DETECTIVE WORK UNCOVERS
ANCIENT FORD IN WARREN

[From Warren History, Volume One, No. 2, Fall 1989]

In March l779 Gen. Washington summoned Robert Erskine, "Geographer and Surveyor-General of the American Army," from his home in Ringwood to Middlebrook where the Continental Army was in winter quarters, to prevent his capture by the British. While in Somerset County, Erskine produced for the military a series of road maps of the surrounding area, including one, known as No. 70C, which depicts a "Road beginning at John Bebout's - thence toward Quibbletown crossing the Dead River" -- a portion of today's Somerset County Rt. 527 (in Warren, King George Rd. south to Mt. Bethel Rd., turning east just over the top of the Second Mountain, on the south side, and along "Old Somerset" or Church Rd., turning south again at the original location of the Mt. Bethel Baptist Meeting House, crossing today's Mountain Blvd. and up Washington Rock Rd., through the Quibbletown Gap and down the south side of First Mountain to Quibbletown in Piscataway.)

Map 70C is one of a number of Erskine maps that locate the homes of three of Warren's pioneer settlers, Henry Alwell (or Alwood/Alward in other records), Jeremiah Sutton and William Ford. Alwood lived where Rt. 78 now crosses King George Rd., Sutton and Ford were neighbors on the east side of Mt. Bethel Rd. near Reinman Rd. on "Stoney Hill." While further research is necessary, it appears that either Ford or Sutton may have lived in the Kirch House which this summer was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Map 70C depicts two houses at a bend in Mt. Bethel Rd. which seems to correspond with the present Mt. Bethel-Reinman Rd. intersection. Sutton's home is just to the west of Ford's.

Who was William Ford? George Bebbington, past president of the society, has researched the subject extensively, with the following result:

The Ford Genealogy by J. M. Seaver records 457 Fords who served in the Revolution, 45 of them named William Ford. In the central New Jersey area, there are 4 listings -- one each in Morris, Middlesex, Monmouth and Essex. Their enlistment dates are different and since service lengths were short and people moved around during the war, there is a chance that these could all be the records of one man.

William of Morris County, a possible candidate for Warren's William Ford, was the son of Samuel Ford (l735-1793) and Grace Kitchel (1757-l8l8), and a nephew of Col. Jacob Ford Sr., the builder of the Ford Mansion in Morristown. William (l759-l793) married Jemima Halsey in l780 or 82. His greatgrandfather was John Ford, builder of an iron forge at Whippany, about l710, and his grandfather was Samuel Sr., a miller and surveyor of Hanover Township roads. This William lived in Hanover and bought land at Ford's Hammock (now Florham Park) in l790 from Samuel Ford, his father or brother. In l8ll his real estate was divided among his 5 surviving children, one of whom was another William (l792-l870), who died in Dover. Jemima, William Sr.'s wife, bought land at Ford's Hammock in l796 and sold it in l811 while living in Randolph Township. William Ford is listed in the Morris County census of l771 and he paid taxes there in l783 and l792. The records searched to date, however, fail to reveal any connection between this William and Somerset County.

N.J. Tax Lists l772-l822 (vol. 3) lists a William Ford paying taxes in Randolph Township, l814-l822, a William Ford in Chatham, l808, a William Ford in Woodbridge, l778-79, a William Ford in Bernards, l789 & l792 and a William Ford in Hanover Township, l783-92, who died l793. The Randolph and Chatham Fords are chronologically too late to be our William Ford. Mr. Bebbington discusses the Ford living in Hanover in the preceeding paragraph and the Bernards-Woodbridge Ford (or Fords) below.

The Morris County Fords can be traced back to the original settlers of Woodbridge. When one begins digging into the history of Woodbridge, starting with the arrival of the Covenanters in the l680s, and into the Fords listed as settlers in Nicholl's l682 Patent in Piscatogue, many Ford references are discovered. Indeed, one section of the township was named Fords; in its center was Ford's Corner where Ebenezer and Samuel Ford kept a tavern. An early William Ford died ll/2 or ll/3/l762 at age 60or 69. His wife, Mary Alward, daughter of Henry, died 9/20 or 9/26/l773 at age 70. William, Charles and Samuel Ford were freeholders (that is, property owners) in Woodbridge in l752. Records of the First Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge list an Ebenezer Ford in April l692, a Charles Ford, living on Smith Street in Perth Amboy, admitted as a member in October l710, a William and his wife admitted in October l710, and a Samuel, mentioned in the minutes of March l756. The church grave yard contains a William and Mary Ford, their son Samuel, who died l0/20/l769 age 34 and Sarah, their daughter, wife of Samuel Parker, who died at age 25 on l0/6/l768. The freeholder list for Middlesex County contains a William Ford in both Woodbridge and New Windsor in l750 and l752.

A poorly detailed Sons of the American Revolution membership application (No. l321) by George Ford Reeves (born l845) ties William Ford of Warren to the William Ford of Bonhampton, Woodbridge, who is buried in the colonial cemetery in Metuchen. The application is as follows: William Ford, son of Charles, b. l731, d. l813, married (l) 12/29/1762 to Ann McCohn, (2) Tryphena Terrell (widow) d. l813. He was a private in Capt. Stout's Co., Col. Jacob Hyer's 3rd Regt. of the Middlesex County Militia, serving in October l777. Son: William Washington Ford, b. l782 (or l792), d. l831, married 5/8/l806 to Mary "Polly" Compton by Rev. Coon, dau. of Wm. C. Compton; and they had daughter, Cornelia, b. ll/5/l810, d. l0/9/l831; daughter, Rebecca, b. 12/14/l809, d. 12/20/l898, m. 11/25/1840 to Abner Reeves, and their son was George Ford Reeves.

The State Archives, Trenton, includes the will of Charles Ford (Book 26, p. 237), dated Jan. l0, l775, probated Feb. 19, l784, which mentioned his wife Mary, sons William, Benjamin and Ebenezer, daughter Anna, son-in-law (?) James Manning and granddaughter Mary, daughter of Moses Bloodgood.

According to the New Jersey Archives, Thomas Terrill of Bernardstown (now Warren) died 9/ll/l777, intestate. His wife Tryphena was Administratrix of his estate. Ebenezer Ford and John Wood inventoried Terrill's worldly goods, valuing them at 302 English Pounds. The same source records that William Ford of Woodbridge Township died on Jan. 2, l815, intestate. An inventory of his goods sworn to by William Washington Ford, Administrator, on June 16, l815, totals $l,575.69. Curiously, cemetery records state that William (Sr.) died July 18, l815 at age 82, but this is probably an error in transcription.

A William Ford paid taxes in Woodbridge in l778-79 and in Bernards Township in l785-89, l792 and l794. Tax ratables for Bernards Township in May l778 list William Foard as the owner of 250 acres, 4 horses, 12 cows, one pig, one slave and one riding chair. Ebenezar Forde, according to the same source, owned 47 acres, 2 horses and 4 cows. William Ford is also listed as a property owner in Somerset County in l790. A Bernards Township census of l793 lists William Foard, Thomas Terril and the Widow Sutton. William Ford and Jonathan Ford were paid for pasturing cattle for the Continental Army in l778-79. Interestingly, William Ebenezer and Benjamin Ford were pewholders in the Second Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge (Metuchen) in l794. Have we found the right William Ford? The record book of the Presbyterian Church of Turkey (now New Providence) lists a baptism on Aug. 9, l786 of Phineas Ford, "Son of Mr. Ford of Stoney Hill, who lives in the house of Terrill, Esq., deceased." Stoney Hill was a common l8th Century name for Warren's Second Watchung Mountain and can be found on maps of this period. If the William Ford of Woodbridge is the same William Ford living in Warren at the time Erskine made his map, then it appears he moved from Woodbridge to Warren about l778, lived in the Terrill house, then moved back to Woodbridge in l794. But (and this is the most difficult question of all!) are all these references to the same person or to two or more different William Fords? And why does Erskine's map appear to show Jeremiah Sutton living in a house that may be the Kirch house (which research indicates was owned by Thomas Terrill, son of Thomas, at least as early as l796) and William Ford living in a house just to the east?

Bebbington continues to research Warren's William Ford, who may have been the son of the Charles Ford who owned land near Dock Watch Hollow Brook in l762 and donated property for a new Presbyterian Church building in Bound Brook. Charles Ford is listed as a taxpayer in Bedminster in l782 and in Bridgewater (perhaps on the basis of the Dock Watch property) in l785-86. (Contributed by George Bebbington)