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 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 frequently 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 progroms 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).
Some are offended by the comparison of any non-slave 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 or sexual abuse was common, trying to run away was met with similar consequences and the law was not on their side.
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 used to 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 the Virginia Museum of History and Culture - 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.
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.