J.F. Ford photograph collection, 1896-1906  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Ford, John Fletcher
J.F. Ford photograph collection
1896-1906 (inclusive)
17 black and white photographs (1 box) ; various sizes
37 negatives (1 box) : glass ; 6 x 8 inches
Collection Number
Images of fishing activities, logging camps and timber activities along the lower Columbia, construction of Benson Rafts, and various ships
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

Glass plate negatives are not available for viewing.

Additional Reference Guides


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

John Fletcher Ford was born 1862 in Minnesota. He moved to Ilwaco, Washington, in 1893 and became a pastor and evangelist. Local newspapers praised Ford as “a genial gentleman” and “one of the best known citizens of Pacific County.” As an ardent opponent of liquor, Ford was a vigorous proponent of the temperance movement. In addition to his ministry, Ford photographed numerous timber operations and fishing activities in and around the lower Columbia River. He operated a photography studio, Foto Studio, with John T., Charles W., and Richard S. Ford in Portland from 1900-1908.

Ford was stricken with pleurisy during the last year of his life. He died February 16, 1914 in Ilwaco. He was nearly 53. As a tribute to his geniality, newspapers reported upon the impressive numbers of visitors who had come to pay tribute. In his obituary, the Columbia River Sun hailed his photographic work as “extremely interesting and valuable and a veritamine of picturesque illustration.”

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Ilwaco was founded around 1848 and incorporated in 1890. The major occupation was fishing and in the seafood industry. At one time, Ilwaco had a bad reputation because of the gillnet wars fought there from 1884 to 1910. Gillnet and trap fishermen fought over fishing ground rights, sometimes to the death. Fishing was often done with a seine, a large fishing net that hangs vertically in the water by attaching weights along the bottom edge and floats along the top. Seine fishing offered the advantage of being able to net fish without having to be concerned with the visibility of the nets in the water, as the seine hangs from the top of the water to the bottom of the river, lake or bay.

Willapa Bay, located on the southwest Pacific coast of Washington near Ilwaco, is a large inlet of salt water separated from the Pacific Ocean by the Long Beach Peninsula. The bay is fairly shallow, with half of the volume of water inside it entering and leaving with every tide. It is bordered only by several smaller towns and unincorporated communities such as Raymond, South Bend, and Tokeland. Willapa Bay is one of the nation's largest commercial producer of oysters.

In 1879, Simon Benson, a Norwegian immigrant, from Wisconsin, settled in Oregon and bought timber lands in the vicinity of St. Helens and the lower stretches of the Columbia River, down river of Portland. Benson was among the first timbermen to use steam donkey engines and small railroads instead of oxen teams to haul logs to water. Another innovation of Benson’s were his famous “Benson rafts," developed as an alternative to the high costs of railroad or ocean barge transportation along the Pacific Coast. After finalizing the initial design, Benson hired John A. Festabend to supervise construction of the cigar-shaped rafts, which were assembled in the calm waters of the Wallace Slough, near Clatskanie, Oregon. Benson rafts were the first ocean-worthy lumber rafts. These cigar-shaped assemblages of logs, held together tightly by stout chains. Benson’s rafts were transported the 1,100 miles to San Diego during the summer, arriving at his saw mill roughly 15 days after leaving Clatskanie. Between in 1906 and 1941, over 120 Benson rafts were sent to San Diego from the Columbia River, with only 4 lost to storm or fire during that time. More than half the time, the rafts were “deck loaded” with processed lumber like shingles, fence posts, poles and spurs to maximize profits. Benson’s mill in San Diego then sold the resultant lumber to the lucrative California market.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains images of fishing activities (seining and shell fishing), logging camps and timber activities along the lower Columbia, the construction of Benson Rafts, and various ships.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

Printouts of digital scans made from the glass-plate negatives are available for reference purposes.

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions might exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact the repository for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Fishing activitiesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/1 1-3 undated
1/1 4 undated
1/1 5 undated
1/1 6 undated
1/1 7 undated
1/1 8 undated
1/1 9 May 5, 1896
1/1 10 undated
1/1 11
Women and children digging for clams at Willapa Bay, Nahcotta, Washington

Logging camps and activitiesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Deep River, Washington
Box/Folder item
1/2 12 1903
1/2 13 1903
1/2 14 1903
1/2 15 1903
1/2 16
 Logging crew in front of steam donkey engine
John Lundeen identified in photograph.
1/2 17 1903
1/2 18 1903
1/2 19
 Logging crew
Nels Lundeen identified in photograph.
1/2 20
 Logging crew on railroad cars at camp
John Lundeen identified in photograph.
1/2 21 1904
Benson Camp, Clatskanie, Oregon
Box/Folder item
1/3 22 1904
1/3 23 1904
Unidentified locations
Box/Folder item
1/4 24
Block house
1/4 25
Two men in windows of log cabin
1/4 26 undated
1/4 27 undated
1/4 28 undated
1/4 29 undated
1/4 30 undated
1/4 31 undated
1/4 32 undated
1/4 33 undated
1/4 34 undated
1/4 35-36 undated

Benson raft construction, Columbia River, near Stella, WashingtonReturn to Top

Raft construction began with the building of a floating wooden “cradle,” which slightly resembled the wooden frame of a large sailing ship. A floating derrick then lifted logs into the cradle over a period of four to seven weeks. Although logs of all sizes were transported, a large volume of tree-length logs were included in the raft to give it strength and stability in its voyage across the Columbia River bar and in the open ocean. Enormous chains were used to lash the raft together, with one running lengthwise through the center, some encircling the raft approximately every fifteen to twenty feet, and still more attaching the chains to each other at strategic points throughout the raft. When a raft was complete, one side of the cradle was removed and the raft was “kicked out.” Once free-floating, rafts would “flatten out” in the water, further tightening the circle chains and making them even stronger. Most rafts hauled approximately 4 to 6 million feet of logs and were typically about 800 to 1000 feet long, 55 feet wide, and 35 feet thick from top to bottom—usually drafting 26 to 28 feet deep. Holding them together was anywhere from 175 to 250 tons of chain. Construction took 4 to 6 weeks.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/5 37 undated
1/5 38 undated
1/5 39-40 undated
1/5 41 undated
1/5 42-43 undated
1/5 44 undated
1/5 45 undated
1/5 46 undated
1/5 47 undated
1/5 48 undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Beaches--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Booms (Log transportation)--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Clamming--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Fishing--Washington (State) --Photographs
  • Log transportation--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Logging--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Logs--Washington (State) --Photographs
  • Lumber industry--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Oystering--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Piers--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Sailing ships--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Ships--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Timber--Rafting--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Wharves--Washington (State)--Photographs
  • Personal Names :
  • Lundeen, John--Photographs
  • Lundeen, Nels--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • Clatskanie (Or.)--Photographs
  • Columbia River--Photographs
  • Deep River (Wash.)--Photographs
  • Ilwaco (Wash.)--Photographs
  • Stella (Wash.)--Photographs
  • Willapa Bay (Wash.)--Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)