Helen M. Ford

Helen M. Ford
L432, OB35
5 boxes, 2 os folders

Manuscripts & Rare Books Division
Indiana State Library

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Processed: Andrea Bean Hough, 1998

Biographical Note:

Mary L. Wiseman and Martin Van Buren Ford were married in Illinois on Mar. 19, 1864. Martin served in the 88th Illinois Volunteer Regiment. Company A or B from Aug. 13, 1862 through June 9, 1865 and Mary served as a nurse. They had at least seven children; Emma Annie, Benjamin Martin, Alice Susan, James B., Robert V., Clarence W., and Helen M. Ford (born 1887). By 1875, the family resided in Indiana, with Mary and her children in Indianapolis and Martin working in Lafayette. Later, Mary and the children moved to Lafayette. Mary remained in Lafayette until late 1911/early 1912, when she moved for a few years to Lowell, before returning to Lafayette.

The Ford family had relatives in Canada, and various family members visited or worked there regularly. Martin V. Ford moved to Kentucky at some point during the 1870s or 1880s. In 1890, Emma married Judson Nichols and moved to Sedorus, Illinois, where they raised their family. She died in 1908. Robert V. Ford was placed in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home in Knightstown while a boy, then moved to New York City for a brief time. Robert V. Ford also served during the Spanish-American War in Company G of the 160th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He married and lived in a number of places throughout his life. Alice married late in life and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Clarence moved to Phoebus, Virginia following his time in the U. S. Navy, where he married and raised a family. Martin V. Ford died in Jeffersonville, Indiana at the age of 70.

Helen M. Ford attended St. Mary's of the Woods College in Terre Haute in 1911, then moved to Lowell, Indiana where she taught school until 1914. She moved to Phoebus, Virginia in 1914, where Mary joined her until her death in 1936. Helen was hospitalized in the early 1970s, and her financial matters were handled by Martha Plummer. Helen died Dec. 31, 1979.

Scope and Content Note:

The collection includes the Ford family's correspondence, photographs, and assorted receipts, certificates, clippings, and cards dating from 1864-1980. The bulk of the collection dates from 1880-1937. Materials are arranged chronologically within each series (Correspondence, Financial Records, Assorted Materials, and Photographs).


This is the largest series, with materials dating from 1864-1980. The bulk of the materials date from 1880 to 1924. Primary correspondents include Mary L. Ford, Emma Annie (Ford) Nichols, Robert V. Ford, Judson Nichols, Alice Susan (Ford) Bailey, Clarence W. Ford, Helen M. Ford, Kiser Nichols, Stanley Nichols, and Martha Plummer.

Topics discussed in the correspondence include family activities and health, clothing, travels, employment and problems finding employment, weather, and financial matters.  As a child, Robert Ford was placed in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphanage to learn a trade, and wrote regularly to his mother and sisters. Alice Susan Ford attended Central Normal College in Danville, and a small number of her letters are included. Emma Annie (Ford) Nichols lived and worked in Canada and wrote regularly about their family and friends in Canada and mentions her travels throughout the Great Lakes region. Robert V. Ford wrote to his mother during his service in the Spanish-American War, and Clarence, who joined the Navy in 1902, writes about his experiences as well. Later materials in the collection document Martha Plummer's work to take care of Helen's financial matters.

Financial Records

The financial records are unsorted and include bills and related materials from Helen's hospitalization. They appear to date from 1974-1977.

Assorted Materials

Included are certificates, receipts and bills predating Helen's hospitalization, clippings, cards, assorted paper items, Robert V. Ford's passes during the Spanish-American War, baptism certificates, graduation programs, the marriage certificate of Mary and Martin Ford, and legal papers assigning power of attorney to Plummer. Materials date from 1864 to 1976, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1890 to 1936. There are some genealogical materials, including an undated handwritten history of the activities of Company B of the 88th Illinois Volunteers, a family history of Mary L. Ford's family dated 1942, and undated obituaries for Martin Ford and Emma Judson. Box 5 includes two family Bibles. Also included are several oversized items, housed in B 188, including Emma and Helen's high school diplomas and Robert's discharge papers from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home.


The photographs are unidentified and undated with few exceptions, but seem to include most members of the extended Ford family. They appear to date from the early 1860s through the 1940s and for the most part are formal studio portraits. Letters refer to photographs being sent to various family members, but the photographs were removed at some point from the letters. Also included in the series are several tintypes. Many of the photographs are of children. The photograph album (housed in Box 5) kept by Helen M. Ford is in poor condition and the photos are unidentified. One oversized Ford family photograph (circa 1875) and another oversized photograph are housed in B188. Some of the photographs have first names, but since the Ford family named children after aunts and uncles, it remains difficult to identify the photographs.

Photocopying Policy:

Manuscript materials CANNOT be photocopied or digitized in their entirety. Photocopies and/or digital images cannot exceed 25% of a collection or a folder within a collection. In some cases, photocopying may not be permitted due to the condition of the item. Check with a Manuscript Librarian for other options.

Box and Folder Listing:

Box 1

1. Correspondence 1864-1875
2. Correspondence 1876-1885
3. Correspondence 1886-1887
4. Correspondence 1888
5. Correspondence 1889
6. Correspondence 1890
7. Correspondence 1891
8. Correspondence 1892-1893
9. Correspondence 1894-1895
10. Correspondence 1896
11. Correspondence 1897-1898
12. Correspondence 1899
13. Correspondence 1900

Box 2

1. Correspondence 1901-1902
2. Correspondence 1903-1905
3. Correspondence 1906-1910
4. Correspondence 1911-1912
5. Correspondence 1913-1914
6. Correspondence 1915
7. Correspondence 1916-1920
8. Correspondence 1921-1922
9. Correspondence 1923-1924

Box 3

1 Correspondence 1925-1929
2 Correspondence 1933-1941
3. Correspondence 1970-1980
4. Correspondence n.d.
5. Financial Records 1974-1977
6. Financial Records 1974-1977
7. Assorted Materials 1864-1976
8. Assorted Materials n.d.

Box 4

Photographs. ca. 1860-ca. 1950

Box 5

Family Bible
Family Bible
Photograph album, n.d.