Which Rutherfords owned slaves or were slaves, indentured, bought or sold?
So far, the Rutherford lines we descend from have not shown to be slaveholders, but there defintely were some Rutherford families that were. Many Scottish, Irish and English came to America as indentured "servants" or as slaves or captured prisoners of pirates. Slavery of whites was happening before black slaves were being brought to America, but once Africans were brought in large numbers, white slavery was not as common. Prisoners of all races were sent to America or to Australia in order to work for many years to settle their obligations for crimes of theft and so on. Few of those who made it to the end of their sentences went back to their countries of origin.
Included on this page will be information related to people with the name Rutherford, as well as Rutherford Counties which are spread across America. Slaves occasionally took their surnames from their slaveholders, and may also be descended from them, or chose names based on the locations they resided in when gaining their freedom.Over the years we have known non-white Rutherford families who lived in Milwaukee where we used to live, (we are white), but since we do not know their full American family history, we don't yet know if we are related
While doing my own research for our Rutherfords, primarily in Virginia and West Virginia, I have come across newspaper articles or postings that reference slaves, either for sale or who were being sought as runaways. I have always found those postings to be interesting from a historical perspective, as well as being a sad commentary on humanity. This family history is important and should not be buried or glossed over, but instead should be brought into the light.
Just as my Jewish ancestors fled or endured pogroms and the Holocaust, there are Rutherfords who have either been slaves or had been sent to America as prisoners or indentured servants, (a euphemism used in some cases for slavery). Sometimes Jews assisted oppressors or were forced to enslave or murder other Jews, and non-whites often enslaved people of their own race or others they felt were inferior. This is not an arbitrarily black and white issue. (Pun very much intended).
Some are offended by comparisons of any other category to slavery, but the Dictionary.com definition of indentured servant is pretty clear, and other classes of people were forced to work without pay and under conditions as poor or brutal as slaves were. Physical and sexual abuse were common to most of these oppressed groups, and trying to run away was met with similar consequences and the law was not on their side in any case. Class systems still exist in the world, allowing this abuse even now.
Orphans were often treated no better than slaves, as they were "lent" to an extended family member or even strangers to help work farms in exchange for food and board, which in too many cases also led to severe physical and/or sexual abuse. The laws regarding control the indentured were not much better than those used to maintain slavery; the one important difference was that at they were usually counted as people instead of property. Later they were counted as a full person versus 3/4 of a person that was used for non-whites who were emancipated, but that also means the indentured or other white laborers may not have been documented at all, since their value from a Taxation standpoint was not the same as for the slaves or livestock.
I am posting some links &/or copies of articles that may be of interest to those researching Rutherford slaves or slaveholders. My intent is never to abuse copyrights, so links will be cited and attributed the best I can, but I also want to show enough information to be useful to those who read this section. If anyone who owns these articles feels I've misused the info, please advise your ownership or connection to them, and email your request for removal or a change to the citations, as necessary.
See a few to the lower right, with links to the sites they are on. Occasionally links change, so please report any broken ones.
These are some others that may help you if you are interested or are researching your family history:
I do have some further Genealogical information related to those mentioned in the "Joe Rutherford narrative", so if that's of interest - email me and I can share what I have. If you find any history of Rutherford-related slaves or slave-owners we can add to this section, please email me so I can add them. If your family has slave history you'd like to document somewhere online, even if not Rutherford-related, please send me the information you'd like to see posted here, with proper attributions if any apply.
CLICK to visit Virginia Museum of History and Culture's "Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names"
Slavery in Rutherford County, TN - Slave Records
Rutherford County Negress, Caroline Green, Dies at Age of 117. Others mentioned in article are son Anderson Green, niece Sallie Liles, and husband Jack Eaves sold away to Mississippi, never to return.
Robert Rutherford - born 1728 in Scotland, emigrated to Berks County, PA and then moved on to Virginia, was a slave owner.
He had served as a Delegate to the Richmond and Williamsburg Conventions, then became a Senator and was then elected as a Congressional Representative for two terms, failing to be reelected for a third.
He has been noted in a positive way as "one of the first slave owners in Jefferson County to manumit his slaves.[v] In the early records of Jefferson County", Virginia;
The will of Robert Rutherford contains references to the disposition of several slaves. He had owned more slaves whom he freed before he died. "He was one of the first slave owners in Jefferson County to manumit his slaves.[v] In the early records of Jefferson County is found the following:"
"December 9, 1801.—The records state that a "Mr. Rutherford" (evidently meaning Robert Rutherford, the Congressman) appeared before the justices and had placed on record the fact of his having manumitted three of his slaves, Menta, Joseph and Adam. This is the first case of manumission in the county, and is notable for the reason that it was long before any anti-slavery agitation occurred. It is altogether probably that this course (manumission) would have been generally pursued, in the border States, at any rate, had not violent agitators risen to attempt to force the matter. Some horses may be led but not driven. Numbers of other cases occurred similar to that of good, plain old "Robin" Rutherford, whose heart is said to have been far out of proportion with his small frame."[vi]
Reading further into his will, it is not as "positive" of an impression, as he summarily splits up the disposition of his slaves based on what appears to be an attempt towards equal division of property to his daughter's or their husbands, (his and his wife's sons-in-law), with very little to no regard to how this affects his female slave, Beck and her children, who are dealt away like cards to his children.
It's not right to judge him for actions in the past based on today's culture and laws, but of course morally this seems hard to understand. However, consider that even today, slavery continues to happen around the world and even in the shadows of the U.S. Either people are not aware or are turning a blind eye to what is going on. It certainly doesn't justify any of the past that it's still going on, but we must see how easily it was allowed to happen.
Our broken immigration system contributes to the influx of thousands of poor people who ignorantly get caught up in human trafficing, "rental" child abductions, sexual and other forms of slavery. The inaction of Congress and civil rights groups to come to the aid of illegal immigrants as they are used and abused in their quest to come to a "better life" in the U.S. is abhorrent and with current Media and Internet access to information, ignorance can no longer be an excuse.
Below is how Robert Rutherford's will, probated June 11, 1805, divided up some slaves owned as he wrote his will in 1801. What is interesting is that Beck's youngest child is named Robin. During the Indian Wars, a company led by Captain Robert Rutherford was "known as 'Robins Rangers' composed of able-bodied young men, expert marksmen, and fearless Indian fighters. This company did very efficient service and was praised by George Washington."
"And I wish it further to be understood as my will that the legacies heretofore bequeathed to my wife Mary Rutherford together with, all other proper <property> not before mentioned shall in case of her death happening before mine, be divided in like manner amongst her daughters aforesaid, except the mulatto woman Beck and her family of children which I wish to be disposed of in the following manner Viz To my daughter Sarah Bedinger I give and bequeath the said negres woman Beck, and in case the said woman has us issue after the date of this my will I also give and bequeath to my said daughter Sarah Bedinger, her youngest son called Robin but in case of other issue I give and bequeath the said boy Robin to my wifes daughter Margaret Little and all the issue of he said mulatto woman Beck after the date aforesaid. I give with her to the said Sarah Bedinger in lieu thereof to my daughter Mary Morrow I give and bequeath the negro boy Jonathon to my daughter Deborah Hite, I give and bequeath the negro boy Bill to my daughter Elizabeth Davis, I give and bequeath the negro boy John and to my daughter Eleanor Brown, I give the two negro boys Harry and George to each of them as above mentioned, their heirs or assigns forever, but It must be farther understood as my will that the above mentioned slaves shall not be disposed of in any manner whatever contrary to the wish or inclination of my daughters aforesaid."
Rutherford Slaves, probable owners first to Mary Rutherford in 1803 when he died, then 1813 after Mary died :
The mulatto woman Beck and her family of children which I wish to be disposed of in the following manner:
To my daughter Sarah Bedinger, wife of Daniel Bedinger, Beck, her youngest son called Robin
but in case of other issue I give and bequeath the said boy Robin to my wifes daughter, Margaret Little, wife of William Little, and all the issue of he said mulatto woman Beck after the date aforesaid. I give with her to the said Sarah Bedinger in lieu thereof
to my daughter Mary Morrow, wife of John Murrow, I give and bequeath the negro boy Jonathon
to my daughter Deborah Hite,, I give and bequeath the negro boy Bill
to my daughter Elizabeth Davis, wife of Joseph Wilson Davis (previously to John Conrad), I give and bequeath the negro boyJohn
and to my daughter Eleanor Brown, wife of James Brown, I give the two negro boys Harry and George
A picture of Robert Rutherford is below-left, that links to his bio on Wikipedia
Joe Rutherford - A Slave born to Allen and Barbara Rutherford. Below is a narrative of his being "owned" by Mistress Laura Atwood Rutherford, the wife of Dr. Thomas Rutherford, and/or her brother Ros Atwood:
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
Interview with former Rutherford Slave, Joe Rutherford
In the 1860 census Slave Schedules, Thomas B. Rutherford owned 80 slaves. The following is an interview of one of them done during the Depression.
"I was born about 1846, 'cause I was in de war and was 19 years old when de war was over. I went to Charleston with my master, Ros Atwood, my mistress's brother. My mistress was Mrs. Laura Rutherford and my master at home was Dr. Thomas Rutherford. We was on Morris Island."
"My father was Allen Rutherford and my mother Barbara Rutherford. My daddy had come from Chili to this country, was a harness maker, and belonged awhile to Nichols. We had a good house or hut to live in, and my work was to drive cows till I was old 'nough to work in de fields, when I was 13. Then I plowed, hoed cotton, and hoed corn 'till last year of war and den went to Charleston."
"Master paid us no money for work. We could hunt and fish, and got lots of game around there. We had dogs but our master didn't like hounds."
"Col. Daryton Rutherford, doct's son, had me for a "pet" on the place. They had overseers who was sometimes bossy but they wouldn't allow dem to whip me. One old nigger named 'Isom', who come from Africa, was whipped mighty bad one day. The padderollers whip me one night when I went off to git a pair of shoes for an old lady and didn't git a pass. I was 16 years old then."
"Doctor Rutherford had several farms - I reckon around 2,000 acres of land. We didn't have church nor school but sometimes we had to go to de white folks church and set in the gallery. We didn't learn to read and write. The mistress learnt some of de nigger chaps to read and write a little.
"We had Saturday afternoons off to wash up and clean up. When Christmas come the doctor would give us good things to eat. When we was sick he give us medicine, but some of de old folks would make hot teas from root herbs."
"We had old time cornshuckings before and after freedom. We made sure enough corn den and lots of it - had four cribs full. When freedom come, the old man had fallen off a block and was hurt, so one of de overseers told us was free and could go if we wanted to. Some of dem stayed on and some got in the big road and never stopped walking. Then we worked for 1/3 share of the crops; had our little patch to work, too."
"I was 31 years old when I married first time. Was living in Mollohon. Her name was Leana and she belonged to Madison Brooks's family, as waiting girl. I was married twice, but had 13 children all by my first wife. I have 14 grandchildren, and so many great-grandchildren I can't count them."
"When de Ku Klux was in dat country I lived wid a man who was one of them. The first I knew about it was when I went down to de mill, de mule throwed me and de meal, and down de road I went to running and met a Ku Klux. It was him."
"I think Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis good men, but don't know much about dem."
"I join de church when I was 68 years old 'cause God sent me to do it. I believe all ought to join church."
(from Works Project Administration. Federal Writers Project. Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. Washington, D.C)
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
WPA Slave Narrative Project, South Carolina Narratives, Volume 14, Part 4
COLLECTION: Federal Writer's Project, United States Work Projects Administration (USWPA); Manuscript Division, Library of Congress / DIGITAL ID mesn 144/059055
For further genealogical study, See Joe Rutherford's owners- He was a Slave born to Allen and Barbara Rutherford; "owned" by Dr. Thomas Rutherford's wife, Mistress Laura Rutherford and/or her brother Ros Atwood. Joe and Leana had 13 children. Then, Joe remarried - unknown if Leana died or ? before that.
Links to more information
HINT to do Research of Slaves in the West Virginia Archives: Use Slave as the Surname. There is a Slave Index Death Register that uses “slave” as the last name. Today there are 1690 entries, so enter just last name or if you know area, refine by County. http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcsearch.aspx