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Last Updated 01/12/01

Appendices


[259 cont.]

VIII. JAMES MURRAY AND JOHN RUTHERFURD.

James Murray.

The career of James Murray is well told in the Letters of James Murray, Loyalist. He was connected with the Murrays of Philiphaugh, one of whom, his cousin David, the second living son of John Murray of Philiphaugh, died in Savannah, April 29, 1771. He had a brother John, who became a doctor and afterwards married Lady [290] Anne Cromartie, widow of Edmund Atkins, superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Southern Department, who died in 1761. He was related also to the Rutherfurds, for he calls John “cousin” and had had him in charge in London before coming to America. In fact, James Murray, David Murray, and John Rutherfurd were all descended, in the third generation and in different lines, from a common great-grandfather, Sir John Murray of Philiphaugh.

James Murray came to Carolina in 1735, leaving “Johnnie” in London. He arrived in Charles Town on November 27 of that year and was at Brunswick at the beginning of 1736. There he rented a house of Roger Moore and opened a store, but falling out with the Moores he went to Wilmington, bought a house and lot there, and entered into the business and social life of the town and province. Later he acquired a plantation, “Point Repose,” on the Northwest at the mouth of Hood’s Creek, and gradually drew out of trade in order to devote himself to an agricultural and farming life. During his thirty years of residence in the colony he held many important offices in town and county and under the crown. He was at one time or another commissioner for Wilmington, a justice of the peace, deputy naval officer, secretary, clerk of the council and clerk of the crown, deputy paymaster under Innes, a vestryman of St. Philip’s, and for thirty years (except for the period of his suspension, 1757 - 1763) a member of the governor’s council and after 1763 its president. He was on terms of intimacy with Governor Johnston, but was unfriendly toward Governor Dobbs, who suspended him from the council, and he was always antagonistic to the Brunswick group led by Dry and the Moores.

He went to England in 1738, but came back the next year, bringing with him the young John Rutherfurd. Both he and Rutherfurd were abroad from 1741 to 1743. For the third time Murray crossed the water in 1744 to marry, as his first wife, his cousin Barbara Bennet, who returned as far as Boston with him in 1749, but joined him in the colony the next year. From that time, until he withdrew permanently to Massachusetts in 1765, he continued to reside in North Carolina. As a man of strong loyalist sympathies he was out of touch with the revolutionary movement, whether in the South or in New England, and toward the end of his career found himself obliged to migrate again, and for the third time, from Massachusetts to Halifax, where he died in 1780.

Murray was a man of strong will and of a masterful temperament, though not a politician and with little liking for the responsibilities [291] of office. He preferred the quiet life of a merchant or a country gentleman, but at the express request of governor Johnston was persuaded to accept a position under government and once in office the accumulation of posts became easier. He had energy and when in public service was inclined to want his own way. He quarrelled with Dobbs, who [292] charged him with leading a cabal against himself, and in all his relations with Rutherfurd played the part of patron and friend somewhat more dictatorily than their relationship warranted. He suffered severely from deaths in his family, and though keeping his feelings well under control was frequently desolate and troubled in spirit. He was given to pessimistic views of life and the circumstances of the time weighed heavily upon him. He was law—abiding, conservative, and cautious, without enthusiasm or strong emotions, and he was as blind as was Miss Schaw herself to the significance of the events taking place about him. He possessed none of the qualities of a revolutionist.

John Rutherfurd (1722-1782).

John Rutherfurd, his protégé and the father of the children who accompanied Miss Schaw to America, was only sixteen years old when in 1738 he first came to the colony, and for a while he lived with Murray at his house in Wilmington and served as clerk in his store. In 1750, through the influence of Dinwiddie, at that time surveyor-general of customs, he was appointed receiver-general of quit-rents, the duties of which and of the deputies thereto appointed in every county outside the Granville area, were to “collect from the tenants of the king’s lands the fee-farms or quit-rents reserved to the crown and to account for and disburse the same according to the instruction from the Sovereign.” His profits arose from the commissions allowed upon his receipt of these rents (N.C.R. VII, 484). For reasons that need not be discussed here, he was removed from this position by Dobbs, at the same time that he and Murray were suspended from the council, and he was not restored until 1761, after he had made a trip to England and Scotland and had presented his case to the Treasury and the Board of Trade. After reinstatement he continued to hold the position until 1775.

Rutherfurd by all accounts was not well suited to the post, a difficult one at best and made doubly so by the unwillingness of the colonists to meet their obligations. Murray said that Rutherfurd was too good-natured and of too easy a temper to be efficient. Dobbs charged him with indolence and neglect of duty, but threw some of the blame for his earlier conduct upon Murray himself, who (he said) wrote Rutherfurd’s letters and had him “entirely under his influence.” It is always wise, however, to take Dobbs’s charges with caution. Rutherfurd made a satisfactory defence before the Treasury and the Board of Trade and was able to impress upon them the injustice of his dismissal.

Yet when all allowances are made, the conclusion must be reached that Rutherfurd was not a satisfactory receiver of quit–rents. It is quite likely that his failure may have been due in part to the intricacies of the system and that Dobbs’s action may have been prompted by a desire to break up the junto or cabal which he thought was working against him. But these reasons will hardly serve to explain Governor Martin’s strictures upon Rutherfurd’s conduct. Martin charged Rutherfurd with a want of “proper diligence and exertion” and recommended his dismissal a second time as one who was “in every respect utterly disqualified for the position.” “Mr. Rutherfurd...is unhappily the receiver-general of His Majesty’s revenues,” he wrote Lord Dartmouth in 1774, “of excellent temper but strangely confused understanding, and actually disqualified by invincible deafness for public business” (N. C. R. IX, 973). Of Rutherfurd’s deafness we have other evidence. In 1758, when in London, he wrote Lord Granville that he wished to resign his seat in the council, “because my hearing is so bad that I can’t discharge my duty as I could wish and desire” (ib., V, 959). It may be that his deafness had something to do with his failure as receiver. Yet he continued to sit on the governor’s council to the end, served as a member of a court of claims in 1773, was frequently on committees, and seems to have had no trouble in carrying on ordinary conversation and doing his private business.

There are ample manifestations that Rutherfurd was energetic and efficient in many directions. In 1751-1752 he obtained a number of judgments against the estate of Colonel Robert Halton for nonpayment of quit-rents, seized several parcels of Halton’s lands, put them up at public vendue, and had them sold to the highest bidder (Register’s Office, Conveyances, B. C., 24; Brunswick County Records, A, 12). He went to England and Scotland in 1758 and was gone three years obtaining a reversal of his suspension. He defended himself with adroitness and vigor in the letters that he sent to the Treasury and the Board of Trade. When in London in 1761 he wrote a pamphlet, The Importance of the Colonies to Great Britain, which [293] was considered good enough to be printed. He and his brother Thomas,1 who died in 1781, were both colonels of militia, one in New Hanover and the other in Cumberland county. Of his frequent journeyings we have ample testimony. He visited Charles Town a number of times and in 1768-1769 went as far as Georgia (South Carolina Gazette, March 30, 1769). He served the colony well on two important commissions, involving tedious travel and hard labor—one in 1767 to settle the boundary line with the Cherokees, and the other in 1772, an undertaking of seventy-six days, for which he was never paid, to determine the line between North and South Carolina. Henry Laurens of Charles Town, whom he visited and with whom he had business dealings, thought well of him. “A worthy man” he calls him, “a sensible worthy man, of a good fortune, and an exceedingly good planter and farmer,” and again, “an agreeable worthy man, a good planter, farmer and mechanick.” With him, Laurens says, he had many talks “of new methods of planting and new articles to plant” (Laurens Letter Books). Of Rutherfurd’s interest in agriculture, Miss Schaw gives an interesting account, while what she says of his plantation does not suggest either indolence or inefficiency.

In 1754, sometime after May 6, Rutherfurd married Frances, the widow, first, of one Button (of whom we know nothing more), and second of Governor Johnston. She was Johnston’s second wife and possibly his third, for such accounts as we have of Johnston’s life before he married Penelope Galland, Governor Eden’s stepdaughter, sometime between 1737 and 1741, would indicate that he had been married before.2 However that may be, he married Mrs. Button in 1751 and died himself at his seat, “Eden House,” in Bertie county, [294] in 1752. Frances was still a “young widow” when she married Rutherfurd, and in appearance small, as we learn from Samuel Johnston’s letter to his son, 1754, in which he says, “Mrs. Rutherfurd has a brother come in, one about seventeen years old, very small and like his sister; talks and behaves like a man, makes me believe him older, but is probably designed for Miss” (Hayes Collection).3 She became the mother of the three children of Miss Schaw’s narrative and herself died early in the year 1768. Who she was or where she came from originally we have not been able to discover.

In the settlement of Governor Johnston’s will there was considerable controversy and even litigation, and Rutherfurd was engaged for many years in closing up the estate. That he did not perform this task to the satisfaction of the Johnston family is well known. Samuel wrote to his son in 1757: “I don’t know what to think of Mr. Rutherfurd, he has never any money. He offered me one order on you and when it came it was after this manner, pay such and such people and the remaining part send to your father, which I returned him” (Hayes Collection).4 The most troublesome questions were the amount due Penelope under Henry Johnston’s will and the distribution of the arrears of Governor Johnston’s salary. The latter was not effected for nearly fifty years, as will be noted elsewhere (Appendix X). In 1752 the British government owed Johnston’s estate more than £12,000, arrears of salary. Mrs. Rutherfurd put in a claim for this amount and after considerable difficulty and expense Rutherfurd when in England obtained a royal warrant, dated February 5, 1761 [295] (Treasury 52:51, p. 437), authorizing the payment. As the North Carolina quit-rents were not sufficient for the purpose, the warrant was addressed to George Saxby, receiver-general for South Carolina, instructing him to pay over to the Johnston heirs the entire amount from the quit-rents of that province. As late as 1767 we find Rutherfurd endeavoring to obtain from Saxby, through Henry Laurens, attorney to the estate, payment of the sum authorized by the Treasury.5 Before his death he had secured all but £2018 of the whole, but as we shall see in discussing the later history of the claim (Appendix X) he appropriated to his own use a larger share of what he obtained than he was entitled to receive as administrator of his wife’s estate.

Rutherfurd began to accumulate property early in the fifties. In 1755, the year after his marriage, he was assessed in the Wilmington valuation of that year at £225 and his taxables were rated at ten. He had a house in Wilmington and was living there as freeholder as early as 1747. In 1749 he was elected a town commissioner, but leaving the province at the time, he was reëlected in 1751 and continued to serve for a number of years. In common with many others, among whom were his fellow Scots, Duncan, Schaw, Ancrum, Robert Hogg, and George Parker, he was frequently cited for neglecting to work on the streets, bridges, and wharves of the town—the duty of every taxable—and at one time was subject to fines running as high as £9 (Wilmington Town Records, passim). He was of the firm of Rutherfurd & Co., dealers in lumber and merchandise, in 1751, and from 1762 to 1766 was in partnership with Alexander Duncan. He continued to reside in Wilmington until 1758, when he went to England and Scotland, where he obtained his restoration to the council, wrote his pamphlet, secured from the Treasury the warrant authorizing the payment of Governor Johnston’s salary, and in Scotland negotiated a loan of £7440 with the aid of John Murray of Philiphaugh and another Scottish friend, who guaranteed the loan [296] with the royal warrant as security. Returning in 1761, he and his wife, with the money thus borrowed and other funds obtained from the sale of some of their Wilmington property, purchased of Maurice Moore, on December 1, a plantation of 1920 acres at Rocky Point on the north side of the Northeast beyond the bend, and removed from Wilmington to reside in the country. He named the plantation “Bow-land,” and with this and other landed property, some of which he acquired in 1766 (the Rockfish lands) and in 1768 (the Western Prong lands), he became, as Henry Laurens called him in 1767, a man “of a good fortune.” He retained lands in Wilmington, had a tar house on Eagles Island before 1769, and in 1768 petitioned for permission to erect a public grist mill on an acre adjoining Rockfish Creek opposite the Holly Shelter “pocósin.”

He was living at “Bowland” in September, 1768, but in that year his financial troubles began. His wife, the executrix under Governor Johnston’s will, having died some months before, John Murray of Philiphaugh became alarmed for his security. Rutherfurd had paid £4000 of the £7440 due, but seemingly was unable to pay the remainder. Willing and desirous of giving further indemnification, for Murray was meeting the interest on the bonds, he handed over to Robert Schaw as trustee his entire property, including his £1000 legacy from Duncan and a proportion of the debts due the firm of Duncan & Rutherfurd, for the purpose of discharging the debt and avoiding a suit in chancery. But this arrangement failed to satisfy Murray, who in January, 1771, brought suit before the North Carolina court of chancery, sitting at New Bern. The matter was referred to Governor Tryon for arbitration who decided in Murray’s favor and the court confirmed his decision. Rutherfurd handed over to Murray in fee simple ownership his Western Prong lands in Bladen county (4320 acres), “Bowland” (1920 acres), his Sound lands (320 acres), and his Wilmington real estate (168 acres), valued altogether at £4300 proclamation money (Register’s Office, Conveyances, F. 95-102, 327-329). Of this transaction his son John said, in 1788: “Our father had nothing. John Murray of Philiphaugh stript him of everything when he went out to Carolina, except the property which my mother brought him, which was secured to her by her marriage settlement6 and again secured to us by decree in chancery, when John Murray wanted to seize upon it as our father’s property.” In 1774 Governor Martin spoke of Rutherfurd as “bankrupt in point of fortune,” [297] and we know that the year before Rutherfurd had written to William Adair expressing his desire to leave the colony and asking that Mr. [James] Abercromby, the former agent, be requested to inform him “if he hears of any good office at the Boards of Treasury, Trade or Auditor’s office.” “At present,” he adds, “Mr. McCulloh is agent, but as he probably is to be dropped soon I have no objection to being agent but do not wish to be obliged to him for any good office” (Letter to William Adair, Pall Mall, dated Newbern, March 26, 1773, Phillips Manuscripts).

But Rutherfurd did not leave the province. If Martin, writing on April 6, less than a year before Miss Schaw’s arrival, is correct in his statements, then Rutherfurd must have recovered very rapidly from his financial troubles, for in the spring of 1775, when Miss Schaw visited his plantation, he was controlling “Hunthill,” an estate of more than 4000 acres, lying between the Bald Sand Hills, adjoining New Exeter, on Holly Shelter Creek, ten miles from Rocky Point and thirty miles from Wilmington. “I have been at a fine plantation,” she writes, “called Hunthill, belonging to Mr. Rutherfurd, [on which] he has a vast number of negroes employed in various works. He makes a great deal of tar and turpentine, but his grand work is a sawmill, the finest I ever met with.” Miss Schaw’s description is not exaggerated. The property had been bought for £2000 (proc.) of Sampson Moseley in 1772, through D’Arcy Fowler, attorney at law of Wilmington and later a loyalist, and plats of it may be found today in the Wilmington records and among the manuscripts at Raleigh. It was a fine estate, though only in part cleared and developed. According to the testimony of John, Jr., and Samuel Graham, in charge of the forge, there were 150 slaves, many of whom were valuable tradesmen, more than 300 acres of land cleared and planted with corn and other grains, a valuable sawmill and smith’s forge for the iron work, and room, timber, and water enough for two more sawmills, cutting 20,000 feet of lumber a week. There were also teams of twenty oxen, one hundred and fifty head of cattle, horses, hogs, and sheep, and a great deal of valuable furniture and many plantation implements. The whole estate furnished in 1781 enough to make several thousand barrels of pitch, tar, and turpentine for British markets and a great quantity of shingles for the West Indies. If Rutherfurd was bankrupt in April, 1774, and in possession of this property at least as early as September, 1774, when Graham says that he was first employed there, it is evident that he must have bought it with his children’s money—probably the £1780 obtained [298] from the sale of Conahoe and Possum Quarter (plantations in Tyrrell and Granville counties which had been left to his wife by Governor Johnston), and have held it in trust for them. He may have used also some of the arrears of Johnston’s salary, which belonged to them as their mother’s heirs; he may have been aided by Mrs. Corbin, for in her will she speaks of debts incurred and negroes loaned, of which Rutherfurd was to make no accounting; and he may have used the money left by Duncan and the debts due him as a member of the firm, for these do not appear to have been handed over to Murray in the final settlement. From a later indenture we learn that the property was bought in trust for the two boys until they should attain the age of twenty-one years (Register’s Office, Conveyances, F, 14-15; H, 197-199; P, 152-155).

Rutherfurd, according to his son’s statement, ‘‘having done everything in his power to suppress the distractions in North Carolina, before the arrival of his Majesty’s troops, took the first opportunity of joining Lord Cornwallis. When the troops were withdrawn [from North Carolina, after the battle of Yorktown], he was under the necessity of embarking with them for Charles Town for the protection of his person from the resentment which his loyalty had stirred up against him, augmented by the discovery of his having placed both his sons in his Majesty’s service. Of the negroes [150] belonging to him and his sons in their own right he could only carry off 6 for want of room in the transport.” All the negroes which remained behind, the lands, mills, horses, cattle, utensils, and furniture fell into the hands of the Americans, and Rutherfurd’s waiting man, Sandy, was murdered for having served as a guide in Lord Cornwallis’s army. Rutherfurd remained at Charles Town until what little property he had remaining was nearly spent and his health and spirits were so much impaired that sometime after March, 1782, he had to leave America. He set forth on a vessel bound for England, but died at Cork, June, 1782, at the age of sixty (Son’s statement, Audit Office Papers). He left no will.

The estimate of losses, as given in the son’s memorial of March 23, 1784 (Audit Office, Loyalists Claims, 36, pp. 339-354), is as follows:

To attendance, etc., for running the boundary line between So Carolina and No Carolina, as mentioned in the memorial of John Rutherfurd [Sr. to the Treasury] £ 562. 2

To balance due on the royal warrant 2018.19

Lands, slaves, plantation utensils and cattle valued by

order of the prevailing persons in No Carolina in 1779 at [299] £36,842.18 that currency, which reduced to sterling makes £21,052.14, and which in the year 1777 £979.5 taxes were paid. [This item probably covers both the Corbin lands and “Hunthill”] 21,052.14

23,633.14

The effort of the children to obtain in part a restitution of this property is dealt with in Appendix X.


FOOTNOTES

1That Thomas Rutherfurd was John’s brother appears from the latter’s letter, dated March 16, 1782, from Charles Town, mentioning the death of his brother Thomas, and saying that he was now caring for his widow and children.

2In 1735 Governor Johnston traveled from Cape Fear to Edenton “with his equipage and family,” and in 1737 was occupying his own plantation on Salmon Creek across the Chowan River from Edenton. It is known that the governor had two natural children, Henry, who died in 1772, and Caroline, who was probably demented or at least weak-minded. It may be that these constituted the “family” referred to. Penelope Galland had married, first, William Maule, who died in 1726; second, John Lovick, who died in 1734; third, George Phenney, who died in 1737 ; and some time after that date, Governor Johnston, to whom we know she was married in 1741, for Hatheway prints a deed of that year signed by both of them (North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, I, 54).

3“Miss” was undoubtedly Penelope Johnston, daughter of the governor by Penelope Galland. She must have been at this time about fourteen or fifteen years old. In his will (Grimes, 269-271) the governor mentions his daughter and earnestly requests his “dearest wife” to be a kind mother to his “dear little girl,” then (1751) perhaps ten or eleven. He left her a bequest of lands and negroes, but did not include her among those who had a share in the residuary estate. But on the death of Henry Johnston in 1772, she fell heir to his fifth share of that estate and was engaged for many years in endeavoring to secure an accounting of her portion, She married John Dawson, who died before her, and she was still living, as the widow Dawson, in 1798.

4Among the manuscripts in the possession of the North Carolina Historical Commission is an “Account of John Rutherfurd and Frances his wife with the Estate of Governor Gabriel Johnston,” which covers the years 1752 to 1756. It was sworn, to before James Murray, J. P., February 10, 1756, and is signed by Rutherfurd and his wife. Its later pages contain accounts of money disbursed for Eden House, Mount Galland, and Fishing Creek plantations, with items regarding Henry Johnston, Caroline or Carey, his sister, and Penelope (education at Williamsburg = £83. 16. 6).

5On September 1, 1767, Laurens wrote to Rutherford: “Yesterday I called upon Mr. Saxby and received from him the sum of three thousand one hundred and fifty-seven pounds of this currency, equal to four hundred and fifty-one pounds sterling, on account of the king’s warrant,” and after stating that he could obtain no more at the time, adds: “I must be content to receive balances from him just when and in such quantities as he shall be pleased to pay to me. Mr. Saxby asked me what you intended to do further in this affair and hoped you would not ‘start’ before hinn in any representation on the other side of the water, adding that he would forfeit his head if you received the balance due on the warrant in ten years to come. I answered that I knew your generosity and would be surety that you would take no unfair advantages, etc.” (Laurens Letter Book, 1767-1771, pp. 3-4).

6The terms of this settlement may be found in the register’s office, Wilmington, Conveyances, F, 3-4.



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