JAMES COLEMAN FORD


Although never a resident of Cannelton, James Coleman Ford, the father-in-law of Robert Huntington, played a most important part in determining the means through which Cannelton was founded and developed through his holdings in both the Cannelton Cotton Mill and in the American Cannel Coal Company. He was born near Lexington, KY, in 1798, the second of ten children of William Ford who had emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky in 1789. In 1814 James C. Ford began working in the dry-goods store of his uncle, Warfield Ford. In 1819 he opened his own store in Claysville, KY, with financial backing of his uncle. In two years he purchased his uncle's interest. Selling out at a good profit in 1822 he and his oldest brother, Charles F. Ford, opened another dry-goods store in Paris, KY.

In 1826 he left this partnership and set up his dry-goods business in Vicksburg, Miss. In three years he contracted to purchase a cotton plantation hear there, operating it as well as the store until 1833 when he sold the store in order to concentrate on the plantation. His first full-time crop finished paying for the plantation.

In 1830 he had married Mary J. Trimble, the third daughter of Judge Robert Trimble of Bourbon County, KY. In 1835 the Fords decided to reside in Louisville, KY, as absentee owners of the plantation.

In 1848 Ford and other cotton planters in Mississippi and Louisiana, including Judge Henry Bry, became part of the 60 stockholders of the newly formed Cannelton Cotton Mill. Even though the mill was well-built and outfitted, the temporarily bad world-wide business conditions for the cotton industry coupled with the influence of eastern mill owners on the financiers in the east cut off investment capital within the space of one week. This forced the liquidation of the Cannelton Cotton Mill which was then taken over by the Newcomb Brothers and James C. Ford in 1854 as the Indiana Cotton Mill. The combination of improved business conditions and the business acumen of the Newcombs led to the successful operation of the mill from 1854.

In 1867 Ford sold his plantation to a group of his former slaves with long term payments. He ceased active participation in business after that time and became more active in support of the arts and social life of Louisville. Sometime after 1875 the Ford family, with daughter and son-in-law Alice and Robert Huntington, relocated to Rhinebeck, NY, where he died 12 October 1881.

As noted above, only two children are here known: Alice (1843, Louisville - 23 December 1919, New York, NY) and Robert T. (died December 1902, New York). After the departure of Hamilton Smith from management of the Coal Company on 14 June 1873, Robert T. Ford assumed operation while continuing to reside in New York. At his death in 1902 his heirs were his widow, Mrs. Jeannie L. Ford, son, William G. Ford, and grandchildren, Robert T. Ford Lane (son of William A. Lane) and Juliet Trimble Ford. The Ford heirs still owned all but 3 of the 751 shares after a 50% reduction in stock to $50,000 in December 1907. None of the Ford family took active part in operation of the company -- James C. Shallcross assumed that task until his death in 1926. At another stock reduction in February 1926 to 500 shares at $25,000 none of the Ford family were among the stockholders.