Image of Ford, Thomas

Ford, Thomas

b. December 5, 1800, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania; d. November 3, 1850, in 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 1829 he became state's attorney for Quincy and Galena and held that position for six years. In 1835, he was elected 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, he was appointed judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. In 1841, Ford became a justice of the Illinois State Supreme Court. Illinois was separated into nine judicial circuits with each member of the state supreme court presiding over a circuit, and Ford was responsible for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. He resigned from 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 also began the writing of his History of Illinois until succumbing to tuberculosis. His book was published under the auspices of James Shields in 1854.
John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Bramhall House, 1960) 174; Thomas Ford, The History of Illinois: From its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847 (Chicago: S.C. Griggs, 1854); John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography (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; Allen Johnson, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1964), 3:2:520-21; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: Chicago Legal News Company, 1879), 103-8; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 113-14; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899), 1:32-33. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.