Backcountry Law after the Revolution

Advertise ◇ Today is March 30, 2023 ◇ Subscribe
102 Foxhound Road ◇ Simpsonville, S.C. 29680
Phone: (864) 275-0001View our Old Website

Let us know if you have a possible news story for the southern Greenville County area.

Moonville, Piedmont, Fork Shoals, Commentary

October 17, 2022 by Moonville Mae - Views: 95

Share this Page on Facebook

Backcountry Law after the Revolution

The fact that the Constitution of the United States was signed five years after the Backcountry opened up to legal settlement is an important statement to Greenville residents and historians.  By 1787 a primitive government was operating in Greenville County and later Washington District (now the counties of Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee).  


First Greenville County 
Judge Major John Ford 
from Ancestry

The first and most senior judge appointed in 1786 was Major John Ford, that we know, and since the Greenville County records of the time have not survived, A. V. Huff and other historians suggested that it is reasonable that the court met in Judge Ford’s home on his plantation four times a year.  And his plantation was thought to be on Golden Grove Creek which feeds into the Saluda River along the western side of Greenville County. 

After much consideration of this and researching county plats and deeds trying to place this court near Piedmont, I found that John Ford did not own property on Golden Grove Creek, although the first Sheriff, Robert Maxwell, did.  Ford owned this particular two hundred acres two years before he was appointed senior judge.  The plat for Ford’s grant for service in the Revolution dated May 21st, 1784, depicts his land on creeks feeding into the Reedy River not the Saluda.  Jim Scott, chair of the Fork Shoals Historical Society, and I kept that in the back of our minds for some years. 

Then on one of our trips to cemeteries in the southern part of the county at Lebanon Methodist Church, Jim and I were reminded of another section called the Grove, Sullivan’s Grove.  This Grove is on the Reedy River near the boundary line with Laurens County.  So, we had a Grove on the Reedy, and we felt sure that John Ford’s plantation was near this Grove.  But where and how to find it? 

A couple of years passed and in walked Larry Conant.  Larry came to visit the Piedmont Museum on a Tuesday early this past summer, and as we talked standing over several early plats in our collection, he revealed his special skills.  He has a computer program that will plot the metes and bounds on those old plats and deeds and locate them on a current map.  Just the man we needed. 

So, Larry started working on Judge Ford’s property near Sullivan’s Grove.  He searched deeds and plats from clues we found about Ford’s land, specifically one clue, Beverly Branch, that is no longer called that on current maps.  Jim Scott who lives in this area helped us identify Beverly Branch, and this led Larry to a deed for a Raney whose property bordered Ford’s to the south.  After Larry plotted this data, we found that Ford’s plantation was situated along the current Ridgeway and Kirby Roads about two miles east of US 25.  And Sullivan’s Grove is two miles east of Ford’s plantation.

Being close to the drover’s road (US 25) would make sense for it was the main path all the way from the North Carolina line to Ninety Six, the oldest backcountry district court.  But it was a fifty-mile trip from Gowensville near the NC line to Ford’s court making the trip at least a twelve-hour day on horseback, and then waiting for a court time, and another twelve hours home.  That could have been a three-day trip, so northern county folks petitioned for the court to be more centrally located.  That did not happen quickly, not until after Ford’s death about ten years later.  We know that Judge Waddy Thompson held court more north near Ware Place in 1820, and very soon after that a courthouse and a jail were built in downtown Greenville on the shoals of the Reedy.


Now where is Judge Ford’s grave?  Dying in 1795 or the winter of 1796 and being a member of Fork Shoals Baptist Church, he might have been buried there, but he is not listed in Find-A-Grave for that church.  There is a very old cemetery on the property that was part of his plantation though.  So, the search continues!

Anne Peden, Phd.
Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission
Fork Shoals Historical Society
Piedmont Historical Preservation Society■


Support Our Advertisers

First Step Realty

Carolina Fine Food

Fountain Inn Museum

The Simpsonville Sentinel

Home | Contact Us | Subscribe

Back Office

Copyright © 2010 - 2023 The Simpsonville Sentinel
Website Design by TADA! Media Services, Inc.