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Helen M. Ford collection

Identifier: L432

Scope and Contents

The collection includes the Ford family's correspondence, photographs, and assorted receipts, certificates, clippings, and cards dating from 1864 to 1980. The bulk of the collection dates from 1880 to 1937. Materials are arranged chronologically within correspondence, financial records, miscellaneous materials, and photographs.

The bulk of the correspondence dates from 1880 to 1924. Primary correspondents include Mary L. Ford, Emma Annie (Ford) Nichols, Robert V. Ford, Judson Nichols, Alice Susan (Ford) Bailey, Clarence W. Ford, Helen M. Ford, Kiser Nichols, Stanley Nichols, and Martha Plummer.

Topics discussed in the correspondence include family activities and health, clothing, travels, employment and problems finding employment, weather, and financial matters.

The financial records are unsorted and include bills and related materials from Helen's hospitalization, dating from 1974 to 1977.

Miscellaneous materials include certificates, receipts, and bills predating Helen's hospitalization, clippings, cards, assorted paper items, Robert V. Ford's passes during the Spanish-American War, baptism certificates, graduation programs, the marriage certificate of Mary and Martin Ford, and legal papers assigning power of attorney to Plummer. Materials date from 1864 to 1976, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1890 to 1936. There are some genealogical materials, including an undated handwritten history of the activities of Company B of the 88th Illinois Volunteers, a family history of Mary L. Ford's family dated 1942, and undated obituaries for Martin Ford and Emma Judson. Box 5 includes two family Bibles. Also included are several oversized items, housed in B 188, including Emma and Helen's high school diplomas and Robert's discharge papers from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home.

The photographs are unidentified and undated with few exceptions, but seem to include most members of the extended Ford family. They appear to date from the early 1860s through the 1940s and for the most part are formal studio portraits. Letters refer to photographs being sent to various family members, but the photographs were removed at some point from the letters. Also included in the series are several tintypes. Many of the photographs are of children. The photograph album (housed in Box 5) kept by Helen M. Ford is in poor condition and the photos are unidentified. Some of the photographs have first names, but since the Ford family named children after aunts and uncles, it remains difficult to identify the photographs.

There is also an oversize folder which contains Ford family diplomas and certificates ranging from 1881 to 1907 and photographs, ca. 1890 (OB035).


  • 1864-1980


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Mary L. Wiseman and Martin Van Buren Ford were married in Illinois on March 19, 1864. Martin served in the 88th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, Company A or B from August 13, 1862 through June 9, 1865 and Wiseman served as a nurse. They had at least seven children: Emma Annie, Benjamin Martin, Alice Susan, James B., Robert V., Clarence W., and Helen M. Ford (born 1887). By 1875, the family resided in Indiana, with Mary and her children in Indianapolis, Indiana and Martin working in Lafayette. Later, Mary and the children moved to Lafayette. Mary remained in Lafayette until late 1911/early 1912, when she moved for a few years to Lowell, before returning to Lafayette.

The Ford family had relatives in Canada, and various family members visited or worked there regularly. Martin V. Ford moved to Kentucky at some point during the 1870s or 1880s. In 1890, Emma married Judson Nichols and moved to Sedorus, Illinois, where they raised their family. She died in 1908. Robert V. Ford was placed in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home in Knightstown while a boy, then moved to New York City for a brief time. Robert V. Ford also served during the Spanish-American War in Company G of the 160th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He married and lived in a number of places throughout his life. Alice Ford married late in life and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Clarence Ford moved to Phoebus, Virginia following his time in the U. S. Navy, where he married and raised a family. Martin V. Ford died in Jeffersonville, Indiana at the age of 70.

Helen M. Ford attended St. Mary's of the Woods College in Terre Haute in 1911, then moved to Lowell, Indiana where she taught school until 1914. She moved to Phoebus, Virginia in 1914, where Mary joined her until her death in 1936. Helen Ford was hospitalized in the early 1970s, and her financial matters were handled by Martha Plummer. She died December 31, 1979.


1.85 Cubic Feet (4 manuscript boxes, 1 medium oversize box, 1 medium oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by subject.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.


No further additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

OB035: Helen M. Ford oversize collection

Processing Information

Collection processing completed in 1998 by Andrea Bean Hough. EAD finding aid created 2018/05/14. Oversize collection processed and finding aid revised 2021/09/23 by Lauren Patton. Re-processed and updated 2023/02/06 by Lauren Patton.


Helen M. Ford collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.