Biography of James Harvey Forney

James Harvey Forney
James Harvey Forney

A visit to the library of the gentleman whose name is above and a chat with him in his pleasant home at Moscow, are sufficient to dispel any idea that the new west is without culture or men of ability interested in its educational progress and development. Mr. Forney has given some of the best years of an active and useful life to the cause of education in Idaho, and has attained more than local distinction otherwise.

James Harvey Forney, a prominent citizen of Moscow, Idaho, and ex-United States district attorney for the district of Idaho, was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, forty-seven years ago, a son of James H. and Emily (Logan) Forney. The old homestead in North Carolina, where Mr. Forney was born, has been in the po-session of his family for four generations. The Forneys are of French-Huguenot descent and Mr. Forney’s great-great-grandfather, who was born in 1640, fled from his native land in 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and settled in Alsace, on the Rhine. His son, Mr. Forney’s great-grandfather, was born in 1721. In 1754 he married a Miss Maria Bergner, of Canton Berne, Switzerland, and thereafter settled in Lincoln County. North Carolina.

The fact that they and their sons, Jacob, Peter and Abraham, were uncompromising Whigs, and that the family sustained the cause of American liberty by the expenditure of their means and by force of arms, did not tend to make their relations with Cornwallis’ men any more pleasant, and they were deprived of about everything they possessed, even to their gold, silver and jewelry, much of which was brought from Europe. The head of this loyal family died in 1806, near the place where he had first settled. The eldest son, Jacob, was born November 6, 1754, and married Mary Corpening of Rutherford Count, North Carolina. Not long after the close of the Revolution he bought a valuable tract of land near Morgantown, North Carolina, where he lived a long, useful and quiet life, and there died November 7, 1840, aged eighty-six years. James H. Forney, the second son, married Emily Logan, of Rutherford County, North Carolina, and his second son, named in his father’s honor, is the subject of this sketch.

At the age of eighteen, James Harvey Forney entered Wofford University, South Carolina, and after four years’ study was graduated with second honor in a large class, and delivered the salutatory address. In 1875 he went to California and there taught school and read law, as occasion offered. In 1878, at the organization of Hastings Law College, he was among the first pupils enrolled, and he was admitted to the bar in 1879. Immediately thereafter he came to Idaho, settling in Idaho County, and in January 1880, was appointed deputy district attorney. At the ensuing election he was elected district attorney, and under the territorial and state governments was re-elected five consecutive times.

In 1894 he resigned the position of district attorney for the second judicial district of the state, and was appointed United States attorney for the district of Idaho. Under the territory and state of Idaho and United States, he held the position of district attorney for seventeen consecutive years. He has been engaged in a large number of criminal prosecutions and was appointed special prosecutor for the state in all cases arising out of the riots in the Coeur d’Alene district in 1899. He is a man of broad culture, and, in addition to a fine law library, he has a well selected miscellaneous library of twelve hundred volumes. He has lived at Moscow since 1890.

In 1881 he married Mary E. Belknap, of Santa Barbara. California. She is the daughter of Hon. C. G. Belknap and a graduate of the University of the Pacific. They have two daughters, Rosa Alletha and Cora May Forney.

Mr. Forney has held the position of grand master of the Odd Fellows of the jurisdiction of Idaho; was the first acting president of the faculty of the University of Idaho and has served as regent and president of the board of regents of the university.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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