During the mid-1800s, federal government jobs were given (or taken away) as political prizes. The worker’s competence, or lack thereof, was not considered. This system often led to some interesting appointments. Mark Twain’s brother Orion Clemens, a gentle but forgetful ineffectual politician, became Secretary of the Nevada Territory for example because he had worked on Lincoln’s presidential campaign.
The Civil Service Act sought to maintain competence in federal employees by requiring job applicants to be tested to demonstrate their merit before being given a federal job. However, the act only covered about 10 percent of civilian federal jobs and had no effect on state and local positions.
Two Pettis County men worked at jobs they received as a political appointment; one lost his job because of political influences.
William R. Ford was born in Woodsfield, Monroe County, Ohio, in 1833. His grandfather was, according to the 1895 Portrait and Biographical Record of Johnson and Pettis Counties, a hero of the Mexican War. William Ford studied medicine but did not work as a physician; instead, he became a merchant, farmer and miller.
When the Civil War started in 1861, William Ford raised a company of men and was elected their lieutenant. He rose to the rank of captain in Company E, 36th Ohio Infantry. In 1863, he was shot and taken captive by Confederate troops. He was held at Libby Prison for six weeks before being released in a prisoner exchange.
His wartime experiences left him unfit for further military service, and he resigned the military in 1864. In 1866, he married Ann E. Hunter, of Woodsfield, Ohio. That same year, William Ford moved to Pettis County, where he raised sheep on a farm south of Sedalia. He moved to a farm north of Sedalia before finally settling on a farm near Georgetown. His three children, Edgar, Henry and Mary, were born there.
When Ann Hunter Ford’s father died in 1873, her mother, Mary Kincaid Hunter, moved to Georgetown to live with her daughter. There she was a fond grandmother to William and Ann’s children, and a devout member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1889, General H. F. Devol, under whom William Ford had served during the Civil War, appointed Ford the Deputy Revenue Collector for the Sixth District, which included Cole, Miller, Johnson, Camden, St. Clair, Cooper, Hickory, Benton, Pettis, Morgan, Bates, Cass, Henry, and Moniteau counties. Ford served in this position until October 1892, when he resigned because his health was failing.
General Devol then appointed William Ford’s son, Edgar Ford, to the position.
Edgar was born in 1871 and attended elementary school in Georgetown and later the Sedalia High School, which then required tuition payments from students outside the Sedalia School District. He graduated in 1890 and entered Drury College, where he served as Second Sergeant of a militia company.
In 1892, while a 21-year-old sophomore at Drury College, Edgar Ford became the Deputy Revenue Collector for the Sixth District. He held this position for 14 months, but in 1893, was replaced “when there was a change made in the office force on account of political influence.”
Edgar Ford taught one term in a school near Sedalia, and began to study law. He worked in the law offices of Sangree and Lamm, prominent Sedalia attorneys. In 1895, at age 23, he was appointed First Deputy Clerk in the Pettis County Clerk’s Office. He continued his study of the law.
Active in community affairs, he was a member of the Royal Tribe of Joseph fraternal order and a member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. He served in Company D, Second Missouri National Guard.
Active in Republican Party politics, Ford served as Chairman of the Cedar Township Central Committee. He later served as treasurer of that committee.
While Ford appeared to be good at his job as deputy collector, his strong affiliation with one specific political party meant that he might be replaced when another party come to power.