Rutherford, one of Simcoe's oldest and best-known citizens, will
mark his 90th birthday next Tuesday,
31 Aug 1971. He narrowly missed being a Simcoe native as he was only a few weeks old when
brought here by his parents in the fall of 1881.
He was born at
Stratford, just before his father, Robert Rutherford, obtained a position as
bookkeeper at the Brook Woollen Company in Simcoe
and the family moved here. His mother, whose maiden name was Eliza
Hayes, was the sister of Dr. James
Hayes, prominent Simcoe physician
of his day.
Thus John Rutherford
obtained his primary schooling at the Union
School, situated on Metcalfe Street where the American Can
Company now stands. He then attended Simcoe
High School, completing his secondary education at 18. Principal of the Simcoe school at that time was
the revered J.
D. Christie, one of the foremost educators in Simcoe's long
He then went to work for W.
H. Paulin, who conducted a plumbing and tinsmithing business on Peel
Street, a business that was later owned by James
Holden and sons and that was continued until this year.
Mr. Paulin was an expert in
sheet metal work and made useful household articles, such as tin tea
kettles. When John Rutherford started to work for him, he was paid
the magnificent wage of $4 a week. According to Mr. Rutherford, the
prevailing wage rate in those days at the turn of the century for
mechanics was $1.25 a day.
About 1902 Mr. Rutherford
decided to leave Simcoe and he joined a number of other young
Simconians who were going to Port Huron, Michigan. Employment was
very slack in Simcoe at that time for aspiring young men and they
were promised work in Port Huron by former Simconian John
Hodgson, who had become a master car builder at the Grand Trunk
Railway in Port Huron.
After working there for a
time, John Rutherford moved on to Detroit, where for a while he made
brass radiator for the two-cylinder Cadillac, which must have been
one of the earliest automobiles produced by the budding motor car
He returned to Simcoe in
1904 when the opportunity came to take over the Paulin business in
partnership with Mr. Paulin's son, A. Hilton Paulin. The firm became
known at Paulin and Rutherford and it operated successfully for
quite a few years. Then the First Great War broke out and Capt.
Hilton Paulin enlisted in the 133rd Battalion ("Norfolk's
Own"). He went overseas with the Norfolk unit, but was taken
sick while the battalion was stationed at Shornecliffe in England
and he passed away there.
Mr. Rutherford continued the
business by himself until 1919 when he received an attractive offer
from Eastern Steel Products at Preston. For the next 10 years
he was a valued employee of that firm, which had a wide distribution
for its products throughout Southern Ontario.
But the lure of Simcoe could
not be shaken and Mr. Rutherford returned in 1929 and has remained
here ever since. He went into business for himself, engaging in
sheet metal, construction, and electric wiring. He bought four acres
of property at the corner of Sherman and Oakwood streets from the
late James E. Johnson,
subdivided it and proceeded to build homes in the area. When he
erected his last house, Mr. Rutherford was nearly 80 years of age.
An interlude in his
construction work occurred between 1942 and 1955, when he was
full-time town assessor. He gave able and conscientious service to
the community in this capacity and he claims to have made the first
complete and accurate assessment of Simcoe properties in 1948 and
1949. As a result of this experience, Mr. Rutherford probably has
the most complete knowledge of Simcoe properties possessed by any
Although he has not held any
other official position that town assessor, he has long taken a keen
interest in the town's development and in the activities of town
council and other municipal bodies.
Since his retirement, Mr.
Rutherford has become a frequent contributor to the letter column of
The Reformer, discussing various contentious questions, and not
hesitating to voice outspoken criticism of the town fathers for what
he considers ill-considered actions or ill-advised project at the
Mr. Rutherford has always
taken a keen interest in historical Simcoe and he has employed his
hobby of photography to provide many rare old prints of early scenes
One of the rarest shows the Duncan
Campbell property when it encompassed the area from Argyle
Street to the bridge on Norfolk Street, including both sides of the
present Lynnwood Park. The picture shows the original Campbell home,
which in more recent years was owned by the Reid family, as well as
a fence which paralleled Norfolk Street from the corner of Argyle
through to the bridge near the
Incidentally, as generally
known, Lynnwood Park was afterwards given to the town by J. Lorne
Campbell. The latter was Simcoe's first postmaster and erected the
first post office which opened in 1829 and which is now occupied on
Kent Street by the Simcoe Chamber of Commerce, but was formerly the
Mackay & Innes law office.
For a man of 90 years, Mr.
Rutherford has a very vivid memory. He recalls Duncan Campbell
himself as well as another early and successful Simconian, Leamon
Sovereen, who established one of the first general stores in Simcoe.
It was located where the Walker store now stands on Norfolk Street.
The Sovereen family was one
of Simcoe's earliest.
Mr. Rutherford says Leamon Sovereen founded the north part of the
town, while Duncan Campbell and Aaron Culver founded the south part.
The climax came when Simcoe was to receive its official name. The
northern faction wanted the name 'Wellington' used, while the
southerners held out for 'Simcoe' after Governor John
John Rutherford was a
boyhood friend of the Art Sovereen, who was a grandson of Leamon
Sovereen. One of his early recollections is of 'keeping store' with
his friend Art, while the latter's grandfather would have his
luncheon at the rear of the store. "Art and I would dig into
the cookie barrel and stuff ourselves," he recalls.
While he was never employed
and Peachey, he spent much time around their factory, which was
located near the original Rutherford home at the corner of Kent and
Union Streets. The West and Peachey plant occupied the site of the
present Federal Building [northwest corner of Norfolk and Union
Streets]. Like many other early Simconians, Mr. Rutherford was
keenly interested in the 'Alligator'
unique product of West and Peachey for many years.
John Rutherford has few
contemporaries left in Simcoe. They include John Freeman, who as a
boy resided in Colborne and then attended Simcoe High School with
John Rutherford. David Gunton and
Monroe Landon are other long-time friends, as is Albert Brown, also
Mr. Rutherford is a
long-time member of Norfolk Lodge No. 10 A.F.&A.M., having
joined the lodge is 1904. Thus he has received his 60 year medal, as
he has likewise in Ezra Chapter, Royal Arch Masons. He is also a
Past Grand of the Simcoe Oddfellows Lodge, having joined that lodge
in 1910, and thus being a 60-year member of it.
He now lives quietly at his
home on Oakwood Street, where he has resided since 1954. His wife
predeceased him in 1953. A daughter, Evelyn, resides at home with
him, while another daughter, Mrs. John Bothwell, lives in Ottawa.
He claims no relation to
other Rutherford families in the district. His family genealogy does
show that the Rutherford family came originally from Scotland and
that a title was in possession of the family somewhere along the
John Rutherford, as he
approaches his 90th birthday, only desires to live quietly in what
he considers his native town and to continue to make some
contribution to preserving its early history.