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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Early Union Settler Benjamin J. Ledford (1800-1892)

In the years since I’ve been writing about people, places and events in these “Through Mountain Mists” columns, there are many surnames familiar to Union County’s residents, past and present, which I have not yet mentioned. To use mountain vernacular, It is hard to “get a round to it” for all of them.

I like to examine the 1834 and 1840 census records of Union County to pinpoint names and see if I can trace some of the descendants of those listed. I found no Ledford families in the first (1834) census, but by 1840 there were four families of Ledfords, that of Benjamin with nine members at that time, that of Thomas with eight in his household, William, with ten, and George with eight. The total population of Ledfords in Union in 1840 numbered thirty-five. Whether Benjamin, Thomas, William and George were related, maybe brothers or cousins, I did not uncover. Maybe readers and descendants of some of the first four Ledford families can add some light on this puzzle. Because I did easily find information on Benjamin J. Ledford and some of his descendants, he will be the present focus.

Ledford is an interesting surname. English, deriving from the Anglo-Saxon, it is what we call a habitation name, or a name derived from the place where the first lived bearing this name. The prefix, spelled variously “Hlude” “Lud,” “Lyd,” and later “Led” (and add to that earlier “Latch”) come from the Anglo-Saxon and means “loud, fast-flowing river.” Suffix of “Forde” meaning a shallow place for crossing the river, the name, then, described the people from the shallow place beside the loud-flowing river. They were identified by where they lived. Later, rivers themselves got names, so those who dwelt by them might receive the name of the river itself with the addition of the suffix ford, to indicate they lived near the river crossing.

What we know as Ledford originated around Somerset and Devonshire in England. In Anglo-Saxon records as early as 997, families named Lydford lived in Devonshire. Ludesfords were listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. A John Lodeford applied in London in 1450 for a marriage license. William Ludford married Vertue Rocker at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent in 1669. Further anglicized, the prefix became “Led” with the addition of the suffix “ford.”

The ancestors of Union County’s Benjamin J. Ledford (02/03/1800 – 03/24/1892) have been traced to a John Ledford who settled in North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War. His son, John, Jr., the father of Benjamin, fought in the Revolution, thus giving this family ties back to that important event in American history.

John Ledford, Jr. had rather extensive land holdings in Buncombe County, North Carolina on Hominy Creek. Therein is seen that tendency still, probably ingrained since Anglo-Saxon times, of Ledfords settling and clearing land near a “loud flowing stream”—creek or river. John, Jr. (wife’s name unknown) had six children, four sons and two daughters, listed in the 1800 census in Burke County, NC, but names of these six, except for Benjamin, are unknown to this writer. Who knows? Maybe the four Ledfords in Union County, Georgia in 1840 were brothers. We can only wonder until this is uncovered and proved.

Benjamin Ledford married first Grace Ownbey (07/30/1799 – 06/12/1864), a daughter of Porter and Martha Morgan Ownbey. A land deed for 123 purchased acres along Hominy Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina was registered to Benjamin Ledford in 1829. In 1832, he added another 100 acres to his holdings. The town of Candler, NC was founded on land held by Benjamin.

But, like many of their neighbors, Benjamin and Grace Ownbey decided to migrate to the mountains of North Georgia when Cherokee lands opened up for white settlers. He sold his land in North Carolina in 1839 and moved to Union County, Georgia to acreage he secured on Ivy Log Creek. There he erected a log cabin and cleared the land for farming. There this couple reared their large family of twelve children: Hannah (1819), Josiah (1820), Silas L. (1822), Sarah Mareilla (called Sallie, 1824), Martha M. (named for Grace’s mother, 1826), Porter L. (named for Grace’s father, 1827), Amy Vianna (1830), John C. (named for Benjamin’s father, 1832), Carolina L. (1834), Patterson (1835), Benjamin Mercer (first name for his father, 1838), and Pinckney (1840).

Grace Ownbey Ledford died in 1864, during the Civil War, and was buried at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Gum Log District of Union County. Grace lived to see all of her children reach adulthood except for the youngest, Pinckney, born in 1840, who was fourteen when his mother passed. Benjamin, widowed, married the second time in Union County to Sarah Salena Chapman Miller, widow of Civil War soldier Henry Miller. Their marriage took place September 18, 1868. Salena was much younger than Benjamin (04/18/1837 – 06/24/1920). Salena’s parents were Solomon and Adeline Odom Chapman. Three children were born to Benjamin and Salena: Solomon S. (1870), Mary (1873) and William (1875). The birth of these three later in Benjamin’s life brought his total number of known children to fifteen.

Benjamin J. Ledford died March 24, 1892, having reached the advanced age of ninety-two. He was laid to rest beside his first wife, Grace, in the Ebenezer Baptist Church Cemetery, Gum Log. Salena lived until June 24, 1920. She, too, was buried in the Ebenezer Cemetery.

Lives and exploits of some of the fifteen of Benjamin Ledford’s children will be explored in subsequent articles. This pioneer and his descendants, whose surname meant from ancient times “dweller beside the loud, roaring river,” made a difference in the early life of Union and other counties where they migrated.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published April 22, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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