Lee County Biography


Ralph E. Ford came West to Lee County with his father, Curtis Ford, and brothers and sisters, in about 1838. The following was found in "Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee county, Published 1893 by A. Kennedy Publishing, pages 404 and 405.

"There is a story in those early days four families came here from the east with the few worldly effects which could be stowed in their wagons; but there was no home, nothing like home, except the blue sky and the genial sunshine. The mountains were only pictured in memory, and the little fields, outlined by straggling, irregular stumps, over which vines ran rampant all the summer, seemed far away. The prairies were so wide and the winds swept over them unchecked by either rocks or hills. It was all so strange, so new, that the wonder remains to this day why they did not all turn around and go back to their native homes. But the story goes that two families, never having taken their wagon covers off, retraced their steps. The other two remained and went to work with a will; cut and hewed logs and reared their cabins with the energy which characterized the true pioneer. A member of one of these families, Mr. Ralph Ford, relates how he hired out to work on a farm, the first year receiving $7 per month. The next year he was paid $9 and the next $11, showing steady progression.

Mr. Ford tells of a trip he made to Chicago, which in those days consisted of thirty-three frame shanties, standing in the water. He with two other men drove in some hogs, the round trip occupying sixteen days. As corn was plenty and cost only 6 cents a bushel, they fed generously, drove slowly, and at the end of their trip marketed their hogs for 1 1/2 cents per pound. In the spring of '40 Mr. Ford drove a air of oxen to Chicago. The wagon was loaded with wheat. Many showers and hot sun caused the wheat to sprout on the way. The grain depot consisted of a floating wharf, or corduroy bridge anchored to the shore, where boats loaded and unloaded their cargo. It cost the man who owned the wheat 20 cents per bushel to get it to Chicago, and he then had to sell it as damaged wheat to a starch factory down the river.

Mr. F. took his turn at driving the old stage coach. A cumbrous vehicle it was, weighing 3300 pounds, and when weighted down with prairie mud and passengers, probably amounted to several hundred pounds more. Four large horses were driven before the coach, from Chicago to Galena, and the passengers paid five cents per mile and had to carry a rail half the time, at that, to pry the stage out of the sloughs it had to pass. Starting from the tavern in Lee Center at noon, the driver must occupy his position until 12 o'clock at night; then the next man took it for twelve hours."

Beverly / World Connect at Rootsweb
"Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee county, Published 1893 by A. Kennedy Publishing, pages 404 and 405.
Certificate of Death shows Ralph buried at Woodside.. but he is burid at Inlet Cemetery with his wife. See Photo of headstone

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