Though he spend very little time in the area, both a town and a county in southwest Kansas are named in honor of him.
James Hobart Ford was born in Painesville, Ohio on May 22, 1829 to James R. Ford and Julia Ann Tod Ford. His mother was a sister of David Tod who was U.S. Minister to Brazil and Ohio Governor during the Civil War. In May 1850, Ford married Arabella Stambaugh. Together they had four children, David Tod, James R., John S. and Sara Stambaugh Ford.
Sometime before 1861, Ford moved to Colorado where he resided during the outbreak of the Civil War. Reinforcements from Colorado were needed when Confederate forces invaded New Mexico. On Dec. 21, 1861, newly appointed Captain James H. Ford took charge of Company "A", 2nd Colorado Volunteer Infantry Regiment out of Canon City. His company was informally referred to as "Ford's Independent Company."
On his way to Fort Union, New Mexico, he took on soldiers from the 1st and 4th New Mexico Volunteer Regiments and, upon his arrival, his company was renamed Company "G" of the 4th New Mexico Volunteer Regiment, but his men probably continued to function independently from the New Mexico regiments.
Col. John P. Slough, also from Colorado, assigned Ford and his company to Maj. John M. Chivington's troops. In the Battle of Glorieta Pass, Ford was among the forces which captured a Confederate supply train.
In October 1862, officials consolidated the 2nd Colorado and 3rd Colorado Infantry Regiments to form the 2nd Colorado Cavalry and on November 1, 1862, Ford was promoted to major. On Nov. 5, 1863, he reached the rank of colonel. For much of the War Ford fought against the "bushwackers" along the Kansas border in Missouri and was involved in numerous battles against Confederate Gen. Sterling Price's forces in Missouri.
President Abraham Lincoln nominated Ford for the rank of Brevet Brigadier General of the Volunteers on Dec. 12, 1864. The U.S. Senate confirmed this appointment on Feb. 14, 1865. For the remainder of the Civil War, Ford spent his days at Fort Larned where he commanded the District of the Upper Arkansas against Native Americans. There is a strong possibility he selected a site, between two crossings of the Arkansas River, which later became Fort Dodge.
On July 19, 1865, Ford received his discharge from the Army. He soon returned to Ohio where he died on Jan. 12, 1867. Ford is buried at Glendale Cemetery at Akron.
Within weeks after his death, on Feb. 26, 1867 Ford County, Kans. was established in his name. However, the County was not organized until April 5, 1873 nearly a year after the founding of Dodge City.
Over 10 years later, in 1885, James H. Ford was again honored by the establishment and naming of the town of Ford, Kans.