John Ford and others by their best friend, Phoebe Stuart vs.Grant Ford and other heirs of Lloyd Ford, deceased
Be it remembered that on the trial of this cause the plaintiffs introduced and examined as a witness, Robert Hale, who being duly sworn stated; That Lloyd Ford in his lifetime executed the paper shown to witness, to be his last will and testament. . .
. . .That he probably died in November 1843. I had written two wills for him previously to this, one I think dated in March 1835 and the other in April 1835. When I wrote the second will my father told Ford to burn the first but he took both away. Mr. Ford told me afterwards that the will and a purse of money had been stolen from him. He said he thought a black boy by the name of Will, a slave of Hall's, had stolen the money.
I drew the will at my own house. Ford lived 1 1/4 mile of me. I wrote the will as he directed, He was a little deaf and I read it close to his ear. He had dictated sentence by sentence as I wrote along. My wife Sarah cannot write. I wrote her name and she made her mark as a witness. My daughter Elizabeth Jane cannot write. I also wrote her name and I think she made her mark. I did not hold the pen for them when they made their mark.
I knew Ford every since I knew anyone. His mind was sound when he executed the Will. I thought him as smart as any man his age I ever saw. He was according to his calculation he was 90 or 91 years old when I drew the will.
In the first or second Will he freed one or two of his slaves. I think Martha, one of his Negro girls was freed in the first Will.
After the two wills of 1835, Ford told me that he had been informed, that in consequence of the insurrection of the Negroes, somewhere the law was so fixed that he could not free his Negroes and spoke of making a new Will.
Finally he said he had found out that he could free the Negroes by their staying on the place. In conversation he seem anxious to reject Jackson's heirs. This Will was drawn in conformity to his instructions and in accordance with his intentions often expressed to me.
Eddy is the mother of Ned and Lark, two of the defendants in this case.
Peggy was the mother of John, another plaintiff and died from four to seven years ago.
Ford's wife died about a year before him. He spoke of the Negroes as his family.
(The plaintiffs by their counsel here stated that they were informed on the ground of the defense in this case, was the alleged incapacity of the testator, and asked the witness if it was not the reputation of the County that the Negroes were the children of Ford, for the purpose of showing, as they alleged that the Negroes were proper subjects of his bounty, The defendant by their counsel, objected to the evidence, but the court over ruled the objection, to which the opinion of the court the defendants by their counsel expected)
The witness proceeded in substance as follows;
I have frequently heard it reported in the neighborhood for years before the will was drawn that some of the plaintiffs suing for their freedom by their next friend are children of Ford. John, Ned and Lark, the slaves here present are mulattos, John being the darker than either of the other.
Old Man Ford told me that he had two set of children, one black and the other white, that the black ones were the smartest and the cleverest and he never intended that the white ones should make a mark on them. He said if I could find a mark on one of his black children he would give them to me.
John, one of the plaintiffs, had been living from home generally about town for 10 to 15 years. The others, except Lark, lived on the place at home. Have heard Ford frequently say that John worked for money and brought it home to him. The Negroes, with the old mans consent owned stock, horses, cows, and hogs. And were well fixed in their houses. Ned, I think lived on the farm of one of the sons. Ned and lark are married men. John is not unless lately.
A year or two after the will was made the old man said to me;
Robert, what better can I do with my black people than to give them to my children ?,
Mr. Ford have you forgotten that you made a Will ?
No, you have it, I suppose",
I said "Yes"
Keep it, and I will be up in a few days to get it.
I then discovered his mind had left him at times.
About 12 months before he died, I was at his house. I saw Mulkey, who was the Ford's own preacher was there and dined. After dinner the old man asked who it was who eat dinner. I told him the preacher Mulkey. The old man was then, as I thought, entirely out of his mind.
During the Fall the old Man died, and early in the Fall, as well as I can remember, he came to my house and said he had come to get the deed. I told him I had no deed, He then said it was his will he wanted. I saw that he was in great distress of mind. He talked so he could be heard two hundred yards away. I told him to go get his son Lloyd or some neighbor to come with him and lift the Will.
He said his son Lloyd, had drove him there - that Lloyd ought to be in the penitentiary years ago, that Lloyd had drawn a club over him and had threatened to beat him-that Lloyd said he would beat him with the club if he did not come and get the Will. He made such a to do that I finally agreed to let him have the Will and told my wife to go and get it, She brought a paper which by the old man's directions was thrown into the fire. The old man then said,
Now, I reckon he'll let me alone.
He seemed to be out of his head, seemed deranged or interrupted in mind, was in a state of great trepidation and alarm and said that Lloyd had threatened to kill him or beat him. The old man at length started off, after he got to the corner of the house he turned around and said he would be back in two or three days to get me to do some writing.