HABS in Mississippi: John Ford House, Marion County

In the Spring of 1936, HABS photographer James Butters visited the John Ford House in the Sandy Hook community just north of the Louisiana/Mississippi line on the west side of the Pearl River. The house must have impressed him because he took more photos than usual for him and one very rare interior shot. The catalog card, called the Supplemental Record, which is apparently in Butters’ own hand, indicates that the temperature was 46 degrees that day and that Butters reference point for the Ford House was none other than Mrs. N.D. Deupree, who back in 1902 and 1903 produced Mississippi first known survey of historic buildings, including the John Ford House.

Although Butters’ HABS record, using Mrs. Deupree’s information, gives a construction date of 1809, the MDAH Historic Resources Database says c.1812-1813, which was still early enough for Gen. Andrew Jackson to stay overnight on November 27, 1814 on his way to the Battle of New Orleans. The house was again used as the meeting place for the Pearl River Convention of 1816, when the Mississippi Territory was divided.

As Mimi Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation comments (available on the MDAH Historic Resources Database), the John Ford House is “an extremely important document for studying the life of early settlers during the territorial period . . . and it provides a rare interpretation of the life of an early settler living far from the sophisticated society of Natchez.”

Thankfully, the Marion County Historical Society bought the house and 6 acres surrounding in 1962 and has maintained it and opened it to the public ever since.

FRONT (EAST ELEVATION) – Ford House, Columbia, Marion County, MS. James Butters, HABS Photographer April 21, 1936.

NORTH ELEVATION – Ford House, Columbia, Marion County, MS. James Butters, HABS Photographer April 21, 1936.

NORTHWEST CORNER- Ford House, Columbia, Marion County, MS. James Butters, HABS Photographer April 21, 1936.

INTERIOR DINING ROOM LOOKING EAST – Ford House, Columbia, Marion County, MS. James Butters, HABS Photographer April 21, 1936.

HABS record online: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/hh/item/ms0148/

Mississippi Encyclopedia: https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/john-ford-home/

MDAH Historic Resources Database record: https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/public/prop.aspx?id=21654&view=facts&y=728

Scene of the Pearl River Convention of 1816. Stabilized using a $12,500 HPF grant awarded in 1976. Designated a Mississippi Landmark on 1 November 1995 at the request of the Marion County Historical Society, owners of the property. [HABS: MS-11 (1936)]

The following was compiled by Mimi Miller, Historic Natchez Foundation, c.1986:

“The John Ford House is a very significant building with important territorial period associations. According to Goodspeed’s, Joh Ford and his three brothers came to Marion County in 1809 and were among the county’s earliest settlers (Vol I, pp. 751-52). Claiborne described John Ford as a ‘South Carolinian, who early settled in Pearl River–a farmer and a man of fine sense and unimpeachable integrity–of patriarchical influence–who has left numerous descendants who inherit his characteristics’ (p. 355). Stylistic and documentary evidence indicates that the John Ford House was built about 1810.

“In 1816, the Pear River Convention, which met to discuss the division of the Mississippi Territory, was held at John Ford’s house on the Pearl River (‘Journal of a Convention of the Delegates of several Counties of the Mississippi Territory, begun and held at John Ford’s on Pearl River, on Tuesday the 29th day of Oct, 1816,’ TERRITORIAL PAPERS, VI, o, 708-717.) John Ford was a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention and signed the Constitution of 1817 (Claiborne, pp. 352-555). Family tradition has maintained that one room of the house functioned as a post office during the territorial period, and this claim is substantiated in the TERRITORIAL PAPERS, where John Ford is recorded as postmaster in 1815. Ford died in 1826, but his descendants retained ownership of the house until it was sold to the Marion County Historical Society in 1962.

“The John Ford House is a one-and-a-half-story frame building constructed on a raised brick basement. The bricks are laid with mud rather than lime mortar. The use of mud in this c.1810 building confirms the difficulty of obtaining lime for mortar. The house exhibits the massive outside-end brick chimneys and the broken slope gable roof that are common features in territorial period architecture. Wooden sills are hand-hews and peeled poles, approximately six inches in diameter, are notched at the ends and flattened on top to provide joists for wooden flooring. The front gallery is supported by colonetters on pedestal posts, a little heavier than the restored ones at the House on Ellicott’s Hill in Natchez. Interior details are primitive with board walls and board-and-batten doors.

“The house’s outstanding integrity makes it an extremely important document for studying the life of early settlers during the territorial period. With the majority of the state’s territorial period resources located near Natchez, the John Ford House’s location in Marion County increases its importance, because it provides a rare interpretation of the life of an early settler living far from the sophisticated society of Natchez. That the house was used for territorial period meeting and was an overnight stop for Andrew Jackson indicates that, plain though it may seem in comparison to Auburn, its near contemporary in Natchez, it was apparently much grander than the other houses in that area of the state.”

Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes in Mississippi: Ford House, 1903″

Visit the Ford Home: https://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Ford-Home/164713496953232

Categories: Antebellum, Historic American Building Survey (HABS), Historic Preservation, Vernacular Architecture


8 replies

  1. always nice to see images of this ‘ms pioneer dwelling’–or, should it be ‘pioneer mississippians’ dwelling’? it was one of the first ‘really old ms houses’ that i remember visiting as a child in the early 1950sm and it was still private, too. some of my ms family first settled in this area in the late 18th c so i suspect those folks knew the original folks that lived here.


    • Wow, still a private home when you visited?! That shows just how renowned this place has been for a long time. One thing I only noticed about these HABS images as I was downloading them, if you look closely at the river-side, gallery facade, there are people to the far right, seemingly working in the yard.


  2. How do you receive money and grants for your projects? Do the state legislators help with your projects?


  3. Very pretty place. Thankful that it has been preserved, Reminds me of some of the same type homes constructed during that same time period , although not two story, in the Yazoo County , Vaughan area of our great state. In fact, I was raised in one of them during my early years. Hall down the center, huge rooms on both sides, fireplace at the east and west ends. Large front porch. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter !Type of house where one could walk a mile in front of the open fireplace while freezing to death only half the time!

    John R. Dixon Vaughan, MS.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know of Vaughn that is north of Canton. But I noticed there’s a Vaughn out from Brookhaven as well. I don’t recall much going on in the one north of Canton. Which one are you from ?


      • Yes Bob, I am from the Vaughan,north of Canton .

        It is sad that the village of Vaughan, which was once a thriving location with cotton gins, post office, stores, picture shows, homes,livery stables, church, depot, all centered around the Illinois Central made famous by the unfortunate wreck of Casey Jones in 1900, is no more. Only a few original buildings still remain.

        However, with the original tracks being refurbished now, there will once again be freight train traffic traveling through Vaughan. I am returning from Scotland later this week, and hope trains are already moving along the track toward and from Canton. Can`t wait to hear the train as it moves through Big Black Swamp. I grew up both seeing and hearing freight and passenger trains as they roared through. Watched the bags of mail snatched off the pole or being thrown from the train in special designed bags many times. Even remember when the freights did stop in Vaughan, and my uncle shipping cases of Oranges from Florida for us to distribute to relatives in that area .

        I actually rode through Vaughan, on a passenger train, to and from New Orleans, for a NO weekend ending with a MSU football game. That had been on my bucket list.

        One of my next projects,is to assist in getting the Casey Jones signage located at the correct spot along side the train tracks as it was for many years.

        With a daughter and family living in Brookhaven currently , I will be checking out the Vaughan you mention being located .

        Thanks for the reply,

        John R.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What’s happened to MissPres? Miss posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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