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Guide to the Rutherfurd Family Papers
 MS 532

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Richard Fraser

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 05, 2018
Finding Aid is written in English.

Scope and Content note

Scope and Content for the Alexander - Stuyvesant - Rutherfurd Collections

The Rutherfurd Family Papers is one of four discrete but closely related collections. The largest and the smallest of the four collections, the Alexander Papers and the John Rutherfurd Papers, were originally a single donation, made in the late 19th Century. The remaining two collections, the Rutherfurd Family Papers and the Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers, were donated separately in the 1970's.

Together, these collections chronicle seven generations of an extended family in New York and New Jersey over the course of two centuries. The founders of the family were James and Mary Alexander, who married in 1721. James Alexander had a merchant business, but was primarily active as an attorney and government official in New York and New Jersey. Most of the material in the Alexander Papers derives from James Alexander's legal practice in both colonies, and from his tenures as Surveyor General of New Jersey, and Attorney General of New York. Other material in the Alexander Papers documents Mary Alexander's merchant business in New York, and the business activities and pre-Revolutionary military service of their son, William Alexander (Lord Stirling).

While the daughters of James and Mary Alexander are underrepresented in these collections,their husbands are represented to a greater or lesser extent in each of the collections described below. The Alexanders' four daughters married men who were or would become leading figures in New York and New Jersey. Mary married Peter Van Brugh Livingston, Susanna married John Reid, and Elizabeth married John Stevens. Catherine Alexander married Walter Rutherfurd.

The marriage of Catherine and Walter Rutherfurd also produced a son, John Rutherfurd, who evidently inherited the bulk of his father's and grandfather's papers. In 1847, Stuyvesant Rutherfurd (a grandson John Rutherfurd and nephew of Peter Gerard Stuyvesant), changed his name to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant in accordance with a provision of Peter Gerard Stuyvesant's will. Rutherfurd Stuyvesant evidently inherited at least some of the papers of his uncle. The Rutherfurd collections contain material created by or pertaining to the Alexander family, and the Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers contain material created by or pertaining to the Alexanders and the Stuyvesants.

The material the Rutherfurd collections relates primarily to the landholdings and business undertakings of a wealthy and socially prominent family. The Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers documents the activities of later generations of that family. By the mid-nineteenth century, the family had become more occupied in strictly leisure activities.

Various descendants of John Rutherfurd donated the collections described in these finding aids to the New-York Historical Society, and the collections extensively document the business dealings, professional activities, and family relationships of the Alexanders during the 18th Century, and the Rutherfurds from the 18th until the early 20th centuries.

For finding aids to the other three collections, click on the following links:

The Alexander Papers, 1668-1818 (bulk 1717-1786)

The John Rutherfurd Papers, 1726-1835 (bulk 1775-1835)

The Stuvesant-Rutherfurd Papers, 1647-1917 (bulk 1840-1917)

Scope and Content for the Rutherfurd Family Papers

This collection contains material created by or pertaining to members of the Rutherfurd and Alexander families of New York City and New Jersey, and the Reid family of New York City and Great Britain. The inclusive dates of the collection are 1721-1879. The bulk dates are 1765-1840. The Alexander, Rutherfurd, and Reid families were related by marriage. Walter Rutherfurd was married to James Alexander's daughter Catherine, and John Reid was married to James Alexander's daughter Susanna.

The Rutherfurd family is represented primarily by Walter Rutherfurd (1724-1804), and by his son, John Rutherfurd (1760-1840). Most of the material relating to the Alexander family pertains to or was created by James Alexander (1691-1754). The Reid family is represented by General John Reid (1722-1807), by his daughter, Susanna Reid Robertson, and Susanna's husband, Dr. John Stark Robertson.

The collection is arranged into series for each of the members of the respective families represented in the collection. The principal subseries within each of these series are: Correspondence; Legal Papers; Accounts, Bills, Receipts; and Surveys. Other material is contained in subseries specific to given persons as needed.

The Correspondence subseries for each family member contains those letters received by that person, as well as any letters written by that person to unidentified recipients. Legal Papers consists of deeds, contracts, agreements, or any legally binding document. Accounts, Bills, Receipts is self-explanatory. Surveys includes surveys of tracts, and field books associated with the production of surveys. All subseries are arranged chronologically.

The other principal series in the arrangement is entitled Other Persons. This series contains material pertaining to persons other than members of the Alexander, Rutherfurd, or Reid families. Letters received by the persons in this series are in folders titled [Addressee] - Letters Received. This includes letters to the addressee from members of the Alexander, Rutherfurd, or Reid families. Other formats in the Other Persons series, such as Legal Papers; Accounts, Bills, Receipts; and Surveys are not sorted by the names of individual persons, and are arranged together chronologically.

The remaining series in the collection consist of small amounts of material having to do with specific institutions or geographical locations. Which family members (if any) these items pertain to, is not clear. Consult the container list for the names of the other series in the collection.

Much of the material has to do with the families' land holdings. Most of the post-Revolution items relating to Gen. John Reid concern his efforts to retain ownership of his American properties, which were under the threat of confiscation because of his service in the British Army during the Revolution. (Reid had been stationed on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel.) Members of the families owned some tracts as individuals, and some were owned jointly, sometimes with persons outside the families. In addition to discrete tracts of land, members of all three families held shares in the Propriety of the Eastern Division of New Jersey, and in the Second Nine Partners tract in colony/state New York.

The collection supports research examining the business affairs of the propertied class in the late colonial and early republic periods, and relations within families whose members assumed opposing sides in the Revolution. There is very little material in the collection concerning specific political or military matters associated with the Revolution.


The Rutherfurd Family Papers are organized into the following twelve series:

Missing Title

  1. Series 1: John Rutherfurd
  2. Series 2: Walter Rutherfurd
  3. Series 3: Mary Rutherfurd/Estate of John Rutherfurd
  4. Series 4: James Alexander
  5. Series 5: William Alexander
  6. Series 6: John Reid
  7. Series 7: Susannah Reid Robertson
  8. Series 8: John Stark Robertson
  9. Series 9: Rutherfurd Family
  10. Series 10: Other Persons
  11. Series 11: Court Papers
  12. Series 12: New Jersey Proprietors