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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: Walter Rutherfurd


Seventh President
1766-1767; 1792-1798.

Walter Rutherfurd was the sixth son of Sir John Rutherfurd and Elizabeth Cairncross of Edgerston, Roxboroughshire, Scotland, and of the eleventh generation from James Rutherfurd, to whom the manorial lands of Edgerstone had been granted in 1492 by King James IV of Scotland.

He was born on the 29th December, 1723. at Edgerstone, Scotland, and died on the 10th January, 1804, at his residence in the City of New York.

Entering the Royal Navy at the early age of fifteen years, he served until 1746, when he left the sea service to enter the army as an officer in the Royal Scots Regiment, and was paymaster in the campaigns of Flanders and Germany. At the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1756 he sailed for this country and immediately joined the Royal and Colonial forces as Captain of Grenadiers in the Fourth Battalion of the Royal American Regiment.

In the course of his military career he received the terms of surrender of Fort Niagara, and when the City of Montreal capitulated, the keys of the city were delivered to him. He subsequently became Judge Advocate and a Major in the Colonial Army.

He retired from active duty, however, in 1760, and about 1775 received a patent of five thousand acres in New Jersey for his military services. He also acquired a large landed property by marriage. Owing to his early education and training, and his family affiliations, his sympathy was naturally with the royal cause, and though he took no active part in the dispute and subsequent warfare, he was prudent enough to retire to his estate in New Jersey for this period.

After peace was declared, however, he returned to New York, and entered into the business of importing. He had extensive commercial interests with England at this time and ranked among the wealthiest of his fellow-citizens. In 1771 he was an incorporator of the New York Hospital, of which he acted as Governor from 1774-1778. He also owned a share of the Tontine Coffee House in 1796, and named as the successive owner of this share Robert Rutherfurd, son of John Rutherfurd, Esq., of the State of New Jersey, and Helena, his wife. He was also President of the Agricultural Society, and a founder of the Society Library.

True to his Scottish birth and traditions, he was one of the founders and original members of Saint Andrew’s Society, having been elected on the 19th November, 1756. Later he served as an Assistant from 1761-1766; as First Vice-President from 1785-1787; and as President from 1766-1767 and 1792-1798.

As early as 1798 he resided at No. 1 St. George’s Street (Broadway, above St. Paul’s Church, where the Astor House now stands), and in 1803 was residing at No. 219 Broadway, doubtless the same place under new numbering.

Much of the data concerning him is learned from his will, dated the 18th April, 1801, and proved and recorded on the 18th January, 1804, in the New York County Surrogate’s Office, in which he calls himself “son of Sir John Rutherfurd of Roxboroughshire, North Britain, being in the 78th year of my age.” He leaves his wife, Catherine, all his estate, real and personal if living at his death, but if dead, then a portion of his estate is to go to “Major-General Matthew Clarkson, the father of my granddaughter, Mary Rutherfurd Clarkson,” viz.: the land in Vesey Street, now occupied by Dr. James Clark, and six thousand dollars to be held by said Major-General Clarkson in trust for his granddaughter until she reaches twenty-five years of age and then to be distributed to her. But if his granddaughter does not survive or is married against the will of her father, then two-thirds of the above property is to be distributed to the children of Matthew Clarkson by his present wife, and one-third to John Rutherfurd, the uncle of his said granddaughter. He gives to his grandson, Robert Walter Rutherfurd, his watch and seal and his share in the Tontine Coffee House; to his nephew, John Rutherfurd of Edgerton, son of “my eldest brother John,” and to his nephew, John Rutherfurd of Messburnford, a gold ring each. He gives to his son, John Rutherfurd, the rest of his lands and personal property. The witnesses to his will were Cadwallader D. Colden, Charles Graham and Edward W. Laight.

He married, the 21st December, 1758, Catherine Alexander, daughter of James Alexander and Mary Provost, his wife being a sister of General William Alexander, the so-called Earl of Stirling, and had issue: (1) John Rutherfurd, born 1760; (2) a daughter, who married Major-General Matthew Clarkson.

His portrait is reproduced from a painting now in the possession of his lineal descendant, William Walton Rutherfurd, and represents him in the uniform of a Captain in the Royal American Regiment.


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