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Rosa and Susie Ford

Submitted by Jari Lynn Oncken - May 06, 2008

One can learn a lot about church history and early members by looking through the old church records. Many names are familiar because these people were either related to us or active in the church and community. Each one is unique but share similar experiences with others. There is one former church member whose life experiences were, in many ways, different from the rest.

That person was Rosaline "Rosa" Ford who joined the Minonk First Baptist Church by experience on October 2, 1910 while Rev. W.H. Tolliver was pastor. She was not as active as she would have liked because of health problems.

From 1883 to 1896 she was an active member of the Second Baptist Church of Minonk. This church was located in the middle of the 700 block on the west side of Lincoln Street. In 1896 the church and two lots were sold to the highest bidder on a sheriff's sale. It was not possible to find a reason for the sale.

Rosa was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 21, 1843 to slave parents Henry and Elizabeth Tolliver. Money had been left to Rosa by her grandfather to purchase her freedom but it was stolen. Rosa married Henry Clay and they became the parents of two children, William Henry and Sylvester, who died when he was a baby. Mr. Clay served in the Civil War and never returned home.

In 1865 Rosa and her second husband Robert Ford were married in Clover Hill, Virginia. They had twelve children, six of whom died in Virginia when they were very young.

Rosa, her husband and family moved to Minonk and in 1876 purchased their home at 934 Walnut Street from the coal company. Their house stood on the last lot on the north end of Walnut, on the east side of the street.

Her husband, brother and two children passed away in Minonk. Robert died on January 31, 1886, brother William in 1900, son John Henry when he five and daughter Bettie at the age of twenty. After the death of her husband, Rosa was sole provider and mother and father to her children who were educated in the Minonk schools. She was kind to her neighbors and strangers who needed her help. Near the end of her life she prayed for death which came on February 13, 1921 when she was 77 years old. On May 11 she would have been a 47 year resident of Minonk.

Four children who mourned her passing were Julia Ford Pollard, Robert Ford and Susie Ford Haggard all of Chicago and Richard Ford of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rosa's daughter Susie was one of only two black students to graduate from Minonk High School. Susie who was born in Minonk on May 4, 1878 graduated in 1896. Martha Jackson, a daughter of William Jackson an engineer at the coal mine, graduated in 1897. In 1914 Susie moved to Chicago where she married Riv. J. M. Haggard who died in 1927.

Susie periodically wrote to C. R. Denson, editor of the Minonk News-Dispatch. On Dec. 14, 1916 he published her letter in which she said "Whatever success I may attain in life, I owe it to my Mother first, then to the First Baptist Church of Minonk, Ill. of which I was a member 22 years and where I was so well prepared for my life's work."

During one of her visits to Minonk in 1941 Mr. Denson asked if she was a long way from home and she answered, "No, I'm back home". She always considered Minonk her hometown after having lived here 30 some years. In Rosa's obituary it said that she was "a true Christian who taught her children to love and serve God." "God called her on Sunday to be with Him, where there is no pain, no death nor sorrow." Her funeral took place in the First Baptist Church on Wednesday, February 16, 1921 with Rev. N. J. Hilton officiating. The church choir provided music for her service. She was buried in the Minonk cemetery.

Below is a picture of a negro woman and man attending a carnival in Minonk in the earlier 1900's. Could this be Susie Ford?

Below is a picture of the Second Baptist Church of Minonk where Susie Ford attended Church