He was born in Lexington Heights, New York to the highly religious Willis and Lucia Hosford. Hosford came to Oregon in 1845 with his brother Erwin, and worked for Philip Foster. He later boarded with David Leslie and attended the Oregon Institute. In 1847 Hosford convened the first formal religious gatherings in Portland, Oregon.
Hosford later traveled to Placerville, California, to search for gold during the California Gold Rush. He made some money, and moved to San Francisco. He returned to Oregon in 1851, and started the first school in Astoria.
There is a middle school in southeast Portland named for Hosford. By extension, the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood (named for the school) also bears his name.
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