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History of Rutherford, Tennessee
Rutherford on Line

Henry Rutherford of North Carolina came up Forked Deer River to survey lands in the Western District. On September 1, 1785, he reached a point 2.1 miles northwest. He cut his initials and surveyor's mark on a sycamore there and called it the key corner from which he based his surveys on the Forked Deer and its waters. He returned in 1819 and the settlement then assumed that name. He died in 1847 and is buried in a family graveyard .8 mile north.1.

Rutherford is located near Rutherford's Fork of the Obion River. It is a part of the original land grant of 1000 acres made to James Denver in 1785 by the State of North Carolina. Around 1822 Colonel David Crockett along with his brother-in-laws, L.K. Tinkle and H. McWhirter settled in the vicinity of Rutherford. Crockett built a cabin there that exists to this day.  Other early settlers of the Rutherford area were the Flowers, Edmundson, Reed, Tyson, White, Burgin and Needham.

George Tinkle bought the entire 1000 acre James Denver land grant. An interest in this land was later sold to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad in 1858 and their agents, Joseph A. Knox and Thomas Cooper, divided Rutherford into lots . With the construction of the railroad a huge market for wood was opened to the inhabitants, for crossties as well as fuel. Rutherford was once jokingly referred to as "Wilson's Wood Yard" because of a Mr. Wilson who obtained the contract to furnish the wood for the railroad tracks. The wood was laid out in huge stacks along side of the tracks in Rutherford. The construction of the railroad was completed in 1859. In celebration of this event, a round trip between Rutherford and Dyer Station was made.

The first residence was built by Joseph A. Knox. A Mr. Crank bought the second recorded lot and the third was purchased by Thomas Locke. Mr. Locke was the first freight agent of Rutherford Depot.

In 1858 the first businesses were established in Rutherford. Thomas Locke, J.E. Kyzer and William Yates opened mercantile businesses. Charles C. Thomas opened the first saloon. The first church was established in 1859 by the Cumberland Presbyterians. The same year a post office was established at the Rutherford Depot and Thomas D. Locke was appointed  postmaster on June 22, 1859. The Bone Lodge #252 of Free and Accepted Masons, was moved from Pond Hill to Rutherford Depot in 1860. The Masons occupied the 2nd story of the Presbyterian church until it was burned in 1863 by Union troops.

Almost all businesses were suspended during the Civil War. But C.C. Thomas, J.C. Holmes, Ward, F.D. Locke, Flowers and Hefley, W.P. Elrod , Miller, S. Wilson and J.E. Kyzer reopened at the close of the war. By 1870, B.A. Smith established the Smith Gin Manufacturing Company. Mr. Smith also built and sold coffins.

Noah Dancey became the first mayor of Rutherford in 1868.    Mr. Dancey, being a carpenter by trade, also built the first hotel in Rutherford. It was referred to as "Noah's Ark".

In the early 1870's Thomas Wren, who had served as a Justice of the Peace after the Civil War operated a portable sawmill. In 1876 he built the Rutherford Mills, which consisted of a sawmill and gristmill.

Others businesses to appear in 1877 were J.C. Holmes, dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, R.B. Tinkle, pure drugs, groceries and dry goods, Shadrach Wilson, dry goods, groceries, boots shoes, hats, caps and clothing, and J.A. McCarroll, proprietor of the livery stable who also sold livestock feed.

Civil War in Rutherford

Once the decision had been made for the citizens of Gibson County to support the South in the war, a company of minutemen was appointed by the Gibson County Court. These men appointed in District 19 (Rutherford area) were as follows:

R.W. Barton, W.B. Barrett, W. Edmundson, S. Wilson, J.R. Jordan, J.R. Penn, N. Holland, A. Brickhouse and S. O'Daniel

Then many Rutherford citizens began to volunteer. Company F of the 12th Regiment of Tennessee Infantry was organized at Rutherford, with Captain Joseph A. Knox, First Lt. Robert McNeil, Second Lt. M. Stephens, Third Lt. Samuel K.P. House and George E. Rust as orderly sergeant.

Rutherford Depot was overtaken by Union troops in February 1862. The Union troops occupation was short lived as on December 21, 1862, General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his calvary of Confederate troops captured Rutherford.

In 1864, General Forrest formed a Home Guard Unit with about forty local men to restore order and reduce thievery. These men were known as "King's Scouts". Their purpose was to capture and punish the lawless. George W. King was the Captain of the Scouts, J.W. Norton first lieutenant, Samuel A. Thomas second lieutenant and John E. Thomas orderly sergeant.


Rutherford in the 20th Century

J.E. Kyzer had earlier organized a Citizens Bank in 1890 but discontinued it in 1908. The Rutherford Bank was established with W.P. Elrod was the first president and Luther Porter cashier in 1897. In 1900 the Home Exchange Bank was organized by G.R. Dickson but was discontinued in 1932.

The Rutherford Milling Company became one of the largest of its kind in West Tennessee by 1900. Established in 1885, it produced up to 100 barrels of flour and cornmeal daily.  The old landmark building is still standing and houses the Rutherford Feed Mill today.

1913 was the first year of record that an automobile was owned in Rutherford by D.V. Horner. G.S. Barton bought a 7 passenger Studebaker. With the coming of the automobiles better roads were in demand. In January of 1923 the state surveyed and staked out a north-south concrete road, State Highway 41. It ran from the Madison county line to the Obion county line. Eventually it became part of U.S. 45 which extends from Alabama in the south and Canada in the north. By 1930 all of the roads in Rutherford were at least covered with gravel. Asphalt paving continues until the present.

Rutherford received it's first electric lights in 1919 with city water following in 1924. The first telephone lines were installed by the Cumberland Telephone Company in 1912.

The Rutherford Garment Company, which is now Kellwood Company,  employs many of Rutherford's citizens and was established  in 1942 on land belonging to the city.

The Rutherford Junior Chamber of Commerce inaugurated David Crockett Days in 1968 which became an annual event. 

Rutherford's original city limit was a 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile square when the town was incorporated.  Eight annexations and 136 years later, Rutherford measures roughly 2 1/2 miles from north to south and 1.2 miles from east to west.  Its slow-paced, friendly lifestyle is what makes it an ideal place to live and raise a family.

Misc. Documents found the old Rutherford Depot by Milton Webb

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WB01722_.gif (138 bytes) Click Here to Go To the "Wilson Family" Page and read about the "Prospectus"!  Many citizens of Rutherford are listed.  It gives an interesting account of Rutherford in early 1870's with an estate settlement as well as giving you an idea of what things cost back then.  It is also a good example of what happened to a woman when her husband died intestate.

WB01709_.gif (378 bytes)Click the Train to return to Gibson County Main Page

1. Historical Marker on Hwy 88 west of Halls near Henry Rutherford's grave. Key Corner

Other sources: Gibson County Past and Present by Frederick M. Culp and Mrs. Robert E. Ross

Rutherford Revisited A History by the Rutherford, TN Heritage Committee for The Tennessee Bicentennial 1996

Families and History of Gibson county Tennessee to 1989

             Goodspeed's History of Gibson County Tennessee

1998-99 Vicki W. Shafferflag2.gif (7299 bytes)