Tuesday, July 03, 2007

John Hart and Griffith Rutherford

In honor of the 231st birthday of the United States of America, I thought I would pay tribute to two perhaps lesser-known Revolutionary patriots, who also happen to be ancestors of mine: John Hart and Griffith Rutherford.

John Hart
(This image is in the public domain.)

John Hart was a New Jersey delegate to the Second Continental Congress and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Not much is known about him, which is probably why most people haven't even heard of him. (He had 12 kids, so for all you know, you might even be descended from him, too!) A farmer and miller by trade, Hart rose up through the ranks of the justice system at the time (Justice of the Peace, delegate to the New Jersey Assembly, etc.) by virtue of his reputation as a just, honest man. His obituary in the New Jersey Gazette (May 19, 1779) read:
On Tuesday the 11th instant, departed this life at his seat in Hopewell, JOHN HART, Esq. the Representative in General Assembly for the county of Hunterdon, and late Speaker of that House. He had served in the Assembly for many years under the former government, taken an early and active part in the present revolution, and continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriot in the service of his country in general and the county he represented in particular . The universal approbation of his character and conduct among all ranks of people, is the best testimony of his worth, and as it must make his death regretted and lamented, will ensure lasting respect to his memory.
During the War, Hart had to go into hiding for a while and the Hessians damaged his farm. In 1778, he even invited George Washington to encamp the Army on his land (the invitation was accepted). For more information on the life of John Hart, click here. There is a monument dedicated to Hart and his wife, a picture of which can be found on this blog. I am related to John Hart on my father's side.

Griffith Rutherford
(Sadly, I don't think an image of him exists.)

Griffith Rutherford came to America as an infant (his parents were Scots, though they emigrated from Ireland). His parents died on the sea voyage and he was raised by relatives in Virginia. He acquired land near Salisbury, North Carolina and became a prominent local figure, his roles including Sheriff of Rowan County, Assembly member, and Captain of the local militia. An excerpt from the link above provides insight into his military career during the War:
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.
His son James (my direct ancestor, too) was killed at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, where General Rutherford was a commander under General Nathanael Greene.

After the War, Rutherford continued to serve in the North Carolina legislature. In about 1794, he moved to Tennessee to serve as President of the Council of the Territory of Tennessee before Tennessee was admitted to the Union.

Rutherfordton, North Carolina, Rutherford County, North Carolina and Rutherford County, Tennessee all bear his name. There is a monument dedicated to Griffith Rutherford outside of the courthouse in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This site has clear pictures of the details of the monument, which lists the major events of Rutherford's life. I am related to Griffith Rutherford on my mother's side.

I've been learning about my family history for the last few years and I find it very fascinating. I'm proud to call John Hart and Griffith Rutherford "family" (very distant, of course!). I have a profound sense of gratitude to them, and to the other Founding Fathers, because over 200 years later I am able to enjoy the liberty secured by their noble contributions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cousin, I am sorry to report that there is no life portait of our ancestor John Hart either.