Decision Activity: Theodosia Ford, Morris County, NJ, January 1777

Decision Activity: Theodosia Ford

Morris County, NJ January 1777

Today is Friday, January 10, 1777 and it is the worst day of my life. The war for independence has been going on for over a year, although the fighting only began in New York City about four months ago and my area of Morristown has not been attacked as has Fort Lee.  The battle at Princeton was only last Friday and you would think that I would be feeling encouraged with the British Hessians fleeing to New Brunswick. However, we are quartering 35 Patriot soldiers from Delaware in our home this winter and all of them are tired, depressed, and will likely bring sickness into our new home. General Washington’s army is now less than 1,000 men as some have deserted the cause of liberty and young men re not enlisting. We also have 30 Hessian soldiers staying on the property of our gunpowder ill in New Hope. Fortunately, John Jacob Faesch speaks German as he is from Switzerland.

I was born 36 years ago in Southampton, Long Island to a preacher, Pastor Timothy Johnes  at the First Presbyterian Church here in Morristown.  I am the mother of  five children, two girls and three boys. Elizabeth DeSaussure, Jacob Ford, III, Timothy Ford, Phebe Ford, Gabriel Hogarth Ford. After the death of my first husband, I married Jacob on January 27, 1762 at the age of 21. He was a wonderful man and a caring father to my daughter, Elizabeth.

My husband and I believe in a consumer economy. We can both read and write and my husband is skilled in understanding the mining of iron and its importance to our economy. The war has changed everything and iron and gunpowder are very scarce and materials needed to win the war for liberty.

Today, my husband, Jacob, died of pneumonia at the age of 38.  He had been working long hours trying to finish building our dream home whole overseeing the gunpowder mill.  This tragedy destroyed me and challenged my commitment to the American cause for liberty and independence. But two weeks later, my father-in-law, will also become ill and die.  Death freaks me out!  But within a few weeks my mother-in-law, Hannah will die as will my precious two-year old daughter, Phoebe. I am devastated with grief, in spite of my devotion and faith in God.

What should Theodosia do in the middle of a Revolution and civil war in New Jersey?

a. Remarry to provide for her family.

b. Hire local men to continue producing gunpowder at the secret mill?

c. Move to another area of NJ in an attempt to remain healthy and care for her children

d. Continue to live at her new home with Isaac and Hannah Till as her servants.

e. Encourage my oldest son, Jacob, age 17, to enlist.

f. Other

How will Theodosia and her children view the Declaration of independence during the war?

  1. With the personal loss of her husband, his parents, and her young daughter, liberty has little meaning to Theodosia and she will not and should not risk her life for it.
  2. Theodosia likely understands the personal sacrifices made by her husband and others and values liberty and freedom for her children. She will support the Patriots and Continental Army.

What do you think Theodosia Ford should do?

  1. Put the needs of her family before her country and leave New Jersey for a safer area?
  2. Place her faith in God and conscience and remain in New Jersey?
  3. Risk her life and daily needs by freeing her enslaved workers, Isaac and Hannah?

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