Dr. James Warren Rutherford was born at McKay’s Corners on the 22nd of August, 1875. His parents were Dr. James Page Rutherford and the former Mary Ann Dunlop. He had a younger brother named Reginald White Rutherford who was born on the 21st of September, 1880. By his father’s first marriage to Jeannie “Jennie” (Dunlop), he had an older sister named Bertha Ann Rutherford, who died of scarlet fever on the 4th of May, 1874 at the age of 3. (Her mother had died on the 23rd of February, 1871 from complications of the birth of Bertha Ann). Dr. Rutherford’s mother was a sister to Jennie (Dunlop) Rutherford. In 1877 his father moved the family to Chatham where he had a medical practice located in the Scane Block on King Street. The family lived in a large mansion at 243 Wellington Street in Chatham.
Dr. Rutherford received his early schooling in Chatham. Dr. Rutherford attended Chatham Collegiate Institute before attending the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. He graduated M.B. in 1899. According to the 1928 Ontario Medical Register, Dr. Rutherford joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 11th of December, 1900. He joined his father in his medical practice in Chatham and became known as “Young Doctor Jim”. Father and son worked side by side until his father’s death in 1918.
On the 11th of June 1902, Dr. Rutherford married Jessie Taylor at the home of her parents in Chatham. Mrs. Rutherford was born in Chatham on the 26th of August, 1877, the only child of Henry Taylor and the former Ellen McRae. Mrs. Rutherford was a talented singer. After they were married Dr. and Mrs. Rutherford resided at 5 Raleigh Street in Chatham.
Their son James Taylor Rutherford was born on the 28th of May, 1903 and their daughter Jean Ellen Rutherford was born on the 19th of January, 1907.
There were multiple listings of Dr. Rutherford’s medical practice located at 47 and 49 King Street West, in the Vernon City of Chatham Business Directories. According to the 1921 census, Dr. and Mrs. Rutherford lived at 390 Wellington Street West in Chatham.
Dr. Rutherford served at least 2 terms as the President of the Kent Medical Association. He was also an Examiner in Surgery for the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.
On July 11th, 1925, at the Gray-Dort Convention Hall the Kent Liberals voted for Dr. James Warren Rutherford to run in the parliamentary election against the Conservative candidate, Alexander Chaplan. By now “Dr. Jim” was well established professionally. Dr. Rutherford lost the election, but he wasn’t upset. He immediately focused on his large medical practice, which he had maintained even while campaigning.
In 1926, MacKenzie King resigned as a result of a political scandal involving members of his cabinet and a new election was called. “Dr. Jim” ran again and he was successful this time, becoming a member of parliament. Victor Lauriston wrote in Romantic Kent that, “By the end of his first parliament, he was recognized as likely to achieve cabinet honors, less on his ability as an orator than on his capacity as an administrator and a sound judge of what was good politics.” In 1929, Dr. Rutherford donated the funds to build the community pool at Stirling Park in Chatham. In the 1930 campaign he was re-elected. Dr. Rutherford again entered the electoral process for the 1935 election.
On September 4th, 1935, Dr. Rutherford was severely injured when his vehicle hit loose gravel and flipped over 3 times, landing in the ditch. His passenger A.L. Thompson was able to get help and Dr. Rutherford was rushed to St. Joseph`s Hospital in Chatham. It was determined that his back was dislocated and he had spinal cord injury. As he was being lifted on to the x-ray table, his back snapped back into place, but the spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the chest down. Despite all of this, he was re-elected on October 14th, 1935. Dr. Rutherford remained in the hospital for many months. He heard the results of the election on a radio in his hospital room. By the end of 1935, Dr. Rutherford was able to sit in a chair. After the collision, Dr. Rutherford was unable to continue with his medical practice.
In 1937, he had surgery and therapy at Western Hospital in Toronto. He recovered sufficiently to take part in Parliament in 1938. In the winter of 1939, his condition deteriorated and he died on the 27th of February, 1939. The cause of his death was attributed to complications from the car accident. Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie sent his condolences to the Rutherford family. He was buried in the Mausoleum at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.
Mrs. Rutherford was active in the Kent Women’s Liberal Association and the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Joseph’s Hospital. She died on the 9th of September, 1958. She was also buried in the mausoleum at Maple Leaf Cemetery.
*Dr. Rutherford’s father Dr. James Page Rutherford and his brother Dr. Reginald White Rutherford also appear on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.