John Rutter

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John Rutter, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), was born at Hampshire, England, 1616.1 He died at Sudbury, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts, 2 May 1695.2

John married Elizabeth Plympton, daughter of Robert Plympton and Jane Bent, at Sudbury 1 November 1641.3,4

As the servant of Peter Noyce of Penton, Hants, John Rutter 22, is on a list of passengers, 24 April 1638, from Southampton bound for New England in the Confidence of London, John Jobson master.

As John was free to marry in 1641, three years after his arrival, he was evidently not indentured to learn a trade as many younger immigrants were, nor held for a seven year term of service which was also common. He was a carpenter by trade and settled at Sudbury where some of his fellow passengers on the Confidence also settled.

As Watertown was becoming overcrowded, some men of the town petitioned the General Court to purchase some land for a new settlement on the western border from the Indians. In November, 1637, a committee was appointed to lay out a new town that would accommodate fifty or sixty families "upon the river that runs to Concord." What became Sudbury began as 54 home lots of four acres each were staked out on two streets called "the north street" and the "south street." Between these streets were the ox pasture, general planting fields, military training field, etc. The Court required that at least thirty families should be settled there within a year, or the rights of those who had settled would be voided and the tract would be opened to any applicant. These first lots were all on the east side of the Sudbury River on the tract later called East Sudbury, but became Wayland. Though few Watertown men actually settled here, many colonists who arrived in 1637-8 became proprietors, including John Rutter, Peter Noyes, John Bent, Walter Haynes and the three Goodenow families, all of whom came on the Confidence. As time passed, contiguous land south and west was purchased from the Indians, a tract to the west being acquired for £5 from an Indian designated variously as "Cato" and "Goodman", who had his home on what was long called "Wigwam Hill" and still is mapped as "Goodman's Hill". By 1650 the settlers on the West side of the Sudbury River began to increase rapidly in numbers, building where Sudbury Center and South Sudbury now lie.

The house lot assigned to John Rutter was "on the north street" (later called East Street), a little westerly from Clay-pit Hill. In a division of lands made in probably 1640, John received an additional three acres by "gratulation of services" which likely implied some carpentry work done for the town.

In 1640, a church was formed in Sudbury and a minister engaged. On 17 February 1642, John contracted with the town whereby he would:
fell, saw, hew and frame a house for a meeting-house thirty foot long, twenty foot wide, eight foot between joints, three foot between studs: Two cross dorments [dormer windows ?] in the house, six clear story windows, two with four lights apiece, and four with three lights apiece, and to intertie between the studs, which frame is to be made ready to raise the first week in May next. . . . And the town for their part do covenant to draw all the timber to place, and to help raise the house, being framed, and also to pay to the said John Rutter for the said work six pounds, that is to say, three pound to be paid in corn at three shillings a bushel, or in money, in and upon this twenty-seventh day, of this present month, and the other three pounds to be paid in money, corn and cattle to be prized by two men of the town, one to be chosen by the town and the other to be chosen by John Rutter and to be paid at the time that the frame is by the said John Rutter finished.

John evidently fulfilled his part of the contract, for the next spring it was ordered that "every inhabitant that hath a house lot shall attend [the raising of] the new meeting house, or send a sufficient man to help raise the meeting-house," with the penalty of a fine of two shillings sixpence for default, with 16 May as the raising-day. Later the people were taxed according to the property they owned for the finishing of the house, which included a thatched roof and clap-board walls at a cost of £10, and ultimately, in 1645, a floor.

Other items relative to John Rutter show that in 1644 the estate of Thomas King owed John £2 and in 1646 he was to have a "sponge of meadow," probably meaning "an irregular, narrow, projecting part of a field, whether planted or in grass." In 1651 he promised the town that he would "mend the stocks," an instrument of punishment which was used in Sudbury at least as late as 1722, when the town voted "to bye to [two] pad Locks for ye pound and stocks."

John said he was about thirty-seven years old when he testified in 1652 in a law suit concerning the inheritance of his wife's cousin, Richard Barnes. This is roughly consistent with his age (22) given on the passenger list in 1638.

In 1655, the two-mile-grant was apportioned among the proprietors and he received lot No. 36, "one hundred and thirty acres extent" in the northwest part of the tract. Apparently he invested extensively in cattle, and was once fined for letting his animals wander too far afield, as shown in the records of a town meeting at nearby Watertown, 11 October 1664:
"Sudbury Cattell; to the number of 103, being taken in our Bounds without a keeper & brought to our towne by the hogreiffs (John grought [Grout] & John Rutter ingaged for the fine: who appeared & made their plea) the towne acordinge to order agreed thay should agree with the hogreiffs; to whome the whole fine of 6d p head was due & so doeinge they ware discharged."

While not one of the leaders of the town, he was considered trustworthy and responsible. In 1666, the town chose, ". . . constituted and appointed our trusty friends, Mr. Joseph Noyes, Sargeant John Grout and Corporal John Rutter, to read, issue and determine all matters of difference ensuing about sufficiency of fence." An undated record (but likely the next year in 1667), as "Sergent" John Rutter he hired the use of the Ashen Swamp Meadow, paying four shillings six pence for the hay it produced but "he was to cut the grass by the 10th of July, or else it shall be lawful for any other man to cut the said meadow." The extensive lowlands along the Sudbury River provided the settlers one of their most valuable crops, "the grass growing as high as a man's middle; some as high as a man's shoulders, so that a man may cut three loads in a day. . . ." Thus, they were able to feed their own stock and also cattle from neighboring towns.

In 1672, the town "Ordered that Mr. Peter Noyes, Mr. Joseph Noyes, Sargent John Rutter, Deacon John Haynes, Thomas Plympton and William Moore shall be surveyors for the clearing of the river and are invested with power to call forth men upon the said work." John is also said to have been serving as a selectman in 1675.

Sudbury was not immune to the ravages of King Philip's War. The so called "Sudbury Fight" was a four-hour battle waged on Green Hill, a little northeast of the present village of South Sudbury. Here a large body of Indians ambushed about eighty colonials who had been sent from Boston under Capt. Wadsworth to aid Marlborough but found instead a greater menace near Sudbury. The settlers gradually worked their way up Green Hill where they held their own for nearly four hours, awaiting darkness which would permit them to make their way to some of the nearby garrison houses. But before dark, King Phillip's men set a fire to the windward of Green Hill, which forced the colonials into hurried retreat, during which all but perhaps a score were slaughtered. While but two of the men killed at this battle were Sudbury residents, Phillip made others of that town suffer by burning various buildings and looting the settlers of their possessions. A petition presented to the General Court in October, 1676 and signed by thirty-four townsmen of Sudbury, including John Rutter, Sr., showed the extent of individual losses which totaled £2,707, and they asked for consideration on two points: first, a portion of the contribution sent from Ireland (for those who suffered at the hands of the Indians) and secondly a remission of the colony taxes which the town owed. In response to this plea, Sudbury was granted £7 4s 0d of the Irish fund, to be delivered in meal, oatmeal, malt, butter and cheese and also had the grant of an abatement of £44 10s of their country taxes.

In 1688, "Sargent" John Rutter and 42 other heads of families received a distribution of ammunition owned by the town, so that it would be instantly accessible to them in case of an attack, and they "agreed to respond [account] for the same in case that it be not spent in real service in the resistance of the enemy." Most of those named received a little over four pounds of powder, 33 pounds of shot, and 13 flints.

The last public record of John Rutter (still showing his rank) was made 10 January 1693/4, when the town granted to the minister, " . . . five acres of meddow or lowland, etc., laid out and staked by marked trees on all sides by Dea. John Haynes and Serj. John Rutter."5,1

John left a will dated 6 June 1694:
land to his sons Thomas and Joseph and to his daughter Jane Amsden;
within a year after his decease £4 was to be paid to his daughter Mary Holden, widow of Justinian Holden of Cambridge, in good and merchantable corn or cattle at “country’s price;”
within two years of his death £4 to be paid to his daughter Rebecca Lawrence of Groton;
£2 apiece to two Lawrence grandchildren “in remembrance of their mother, my daughter Hannah deceased. . . .”
executor: son Joseph Rutter
witnesses: Jacob Moore, Peter Moore, and Peter Noyes.6


Elizabeth Plympton b. say 1624, d. 1689
  • Elizabeth Rutter1 b. 6 Oct 1642
  • John Rutter1 b. 7 Feb 1645, d. 3 Jun 1692
  • Mary Rutter1 b. abt. 1646, d. aft. Nov 1716
  • Rebecca Rutter1 b. 28 Feb 1647, d. 16 Feb 1724
  • Thomas Rutter1 b. 5 Apr 1650, d. aft. 1703
  • Hannah Rutter1 b. say 1653, d. bef. Jun 1694
  • Joseph Rutter1 b. 1 May 1656, d. abt. 1703
  • Jane Rutter+1 b. abt. 1658, d. 22 Nov 1739
This person was last edited on13 Dec 2015


  1. [S24] Mary Walton Ferris, Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines: A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Rufus R. Dawes: Volume I: Dawes and Allied Families (n. p., 1943), 1:534-539, further cited as Ferris, Dawes-Gates I.
  2. [S24] Ferris, Dawes-Gates I, 1:538.
  3. [S24] Ferris, Dawes-Gates I, 1:497, 534-539.
  4. [S1872] Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011), 1316, further cited as Torrey, New England Marriages (2011).
  5. [S1492] Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants: 1607-1660: A Comprehensive Listing Compiled from English Public Records of Those Who Took Ship to the Americas for Political, Religious, and Economic Reasons; of Those Who Were Deported for Vagrancy, Roguery, or Non-Conformity; and of Those Who Were Sold to Labour in the New Colonies (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1987), 195, further cited as Coldham, Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1660.
  6. [S1013] Mary Walton Ferris, Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines: A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Mary Beman (Gates) Dawes: Volume II: Gates and Allied Families (n. p., 1931), 537-8, further cited as Ferris, Dawes-Gates II.