Commentary: Nancy Mark Rutherford (1800-1869) worked this and exceptionally large and finely detailed sampler when she was only ten years of age. Nancy was the daughter of Van Rutherford (1771-1824) and Sarah Marke (1777-1828) of Charles Town, Jefferson County, [now West] Virginia. The Rutherfords were a prominent family in the lower Shenandoah Valley and counted the Washington and Hite families among their friends and neighbors. Nancy’s father, Van, served as justice of the peace in Jefferson County in 1801 and in Berkley County in 1805; he was also sheriff of Jefferson County from 1815 to 1817.
Nancy’s paternal grandfather was Thomas Rutherford (1729-1804); a native of Scotland. Thomas and his brother, Robert (1728-1803), eventually settled with their family in the Shenandoah Valley where they were both surveyors for Lord Fairfax. Their father, Captain Thomas Rutherford, Sr. (d. 1760), was the first High Sheriff of Frederick County, and owned several tracts near present-day Winchester and was a founder of the town when it was laid out in March, 1748.
Thomas and Robert Rutherford raised a militia troop during the French and Indian War known as Rutherford’s Rangers that was under the command of George Washington, then based at Fort Loudon. After the conflict Robert assisted Washington in his surveying duties and would remain a lifelong friend and political supporter. Robert was a Burgess and active participant in the Revolutionary Virginia Convention, 1775-1776. He later served in the State Senate and U.S. House of Representative 1795-1797. In addition to his surveying, Nancy’s grandfather, Thomas, operated a gun manufactory in Shepherdstown that supplied weapons and munitions to American soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Thomas was also one of the fourteen trustees who established the town of Bath (now known as Berkeley Springs) in 1777.
Although the school where Nancy received her instruction is not yet known, she likely attended a female academy in Charles Town. Her father and grandfather were among the contributors who helped to establish the Charles Town Academy in 1795, and Thomas was elected to the board of trustees, which oversaw the school’s administration. Her father Van also served as a trustee. Although the Academy was established for the classical education of boys, a female seminary was established on the lot opposite the Academy and was in operation beginning in 1799. It was directed by Miss Angelica Collins, a sister of the Baptist minister, Christopher Collins (1775-1808), who was also one of the original trustees of the Charles Town Academy. As of this writing, there are no samplers documented to this female seminary, though additional research may reveal others in the future and identify Nancy’s teacher.
Nancy married William Douglass on September 9, 1827 in Jefferson County.
Nancy Mark Rutherford her/ Sampler September the 31 the Year of our/ Lord 1810 If I am right thy grace impart still/ in the right to stay if I am wrong oh teach/ my heart to find that better way/ Teach me to feel another’s woe, to hide the/ fault I see that mercy I to others show/that mercy show to me.
Millard Kessler Bushong. Historic Jefferson County. Boyce, VA: Carr Publishing Company, Inc., 1972.
Jefferson County Historical Society. Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Volume 1, December 1935. Berkeley, W.V: Jefferson County Historical Society, 1935.
Frederick Thomas Newbraugh. Bath, That Seat of Sin: A Compilation of Incidents at the Town of Bath (Berkeley Springs, W. Va.). Berkeley Springs, WV: Morgan County Public Library, 1993.
J. E. Norris, editor. History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley. Chicago, IL: A. Warner & Co., Publishers, 1890.
Cecil O’Dell. Pioneers of Old Frederick County, Virginia. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007.
Alexander Pope. The Universal Prayer, by the Author of the Essay on Man. London: Printed for R. Dodsley, at Tully’s Head, in Pall-mall, 1738.