John Rutherfurd

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John Rutherfurd
United States Senator
from New Jersey
In office
March 4, 1791 – December 5, 1798
Preceded by Jonathan Elmer
Succeeded by Franklin Davenport
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1760-09-20)September 20, 1760
New York City, New York
Died February 23, 1840(1840-02-23) (aged 79)
New Jersey
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Helena Morris
(m. 1782; his death 1840)
Relations Lewis Morris (father-in-law)
Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (grandson)
Children 8
Parents Walter Rutherfurd
Mary Alexander

John Rutherfurd (September 20, 1760 – February 23, 1840) was an American politician and land surveyor. He represented New Jersey in the United States Senate from 1791 to 1798.[1]

Early life[edit]

John Rutherfurd was born on September 20, 1760 in New York City to Walter Rutherfurd (d. 1804) and Mary Alexander, daughter of James Alexander (1691–1756) and Mary Spratt Provoost (1693–1760). His father Walter, a veteran of the British Army, was a hostage of the Patriots during the Revolutionary War while John was a teenager. Rutherfurd attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and studied law.[1]


His maternal uncle was William Alexander (1726–1783), also known as Lord Stirling. Rutherfurd was also related to Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Baronet (1751–1814), William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland (1745–1814), John Elliott (1732–1808), Governor of Newfoundland, Arthur St. Clair (1736–1818), a General and territorial Governor of Ohio.


After graduating from the College of New Jersey, he practiced law in New York City for several years. In 1787, he moved to a farm near the village of Tranquility in Sussex County in New Jersey (after a boundary for a new county was drawn in 1824 his former holdings straddled Sussex and Warren Counties).

In 1788, he entered politics, serving in the New Jersey General Assembly until 1790. He was then elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate from New Jersey and served in the Senate from 1791 to 1798.[1]

Retirement from politics[edit]

After serving in the United States Senate, Rutherfurd then retired from politics, but continued to undertake several important projects during the rest of his life. He was one of the three Commissioners who laid out the plans for the Manhattan street grid north of 14th Street from 1807 to 1811. Around 1816 he investigated the building of a possible canal connecting the Delaware, Raritan and Hudson rivers. Finally, from 1827 to 1833, he helped settle New Jersey's boundaries with New York and Pennsylvania.

Personal life[edit]

In 1782, he married Helena Magdalena Morris (1762–1840), daughter of Congressman Lewis Morris, and remained married to her until his death in 1840, with Helena dying shortly after him. Together, they had eight children, including:

  • Mary Rutherfurd (1784–1868)
  • Robert Walter Rutherfurd (1788–1852), a member of the New Jersey State Legislature, who married Sabina Elliott Morris (1789–1857), his first cousin.
  • Louisa Morris Rutherfurd (1792–1857)

In 1808, Rutherfurd moved with his family to a farm on the banks of the Passaic River near what is now Rutherford, New Jersey. He lived at this place for the rest of his life, naming it "Edgerston", and died there.


Rutherfurd's grandson through his son Robert, was Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816–1892), a pioneering astrophotographer who took the first telescopic photographs of the moon and sun, as well as many stars and planets.


The town of Rutherford, New Jersey was named at least in part after John Rutherfurd, who had owned much of the land during his life. However, the spelling was changed due to the fame of President Rutherford B. Hayes who was President of the United States during the 1870s when the town was created.


External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Jonathan Elmer
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
Served alongside: Philemon Dickinson, Frederick
, Richard Stockton
Succeeded by
Franklin Davenport
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Paine Wingate
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

March 7, 1838 – February 23, 1840
Succeeded by
Albert Gallatin

Guide to the John Rutherfurd Papers, 1726-1835