Jerome Bursley Ford
was born in Vermont in 1821. At the age of 28, he came
to San Francisco to work for Henry Meiggs. Unexpectedly
in 1851, Meiggs sent him north to search for the wreck
of the Frolic off the Mendocino coast. While
Ford found nothing worth salvaging from the Frolic,
he did spot treasure of another sort: giant redwood trees.
Ford walked back to San Francisco and reported to Meiggs.
Hearing the account of the massive trees, Meiggs ordered
a sawmill from the east coast and purchased a ship, the
Ontario, to carry it to Mendocino. Meanwhile,
Ford drove some oxen overland and arrived in Mendocino
on 17 June 1852. Immediately, he purchased land for $100
from William Kasten, the original settler, and staked
a claim for Mendocino's first sawmill at the headlands
of Big River.
Upon construction of the sawmill, Ford
became the first supervisor.of the California Lumber Manufacturing
Company (1852-1855), later known as the Mendocino Mill Company
(1855-1873). Aside from business, Ford fathered six children.
His son, Jerome Chester, was reportedly the "first white
boy" born in Mendocino. Copies of several Ford diaries
are in the Kelley House Historical Museum Research Office
in Mendocino CA. Anyone searching for introspection and revelations
of the inner man will not likely find them in Ford's diaries.
His marriage is reported as succinctly and matter-of-factly
as the weather or the number of board feet of lumber cut for
Ford remained in Mendocino until 1873
when he moved to Oakland so his children would have better
access to good schools. He was active
in business until 1885 and died in Oakland in 1889. Jerome
C. Ford took over his father's interests in the re-christened
Mendocino Lumber Company (1873-1905).
Many of Chester's letters describe the
day-to-day operations of the company and of life in Mendocino.
Jerome B. Ford's
granddaughter, Aline M. Pierce, died on May 2, 1993 at the
age of 109. She attributed her long life to two things: her
nightly martini and her Jaguar—"the only car worth
driving." Mrs. Pierce donated the collection of Carleton
E. Watkins photographs of the Mendocino Coast (1863) to the
Bancroft Library in memory of her grandfather. Watkins (1829-1916)
was a well-known California photographer. He lost his personal
collection of plates and photographs when the 1906 earthquake
struck San Francisco; in its aftermath, his entire collection
was destroyed by fire. This contributed to his physical and
emotional break-down. Watkins was committed to a mental institution
in Napa in 1910 and was buried on the hospital grounds six
J.B.Ford at age 55.
(Xerox Copy). Kelley House Museum Research Office. Mendocino,
W. Francis Jackson. Mendocino
City: A Daily Journal - 1852-1938. Mendocino CA: Mendocino
Historical Research, Inc., n.d..
Robert J. Lee Collection copied
from Alice Earl Wilder Collection.