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John Cobb Rutherford documents

Identifier: ahc.MSS664f

Scope and Content

The John C. Rutherford papers consist of a typescript, narrative biography of Rutherford written by his father, Williams Rutherford. The biography is followed by a resolution of the Macon Bar Association after John Rutherford’s premature death.

Clearly written by a devoted father upset by his son’s death, the biography is hagiographic, emphasizing Rutherford’s many achievements, including his academic career, war service, and excellence in law practice. Williams Rutherford blames his son’s premature death on the conviction of Woolfolk, whom he believed to be innocent. The biography was written shortly after his son’s death; however, there is no indication in this typescript as to the disposition of the original. The biography provides not only an excellent summary of the life of John C. Rutherford, but also an overview of antebellum and post-war life in the Georgia towns of Athens, Macon, and Bainbridge.


  • 1891?


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted through the Kenan Research Center.

Administrative/Biographical History

John Cobb Rutherford was born on April 13, 1842, the son of Williams Rutherford and Laura Cobb Rutherford. At a young age, he moved with his parents to Athens, Georgia, where his father ran a school. He distinguished himself academically, studying law with Joseph H. Lumpkin, W. Hope Hull, and Thomas R. R. Cobb. In 1861, he volunteered in the Cavalry Company of Athens, becoming a sergeant. When Cobb’s Legion, commanded by his uncle Thomas R. R. Cobb, was organized, he became its adjutant. He served with Cobb’s Legion until Cobb’s death, whereupon he transferred to the staff of General Howell Cobb in Florida.

While in Florida, he became acquainted with Elizabeth King, a native of Bainbridge, Decatur County, Georgia. They were married on February 21, 1864 and had four daughters: Bessie, Lamar, Laura, and Katie. Laura died as an infant; Bessie married Dr. Vassar Woolley of Atlanta, and Lamar married A. A. Lipscomb of Washington, D. C. After the death of his first wife, Rutherford married Mrs. Carroll of New York City.

When the war ended, Rutherford, unable to practice law in Athens, farmed for a time in Bainbridge, Georgia. However, with the outbreak of yellow fever in Bainbridge, he and his family moved north to Macon, where he practiced law with A. O. Bacon, forming the practice Bacon & Rutherford in 1876. He also taught law for a time at Mercer University. He defended Thomas Woolfolk (spelled Woolfork in the document) of Bibb County , who was accused of murdering his entire family. Shortly after Woolfolk’s hanging for the crime, Rutherford died suddenly on March 10, 1891. He is buried in Oconee Cemetery


1 folder(s)



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1991
John Cobb Rutherford documents
Paul Crater
June 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305