The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia


FORD, Eliakim R. - Oneonta

The subject of this sketch was born in Westerlo, Albany Co., N.Y., 
Nov. 9, 1797. He was the eldest son, in a family of seven sons and 
seven daughters, of Sylvester FORD, born Nov. 8, 1770, and Lydia 
REED, born Nov. 22, 1773, and grandson of Jacob Ford, born May 3, 
1744 (died May 30, 1809) and Abigail CURTISS, born Feb. 14, 1746; 
died Aug. 8, 1814.
The Ford family traces its generations on the paternal side to the 
New England States, and thence to Ireland. On the maternal side to 
early emigrants from England.
Until Eliakim was twelve years of age he remained at home on the 
farm, receiving very limited opportunities for obtaining any education 
from books, but at that age went to live with his uncle, Abijah REED, 
a merchant of Greenville, Greene Co., N.Y. Here he remained as a 
clerk until he was some twenty-four years of age. During these years 
he received a careful business education, expanded his natural ability 
and tact, and developed a business talent and shrewdness not common 
among young men of that day. In the spring of 1822, leaving his 
uncle, he started business for himself in what is now Oneonta, the place 
then only containing a very few houses, and hence he became one of 
the pioneer merchants of that part of Otsego County. His capital in 
cash was small, but he was enabled to borrow as much more from his 
grandfather with which to commence business; yet, what was of much more importance, he possessed a capital stock of good, sound common sense and practical business habits, together with his energy and will to do,
gave him in the outset rank among the best business men of his day.
July 24, 1823, he married Miss Harriet, daughter of Ira EMMONS 
and Jane HOTALING, the former a native of Connecticut, the latter 
a native of Delaware Co., N.Y., but both among the early settlers 
of the town of Davenport.
He commenced business in a small building upon the ground where
the Free-Will Baptist church now stands. His modest accommodations 
soon became too small for his increasing trade, and he removed his 
store to the corner of Main and Chestnut streets, where he remained six 
years; then to the corner of Main and River streets, where Harvey 
BAKER now resides; and in 1840 to the stone store, corner Main and 
Broad streets, where he remained until he retired from business.
From the first his success was well assured. Ford's store became 
widely known, and its affable and gentlemanly proprietor as widely 
esteemed. While as an active and successful business man he was 
rapidly accumulating a competence for himself, he never forgot his 
responsibilities as a citizen. Every project for the promotion of the 
general good met in him a generous and hearty response, and no 
better proof of this can be adduced than his interest in the
construction of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad. From the commencement he was one of its strongest advocates. He saw what many failed to see, - the great advantages that must result from the completion of such a work. Time and money he sacrificed without stint. He showed his own faith by his liberal contributions. But he was doomed to
Difficulties came, followed by long years of anxious waiting. Others 
faltered, but his own faith never wavered. The time of success was sure 
to come; and it did come. It was a proud day for him and the faithful 
few who had stood with him through the dark hours, encouraged and 
encouraging, that saw the completion of the grand project, and one to 
which he had devoted so many years of toil and anxious thought. He 
stood vindicated before the world, the correctness of his judgment 
proved, and the purity of his motives shown. Though it was for him 
a day of triumph, he showed no spirit of exultation; his bearing was 
only that of one who feels within himself the consciousness of having 
aided in the accomplishment of a good work.
For many years he was a principal stockholder in the Charlotte 
turnpike company, and to his influence and energy Oneonta is in a 
great measure indebted for the permanent establishment of the most 
extensive industrial enterprise of the village to-day, - the Oneonta 
Manufacturing company's works. During the last years of his life his 
public spirit never abated; whatever might concern the future growth 
and prosperity of Oneonta was especially dear to him, and it was 
one of his favorite projects that some plan might be devised for 
supplying the village with water.
Characteristic of Mr. Ford were his social qualities and his
domestic relations. He was a kind and obliging neighbor and a warm
Mr. Ford was a man of strong and earnest character. He had a 
sound judgment; his views were broad, comprehensive, and practical, 
and he possessed a deep insight into the character and motives of 
others. In his business relations he was methodical and exact in his 
surroundings; in the appointments of his home everything seemed to 
to wear the appearance of solidity and endurance. The defects in his
early education had in a great measure been overcome by his own 
efforts, and by varied and extensive reading he had acquired a large 
stock of useful knowledge. Few men were better informed on the 
current topics of the day. He possessed in a large degree the
confidence of his fellow-men, and was chosen several times supervisor of
the town, but was in no sense a professional politician.
Mr. Ford was for many years a prominent member of the Baptist 
church of the village, and a constant attendant upon its service, and 
a liberal supporter of all interests tending to elevate society and
educate the rising generation. He will long live in the memory of those
who knew him, and especially in the hearts of the needy poor whom he 
delighted to assist. He died July 22, 1873, and the day of his burial 
would have been the fifteenth anniversary of his marriage.
Mrs. Ford possesses those rare qualities of sociability and 
character which make home attractive, and however the world might 
frown, or friends grow cold, he was always sure of true sympathy 
from her. Of a large family of children with which his home was blest, 
eight survive him, and are all useful members of society. Their names 
are as follows: Jane Ella, wife of E. D. SAUNDERS, Oneonta; De Witt, 
Oneonta; Annette, wife of Timothy WATKINS, Oneonta; Ellen (died in
infancy); Helen M. (deceased); Raymond, enlisted at the beginning and 
was a soldier in the late rebellion, now a clerk in the Pension
Department, Washington, D.C.; Sylvester, Oneonta; Imogene (deceased) was the wife of Erastus HOPKINS; Clinton E., Oneonta; Julia Ada; Eliakim
Reed, Oneonta.
Mrs. Ford is now in her seventy-third year, familiar with the
various changes of the county's growth, from its rude log cabins,
replaced by palatial residences of wealth and grandeur, from a
wilderness to a settled county of schools, churches, and manufactories,
and agricultural interests unsurpassed in the State.

Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, between pages 224 & 225

[Note: Eliakim Reed Ford & wife and most of his family are 
are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Oneonta]


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