Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Continuing the Ledford Legacy: Benjamin's Son Silas and Grandson Mercer

Last week we looked at the life and times of early Union County settler, Benjamin J. Ledford (1800-1892) who settled on land along Ivy Log Creek. He had a large family of fifteen known children. His third child, Silas L. Ledford (1822 – 1891), and one of Silas’s sons, Mercer Lafayette Ledford, will be the focus of this article.

Silas L. Ledford had an older sister, Hannah (b. 1819) and an older brother, Josiah (b. 1820) when his mother, Grace Ownbey Ledford (07/30/1799 – 06/12/1864) gave birth to him in Buncombe County, North Carolina on October 22, 1822. He would have other siblings: Sallie, Martha, Porter, Amy Vianna, John C., Carolina L, Patterson and Mercer, all born in North Carolina before the family came to Union and settled in Ivy Log. The youngest of his siblings, Pinkney, was born after the family arrived in Georgia. Later, after his mother died, his father, Benjamin J. Ledford, married Sarah Salena Chapman Miller and Silas L. had three half-siblings, Solomon S., Mary and William, who were younger than Silas’s children.

As we saw in last week’s account of Benjamin J. Ledford, Silas’s father, he was a large land owner. He gave his son Silas some acreage and on it he build a log cabin which became the first house for him and his wife, Dolly Elmira Bowling Ledford (b. ca. 1821) whom he married in Union County on December 19, 1841. She was a daughter of Thomas and Mary McDonald Bowling. This marriage blended two early settler families, for Dolly’s father had helped to cut timbers to build Union County’s first court house in the early 1830’s, and he also was elected an early sheriff of Union County.

To Silas and Dolly Bowling Ledford were born five children: Thomas (1845), Benjamin A. (1846), Gracie Caroline (1848), Louisa (1849), and Ellantha M. (1851). The exact date of Dolly’s death is unknown, but it occurred between 1851 and 1856. Silas married his second wife, Eliza Arminda Bowling (1837-1897), who may have been a sister of his first wife, Dolly. To Eliza and Silas were born nine children: Andrew, Jane, John S., Alice V., Mercer Lafayette, Ida, Virgil C., Sallie Isabelle and Frank H.

When the Civil War came, Silas L. Ledford served in Captain Young’s Company, the Georgia Cavalry, Local Defense Troops. Whether he saw action in battle or just defended the home front is not known. His main occupation was farmer. No record was found of the burial of Silas, Dolly and Eliza Ledford in the Union County cemeteries book. It is believed that he and his second wife, Eliza, were both buried in unmarked graves in the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery. Silas left a will, probated in 1888. In it, he made no mention of children Thomas, Louisa, Ellantha or Frank. They may have preceded their father in death.

Some interesting facts are known about Mercer Lafayette Ledford, tenth child of Silas Ledford, whose mother was Eliza Bowling Ledford. He was born September 24, 1865. Mercer attended the Ivy Log High School. At age seventeen, he took the Georgia certification test and became a teacher. He taught first at Ebenezer School, a country school located on land his grandfather and then his father had owned.

On June 16, 1897, Mercer Lafayette Ledford married Florence Iowa Christopher. She was a daughter of John A. and Sarah Martin Christopher. Well educated for a woman of her era, Florence had attended school in Blairsville and also graduated from the Hiawassee Baptist Academy. She taught school for several years before her marriage. To Florence and Mercer were born four children: Sarah, Ina, Curtis and Louisa.

Mercer and Florence moved to Gwinnett County where he continued to teach. He became interested in law, and began to “read” law in the firm of Juhan and McDonald. He passed the state bar in 1892 and began the practice of law in Lawrenceville.

Union County drew this couple back to their roots. They moved back to Union County where he set up a law practice. It is said that his first trial in Union County was held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. What precipitated this place for the trial is unknown to this writer. In Union County, Mercer Lafayette Ledford distinguished himself as a lawyer and community servant. He was on the County School Board and served for a time as County School Commissioner (Superintendent). In 1902 he was elected to the state senate to represent the district and served for three terms, authoring bills and serving on committees.

The Mercer Ledford family moved to Cairo, Georgia (Grady County) about 1905. There he practiced law, became county attorney, served on the school board and was active on the Democratic executive committee from that district. He held membership in various civic organizations and had leadership positions in Woodmen of the World and Cairo Lodge F & AM. He and Florence were active members of the Baptist Church in Cairo. Mercer Lafayette Ledford is an example of a grandson of an early settler who went out from the environs of Union County and did well in his chosen profession.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published April 29, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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