James Ford led a double life in the early 1800s. He was a landowner, businessman and civic leader in western Kentucky and southern Illinois. He also led a gang of robbers and cutthroats that robbed and killed hundreds of travelers in the region, especially out of Cave-in-Rock. Ford also kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery in the South. There were rumors about his criminal activities, but nothing of substance.
Ford got away with it for more than three decades—until someone got tired of the act. He was assassinated, supposedly by vigilantes, in 1833.