Ford, Thomas

Born: 1800-12-05 Fayette County, Pennsylvania

Died: 1850-11-03 Peoria, Illinois

After studying law, Ford practiced for a term in Waterloo, Illinois. He moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, to practice law with his half-brother, George Forquer. In 1828, he married Frances Hambaugh. In 1829 he became state's attorney for Quincy and Galena and held that position for six years. He was a lifelong Democrat. In 1835, the Illinois General Assembly elected him as judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He resigned from that position two years later when he became judge of the Chicago Municipal Court. In February 1839, the General Assembly appointed Ford as judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. In 1841, Ford became a justice of the Illinois State Supreme Court. The General Assembly divided Illinois into nine judicial circuits, and each justice of the Supreme Court presided over a circuit. Ford was again responsible for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. He resigned from the court the following year to run for governor and won. As governor, Ford set the framework for the system that got Illinois out of debt. He negotiated a compromise with the banks, completed the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and created a property tax to pay Illinois’s outstanding debts. A system of tolls on the Illinois and Michigan Canal paid off its eastern creditors. After his gubernatorial term expired, Ford practiced law in Peoria, Illinois, and began the writing of his History of Illinois before succumbing to tuberculosis in 1850. His book was published under the auspices of James Shields in 1854.

John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Rinehart, 1960) 174; Thomas Ford, The History of Illinois: From its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847 (Chicago: S. C. Griggs, 1854); Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Madison County, 12 June 1828, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Illinois House Journal. 1835. 9th G. A., 1st sess., 293; An Act Dividing the State into Judicial Circuits; An Act Dividing the State into Judicial Circuits; Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 503; Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 406; An Act to Establish Circuit Courts; Rodney O. Davis, "Ford, Thomas," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 8:249-50; Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors, 1818-1988 (Springfield: Illinois Issues, Sangamon State University and Illinois State Historical Society, 1988), 79-88; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1879), 103-108; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 113-14; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:32-33; Gravestone, Springdale Cemetery and Mausoleum, Peoria, IL. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.