In 1875 he settled in Santa Barbara, California where he would live out his days. Ford travelled by horse and buggy to the each of the twenty-one Spanish missions in California, where he created a historically-important portfolio of watercolors, oils, and etchings. His depictions of the missions were (in part) responsible for the revival of interest in the state's Spanish heritage, and indirectly for the restoration of the missions themselves. In 1883 Ford published his Etchings of the Franciscan Missions of California, and exhibited his works at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The hallmarks of Ford’s images are exquisite brushwork and tonal mastery in all mediums, which make his works highly prized.