Dr. D.B. (David Burton) Ford

Written by: Janet Hunter

Although David Burton Ford was born and died elsewhere, he lived most of his life in Walker and Winston counties. He served the area both as a doctor and as a preacher, and was elected to two terms in the Alabama state House of Representatives from Winston County.

Ford was born in Union County, Georgia on Oct. 23, 1843 to William C. and Sarah J. (Best) Ford. Sometime in the late 1850s the Fords moved to Walker County and began farming north of Jasper. During the Civil War, William Ford remained loyal to the Union while D.B. became a reluctant soldier in the Confederate Army. According to his fatherís Southern Claims Commission testimony, D.B. initially hid out in an attempt to avoid induction. However, records show that he enlisted in Jasper as a private in Company C of the 13th Battalion of Alabama Partisan Rangers on Sept. 6, 1862.

Around 1865, he married Mary J. Williams, the daughter of Jeremiah and Margaret Williams. They soon started a family, supporting themselves by farming in Walker County. Sometime in the 1880s, D.B. Ford moved his growing family to the southeast portion of Winston County, where they remained until just before 1900.

During that time, Ford became active both as a Missionary Baptist preacher and as a medical doctor. He was preaching by the late 1870s, with Blooming Grove Baptist Church in northeast Walker County being his earliest known church (1878-1880 and 1888-1889). He preached in Walker, Winston, and Cullman counties, often instrumental in establishing new churches. He was an active leader in the Clear Creek Baptist Association, serving at various times as its chairman, recording secretary, and author of its Circuit Letter. As a preacher, he was an outspoken advocate of the Temperance Movement.

In the 1880 US census for Walker County, Fordís occupation was listed as "farmer and doctor." Unfortunately, medical records from that time period are scarce. Not until late 1888 were births and deaths recorded by the county. In the Register of Births and Deaths for Winston County, Ford is listed as being the doctor of record for most births and deaths in the Beat 5 area of the county.

In 1890, a post office was established near Fordís Winston County home and he was named the post master of the new Mellville Post Office. He served in that position from 16 April 1890 until 18 July 1893. Fordís preaching and medical practices appear to have concluded when he was elected to the Alabama state House of Representatives in 1892. He was elected to represent Winston County, running as a Populist (Peopleís Party). Ford spent two terms in the House, serving from 1892 through 1895.

Common for the time, D.B. and Mary Ford raised a large family. In 1894 when finalizing his Homestead land application, D.B. provided a glimpse of their home life when he stated that his family lived on the farm consisting of a four-room dwelling, barn, smoke house, mill house, four stables and twelve acres under cultivation. In the 1900 census, the Fords stated that they had had a total of eleven children, with eight of them alive at that time. Census records provide the names of seven of their children: Joseph B., Sarah L., Mary J., Minerva P., William D., Hannah E., and John P. Ford.

Between 1895 and 1900 the Fords moved to Arkansas. Some of their adult children stayed in Alabama and some made the move westward. Census records for Arkansas help track the family, found first in Perry County (1900) and then in Searcy County (1910). On May 21, 1916, D.B. Ford died in Searcy County. According to his death certificate, he was buried in Witts Springs Cemetery there. However, a search of tombstone transcription records for that cemetery does not indicate a grave for either D.B. or Mary Ford. They may have been buried in unmarked graves, or the tombstone markings may no longer be legible.