Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Adoption of George Roscoe Griffin

George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd, formerly George Roscoe Griffin

On April 12, 1898, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd filed paperwork to adopt his wife's son from her first marriage.

Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd

George Roscoe Griffin was born on January 23, 1895.  He was the son of Anne Amelia Dickson and John T. Griffin.  His parents' marriage lasted a very short time.  They were separated soon after their honeymoon and divorced a year after their nuptials.  George never met his biological father.  Annie Dickson married a second time, on April 29, 1897.  Her second husband, Malcolm Rutherfurd, petitioned to adopt his stepson one year later.

The signature of Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd on the adoption document

The adoption paperwork is very interesting, since it sheds light on the relationship between Annie Dickson and John T. Griffin.  While this account comes from Annie's point of view entirely, it's the most comprehensive account of the reasons for her divorce.

Comes now Malcolm B. O. Rutherford [sic], a citizen of the United States and citizen and resident of Converse County, Wyoming, and for the purposes hereinafter stated, would respectfully represent to the Court and Judge thereof,

FIRST:  That he is a married man, a farmer and stock raiser, by occupation, is 24 years of age and is fully able, competent and willing to provide for and assume the relation of parent to the minor child hereinafter named.

SECOND:  That your petitioner, the said Malcolm B. O. Rutherford [sic] doth hereby appear and doth hereby offer to adopt said minor child George Roscoe Griffin, a male child aged about four years, as his own, and to assume the relation of parent, that of a father to said minor child.

THIRD:  Your petitioner would further represent that the father of said minor child is John T. Griffin, and the mother of said minor is Annie E. Rutherford [sic], the wife of your petitioner, formerly the wife of the said John T. Griffin.  That the said John T. Griffin has been heretofore by this honorable court adjudged and found guilty of extreme cruelty; and for that cause has been divorced from his said former wife, Annie, the mother of said child; and the said mother thereafter married and became the wife of your petitioner, and is now a resident of said County and State; and at the time of said decree of divorce, said John T. Griffin, the father of said child, was found to be a cruel and vicious person and unfit to have the care and custody of said minor; and he was there and then, by this Court, judicially deprived of the custody or care of said child; and the Court judicially awarded sole care and custody of the said minor child to Annie E. Rutherford [sic], formerly Annie E. Griffin [sic].

This statement tells us that (a) the Converse County, Wyoming court processed Annie's divorce from John T. Griffin, (b) Annie claimed that John T. Griffin was extremely cruel, vicious and unfit to parent a child and (c) the court agreed with her.  Of course, we know that John T. Griffin had already raised five children with his first wife, Ellen Pearsall.  While no claims of abuse are on record from that marriage, or his last and final marriage to Elizabeth Rice, we cannot know whether abuse did or did not exist in his relationships.  Annie claimed that John T. Griffin was cruel to her, and that's the only account we have of their marriage.

The document goes on to state that Annie Dickson Rutherfurd gives her consent to the adoption.  It also decrees that henceforth, George will be legally and for all purposes considered the child of Malcolm Rutherfurd, capable of inheriting his estate, and that his name will be changed to George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.

Malcolm was not the father George might have wished.  He disliked Malcolm's strictness, religious beliefs and use of corporal punishment.  However, this adoption gave him the only father figure he would have in his life and put him on equal legal footing with his four half-brothers.

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