Grandma Ford

A Look Back …this week in the Forks Forum

  • Thu May 6th, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

I remember Grandma Ford

For Mother’s Day 1960 Forks Forum columnist Grace Fletcher recalled the life of Mrs. Luther Ford. At the time of the article, Grandma (Esther) Ford had been gone almost thirty years; passing at the age of 92 in 1932. The early Forks pioneer had left an impression and Fletcher shared her story.

Esther Elliott was born in Ohio in 1840. She married Luther Ford in Indiana in 1861. The couple had come to Seattle in the early 1870s with their three daughters, there they had an opportunity to buy eighty acres of timberland for $400 in what is now the heart of downtown Seattle! But, they had heard of the Olympic Peninsula and the opportunity for homesteading and this appealed to them.

In the fall of 1870, the Fords left one daughter with their friends the Dennys …a prominent Seattle pioneer family and headed for the unknown.

Esther and Luther and two of their small daughters came by schooner to Neah Bay bringing household goods and some farming equipment. Bad weather had them stuck at Neah Bay for six weeks.

When the weather cleared enough, they loaded their belongings into ocean-going canoes with expert native American canoeists paddling. The weather was still unsettled and the fear of drowning was ever-present.

They eventually arrived at La Push where they reloaded into Quileute river canoes. They poled the river to the forks of the Bogachiel and Calawah and then Quileute tribal members helped pack their belongings overland to their future home on the upper Forks Prairie.

Only three white men were residing on the Forks Prairie at that time. Once settled Luther headed back to Seattle to bring back a small herd of cattle and sheep. His absence was a cruel and worrisome time for Esther and the girls, but she remained strong.

In 1879 a son, Oliver was born to the Fords, the first white child born on the Forks Prairie; Harry Maxfield had arrived a few months earlier on the Quillayute Prairie. Seventy-six years later the two men would depart this world only a few months apart, Oliver first then Harry.

As the community developed Esther was involved as a director of the new school district and in 1902 she was a founding member of the first church. Luther, a Civil War veteran, died in Forks in 1907.

Esther was an honored guest at the banquet and ceremony opening the highway south in 1931.

A pioneer mother and grandmother Esther always kept a keen interest in the community she called home. Ford descendants still reside on the Forks prairie.

Happy Mother’s Day!