Etc. -- John Rutherford at 90
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A lightly edited transcription of a pages 3 and 12 article from the 26 Aug 1971 Simcoe Reformer.

John Rutherford 90 Tuesday
by Bruce M. Pearce

John 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 history.

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 industry.

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 one individual.

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 taxpayer's expense.

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 in Simcoe.

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 high school.

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 Graves Simcoe

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 by West 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 a nonagenarian.

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 line.

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.


Copyright 2017 John Cardiff