Irish Made Their Contribution
to Settling Mower County

By Laura Helle
Austin Post Bulletin
March 8, 2008

Several notable Irish families settled in Lansing, Minn., in 1856. William and Charlotte Rutherford, John R. Gibson (with his unnamed wife), and Thomas and Elizabeth Gibson immigrated to the United States from Elverstown, Ireland. Elverstown is now known as Aylwardstown and is located in County Wexford, along the southeast coast of Ireland.

The three families first lived in Bardstown, Ky., for three years, saving up money for equipment. Then, they spent the winter of 1855-1856 in Dubuque, Iowa, before pushing north to Lansing.

William Rutherford and Thomas Gibson claimed farm land east of the Cedar River. John Rutherford and his family settled near Moscow.

Within the first year, John, his wife and daughter all died from smallpox. His sons, John and William, were then reared by William and Charlotte Rutherford. Another brother and sister from the John Rutherford family were reared by Thomas and Elizabeth Gibson.

William Rutherford was a teamster and was known as "Uncle Billy." He hauled freight that came into Winona on riverboats. A typical trip from Lansing to Winona took one week. He also traded horses. In addition to rearing John Rutherford's orphan sons, he and his wife Charlotte had one daughter, Maria.

Thomas Gibson was a brickmaker. He made bricks for many buildings and streets in Austin as well as for the Lansing Methodist Church, built in 1866 and still standing today. He and his wife, Elizabeth had 12 children and reared two of John Rutherford's orphaned children.

Maria Rutherford married Michael White and they took over the Rutherford farming operation. They had nine children. Michael died in 1904. Maria ran the 160-acre farm and took care of her elderly parents until 1939. Although she had not had a chance to attend school, she was known as an excellent business woman. She entertained with stories of pioneer times and encounters with Native Americans.