California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
OSCAR FORD is not only one of the representative contractors engaged in business in the City of Riverside, but has also been a progressive and influential figure in civic affairs in the city and county. He gave a long period of effective service as a member of the City Council, and his administration as mayor of Riverside was marked by results that have proved of permanent value.
Mr. Ford was born at Winterset, Iowa, on the 17th of September, 1856, a date that clearly indicates that his parents were pioneers of the Hawkeye State. His father, Jimmerson T. Ford, was born in Virginia, but was reared and educated at Warsaw, Indiana. He became one of the prosperous exponents of farm industry in Iowa, served as justice of the peace and was a popular and influential citizen of his community. The lineage of the Ford family traces back to Welsh origin, and representatives of the name were patriot soldiers in the War of the American Revolution. Mrs. Lucretia (Calkins) Ford, mother of Oscar Ford, was born in the State of New York and was a child at the time of the family removal to Indiana, her father, Daniel Calkins, having there become a prosperous farmer. The Calkins family is of English stock, and members of the family came to America in the Colonial days, besides which it is a matter of record that representatives of this family likewise fought for national independence in the Revolutionary war.
Oscar Ford was reared on the home farm in Iowa, early gained practical experience in connection with its activities, and his youthful education was gained in the public schools of the locality, which he attended principally during the winter months. He left the parental home of the 6th of December, 1875, and until the following March was employed as a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad, with headquarters at Cabazon, Riverside County, California. He then found employment in the brick yard of the Sheldon Brick Company at Riverside during the summer, and in 1877 he was employed by P. S. Russell, the pioneer nurseryman, with whom he remained three years. While thus engaged he purchased ten acres of land north of Riverside and planted a citrus orchard on the tract. After leaving the employ of Mr. Russell he not only gave attention to his own orchard, but also to those of other residents of this locality, and after retaining his original orchard about three years he sold the same and purchased twenty acres on Central Avenue. This he planted to raisen [sic] grapes. Later he bought ten acres on Monroe Street and planted the same to orange and apricots. He became the owner also of ten acres on Center and Sedgwick streets, this tract being developed with an orange grove. He bought and sold much land in and about Riverside, and at all times had in his charge from 10 to 150 acres for Eastern owners. He has developed many acres of orchard and vineyard, has shipped large quantities of fruit to Eastern markets and has made valuable contribution to the industrial development of this favored section of California. Mr. Ford had a large amount of nursery stock at the time of the historic freeze of 1890, in which he met with heavy losses. His technical and executive powers came into effective play in the management of the properties of the Worthley & Strong Fruit Company and the Spurance Fruit Company, as well as during his service as local manager for the Producers Fruit Company.
About the year 1904 Mr. Ford turned his attention to the water-development enterprise in the district beyond Wineville, where he secured 770 acres of land, 300 acres of which he planted to alfalfa. Later he disposed of this entire property, upon which he had made excellent improvements, including the development of an effective system of irrigation.
A stalwart in the camp of the republican party, Mr. Ford has been active and influential in political affairs in the City and County of Riverside. He served on both the city committee and the county committee of his party, has attended many party conventions and has been prominent in the councils and campaign activities of his party in this section of the state. About the year 1900 Mr. Ford was elected a member of the board of trustees of Riverside, before the present city charter was adopted. He was a member of the council at the time the present charter was obtained, and his entire service in connection with municipal' office in Riverside covered a period of fully fourteen years, his continuous re-elections signalizing his secure place in popular confidence and esteem. In November, 1913, he was elected mayor of Riverside, his assumption of office having occurred on the 5th of the following January and his four years’ administration having been marked by progressive and constructive policies that worked greatly to the advantage of the city and its people.
Mr. Ford was a member of the City Council at the time when the local electric-light department was in its infancy and under the direct control of the council. The original bond issue of $40,000 was wholely inadequate for the purpose for which it was intended, and thus it was utilized in the construction of a pole electric line to Santa Ana Canyon, where H. H. Sinclair was installing a power plant. A contract was made with Sinclair to provide Riverside with power for twenty-five years, at the rate of three dollars per horse power a month. This arrangement was thought to be favorable for the city until it was discovered to provide for measurement of power on the peak of the load, even if only for a few moments, meant the carrying the heaviest load on the basis of measurement for the entire twenty-four hours. Under these conditions was carried through another $40,000 bond issue, by which a steam power plant was provided and the city enabled to keep the peak-load rate down. The light department of the city was in debt to the general fund in the amount of $32,000, but soon after the installation of the steam plant the department began to show profits in operation, with the result that it was enabled to pay its debt to the general fund, which amount was utilized in road building. The revenue from the electric-light department is now about $350,000 annually.
Mr. Ford has been since 1907 engaged in road building, and is one of the leading contractors in this line in this section of the state. He has constructed many of the important paved highways of this part of California, including the Box Springs Road from Riverside to Perris ; 5 miles of road from Corona to the San Bernardino County line; 5 1/2 miles of road leading from Santa Ana toward Newport Beach; 5 miles of road from Garden Grove to Westminster; 5 miles from Olive, in Orange County, leading to the Riverside County line, up the Santa Ana Canyon; 8yi miles in Mint Canyon, Los Angeles County.
Mr. Ford was one of the organizers of La Mesa Orange Packing Association, and in a reminiscent way it may be stated that in 1880 he was a member of the vigilant committee which took matters in hand when horse stealing became all too prevalent in Riverside County, Dr. John Hall having been president of the organization.
Mr. Ford is a member of the Riverside Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and he and his wife are active members of the First Christian Church in their home city.
At St. Joseph, Missouri, on the 6th of June, 1889, Mr. Ford wedded Miss Jennie Hunt, who was born at Jacksonville, Illinois, a daughter of Henry Hunt, who served as postmaster and city clerk of that place, the Hunt family being of Revolutionary American stock and of English origin. Mrs. Ford is a member of the Woman's Club of Riverside and is a popular figure in the representative social activities of the city. In the concluding paragraph of this review is given brief record concerning the children of Mr. and Mrs. Ford.
Albert Hunt Ford, a graduate of the University of Southern California, is engaged in the practice of law at Riverside and is serving as deputy district attorney. Robert O. Ford, who is, in 1921, taking a course in electrical engineering in the University of California, enlisted in Company M of the California National Guard at Riverside, two weeks before the United States became involved in the World war, he having been at the time a student in Junior Collie. He was later sent with his command to France, where he served with the Fifth Division of the American Expeditionary Forces until the close of hostilities. He was connected with the telephone detachment of the headquarters company and was in active service in this capacity both in the Argonne and St. Mihiel sectors, besides having been with the boys when they made the splendid crossing of the Meuse River. Genevieve, the only daughter, is the wife of Malcolm C. Ross, a florist in the City of Los Angeles, and they have one daughter. Warren H. Ford, the youngest of the children, is a graduate of the Riverside High School and remains at the parental home.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011