George Rutherford, ploughman, and Isabella Scott, housemaid, were married on 12 April 1839 in Edinburgh and less than a month later, sailed away to Australia. Rutherford described himself as a farmer and by 1842, was an overseer on the Dutzon pastoral run, not far from Canberra. But George’s aim was to be a runholder himself and he soon combined with John Crozier, a Scotsman with similar ambitions. In 1849 they settled on Kulnine on the Murray River, west of today’s Mildura.
The aboriginal were a problem, the land was droughtstricken and isolated and George wanted a better future for his sons, of whom there were now seven: Andrew, William, John, Robert, George, Duncan and Edmund. He sold out to Crozier and moved to Adelaide where he set up a stock and land agency, while his sons could be educated.
A visiting friend from New Zealand told him of the land available there and George came over, liked what he saw, and took up land on what became eventually the Leslie Hills run of approximately 29,000 aces, still in family hands today. On his third trip he brought with him his family, a man to build his house, horses to sell upon arrival and 268 stud Merino rams to set up a throughbred stock which he could sell throughout the country. He was a meticulous, shrewd businessman and soon had enough money to lend to his sons when they wanted to strike out on their own. Interest had to be paid on time and all accounts with their father had to be meticulously listed. If sheep were lost the boys were sent back to look for them until they were found. Isabel was a fantastic helpmate, made her family’s clothes, and in their early days grew vegetables and eggs for sale, and never wasted a moment.
Following an accident off a horse, George eventually became partially paralysed and, in 1885, was drowned in a stream beside the house. Isabel didn’t want to live without him and died within six months, leaving a growing number of descendants who should be reminded of the tremendous hard work and ability of their pioneer ancestors. Jim Gardner, a prominent Canterbury historian, said that other men set up their runs efficiently but no one else settled seven sons profitably on runs of their own, as well.