Sunday, August 3, 2008

Trip to Tolu and Ford Country

The following article appeared in the Henderson Journal, Thursday, 26 August 1909. The writer obviously had William Ford mixed up with his father, James Ford. As with any story based on legend, enjoy it, but do not take it as gospel. The Rev. J.J. Smith is credited with organizing a camp meeting at Hurricane in 1889, according to The Churches in Our County, compiled by the Crittenden County Ministerial Association.

Sturgis, Ky., Aug. 24 - Sunday morning at 6 o’clock a party of nine left Sturgis for Caseyville, Ky., at which place they took passage and after a 20 mile trip down the Ohio they arrived at Tolu, Ky., about 9 o’clock. They disembarked and drove by carriage three miles into the country, where the Rev. J.J. Smith has just begun a Methodist camp meeting. Brother Smith has been known all through this territory for 20 years and a renewal of his acquaintance, as well as the day’s pleasure upon the river was enjoyed keenly. The party consisted of the following citizens of Sturgis: Fred L. Alloway, O.C. Quirey, C.B. Hina, W.S. Williams, J.N. Raulins, W.B. Winston, D.W. Bishop, A.L. Grady and J.D. Hedges.

Twenty annual encampments have been held at this place, 18 of which have been conducted by this same J.J. Smith. Among the peculiar rules governing these encampments are the following: No one is allowed to smoke tobacco within a distance of 20 feet of the tabernacle. No man and woman are allowed to sit together, except a man and his wife and then they must have with them a child needing the care of its parents.

If within 20 years this country has seen much of religious revival, it is to the glory of God, for in the early years of the 19th century probably no land in the world witnessed more murders and robberies than did this territory near the cave in the rock.

Grave of William Ford

After the morning service our Sturgis party visited the grave of William Ford, distant from the mouth of the Hurricane about one mile. William Ford in life was a noted character - noted alike for his benevolence and his wickedness. It has been said that in his home and to his neighbors he was a type of the cultured southern gentleman. Tradition has it that he was also the leader of the notorious band of thieves and river pirates that infected the regions near the mouth of Hurricane whose headquarters was the famous cave in rock, just across the Ohio in Illinois. Many a missing man has been traced to this neighborhood where all trace of him has been lost.

It was said that after several years Ford’s neighbors sure of his connection with this band and unable to produce the legal proof necessary to convict him formed a posse and dealt out to this man justice in the Southern style. Guns were loaded, some with powder, others with powder and ball; then these guns were so mixed that no one knew which were the loaded or blanks. Having chosen their guns, this posse then marched upon the house of Ford and finding him upon his porch, shot him to death. It was never known who was responsible for his death.

It is a traditional story that while the funeral was in progress that a terrible storm came up, so awful that no storm like it in its fierceness had ever been seen in that territory before. As the negro slaves were lowering Ford’s remains into the grave, a terrible flash of lightning from the storm struck the head of the casket, throwing the attendants into a panic; so fear-stricken were the negroes that the white people had to finish the ceremonies.

The following inscription upon the monument of Ford was copied by Mr. Quirey, a member of the Sturgis party:
“William Ford died November third, 1832, whose benevolence caused the widows and orphans to smile and whose firmness caused his enemies to tremble. He was much oppressed while living and much slandered in death.”

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