GENERAL GRIFFITH RUTHERFORD
By Gary Rutherford Harding
Griffith Rutherford, the Early Years
This article will deal with the life of General Griffith Rutherford up to the Cherokee Wars. A future posting will deal with his service in the Cherokee Wars, his Revolutionary War record and his migration to and life in Tennessee.
The descendants of Griffith Rutherford have privately published two family histories over the years which have quite different views of Griffith’s ancestry:
"General Griffith Rutherford and Allied Families"
by Minnie R.H. Long
Wisconsin Cueno Press, Milwaukee, WI 1942
"The Gathering of the Clans"
by Edna Rutherford Davey
Part I - "The Rutherford Story"
Published Privately 1955-1957
Previously, I have posted side by side “position papers” advocating the views of both works. Simply stated, Minnie R.H. Long puts forward a claim that Griffith descends from the Rutherfurds of Edgerston and Edna Rutherford Davey claims that he was from the Hunthill cadet. It has become clear over the years that Edna Rutherford Davey was correct. Minnie R.H. Long’s theory that he was the son of Sir John Rutherfurd of Edgerston cannot be supported for a number of reasons. With all due respect to both authors, it’s up to the reader to decide. These two works are difficult to find and totally wanting in their Scottish research. However, from Griffith’s children onward they are soundly written
and well documented. Minnie Long’s work is exceptional in her Revolutionary War record for General Griffith Rutherford.
Lastly, the ancestries of Griffith Rutherford, James Rutherford of Cub Creek, VA, James Rutherford of Walker’s Creek, VA, Katherine Rutherford of Wigtown, Scotland and Thomas Rutherford of Paxtang, PA demonstrate a common lineage from Captain James Rutherford of Utrecht, brother of Rev. Samuel Rutherford.
Early Life in New Jersey, Cub Creek, VA and North Carolina
Griffith Rutherford's father: John Rutherford
died: circa 1721 at sea
married in Ireland to Elizabeth Griffith
Griffith Rutherford's mother: Elizabeth Griffith
died: circa 1721 at sea
General Griffith Rutherford
b. 1721 Ireland
d. 8/10/1805, Sumner, TN
Griffith Rutherford is said to be buried at Shiloh Presbyterian Church outside Gallatin, Tennessee which once stood on Hartsville Pike a few miles away from its present location. He died a member of the Lagardo Presbyterian Church and attended services the day before his death. There is some debate about which cemetery, Shiloh or Lagardo, has his remains. Mrs Rutherford [Elizabeth Graham] is buried at Lagardo’s Cumberland Presbyterian Church. ["General Griffith Rutherford and Allied Families" Minnie R.H. Long]
“Some of the members of Shiloh Church were soldiers of the Revolutionary War and came to the Cumberland County as it was then called to settle on lands granted for military services. Among these may be mentioned General Griffith Rutherford of North Carolina who had given distinguished service not only in the war but as a member of the legislature from Rowan County in 1770-1774 and as a member of the Provincial Congress in 1775. He was appointed Brigadier General for the Western District in 1776 and served until the close of the war. On the list of members of Shiloh Church are the names Griffith Rutherford and Mrs. Rutherford.” [“History of Shiloh Presbyterian Church 1793—1847” by Alice Baker
Guthrie, Gallatin, Tennessee--April 18, 1938]
General Griffith Rutherford was born in Ireland in the year 1721, and, when he was still an infant, his parents set out for America. Both died on the voyage, and according to his son, Henry Rutherford, he was raised by his relatives the Rutherfords in New Jersey. He received a respectable education and became a skilled surveyor. [Extracted from an interview of Lyman C. Draper with Griffith’s son Henry Rutherford in 1844 – original MS. University of Wisconsin Library]
Griffith Rutherford’s aunt: Martha Sarah Rutherford
m.  George Davis Sr.
"Martha Sarah Rutherford was also the aunt of James Rutherford of Cub Creek, VA and the sister of James Rutherford Sr. and his wife Mary of Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. James Rutherford Sr. was the original Rutherford owner of the “Ligioner” or “Black Horse Tavern” of Trenton, New Jersey. These were the Rutherford relatives with whom Griffith was left as a child. Martha Sarah Rutherford was also the aunt of Robert Rutherford Sr. of the Blunston Licenses in the Cumberland valley of Pennsylvania. Robert Rutherford was the husband of an unknown Weakley female. Most importantly for the subject at hand, Martha Sarah Rutherford was Griffith Rutherford’s aunt and sister to his father,
John Rutherford. [The Columbus Smith Archives – Davis Papers - Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury - August 31st, 1858/ New Jersey Archives, Vol. XXIV, p. 460/New Jersey Deed Book G. 3, p. 78, Office of the Secretary of State]"
Cub Creek, Virginia – The Caldwell Settlement
The details of Griffith’s early life are not well documented. More often than not, his biographies begin in Halifax Co., NC but Griffith Rutherford first appears in the documented record as a resident of Lunenburg County, VA [now Charlotte Co., VA]. In 1748 and 1749 he appears on the tithing rolls as living at Cub Creek aka “the Caldwell Settlement”. He lived as a close neighbor to his cousin James Rutherford and James' son William, as well as, his relatives from the Weakley family. Griffith was single and about 27/28 years old at this time. [A List of Tithables for 1748 and 1749 taken by William Caldwell – “Lists of Tithes 1748-1751 in Lunenburg Co, VA”]
It should be noted that the 1748 and 1749 Lunenburg Tithables are the only documents where Griffith Rutherford’s name appears with any other Rutherford except for his own immediate family.
1750 - Lunenburg County, Virginia, Will Book No. 1 with Inventories, Accounts, Etc, 1746-1762, page 26 - The estate of Thomas Caldwell, deceased. To cash paid: Griffith Rutherford, William Caldwell for cart wheels Balance: 24.9.5. Per Court order, we have settled this account. Aug 3, 1750 - Thomas Bouldin and Abraham Martin. Recorded Oct 3, 1750.
In 1751 his name appears on a deed transfer of one acre of land for a cemetery – William Caldwell. At this time, he was associated with William Weakley of Lunenburg County, VA., having witnessed his will on September 23, 1752.
Griffith later came to North Carolina influenced by the good climate, soil and relative peacefulness of the Catawba Indians. Another factor which encouraged his migration to North Carolina was the laxity of North Carolina laws in comparison with those of Virginia on the subject of religion. In this way, Griffith and other Scots-Irish passed through the vacant lands in Virginia and made homes for themselves in western North Carolina. As early as 1740, a few families were already located on the Hico, Eno, and Haw rivers in the territory just east of Rowan. By the year 1745, the Scots-Irish had established themselves in the fertile and well-watered area between the Yadkin and the Catawba. Previous to
1750 their settlements were scattered throughout the region from Virginia to Georgia. The Scots-Irish settled mainly in the country west of the Yadkin. Among these emigrants were Griffith's near kin and friends; the Davidsons, Catheys, Moores, Pickens and Rutherfords - all religious dissenters.
Griffith Rutherford’s wife: Elizabeth Graham
Elizabeth Graham was the daughter of James Graham, born 1670 in Inverary Argyllshire Scotland. He had moved to Ulster after 1695 and then emigrated to America in the early 1700s. James Graham settled in Paxton [Paxtang] Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where his wife (name unknown) died. His family then made a series of moves south to cheaper land, through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, finally settling between 1733 and 1747 in Anson/Rowan County, North Carolina. James Graham received a land grant from the Earl of Granville 10-20 miles from Salisbury, North Carolina in the "Irish Settlement" of the Yadkin River Valley. He died February 1, 1758 and is buried in the Thyatira
Presbyterian Churchyard near Salisbury, NC. [Thyatira Presbyterian Church Graveyard - The Carolina Genealogist Summer, 1972 No. 11 - Pages 1-10, County Records, Rowan County Cemeteries, Millbridge, N.C.]
Elizabeth Graham’s known siblings:
i. John Graham Jr.
b. 1703 PA d. 12-28-1772
buried Thyatira Presbyterian Church, NC
m. Mary Armstrong
ii. James Graham b. 1695 m. Jean Foster
iii. Jean Graham m. William Graham
iv. Elizabeth Graham m. Gen. Griffith Rutherford
Before 1753 Griffith Rutherford moved to Halifax County, North Carolina, where he was appointed King's Surveyor. Griffith Rutherford resided west of Salisbury, in the Locke settlement, and actively participated in the internal government of the county, associated with such early and distinguished patriots as Moses Winslow, Alexander Osborn, Samuel Young, John Brevard, James Brandon, William Sharpe, Francis McCorkle, and others. [“Gilbert Town: Its Place in North Carolina and Revolutionary War History” by Nancy Ellen Ferguson, Rutherford County Historian]
William Pickens paid tithes in Lunenburg Co. VA. in 1749 – Cub Creek. He moved to NC and on May 17, 1754 he received a Crown grant of 408 acres in Anson Co. N.C. with Griffith Rutherford. Received a second grant with Griffith Rutherford on Oct. 3, 1755.
Griffith Rutherford, 700 Acres, Grant No. 187, Issued April 6, 1753, Rowan Book No. 2, Page 45 - No. 143 - Location: Upon the E side of Catawba River, near both sides of Twelve Mile Creek.
Griffith became a wealthy farmer and married Elizabeth Graham in 1754. They had 10 children. One of Griffith’s daughters, Jane, married Capt. James Cathey, the son of John Cathey and Elizabeth Pickney. His daughter Blanche married Francis Locke of Rowan Co NC. Another close relative was Capt. William Moore, the "first white man to settle west of the Blue Ridge". Capt. Moore has been claimed to be Griffith Rutherford’s brother-in-law, meaning Griffith had an undocumented sister? [History of Western North Carolina - Chapter V - Revolutionary Days by John Preston Arthur, 1914]
i. Jane Rutherford b. 1756 d. abt 1844 Maury TN
ii. James Rutherford b. abt 1758 d. 9/8/1781, Battle of Eutaw Spring, SC
iii. Blanche Rutherford b. abt 1760 d. abt 1844
iv. Margaret Rutherford b. abt 1765 d. about 6/1827 Dyer, TN
v. Alfred Rutherford b. abt 1767 d. about 1844
vi. Newton Rutherford b. abt 1770 d. about 1814 Cocke, TN
vii. Elizabeth Rutherford b. abt 1772 d. about 1844
viii. John Rutherford b. 3/13/1774 d. 9/8/1835 Dyer Co. TN
ix. Griffith Weakley Rutherford b. abt 1775 d. 11/11/1846 Wilson Co. TN
x. Henry Rutherford b. abt 8/17/1782 d. 5/20/1847 Key Corner, Dyer TN
A tax list was found between the walls of the old courthouse by Wm. D. Kizziah, Register of Deeds. When found, it was but scraps of paper, but was fitted together and transcribed by him. This list was made before Rowan Co, NC was divided into other counties and is the oldest tax list ever found in Rowan Co, NC. The list includes Griffith Rutherford along with Brandons, Catheys, Grahams and other extended family members. [1759 Rowan County Tax List - Rowan County Library, Salisbury, NC]
North Carolina Assembly:
1766-1768 - John Frohock and Griffith Rutherford
1769 - Griffith Rutherford and Christopher Nation
1770-1771 - Griffith Rutherford and Matthew Locke
1773 - Matthew Locke and Griffith Rutherford
1773-1774 - Griffith Rutherford and Matthew Locke
1775 - Griffith Rutherford and Matthew Locke
August, 1774 - Moses Winslow and Samuel Young.
April, 1775 - Griffith Rutherford, William Sharpe, and William Kennon.
On Oct. 19, 1768, Reuben Simpson and his wife, Sarah Sherrill, deeded this same 72 acres to Griffith Rutherford. In Lincoln County, NC, Reuben entered 640 acres of land on the Beaver Dam Branch, Oct. 11, 1783. There is a branch on the west side of the Catawba River about 5 miles above Granville's old line, which is called Beaver Dam Branch.
In January, 1771, Griffith Rutherford, a member of the Assembly from Rowan, introduced a bill for ascertaining the boundary line between Rowan and the counties of Mecklenburg and Tryon, which lay to the south. This measure was expedient because the settlers on the borders of the three counties refused to pay their taxes in any of them. Lord Granville's line had never been surveyed so far westward. Thomas Neal, Thomas Polk, Matthew Locke, Griffith Rutherford, and Peter Johnston were appointed to run the line, and the inferior courts of the three counties were authorized to levy a tax sufficient to defray the expense. [Colonial Records of North Carolina, State Records of North Carolina, XXIII, 841-842.]
In 1771, Griffith Rutherford supported efforts aimed at restricting the Anglican Church, introducing a bill allowing any minister to perform marriages. At the time, only marriages performed by Anglican clergy were legal. Since few Anglican ministers served in the counties west of the tidewater, the result was that many couples were not legally married and their children technically illegitimate. This was a source of both anguish and potential legal troubles.
In April, 1775, the delegates from Rowan to the Provincial Congress of NC were Griffith Rutherford, William Sharpe and William Kennon. William Kennon had also lived at Cub Creek, VA. On April 26th, 1776, Rowan sent Rutherford Griffith and Matthew Locke as delegates to the NC Provincial Congress. At this assembly Griffith Rutherford was appointed Brigadier General of the Salisbury District; Francis Locke, Colonel of Rowan; Alexander Dobbins, Lieutenant Colonel; James Brandon, 1st Major; James Smith, 2d Major.
He represented Rowan county in the Provincial Congress which met at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, and during this session he received the appointment of Brigadier General of the "Salisbury District." Near the close of the summer of 1776, he raised and commanded an army of two thousand four hundred men against the Cherokee Indians. On November 12th, 1776, which formed the first Constitution, the delegates were Griffith Rutherford, Matthew Locke, William Sharpe, James Smith and John Brevard.
These transactions show that even during the Revolution itself Griffith remained active in western North Carolina land purchases:
Robert Woods, a carpenter, will dated 8 Sept 1763, probated 1766 - Mentions mother, not named, Uncle Samuel Woods and Aunt Sarah Woods. [This Samuel Woods was probably the brother of Matthew Woods and Oliver Woods.] Uncle Archibald Wasson Cousins Jan McCulloh , James McCulloh, Elizabeth, Ruth, Margaret, Sarah, and Mary Woods. Brother Benjamin. Sister Jane.
Wit: Griffith Rutherford and Sarah Woods.
General Griffith Rutherford entered 200 acres on south side of Muddy Creek, NC on lower of 3 creeks by Plumb Branch in 1778.
Rowan County, NC Records - Book 9 page 106: on Sept. 13, 1779, John Cochran, a planter of Rowan County, NC, lets Nichlis Bever have a tract on both sides of Cold Water Creek "the waters of Rockey River, joyning James Woods & Andrew Cochran", 250 acres beginning on the east side, for 2000 pounds NC money, witnessed by Griffith Rutherford and proved by General Rutherford in Feb. Term of 1780.
Rowan Co Deed Book 9, pg 613. Vacant Land Entry #5, 4 Feb 1778. Griffith Rutherford 400A on E side of Catawba River & on both sides of Back Creek including Samuel Woods improvement & an improvement of his own adj Hugh Montgomery. This is one of the first of the vacant land entries. We can infer that Capt. Samuel Woods sold or gave his land and house to Griffith Rutherford who was then able to register it at the county courthouse. By this time, Samuel Woods had gone to Burke County. He had apparently been living on undeeded land.
Rowan Co Deed Book 9, pg 526, 2 Dec 1783 (McCubbins File). Griffith Rutherford to Wm. Woods for 100 pds, 200A on E Bank of Catawba next John McCoun, John Baird & Griffith Rutherford [This land is on Back Creek]
By Gary Rutherford Harding