellany

Here are some Rutherford stories and accounts over the years:

The Origin of the Rutherford Name

There is an old story, probably apocryphal, that an ancient king of Scotland, King Ruther, was fleeing for his life and was helped by a young man of Teviotsdale who aided him in crossing the ford on the river Tweed.  That spot was henceforth known as Ruther's Ford.

Another story was said to have dated back to the time of Wallace or before.  The tradition was that an English invading force was allowed to cross the river at the ford and, after they had done so, the Scots fought and defeated them and drove them back across the ford making the English "rue the ford."

Some have suggested that Rutherford might even have been derived from the West Flemish name of Ruddsvoorde as the early Rutherfords may have come to Scotland from West Flanders.  A more plausible story is that Rutherford name originally meant "red ford," as ruther, meaning “red,” was a Celtic word

The Rutherfurds at Reidswire

The Rutherfurds were present at the battle of Reidswire in 1575, considered the last actual battle fought between the English and the Scots.  Richard Rutherford of Littleheuch, son of the "Cock of Hunthill," was at that time provost of Jedburgh and led on the burghers.  They came upon the scene while the skirmish was going on and, raising their slogan "a Jedworth! a Jedworth," turned the tide of battle in favor of their countrymen.  

Thomas Rutherfurd, the Black Laird of Edgerston, was also a principal player in this battle.   An old ballad in reference to this said:

"Bauld Rutherfurd he was fu' stout,
Wi' his nine sons him round about,
He led the town of Jedward out; 
All bravely fought that day."

Another surviving tradition from that time is called "The Hand Ba' Game."  It is celebrated on Candlemas (February 2nd) and comes from the troubles of 1549 when a few Scots played a post-battle football game with the severed heads of some Englishmen.  Nowadays a leather ball replaces the Englishman's head.

Rutherford Books

The Rutherfords have spawned a number of Rutherford genealogy books.  The earlier books had a great many errors which Kenneth Rutherford Davis’s 1987 book sought to deal with.
  • The Rutherfurds of that Ilk and their Cadets by Thomas Cockburn-Hood, 1884.
  • Family Records and Events from the Rutherfurd Collection by Livingston Rutherfurd, 1894.
  • The Rutherfords of Roxburghshire by Ora Z. Rutherford Story and Gary Rutherford, 1918
  • Genealogical History of the Rutherford Family by William Kenneth Rutherford and Anna Clay Rutherford, 1986
  • The Rutherfords in Britain: a History and Guide by Kenneth Rutherford Davis, 1987.
According to one reviewer, William and Anna Rutherford's work was excellent when it dealt with North American data and got much better with its Scottish materials after they and Davis discovered each other's work and began to communicate.  

William and Anna Rutherford's major contribution was in ferreting out many of the colonial Rutherford records and documenting well established Rutherford emigrations from Scotland and Ireland.  William and Anna Rutherford were then able to verify the presence of Hunthill, Edgerston, Chatto/Nisbet and Castlewood Rutherford groups in early colonial Virginia and Pennsylvania.  They also documented, as well as they could, the survivors of the Rev. Samuel Rutherford's family here in America following his death in 1660.

Rutherford County

After General Griffith Rutherford’s death in 1805, both North Carolina (where he lived most of his life) and Tennessee (where he spent the last ten years of his life) renamed counties Rutherford county after him. Apparently Kentucky planned to do the same for the area which surrounded Louisville.  But they then changed their mind and called the county Jefferson county instead.  Rutherford was also a township across the Ohio river in Indiana.

Adam Rutherford and Canada

Adam Rutherford was employed in the wholesale house founded by Sir John Rutherford in Dublin at the time he enlisted as an officer in the British Army in 1814.  He enrolled with the Eniskillen Dragoons and, according to his account, injured himself while fighting at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  However, he may instead have been guarding Edinburgh castle at the time.  It is believed that Adam could have fabricated the Waterloo story to explain his leg injury to his grandchildren.

On his retirement from the British Army he was awarded a free grant of 400 acres of land, with the privilege of making his own selection anywhere in Canada. But, at the time there was so much land, and Canada was such a big country, he deferred making his selection from time to time and wound up by never filing at all.

At that time his son Adam, then a dashing young officer stationed in Edinburgh as a recruiting officer, met and fell in love with the beautiful and aristocratic Jane Borthwick of Borthwick Castle.  But the affair met with the stern disapproval of the Borthwicks.  In 1816, an elopement was therefore staged and the couple succeeded in eluding their pursuers and in making their way to Ireland.  Jane was never again accepted into the House of Borthwick.  Adam and Jane emigrated to Canada where they raised eight children.

James Rutherford of Cobb & Co.

His family had been originally from Roxburghshire in Scotland.  They went to Ulster about 1660 where they were prosperous farmers until the troubles of 1798.  James Rutherford of this family was then ambushed and murdered by Irish rebels, his house burned down, and its occupants butchered - with the exception of his wife, her infant son (also a James), and a nurse.  

The widow went to relatives in upstate New York with this James and later had a farm outside Buffalo.  James Rutherford was born on this farm in 1827.   He had tried his hand unsuccessfully as a schoolmaster and then set off for Australia to try his luck in the Victoria goldfields.  

He did not find gold.  But he did become an investor in the stagecoach company Cobb & Co.  He later became its general manager, a post which he held for over fifty years, and under his control the business flourished.  

By 1870 the firm was harnessing 6,000 horses a day, their coaches were travelling 28,000 miles a week, mail subsidies amounted to £95,000 a year and the annual pay sheet totaled £100,000.  It was said that one million sheep a year were being shorn on the Cobb & Co. and Rutherford stations in Western Queensland and outback New South Wales under the famous ‘Diamond Tee’ brand so named from the Diamentina river where the largest Rutherford station was situated.

Cobb & Co. became a household word in the Australian out-country in the second half of the 19th century.

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