Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Henry M Rutldge (1775-1844) - a celebrated citizen of Nashville

Henry M Rutledge was the only son of Edward Rutledge (1749-1800), who signed the American Declaration of Independence, and the grandson of Dr John Rutledge (1713-1750), who emigrated from county Tyrone to America about the year 1735.  The Rutledges were one of the reiver clans on the border between Scotland and England in the 16th century and many of them came to Ulster in the 17th century.

Dr John Rutledge married Sarah Hext and they were the parents of Edward Rutledge, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 23 November 1749.

He was educated in law at Oxford University and was admitted to the bar in England.  Edward became a lawyer and was a delegate to the Continental Congress from South Carolina in July 1774.  He signed the Declaration of Independence and then left Congress in November 1776 to join in the defence of his colony.  He was a member of the Charleston battalion of artillery and attained the rank of captain.  He returned to Congress in 1779 but left again in 1780 when the British invaded South Carolina.  Edward Rutledge was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War and he fought in the defence of Charleston. 

Edward Rutledge served in the South Carolina legislature from 1782 to 1798 and was then governor of South Carolina for two years from 1798 to 1800.  However his health was declining and he died on 23 January 1800.  He was buried in the family plot in St Philip’s churchyard, Charleston.

On 1 March 1774 Edward Rutledge married Henrietta Middleton (1750-1792), a daughter of Henry Middleton (1717-1784), who had signed the Declaration of Independence.  They had three children of whom the eldest was a son Henry Middleton Rutledge (1775-1844), who was born on 5 April 1775.

Henry Rutledge studied law and then after an extensive tour of America he sailed for England, where he hoped to complete his legal education.

Back in America he became a successful lawyer and on 15 October 1799 he married his cousin Septima Sexta Middleton (1783-1865), a daughter of Arthur Middleton of South Carolina, another signatory of the Declaration of Independence.  Septima Sexta is Latin for seventy-six and her father named her for the year 1776 in which the American Declaration of Independence was made.  Shortly before their marriage Septima's mother presented the couple with Jenys, a 942-acre plantation adjacent to Cedar Grove.

Rutledge was a respected figure in Charleston and on 4 July 1804 he delivered an oration in St Philip’s Church, Charleston, in commemoration of American independence.  The event was organised by the American Revolution Society of which he was a member.

Henry Rutledge and his wife moved from Charleston to Nashville and in 1814 they built a house called Rose Hill, on College Hill.  Much of the original house was burned during the Civil War but it was restored and extended.  Today the house, at the corner of Rutledge and Lea, is used by the law firm of Blackburn & McCune.

As a lawyer and a planter, Henry was a prominent citizen in the city and he was one of the four vice-presidents at a civic dinner when General Lafayette visited Nashville on 4, 5 May 1825.

Henry M Rutledge died on 20 January 1844 and was buried in Nashville City Cemetery.

Genon Hickerson Neblett & Mary Bray Wheeler, Chosen Exile: The Life and Times of Septima Sexta Middleton Rutledge, american Cultural Pioneer:  1982

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