Griffith Rutherford

Gen. Griffith Rutherford

Written by Jay Guy Cisco
From Historic Sumner County, Tennessee

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne and Danene Vincent

     Griffith RUTHERFORD was born in Ireland about 1731. "His family were originally Scotch, and for centuries were classed among the most ancient and powerful families in Teviotdale." Some of the family removed to Ireland, where John RUTHERFORD married a Miss. GRIFFITH, a Welch lady. Their son, Griffith RUTHERFORD, sailed from Ireland for America in 1739, accompanied by his wife and only son, Griffith. The parents died either on the voyage or soon after their arrival in America, and young Griffith was taken by an old German couple. About 1753 he went to Rowan County, North Carolina, and in 1758 purchased from James LYNN two tracts of land on Grant's Creek, about seven miles southwest from Salisbury, and adjoining the land of James GRAHAM, whose sister, Elizabeth, he married about that time. Their son, James RUTHERFORD, was a Major in the Revolutionary Army, and was killed at the battle of Eutaw Springs.
     General RUTHERFORD was a man of strong character, resolute and determined, and of unusual capacity, and early in life attained a position of prominence. He was a member of the North Carolina Assembly as early as 1769, and about that time he was Sheriff of Rowan County. He was in the Assembly of 1770 and 1771, and at the same time was Captain of militia. He continued to represent his county in the Assembly, and was a member of Legislature of 1773 and 1774. In 1775 he was elected a member of the Provincial Congress, and was appointed a member of the Committee of Safety for Rowan County and Colonel of militia. He was in all the subsequent Provincial Congresses and assisted in forming the State Constitution. For years he was one of the most prominent men in North Carolina. In April 1776, he was appointed Brigadier General for the Western District, and was Senator from Rowan County 1777 to 1778, except when a prisoner of war in 1780-1781. During the Revolution he was among the most active and enterprising military men in the State. He led the Rowan regiment to South Carolina in the "Snow Campaign" in December, 1775, and conducted the expedition against the Indians in September, 1776. In 1779 he marched with his brigade to Savannah to aid General Lincoln. In June, 1780, he suppressed the Tories at Ramseur's Mills, threatened Lord Rawdon in South Carolina, and dispersed the Tories on the Yadkin. He marched with Gen. Gates to Camden, where he was badly wounded and taken prisoner. He was confirmed in St. Augustine until the summer of 1781, when he was exchanged, and at once calling his brigade together, he marched on to Wilmington, driving the Tories before him. Before he reached Wilmington the British Commander at the place had learned of the surrender of Cornwallis and hurriedly evacuated the town.
     In 1792 General RUTHERFORD moved to Sumner County, Tennessee, but where he located I have been unable to learn. His numerous descendants knows but little of him. His will, dated in Rowan County, North Carolina, on July 14, 1792, and recorded in Transcript of Wills No. 1, Sumner County, gives personal property and slaves to his wife, Elizabeth, and "my two sons, John and Griffith W., and my daughter, Elizabeth," who was unmarried. The executors named were Henry RUTHERFORD, Robert WEAKLEY, and John KING.
     In most of the accounts of General RUTHERFORD it is stated that he came to Tennessee in 1786, but this is evidently an error, for his will, mentioned above, was dated in North Carolina in 1792. Governor BLOUNT, in a letter to General James ROBERTSON, dated May, 1792, published in the American Historical Magazine says:

     "General RUTHERFORD and W. F. LEWIS will leave in September with thirty wagons, so they write me. The General has actually exchanged all his lands in North Carolina for lands on the Cumberland."

     Upon the organization of the territory of the United States south of the Ohio River, in 1794, President Washington appointed General RUTHERFORD a member of the Legislative Council, and he was chosen President of that body. Six years later, in 1800, he died, but where, and when his body was buried, there is no record, and the remembrance has faded from the memory of men.
     Rutherfordton and Rutherford County, North Carolina, and Rutherford County, Tennessee, were so named for General RUTHERFORD.

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