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John Rutherford was born in Shincliffe, England. He emigrated to Albion Mines in Pictou County and served as Inspector of Mines for Nova Scotia from 1865-1872, when he was appointed General Manager and Mining Engineer for the General Mining Association, later the Halifax Company. He had extensive dealings with Albion Mines, Blight Area, Caledonia Coal Mines, and the Style Mining Area. Beginning in the late 1890s, Rutherford sold Styles Mining Company options; his goal was to sell the entirety of the property to a worthy buyer.
Robert Rutherford was John’s only surviving son (George Rutherford died in 1903), and was left in charge of his father's estate in 1913. He continued his father's efforts to sell off the Cumberland Coal Areas until at least 1932.