Benjamin Mercer Ledford (11/14/1838-03/24/1919) was Benjamin’s eleventh child. His mother was Grace Ownbey Ledford. On May 10, 1862, he enlisted with the 6th Regiment, Georgia Cavalry Volunteers, Company B. He received the rank of captain. He was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Chickamauga . This brought about his subsequent resignation from active duty. He continued to serve in the Local Defense Troops and evidently received the rank of Colonel in that group, for he was often referred to as “Colonel Ledford.”
An interesting incident occurred while he was in service. He was visiting in a friend’s home in Loudon County, Tennessee. While there, Union troops attacked the house. How he had time, before the soldiers came into the house trying to kill any of the Confederate soldiers they found, is not exactly known. But the story has been passed down about how Benjamin Mercer Ledford escaped death. He donned the garb of a woman, and with a bonnet on, was at the dough board kneading bread when the invasion occurred. His life was spared, and for good cause. He married Sarah Blair (09/28/1838-09/13/1889) on July 29, 1863, daughter of his friend in whose house he had escaped death.
Benjamin Mercer and Sarah Ledford made their way back to Union County, Georgia to set up housekeeping. Since her father was a substantial citizen of Loudon County, and owner of slaves, he gave Sarah slaves to help her with housekeeping and Benjamin Mercer with his farm work on Gum Log in Union County where they settled. This couple gave ten acres to Antioch Baptist Church from the land holdings they had acquired.
Benjamin Mercer Ledford became an ordained Baptist minister, announcing his call on October 18, 1873. He received his license to preach by Ebenezer Baptist Church three years later on July 14, 1876. Not only interested in helping the churches in the district where the Ledfords lived, it is believed that he also preached at churches “over in North Carolina” from his home. He was very much interested in education and was successful in securing a grant for a high school for the Gum Log district from Peabody Funds. This school was established about 1880 and was a boon to that section of the county.
Benjamin and Sarah had six known children: Mary L. (1865), Mamie May (1867), Arthur Paul (1869), William J. (1872), Bettie A. (1874) and Benjamin M. (1877, who died as an infant). When Sarah died in 1889, she was laid to rest in the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery on land her husband had given to the church. Benjamin Mercer married twice more: to Eliza Plott and to Lena Gray (believed to be a Cherokee Indian). He later moved from his beloved Gum Log and lived in Cherokee County, NC. He was interred at the Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery, Suit, NC.
The third child of Benjamin and Sarah, Arthur Paul (01/12/1869-04/07/1931) became a noted merchant and owned and operated his own store in the Gum Log District. Arthur Paul, known lovingly as “Bud” Ledford, started working in the mercantile business by hiring on at the store of Charley Mauney. In 1924, Bud purchased the store for himself. It was a popular trading place in that section of the county. He bought another store on Gum Log Road in 1925, and operated it until his death in 1931.
Arthur Paul Ledford married Alcy Dona Ensley (04/14/1870-04.01/1943) on December 20, 1888 in Union County. Her parents were Robert and Martha Parris Ensley of Gum Log. To “Bud” and Dona were born six children; Mamie Isabell (1890-1981) married John Calvin Hood; Alma Udora (1893-1969) married Jess C. Bradley; Obed Erick (1894-1977) married Nora Brown; Benjamin Robert (1897-1928) married Ada Wilson; Baxter Wayne (1902-?) married Bert(a) Miller and moved to Ohio; and William Blair (1906-1987) married Violet Lance.
Bud Ledford died April 7, 1931 in Franklin, NC after stomach surgery. His body was returned and buried at Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery, Gum Log. Later, when his beloved wife, Dona passed (April 1, 1943), she was interred alongside her husband’s grave.
The Ledford families played an important role in Union County history from the early years until the present. Those who went out to other places likewise were strong contributing citizens. For example, Amy Vianna Ledford (1830-1892), seventh child of Benjamin J. and Grace Ownbey Ledford, who married William Franklin of Union County about 1851, moved with her family to Coryell County, Texas in 1889. We can only imagine the long journey from Union County to Texas by covered wagon, via Arkansas and other stops along the way. They left Union County in 1883 and arrived in Weatherford Texas in 1889—a long and eventful journey with many stops in between.
There is much more to the Ledford story, but I will leave it to others to write. Suffice it to say that the family of Benjamin J. Ledford played an important role in establishing a solid citizenry wherever they went from their roots in North Carolina and North Georgia.
c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 6, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.