The Story of John ‘RIP’ Ford

Born in South Carolina on May 26, 1815, John Salmon Ford grew up on a plantation in Lincoln County, Tennessee. He was studious and went on to study medicine. He moved to Texas in 1836 and joined the Texas army, serving until 1838. He left the army and practiced medicine in San Augustine, during this time he passed the bar exam.

Elected to the Texas House in 1844, he voted to allow the Republic to join the United States. Relocating to Austin, he reported on the annexation for The Texas Register, eventually buying the newspaper, changing the name to The Texas Democrat.

During the Mexican War, he served as regimental adjutant under commanding officer John Coffee Hays. Part of his duties required him to document the men killed in action, earning him the nickname of ‘Rip’. He would complete his reports with the words ‘rest in peace’ after each name of the fallen. As the fatalities increased, he shortened it to R.I.P. and the men began calling him ‘Old RIP Ford’.

In 1849, Ford and fellow Indian Agent and legislator Robert Simpson Neighbors set out to map the country between San Antonio and El Paso, publishing a map of what became known as the Ford and Neighbors Trail.

He was commissioned as a Texas Ranger and in 1858, as a member of the state troops, defeated Comanches in two battle along the Canadian River. In 1859, he and the troops were sent to the Rio Grande to quell the activities of the Mexican bandit Juan Cortina.

Late during the Civil War, he was given command of the Second Texas Calvary in the Rio Grande district where he participated in the final battle of the war in 1865 at the battle of Palmito Ranch.

After the war, he continued to work as a newspaperman and was involved in politics. He was named to the Constitutional Convention in 1875 and served as a legislator from 1876-1879.

Before his death, he penned his memoirs. Former history professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst edited his memoirs and published them in 1963 titled Rip Ford’s Texas (Personal Narratives of the West).

He died in San Antonio on November 3, 1897 and was buried beside the San Antonio River.