I did an Ancestry.com search for all Ford's in the 1880 Benton Township, Howell County, MO to see if I could locate William Preston Ford. The only Ford listed in that township was George W. Ford, a one year old orphan enumerated with Nancy E. Nicks. Upon closer look, I found Sarah Elizabeth Dodd enumerated in her father's home only three households above the young George W. Ford. In the next year, Sarah Dodd would marry William Ford.
Could this be the young son of William and Leona Frances Ford? Who is this Nancy E. Nicks? Is she a relative? Is she caring for young George, so William can work? So where is William?
The 1880 Census - Benton Township, Howell County, Missouri
The citation for this census follows:
1900 U.S. Census, Howell County, Arkansas, population schedule, Benton Township, enumeration district 050, page 426B (stamped), page 22 (handwritten), dwelling 170, family 170, Nancy E. Nicks household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 May 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 691.
Since William Preston Ford was not found in Howell Township, I decided to do a search for all William Ford's in 1880 Missouri Census. I searched for William Ford, but broadened my search to include similar spellings of both given and surname. This is a snapshot of what I found.
Out of the eleven results, I have been able to rule out three. These were enumerated with wives and only daughters in the home.
The others I will need to follow up on and see if I can rule them out.