A portrait of a bearded older man in a suit

Jerome Bursley Ford. (Gift of Alice Earl Wilder, Alice Earl Wilder Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

October 24, 1889 – Jerome Bursley Ford, the first lumber company man to arrive in Mendocino, died at his home in Oakland. He was one of the original pioneers who settled the town, and he was instrumental in the establishment of the Mendocino Lumber Company. Ford is generally considered to be the founder of Mendocino.

Born at Grand Island, Vermont in 1821, Ford came to California in 1849 to accept a position in a new lumber operation at Bodega Bay. Two years later, Ford went up the California coast looking for salvage from the Frolic, a ship that had gone aground loaded with valuable cargo from China. Though finding no salvage, Ford returned to San Francisco to describe the forests of gigantic redwood trees on the Mendocino Coast.

A lumber company was organized to begin logging operations and establish the first steam sawmill in Mendocino County. The brig Ontario was purchased in San Francisco, and men and supplies sailed for Big River harbor. Meanwhile, Ford made the trip overland with oxen and livestock, through country without roads, getting to Mendocino 10 days before the ship arrived.

Ford became part owner of the Mendocino Lumber Company in 1854. He and his wife Martha were the first occupants of The Company House, known as The Ford House today. Ford served as the resident manager of the lumber company operation until 1872, when he and his family moved to Oakland. He continued to work in the San Francisco office of the lumber company until 1885, when his health began to fail.

The Beacon’s editor, William Heeser, praised Ford for his many community achievements, his extraordinary business acumen, his generosity, and his crucial role in the founding of Mendocino. Ford was instrumental in building the Mendocino Presbyterian Church, the first school, and the wagon road to Ukiah. He was also one of the original founders of the Bank of Mendocino and the Mendocino Discount Bank.

Ford loved Mendocino and considered the town his home. He requested that his remains be brought to Mendocino and buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Mendocino Book Two by Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins – Meet the Ford family, founders of Mendocino. Learn about Henry Meiggs and the Mendocino Lumber Company and years of early local history. $19.