Monday, November 7, 2016

Stories from Bovina Cemeteries - "Who Died on His Passage to California"

For my October 22 cemetery tour, I told the story Walter Rutherford at the Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery. The stone itself tells us a fair amount, stating "In memory of Walter Rutherford, who died in his passage to California Mar. 11, 1852." It further notes that he was about 40 years old. The stone also memorializes two of his sons, Peter and Walter, who both died within days of their births in 1849 and 1851 respectively. 

Photo by Richard Davidson
Walter was born about 1812, the son of James Rutherford and Janet T. Thomson, who both survived him. He married Sarah Delamater in 1831. He departed Bovina probably in late 1851/early 1852, leaving his wife and one daughter, Sarah Jennett, aged about 6 years old, behind. Walter appears to have headed to Central America, likely via ship. At the end of February 1852, he departed from Nicaragua  on the “Isabella”. The vessel traveled via the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), arriving in San Francisco on May 28, 1852. Walter did not survive the voyage. He was the first of six people to die during the voyage, dying on March 11. He was buried in the Pacific Ocean. 

It was over a year later that his wife petitioned the Delaware County Surrogate Court for the granting of "special letters of collection on the estate of Walter Rutherford late of Bovina..." It appears that Walter made out a will, possibly while on his way to California. His wife noted that all the witnesses to his will are in California and that they likely would not return east any time soon to help in proving the will and making the final probate of the estate. Sarah sought these special letters so she could have access to her husband's estate, noting that she and her minor daughter are the sole heirs. She also applied to be made guardian of her daughter, which was granted. There are no other papers in Walter Rutherford's probate file, but it seems likely that Sarah got access to her husband's estate. 

Sarah never remarried, but did relocate to Margaretville not long after her husband's death, living with her daughter, who became known as Nettie. When Sarah died I have yet to determine, but it appears it was between 1880 and 1892. Her daughter stayed in Margaretville, working as a dressmaker, until her marriage to a widower, George Forsythe, in 1898. They settled in Franklin, NY, where Nettie died sometime after 1920. 

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