Gov. Thomas Ford
History of Illinois
(Chicago: S. C. Griggs & Co. 1854)
HISTORY OF ILLINOIS.
COMMENCEMENT AS A STATE IN 1818 TO 1847.
FULL ACCOUNT OF THE BLACK HAWK WAR, THE RISE, PROGRESS,
AND FALL OF MORMONISM, THE ALTON AND LOVEJOY RIOTS,
AND OTHER IMPORTANT AND INTERESTING EVENTS.
BY THE LATE
G O V. T H O M A S F O R D.
C H I C A G O:
P U B L I S H E D B Y S. C. G R I G G S & C O.,
1 1 1 L A K E S T R E E T.
N E W Y O R K: I V I S O N & P H I N N E Y.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by
S. C. GRIGGS & CO.
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois
[ iv ]
[ blank ]
[ v ]
I N T R O D U C T I O N.
BY GEN. JAMES SHIELDS.
In 1850, while the author of this work was on his death-bed, he placed in my hands a manuscript, with the contents of which I was then wholly unacquainted, with the injunction that after his decease I should have it published for the benefit of his family. He soon after departed this life, leaving his orphan children in a destitute condition.
In compliance with his dying request, I made repeated efforts to have the work published on terms that might secure some percentage to the orphans, but until my arrangements with the present publishers, all these efforts proved unsuccessful. By this arrangement the children will receive a liberal percentage on the sales of the work.
The author, during his whole life, had very favorable opportunities for observing and collecting information connected with the history of his State. He was yet a child when his parents emigrated to Illinois. On arriving at maturity he was there admitted to the bar, and practised his profession for many years with
very considerable success. He was afterwards elected an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the State, and discharged the duties of that responsible station with distinguished ability. Subsequently he was chosen Governor of the State, which was the last public office he held. From this office he retired to private life, and during his retirement prepared this history for publication. His pinions of men and measures are very freely and unreservedly expressed; but they may be regarded as the opinions of a man of strong feelings, who took such an active part in many of the scenes which he represents, that it was impossible for him to describe them with ordinary moderation.
I regret the severity of some of the author's judgments, and the censure with which he assails the character of some of our public men, who are both my personal and political friends; but I feel it to be incumbent upon me, by the very nature and circumstances of the trust, not only to have the work published according to his injunction, for the purpose intended by him, but also to abstain from making any alteration in the text. I therefore give it to the public just as I received it from the hands of the author, and with the sincere hope, for the sake of his destitute children, that it may meet with an indulgent and generous reception.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3d, 1854.
[ vii ]
[ xiii ]
xiv TO THE PUBLIC.
The author has written about small events and little men for two reasons: first, there was nothing else in the history of Illinois to write about; secondly, these small matters seemed best calculated to illustrate what he wanted to promulgate to the people. The historical events and personages herein recorded and described, are related and delineated gravely and truthfully; and by no means in a style of exaggeration, caricature, or romance, after the fashion of Knickerbocker's amusing history of New York; but like a tale of romance, they are merely made a kind of thread upon which to string the author's speculations; being his real, true, and genuine views, entertained as a man, not as a politician, concerning the practical operation of republican government and the machinery party, in the new States of the West. He has not ventured to call his book a history, for the reason that much heavy lumbering matter, necessary to constitute it a complete history, but of no interest to the general reader, has been omitted. Indeed, every history is apt to contain much matter not only tiresome to read, but mischievous to be remembered; and it is often the unprofitable task of the antiquarian to busy himself in raking and carefully saving from oblivion some stupid or mischievous piece of knowledge, which the good sense of the cotemporary generation of mankind has made them forget.
TO THE PUBLIC. xv
The account of our very unimportant mobs and wars, and particularly the Mormon wars, -- in which the author had the misfortune to figure in a small way himself, -- is here introduced, with the single remark, that little events are recorded with a minuteness and particularity which, it is hoped, will not tire, but will certainly astonish the reader, until he sees the great principles which they illustrate. The author has earnestly endeavored to be as faithful and impartial as he well could, considering that he was himself an actor in some of the scenes described. For the history of the last four years, embracing the term of his own administration of the State government, the most difficult period of our history, he must bespeak some forbearance. The internal improvement system, the banks, the great plenty of money, had made every one morally drunk. The failure of all these brought about a sobering process, which just began when the author came into office. The different modes of relief for unparalleled calamity, brought about by unparalleled folly, which were proposed; the hideous doctrine of repudiation, and its apposite of increasing the taxes to pay our just debts; the everlasting intrigues of politicians with the Mormons; the serious disturbances and mobs which these lead to; and the strife between the north and the south about the canal, and their contests for power, were difficult subjects to
xvi TO THE PUBLIC.
deal with. The author aimed to act positively, and not negatively, in all these matters, which brought him into fierce collision with many prominent men. He will go down to the grave satisfied, in his own mind, that he was right, and they wrong; and therefore it may be that he has not spoken so flatteringly of some of them as they may have wished. But he has set nothing down in malice. It is believed that many public men in Illinois aim to succeed only for the present, and have acted their parts, with no idea of being responsible to history; and of course they have acted much worse than they would have done, had they dreamed that history some time or other would record their selfish projects, and hand them down to another age. They were encouraged by their insignificance, to hope for oblivion; and it is, perhaps, after all, not very fair to take them by surprise, by recording their miserable conduct, giving a small immortality to their littleness. In ail those matters in which the author has figured personally, it will be some relief to the reader to find, that he has not attempted to blow himself up into a great man. He has no vanity of that sort; and no one thinks more humbly of him than he does of himself. If he has been solicitous about anything concerning himself, it has been to be considered "a well-meaning sort of person; though he knows that this, of all others,
TO THE PUBLIC. xvii
is the most uncommon character in public life, and is the most despised by your men of rampant ambition. Insignificant as he may be, yet, during his public life, many volumes of billingsgate, in the newspaper style, have been written against him; but he has all the time had the satisfaction of knowing his own errors and imperfections better than did his revilers. And, like an Indian warrior about to be tortured, he could have pointed out vulnerable places and modes of infliction which even the active, keen eye of malice itself failed to discover. He has effectually abandoned all aim to succeed in public life in the future, having learned by long experience that in the pursuit of public honors "the play is not worth the candle." He will therefore but little regard malicious criticisms which may be the effect of the remains of bad feelings excited by former contests; being assured that no such criticisms can in any wise affect injuriously any of his plans for the future.
THE AUTHOR.PEORIA, Illinois, April 12, 1847.
[ 19 ]
20 HISTORY OF ILLINOIS.
(Pages 20-49 not yet transcribed).
[ 50 ]
HISTORY OF ILLINOIS. 51
(Pages 51-80 not yet transcribed).
[ 81 ]
In 1827, there was a very excited election before the legislature for a State treasurer, in which the former incumbent of the office was defeated. After the election was over the Assembly immediately adjourned; but before the members got out of the house, the unsuccessful candidate walked into their chamber and administered personal chastisement upon four of the largest and strongest of his opponents, who had voted against him. The members generally broke one way or another out of the
82 HISTORY OF ILLINOIS.
(Pages 82-101 not yet transcribed).
[ 102 ]
HISTORY OF ILLINOIS. 103
(Pages 103-135 not yet transcribed).
[ 136 ]
HISTORY OF ILLINOIS. 137
(Pages 137-165 not yet transcribed).
Gov. Thomas Ford and his 1854 book
Author of "History of Illinois for Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847" (1854) d Nov 3, 1850; Peoria, Peoria Co., IL Interment at Springdale Cemetery, Peoria, Ill. Ford County, Ill. is named for him.
Thomas Ford (1800-1850), was born near Uniontown, Fayette, Pennsylvania on Dec 5, 1800. After spending his early childhood in Missouri, he came to Illinois in 1805, with his six years older half-brother, George Forquer (Farquhar). Thomas received a year's education at Transylvania University in Kentucky and then studied law. After being admitted to bar in 1823 Thomas practiced law at Waterloo, Illinois and later, in partnership with George Forquer, at Edwardsville, Madison, Illinois. He married Frances "Fanny" Hambaugh (Himbaugh) there on June 12, 1828. They had five children.
From 1829 to 1835 he served as prosecuting attorney for all of the state west and north of the Illinois River. On January 14, 1835, the state legislature elected Ford judge of the sixth judicial circuit, which then included all counites in the northern quarter of the state. Soon after that date and until he was elected governor, Ford made his residence in Ogle Co., Illinois. He became the judge of the Chicago Municipal Court on March 4, 1837. In 1839 he was elected judge of the ninth circuit, comprised of nine counties between the Rock and the Fox and the Illinois Rivers. In 1841 a Democratic-controlled state legislature enlarged the Supreme Court to nine men, who doubled as circuit judges. Ford was named to the court and reassigned to the ninth circuit. He sat on the bench in Oregon, Ogle Co., Illinois during the last days of a band of outlaws called the Banditti of the Prairie.
Ford was elected Democrat governor on August 1, 1842. When he took office in December, he faced a critical state debt and the Mormon troubles. He refused to repudiate the debt and secured adoption of a plan to liquidate it. Both before and after the murder of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, Ford called out the militia to preserve order between Mormons and the anti-Mormons of Hancock Co. Jailed under his promise of protection, Joseph Smith, the Mormon leader was assassinated in Carthage Jail, causing his followers to suspect Ford of complicity in the deed. Between 1844 and 1846 he attempted to keep the Mormons and anti-Mormons from clashing, once calling out the militia to protect the Latter Day Saints at Nauvoo and thus causing the non-Mormons to suspect him of siding with their enemies. At the end of his term Ford resumed the practice of law in Peoria, where he and his wife both died in 1850. His History of Illinois was published posthumously for the financial benefit of his children.
from: "The National Cyclopedia of Biography" vol. 11, p. 46:
Ford, Thomas, seventh governor of Illinois (1842-46), was born near Uniontown. Fayette co., Pa., Dec. 5, 1800, son of Robert and Elizabeth Logue (Forquer) Ford. His father probably a native of Delaware, was of English descent; his mother was the daughter of Hugh and Isabella (Delany) Logue, natives of Ireland. Elizabeth Logue was married to a revolutionary soldier named Forquer (Farquliar), by whom she had several children one of whom, George, became attorney-general of Illinois. Her second husband, Robert Ford, died about 1802, leaving the family very poor, but she was a woman of extraordinary courage and enterprise, and when the governor of Louisiana territory offered lands free to actual settlers in what is now Missouri she started west, with her eight children and a few friends, in 1804, only to find on arriving at St. Louis that the United States had purchased Louisiana territory and that lands could only be had by paying for them. The Fords thereupon settled at New Design, then in Randolph (now Monroe) co., Ill., and rented a farm. Young Thomas studied at home, attended Transylvania University, Lexington, Ky., for one year, studied law, and in 1828 was admitted to the bar. For six months, in 1824 he aided Duff Green in editing a newspaper in St. Louis, which advocated the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. In 1825 he joined his step-brother, George Forquer, in practice, at Edwardsville. In the following year he removed to Galena, but in 1829 settled at Quincy. In the latter year he was appointed state attorney by Gov. Edwards and was reappointed by Gov. Reynolds in 1831, his circuit, the 5th, comprising fifteen counties. A new circuit, the 6th, embracing Peoria and all north thereof, was created in 1835, and he was appointed its judge. When the municipal court of the city of Chicago, having the same jurisdiction as a circuit court, was created in 1837, he was elected judge, and in 1840 he was placed on the bench of the supreme court. Though not an active politician he received the Democratic nomination for governor in 1842 in the place of Adam W. Snyder, deceased, and was elected by a majority exceeding 8,000 over Joseph Duncan, the Whig candidate. His administration was characterized by vigor and independence, and he distinguished himself by his successful stand against the policy of repudiation of the state's indebtedness. which was advocated in the legislature as the only way to free the people from financial distress. So important were his services in this crisis that in a speech delivered years later by Judge Caton, of Chicago, he was spoken of as one of the three men (the others being Abraham Lincoln and Gov. Coles) to whom Illinois was especially indebted. Under his successor and in accordance with the constitution of 1848 an annual tax was levied, applicable especially to the payment of the state debt, which was finally liquidated. During Gov. Ford's administration the Mormon war, so called, took place; the prophet, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, lost their lives, and their adherents were removed from the state. The Mexican war also began, and largely through Gov. Ford's influence Illinois had a prominent part in that contest. He took an active interest in the measures for internal improvement, especially the completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal. Congressman John Wentworth said of him that he had more than any other man contributed to the allaying of sectional prejudices within the state. He left the governor's chair a bankrupt and resumed the practice of the law at Peoria, but his later years were chiefly spent in writing his "History of Illinois, From Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to l847." This work edited by Gen. James Shields, and published (1854) for the benefit of Gov. Ford's family, is still one of the best authorities on the history of that particular period. Gov. Ford was married at Edwardsville, Ill., in 1828, to Frances Hambaugh, by whom he had two sons and three daughters. She died at Peoria Oct. 12, 1850; his own death occurred at that place, Nov. 3d of the same year. A handsome monument to his memory was elected by the state in 1806.
"Historical Introduction" from the 1945 reprint of his book:
If the thirty governors who have ruled the commonwealth of Illinois since its admission to statehood in 1818 were listed in the order of their usefulness the name of Thomas Ford would be found among the foremost. If they were arrayed in the order of the poverty which attended their early and declining years, his name would again almost certainly head the list.
The future Governor of Illinois was born to an obscure station in life near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, December 5, 1800, His maternal grandparents, Hugh Logue and Isabella Delany, were immigrants to America from Ireland. His father, Robert Ford, belonged to a numerous family clan inhabiting Delaware and the Maryland Eastern Shore. His mother was twice married and both unions terminated in tragedies. Her first husband, a Revolutionary soldier named Forquer, was killed in a coal mine accident; the second, Robert Ford, disappeared in 1803, presumably killed by highwaymen, although no definite evidence of his fate is available.
The twice-widowed woman was left with a large brood of children, several of them of but tender years. Evidently she possessed both pluck and energy, for in 1804 she set out for Spanish Missouri, lured thither, according to one report, by the prospect of obtaining free land from the Spanish government. She arrived in St. Louis to find the Americans in possession and no free land in prospect. Lacking funds to purchase it, after a short stay in St. Louis she removed with her flock of seven children to New Design in Randolph (now Monroe) County, Illinois.
The "short and simple annals of the poor" devoted scant space to Widow Ford's family fortunes. There were then but a few thousand white people in all Illinois, and they knew nothing of the twentieth-century philosophy that society owes everyone a comfortable living. Life on the frontier was rude at its best, and the lot of the widow and orphan was commonly shocking enough. The Fords were desperately poor and the mother was hard pressed to keep her family intact and the wolf from her door. School facilities were rudimentary, (the schooling of Araham Lincoln suggests something of their character) and the attendance of the Ford children was frequently interrupted by the necessity of working on the rented farm or as hired hands employed by neighbors. Yet Thomas Ford, who proved to be a studious boy, somehow learned to read and write and to cipher to the "Rule of Three." By working at home without an instructor, in such spare time as he could snatch, he made some progress in grammar, arithmetic, and geography; and about the age of ten he devoured all the miscellaneous prose and poetical works (evidently not very many) that came into his hands. [A short autobiography, found among Governor Ford's papers after his death and apparently intended for publication in a book dealing with lives of the governors, gives considerable information about Ford's early years. For it see McCulloch, History of Peoria County (Vol. II of Bateman and Selby's Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Peoria County edition, Chicago, 1902), 451-52; first published in the Peoria Democratic Press, Dec. 18,1850. See also Dr. John F. Snyder, most diligent student of Ford's family history, "Governor Ford and his Family," in Ill. State Hist. Soc. Journal III, July, 1910, pp. 46-51].
At this point we encounter a contradiction which our scanty store of information leaves us unable to resolve. It would seem that such a boy as the Governor describes himself to have been must have possessed more than ordinary pluck and ambition [Similarity to the story of Abraham Lincoln's early years will not escape the attentive reader]. Yet many who knew him in later life doubted that he had any ambition or initiative at all, and ascribed such activity as he displayed to the guidance and encouragement of his half-brother, six years his elder, George Forquer (c. 1794-1837).
The boy himself was a scrawny, undersized child, inordinately diffident and sensitive. Forquer, on the contrary brimmed over with energy and ambition. On leaving home he apprenticed himself to a carpenter in St. Louis and after mastering the craft worked at it until he had saved enough to embark as a speculator and merchant. In partnership with Daniel P. Cook he platted and sold the town site of Waterloo and when he failed in business he found a new and successful career as a lawyer and politician. He was elected to the State Legislature and in 1825 was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Coles. From this time onward until his death in 1837 he was a prominent leader in Illinois politics.
It was Thomas Ford's rare good fortune to have such a man for foster-father. Forquer encouraged him to study law and when it became apparent that his preparatory education was inadequate, he sent him to Transylvania University in 1818 to improve it.
Before the close of Ford's first year there, Forquer's failure in business compelled his withdrawal. He set out on foot for Illinois, a journey of several hundred miles. His funds became exhausted enroute and somewhere in Indiana he persuaded a group of pioneers to erect a schoolhouse and engage him as their schoolmaster. To the end of his life he recalled with pride his success in this enterprise.
Back in Illinois and still but eighteen years of age, he worked on the farm, taught school, and studied law as means and time permitted until 1824, when Duff Green offered him a position on the St. Louis newspaper he was utilizing to promote the candidacy of General Jackson for the Presidency. He remained six months at this employment, when he entered upon the practice of law at Edwardsville in partnership with his half-brother, George Forquer.
Near Edwardsville lived a German farmer, Henry Hambaugh, whose family now enters our story. Hambaugh had several sons and at least one daughter named Frances. She was fair to look upon and in the spring of 1828, when she was sixteen years of age, Thomas Ford was married to her by a justice of the peace at Edwardsville. Since the bride and her family were Catholics, the young couple underwent a second marriage ceremony in the old church at Cahokia in September following.
In the following year Ford terminated the partnership with his brother-in-law and removed to Galena, there to carve out a new career. Galena was then a roaring mining camp where the foundations of society were being laid to the accompaniment of gambling, gun play, and riotous living generally. A character less fitted than Ford to prosper in such a community would have been hard to find. Hard pressed, as always, to make ends meet, he competed unsuccessfully for the office of justice of the peace and passed weary days hopefully awaiting a client. From this predicament he was rescued by Forquer who procured his appointment by the Governor as state's attorney of the Fifth Judicial District, embracing the territory lying between the Illinois and the Mississippi rivers. Meanwhile in 1828 Henry Hambaugh had become one of the first settlers of present Versailles Township in Brown County. The new farm was about forty miles east of Quincy, and Ford now removed from Galena to that place in order to be nearer his wife's parents. To them he clung for shelter for his family during much of the remainder of his life.
He continued to serve as state's attorney until 1835 when he was elected a Circuit Court Judge by the State Legislature. In his autobiography he relates with apparent pride that he was four times elected by the Legislature without opposition to the Circuit and the Supreme benches, and that he held the latter office when he resigned to run for Governor in 1842.
His election to the Supreme Bench came about as the consequence of a famous political quarrel, wherein the existing judges (four in number) rendered a decision which angered the Democratic majority in the state Legislature. To punish them, and to reverse their verdict, the Legislature in 1840 "reformed" the court by creating five additional justices, all of whom, of course, were Democrats. Thus it will be seen that Supreme Court "purges" are no new thing in America and the celebrated one of 1937 was merely a case of history repeating itself. One of the newly-appointed judges was Ford, who was assigned to the Northern Judicial Circuit. For several years he had been making his home with his wife's parents on the Hambaugh farm. He now removed to the then new town of Oregon in Ogle County, a more central location from which to conduct his judicial tours. All of northern Illinois was still a raw pioneer region, and Ogle County was so new that Ford himself is said to have selected the name it bears.
Two years later, in the midst of an electoral campaign the Democratic candidate for Governor died and Ford was put forward to fill the vacant candidacy. From the point of view of his personal happiness his election as Governor was a great pity. His philosophic intellect was well suited to the Bench, where he had been successful and probably happy, while his shrinking disposition and his dislike for the ruder contacts of life augured ill for his success in the rough arena of frontier Illinois politics. Moreover he was not the leader of his partv, which never accorded him its full support. Of all this he was painfully aware, as he was of the loss of his guardian and mentor through life hitherto, George Forquer, who had died in 1837. Ballance relates that his diffidence was such that when he undertook to read his inaugural address in the presence of the General Assemblv he was unable to complete it. "He had read but a small way when his voice failed and he sunk down in the seat or table on which he was standing. Hon. John Calhoun... rose as the Governor sank down and took the paper from his hand and read it with a clear, strong voice." [History of Peoria, 250].
Diffidence notwithstanding, Ford had developed very clear-cut ideas of the dignity of the law and the value of financial and moral integrity. As governor, he assumed direction of a state which was practically bankrupt and a large proportion of whose citizens were willing to fasten upon the commonwealth the disgrace of Repudiation, with all its attendant evils. Against such a course Governor Ford interposed all his authority and influence; and when he seemed about to fail he called to his aid his friend and former judicial colleague, Stephen A. Douglas, who rose from a sick bed to blast the members of the Legislature, assembled in joint session, with the taunt that their children and their children's children would curse their names if they should dare to blacken the reputation of the state with such a dishonorable action. [P. J. Rennick, "Courts and Lawyers in Northern and Western Illinois," Ill. State Hist. Soc. Journal, XXX, 324 (October, 1937)].
Repudiation was defeated, and under Gov ernor Ford's leadership a beginning was made of leading the state out of the financial morass ...