Notes from the 1803 Canfield et al. vs.
Ford et al. case, naming Theodosia Ford as a defendant.
I have been assigned to work on a project to find out more about Theodosia Ford (1741 – 1824), the matriarch of the Ford family who owned the Ford Mansion. Under the supervision of Dr. Pfister, Head Curator of Morristown NHP, fellow intern Amelia and I have gone through twenty-five boxes of the Ford Family Papers, which were obtained for the Park in the 1970s by the Washington Association. These documents cover the years between 1738 and 1904, a huge amount of time which encompasses the majority of American history.
Amelia and I went through these papers, box by box, folder by folder, scanning for any mentions of Theodosia’s name. It is amazing to be able to handle primary documents from the 18th and 19th century, and being able to do this has helped to illustrate the context in which the papers were written. We ended up finding quite a bit of material, and are now working to compile a finding aid for any future researchers who are interested in the Fords, as well as putting together a small display that will go in the upstairs museum for park visitors. Theodosia Ford was extremely involved in her family’s business affairs, which was significant for a woman of her time. Of all the artifacts that we looked at, my favorite were the day and account books kept by Gabriel and Henry, the son and grandson, respectively, of Theodosia. These records are so organized and specific that it is fascinating to read them and provides incredible insight for how they lived daily.
This has been a fabulous introduction to the depth of New Jersey’s history, as well as a wonderful opportunity to practice professional and academic researching skills. Along the way, we’ve also learned about the process of curating and maintaining Morristown’s extensive collection. There are still so many items and documents in the collection that can be explored and presented to the public. It is my hope that our notes will be useful to people in the future, and that they can add their findings as well.
This post by Hannah-Abigail Mosier, Syracuse University.