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The Ford Family


For a long time, we did not know the names of the parents of Icyphenia Ford, the second wife of Thomas Stuart Pruett. From her marriage document, we found out her mother was "Salley Ford," but no father was listed. We also learned that the "Place of Marriage" was "Beckey Ford's [in] Pittsylvania Co." suggesting Sally was a daughter or daughter-in-law of Becky/Rebecca Ford and Elisha Ford. From the 1900 census, we learned Icyphenia was born in June 1840. Then, with the discovery of the last will of William Jeffreys, a Revolutionary War pensioner, we learned that Sally Ford was "the daughter of Elisha and Rebecca Ford." Knowing these facts, however, raised even more questions. Why did William Jeffreys leave "the land whereupon I now live" to Sally Ford who was likely single, around 30 years of age, and appears to have had a young child at the time he signed his will on December 13, 1841? Did Sally Ford become a caregiver for William Jeffreys in his later years? Did she move into William Jeffreys' home to assist him? Did he move into the Elisha Ford household at some point? And, finally, given that Sally Ford appears to have never been married, who was Icyphenia Ford's father? Some details might have been uncovered earlier if William Jeffreys had appeared in the 1840 census or if Elisha, Rebecca, Sally and Icyphenia Ford had appeared in the 1850 census. While our research is beginning to answer many of our questions, more documentation will be needed to flesh out the family history of the Fords and their relationship with William Jeffreys. Some recent discoveries may even call into question whether Icyphenia Ford was the natural daughter of Sally Ford. Before we get into that, however, we'll look back to see where the Fords came from and when they arrived in Pittsylvania County.

What We Know About Elisha Ford's Father, Henry Ford

Ford Migrations

At this time, the history of Henry Ford, the father of Elisha Ford, begins with a 1782 tax record in Dinwiddie Co., Va. There were five Fords recorded in that year's property tax records: William, Sr., Jarrall, Matthew, Sr., Francis and Henry. There was only one free male tithable in each of the Ford households. In the 1783 tax records, Jarrall dropped off the list and, again, there was only one free male tithable in each of the remaining Ford households. Then in the 1784 tax records, only Jarrall and Abram Ford were listed. The same year he dropped off the Dinwiddie County tax list, Henry Ford appeared in the 1784 tax records in Charlotte Co., Va. as the only White male in his household above age 21. We know this was the same Henry Ford because the three slaves he owned, Lucy, Hannah and Isham, were listed in both sets of records. Since the oldest available tax records for Dinwiddie County are for 1782 and Henry Ford appeared that year, we can't be sure when Henry first came to that county. There are very few pre-1782 records for Dinwiddie County because of the destruction of documents that occurred during the Civil War. There is a handwritten list of 1783/84 land conveyances for the county which indicates that Henry Ford sold 104 acres to Thomas Dance on June 1, 1784. This is consistent with the timing of his move to Charlotte Co., Va.

Henry Ford appeared in Charlotte County tax records from 1784 through 1794. He then appeared in Halifax Co., Va. tax records in 1795 and 1796, before next appearing in Pittsylvania County records in 1798. Henry continued to appear in Pittsylvania County records until his death in early 1807.

Elisha Ford's Early Years

Elisha Ford was likely born in either Charlotte County or Dinwiddie County, Virginia in the early 1780s. This is not consistent with most sources which place his birth year in either 1761, 1767 or 1768. Previously, the year of his birth was driven by the "fact" that he fought in the Revolutionary War and received a pension after the war. The year 1761 is based on the 1840 census indicating that he was age 79 and a Pensioner for Revolutionary or Military Services. We suspect the 1767 and 1768 dates were picked because those years fell after the presumed birth year of his older brother John and were the latest years he could have been born and still participated in the Revolutionary War. Our analysis of census and tax records suggests that Elisha Ford was born just after the Revolutionary War ended which, obviously, precluded him from being a Revolutionary War pensioner. We'll get into that analysis below and suggest a couple of theories of how a particular pension record was likely attributed to him incorrectly through enumerator error.

The Last Will of Henry Foard/Ford

The most informative document we have on the Fords of Pittsylvania Co., Va. is Henry Foard's Last Will. Signed on November 1, 1806 and recorded in Pittsylvania County on February 16, 1807, the will likely named all of Henry and Frances Ford's children. Henry seems to have divided his land into rough thirds and gave to "my oldest son John Foard the tract of land whereon he now lives," "my son Jarrald Foard a tract of land lying on Prestridge's Branch" and "my son Elisha Foard the tract of land lying between my son John Foard's tract and my son Jarrald's land, the place where I now live." John Foard was to pay "my son William Foard fifty dollars." Jarrald Foard and Elisha Foard were to pay 50 dollars each "to my son Thomas Foard." Henry Foard went on to say "that as I have given Elisha Foard the greatest portion that he take great care of his mother, it is for that intent I have given him the most." Henry Foard gave other bequests, including slaves, to his wife, sons and daughters, including Elizabeth Asher [Ashworth], Futhy Shelton, Polly Haley and Sarah Murphy.

Here is a list of the children of Henry and Frances Ford:

We've put the children in an order that is our best guess as to when they were born. The order is based on tax and census records discussed below and is informed by other records including marriage and burial records. John Ford's date of birth is extrapolated from his age in years, months and days at the time of his death, as recorded in a survey of cemeteries conducted in 1939 which included his place of burial, Richard Brizendine and Ford Cemetery, Lawndale, Cleveland Co.. N.C. We do not know the source of this information since there doesn't appear to be a headstone at his burial site. His year of birth, based on when he became tithable, would have been a few years later (see below). Polly Ford required the consent of her father in order to marry Ambrose Haley on Nov. 29, 1803. Thus, Polly Ford could not likely have been born earlier than 1783 since she would have been age 20 or younger in November 1803.

Shortly after his father died, Elisha Ford married Rebecca Haley, the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran and pensioner Lewis Haley and Leanna Lovelace. Lewis Haley played a not insignificant role in Ford family life and that will be explored below.

A Lack of Census Records before 1820

There is an 1810 census record for a man named Elisha Ford living in Buckingham Co., Va. Most people assume this was the Elisha Ford who was the son of Henry Ford/Foard of Pittsylvania Co., Va. However, even a cursory examination reveals this cannot be the case. In this household there were five females under the age of 10. Yet, Elisha Ford married Rebecca Haley less than three years earlier. If this was his second marriage, these could include children from his first marriage. However, in his 1820 census record in Pittsylvania County, where we would expect to see five females over the age of 10 (but under 20), we only see one female in an appropriate age range (age 16-26), and that person was presumably Elisha's wife, although the age seems off. Finally, after his father's death, Elisha Ford appeared in Pittsylvania County tax records in the year 1807 and for decades thereafter, strongly indicating that he would not have appeared in a census record in Buckingham County in 1810.

There are no surviving census records for the state of Virginia for the year 1790 and only records for two counties survive from the 1800 census (Accomack and Louisa). In addition, the 1810 census records for 17 Virginia counties are lost, including Pittsylvania and Halifax counties. Since there are no surviving census records for Pittsylvania and surrounding counties for the years 1790, 1800 and 1810, we must rely on tax records to fill in some of our gaps in knowledge. When you examine Henry Foard's last will and contemporaneous tax records in Pittsylvania and the surrounding counties, you realize that much of what we think we know about Elisha Ford is suspect.

Property Tax Records as a Substitute for Census Records

What kind of picture do tax records paint with respect to Elisha Ford's age and where he lived early in his life? An examination of Charlotte County property tax records shows that Henry Ford first appeared in that county's tax records in 1784. To be tithable, you had to be older than 16 years of age. Henry Ford's oldest son, John Ford, was age 16-21 in 1786. Since none of Henry's sons were tithable in 1784, it's presumed that John had just turned 16 in either 1785 (the year Henry's tax record was missing) or 1786 and the rest of his sons were under age 16. This would mean that John Ford was born no earlier than 1769. By 1787, two of his sons were age 16-21 and presumably the younger son had just turned 16 since he was not tithable the previous year. The following year, 1788, there was no 16-21 breakout of ages, but two of his sons were again tithables. All of this calls into question whether Elisha Ford was born in 1761, or even 1767 or 1768 as some researchers suggest. It would appear that Elisha Ford was born no earlier than 1771 (1787-16) and that assumes he was the second oldest son. [We actually believe Thomas Ford was the second oldest son, so he is listed above as having been born in 1771.] If he was the third oldest son, then these records would indicate that he was not born before 1776 (1792-16). And, if he was the youngest son, as we now believe, then Elisha Ford could not have been born until after 1780.

One Ford researcher indicated that Thomas and William Ford were married on the same day in Charlotte Co., Va. and soon left for North Carolina. She was mostly right about the marriages. John Ashworth went surety on marriage bonds for both brothers on the same day, December 26, 1793. However, Thomas Ford beat his brother to the alter by two days. Thomas married Rebeccah Burton on January 2, 1794 and William married Dicey Vaughan, a widow, on January 4, 1794. The only concern about these marriage records is that Thomas Ford's father was listed as John Ford. There were two Ford families in Charlotte County and there were two Thomas Fords. This may have been an error in transcribing the record, or it may indicate that at least one of these Fords was not Henry's son. It's also possible that Thomas's older brother, John Ford, was mistakenly listed as the father. Aside from that, the part about leaving for North Carolina, if true, explains why the two brothers were not mentioned in tax records in Pittsylvania County and the reason they received so little in their father's will.

The Fords made a brief appearance in Halifax County tax records between 1795 and 1799. Henry Foard/Ford appeared in records in 1795 and 1796 with 3 and 2 White male tithables respectively. John Foard/Ford appeared in 1795 through 1799 with the exception of 1797, all with 1 White male tithable. William Foard/Ford/Forde appeared in 1795 through 1798.

Henry Foard made his first appearance in Pittsylvania County tax records in 1798 with 2 White male tithables in his household. John Foard appeared in 1800 with 1 White male tithable and Gerrald Foard appeared in 1804 with 1 White male tithable. It's likely that Elisha Ford was a tithable listed under Henry Ford's account, particularly in 1804 and after when John Ford and Gerrald Ford were listed separately. If 1804 was the first year Elisha was listed, then an argument could be made that he was born 16 years earlier in 1788, the same year Rebecca Haley was likely born. Of course, if Thomas and William Ford had already moved out of Virginia, Elisha Ford likely turned 16 a few years earlier. This, and our analysis of census records below, is why we gravitate towards 1784 as his birth year. Elisha Ford first appeared in Pittsylvania County tax records on his own in 1807, the year his father, Henry Foard, died. His mother, listed as Mrs. Frances Ford, also first appeared in the 1807 tax records.

We do not have any evidence that Elisha Ford lived separately from his father at any time before his father died in 1807. This may explain why Henry decided to give Elisha "the greatest portion" of his estate, because he had confidence that Elisha would "take great care of his mother." He likely had been taking great care of both Henry and Frances Ford for many years.

It's quite curious that all records in Dinwiddie Co. and Charlotte Co., Va. spell the Ford's last name as "Ford" while in nearly all records in Halifax County and Pittsylvania County, up until the time of Henry Foard's death in 1807, the name was spelled "Foard." Then, after Henry's death, the family immediately turned back to spelling the name "Ford." There is a story amongst Ford researchers/descendants that the Fords had legal troubles in Charlotte County in the mid-1790s and that's why they left the county. There were a number of contentious court filings in Charlotte County involving Fords. However, there were also at least two Ford families in the county (and a Thomas Ford in each family). It will require more research to sort out the court records. However, we will likely never know if the court proceedings had anything to do with the name change or the Ford's move out of the county. Perhaps Henry Ford just thought a new beginning required a new name and his family just wasn't all that thrilled with the change.

Despite most researchers indicating that Elisha Ford died in 1840, the last year he appeared in a census record, we should note that he consistently appeared in Pittsylvania County tax records throughout the 1840s up until 1850, the last year those records are available online. It's likely that Elisha Ford died sometime between 1850 and 1858, the date his granddaughter Icyphenia married Thomas S. Pruett at "Beckey Ford's." We'll need to examine tax records from 1851 forward to determine when Elisha Ford stopped appearing in those records.

Census Records from 1820 and Later - We Should Believe Them

Since Elisha Ford seems to have lived in Pittsylvania County from 1798 until his death in the early 1850s, what can we learn about his family from the 1820 through 1840 census records, the only ones available to us? Based on these records and other sources, we are fairly confident that Elisha and Rebecca Ford had the following children:

1820 Census - Southern District, Pittsylvania County [Census Record]
Elisha Ford11411
Jarrold Ford22121

In the 1820 census the male under age 10 was presumably Byrd Ford and the male age 26-45 was Elisha Ford. The age range would suggest Elisha was born between 1775 and 1794. There were four females under age 10. We know two of them were Mary Ford and Sally Ford, but do not know the names of the other two. There was one female age 16-26 and one female age 45 or older. We know that Elisha Ford married Rebecca Haley in 1807. If she was born around 1788, as most sources indicate (including the 1860 census), then she would have been age 32 so she doesn't fit in either age group, but would be closer to age 26 than age 45. Who was the 45+ female? We suspect this was Elisha's mother, Frances Ford. She continued to appear in tax records through 1822, so we suspect she appeared in Elisha's household for the enumeration of the census. She also signed an Indenture with Elisha and Rebecca Ford for the sale of a 110 acre parcel in Pittsylvania Co., Va. on April 14, 1823.

1830 Census - Southern District, Pittsylvania County [Census Record]
Elisha Ford11121
Jarrold Ford11111

In the 1830 census the male age 15-20 was Byrd Ford and the male age 40-50 was Elisha Ford. There was one female age 10-15 and two females age 15-20. One of the 15-20 year olds was Sally Ford. Mary Ford had married Singleton Chaney on or soon after their marriage bond was recorded on April 20, 1829. We know that Singleton Chaney was enumerated separately in the 1830 census, along with his 20-30 year old wife and one child under age 5. We do not know the names of the other two females. The female age 40-50 was Rebecca Ford. The age range for Rebecca seems right based on her age in the 1860 census, but again the age range for Elisha indicates he could not have been born in the 1760s as previously thought. This census would indicate he was born between 1780 and 1790. Note that this is a narrowed subset of the age range from the 1820 census.

1840 Census - Southern District, Pittsylvania County [Census Record]
Elisha Ford111111

In the 1840 census we do not know the name of the male age 10-15, but since he had not appeared in a previous census, we can be fairly certain he was not a child of Elisha and Rebecca Ford. Byrd Ford was around 28 years of age and had married Louisa Colley in 1833. There were two other males, one age 40-50 and one age 70-80. Based on the 1820 and 1830 censuses, Elisha Ford should have been age 50-60. There was one female age 20-30, one age 30-40 and one age 50-60. The latter was Rebecca Ford and, again, the age range for her seems right. The second page of the census says Elisha Ford was age 79 and a Pensioner for "Revolutionary or Military Services." Was Elisha Ford, husband of Rebecca (Haley) Ford, the 70-80 year old pensioner born in the 1760s, thus wildly increasing in age between 1830 and 1840, or was he still in the 40-50 age range? And, whichever one is determined to be Elisha begs the question as to who the other person could have been.

What are we to make of these three census records with regard to Elisha Ford's year of birth? From the 1820 census it would appear Elisha was born between 1775 and 1794. According to the 1830 census, he was born between 1780 and 1790. Finally, if Elisha Ford was the male, age 70-80 in the 1840 census, he would have been born between 1760 and 1770 (specifically 1761 if the age on the second page of the census is used). And, if he was the male age 40-50, he would have been born between 1790 and 1800. There are two theories to account for the issues the 1840 census raises:

An 1850 census record for Elisha and Rebecca Ford, with the names, ages and relationships of everyone in the household, might have gone a long way towards answering some of our questions about 1840 and the years immediately after. We know that Sally Ford assumed ownership of William Jeffreys' land after he died in 1845 because she sold the 100 acre parcel to John Wells on February 18, 1848. Thus, we also know that Sally Ford did not live on that land in 1850, but likely lived with Elisha and Rebecca Ford. It's easier to explain the enumerator missing one household in 1850, the household in which Elisha, Rebecca, Sally and Icyphenia lived, rather than two households if Sally and Icyphenia were living apart from Sally's parents.

Brothers in Arms - Revolutionary War Veterans of Southern Virginia

Elisha Ford may not have been a Revolutionary War veteran, but he got to know many veterans in his life. Those veterans played a significant role in the lives of Ford family members. The Fords likely first encountered Haleys in Charlotte Co., Va. in the late 1780s and early 1790s. Several Haley families lived near the Fords, including Ambrose Haley, a Revolutionary War veteran and pensioner, who was about the same age as Lewis Haley (their relationship, however, is not known). We're confident the Fords and most of the Haleys lived near each other because they were visited around the same time by the same enumerator. Ambrose Haley lived in Lunenburg Co., Va. when he first enlisted in May 1779. He moved to Charlotte County after the war and filed his pension application there in 1839 (receiving pension payments back to 1833 after his application was approved). Lewis Haley enlisted twice in Halifax County in 1781, serving as sergeant for a total of six months in two different Virginia regiments. His last three months were served in the same regiment as William Jeffreys who lived close to Lewis Haley during his time in Halifax County and then lived close to Charles Colley and Zachariah Prewitt in Pittsylvania County. The three youngest children of Henry Ford married children of Lewis Haley in the early 1800s (see above). Polly Ford married Lewis Haley's son Ambrose in 1803. Ambrose seemed to be a popular name in Haley families, and the use of that name by Lewis Haley suggests that Lewis and Ambrose Haley, the two veterans, were related. Charles Colley served six months in 1776. It appears that Charles Colley's daughter married William Jeffreys (see below). Louisa Colley, whose relationship to Charles Colley is unknown, married Byrd Ford, the son of Elisha and Rebecca Ford. Zachariah Prewitt served 15 months during four separate enlistments, the first around 1777 and the last three between 1780 and 1782. Zachariah Prewitt raised Thomas Stuart Pruett after Thomas's father Asa Prewitt died shortly after Thomas was born. In 1858, Thomas S. Pruett married Icyphenia Ford, the daughter of Sally Ford and granddaughter of Elisha and Rebecca Ford. For information, below are the Pension Payment Ledgers for these five veterans which indicate that all of them lived well into the 1840s.

More About William Jeffreys

Much of what we know about William Jeffreys can be found in his Revolutionary War pension application file. In testimony in open court on Sept. 17, 1832 in Pittsylvania Co., Va., Jeffreys indicated he was 74 years old and a resident of Pittsylvania County, that he enlisted in the army of the United States early in 1777 in Richmond Co., Va. for two years, that his regiment was at Valley Forge during the winter of 1778, that he participated in the engagement at Brandywine, and that he was discharged the following spring of 1779. In 1780 he moved to Pittsylvania Co., Va. and in the winter of 1781 he volunteered to serve in the militia and marched to various places around North Carolina before being discharged in March 1781. In early August 1781 he was drafted into a company of militia, marched to Little York [Yorktown] and was stationed there until Cornwallis surrendered in October 1781. He went on to say that he was born in Richmond County "he supposes in the year 1758," that he lived in Pittsylvania County for 10 years after the war ended [1782 to 1792], that he moved to Halifax Co., Va. and lived there for 15 years [1793 to 1808], and then moved back to Pittsylvania County and has "lived in that County ever since." See below for records that put somewhat different time frames on William Jeffreys movements between the two counties.

We have found a few documents that help fill in some of the details of William Jeffreys' life after the Revolutionary War. Two Pittsylvania County Indentures, one a sale of 214 acres from "William Jeffries [of Pittsylvania County] and Salley his Wife" to Obadiah Echols of Pittsylvania County dated October 21, 1799, the other a sale of 185 acres from William and Sally Jeffries of Halifax County to David C. Williams of Pittsylvania County dated October 15, 1810. Besides providing us with the first name of the wife of William Jeffreys, the 1799 indenture may also signal the approximate year William Jeffreys moved from Pittsylvania County to Halifax County (1799 instead of 1792). The 1820 census indicates that William Jeffreys was still living in Halifax County at that time. His household had one male, age 45+, one female under age 10, and one female age 45+. We presume that he and Sally were the two 45+ adults. William Jeffreys would have been age 62, his wife would have been at least age 45 and likely older than that. We suspect the child was a granddaughter.

According to the 1830 census, William Jeffreys was back in Pittsylvania County. His household had one male, age 60-70, and one female, age 20-30. He was living next door to another Revolutionary War pensioner, Charles Colley, and appeared just two pages after Elisha Ford. It's apparent that his wife Sally had died, but who was the 20-30 year old female? Turns out there's a marriage bond (and consent) for a William Jeffries to marry Polly/Polley Collie in Pittsylvania Co., Va. The consent was signed by Charles and Aggey Collie on Nov. 12, 1827 and the bond was posted by William Jeffries and Charles Collie on Nov. 13, 1827. We presume they were married soon after the bond was posted. There were two William Jeffreys living in Pittsylvania County according to the 1830 census. The second William Jeffreys was age 20-30 with a wife age 20-30, but they had three children age 5-10 and two under age 5, so it's very unlikely this couple married less than three years earlier, especially considering that Polly Collie needed the consent of her parents to wed. It's possible that her husband brought some of the children into the marriage, but we lean towards the Jeffreys-Collie marriage being the union of William Jeffreys, age 69, to Polly Colley, under the age of 21 and the daughter of his next door neighbor. We do not know the relationship of these two William Jeffreys; however, there was a William B. Jeffreys living in Halifax Co., Va. in 1820 and 1830. It's possible he was the father of the younger William Jeffreys and the son of William Jeffreys, the Revolutionary War veteran.

William and Polly Jeffreys, Sally Ford and Icyphenia Ford

The fact that William Jeffreys left "the land whereupon I now live" to Sally Ford in the will he signed on December 13, 1841 indicates that Polly Jeffreys died before the will was written. We have not found a definitive record that proves Polly was his wife and we have not found a death record, but we're confident she was his wife. Polly's death would explain why the aged veteran and pensioner might need the assistance of someone like Sally Ford as he entered the 9th decade of his life. Their relationship and the possibility that Polly Jeffreys may have died after the 1840 census was enumerated, but before William Jeffreys' will was written in late 1841, raises some interesting possibilties with regard to the birth of Icyphenia Ford. Could she have been the daughter of William and Polly Jeffreys? If she was, then William Jeffreys would have known her for the first five years of her life. More importantly, we believe that William Jeffreys would have written his daughter into his will, likely naming her as the person who would inherit his property. We're not sure why William Jeffreys did not name any of his children or grandchildren in his will, but it's clear he felt he owed Sally Ford a lot and did his best to take care of her. Based on all of this, we assume Icyphenia was the natural daughter of Sally Ford, but William Jeffreys remains a candidate to be the father of Icyphenia. Perhaps we may find a DNA connection between the Jeffreys and Pruitt families to help shed some light on this issue. Until that time, we must accept the identity of Icyphenia Ford's father as an open question that we hope to solve someday as more information comes to light.

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