Mr. and Mrs. James M. Forkner

Biography of James Marion Forkner

Mr. and Mrs. James M. Forkner
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Forkner

JAMES MARION FORKNER, One century ago, lacking five brief years, the Forkner family was established in Indiana, Wayne County being the scene of settlement and for years the home of the family. From that day to the present time men of that name have been prominently identified with the agricultural activities of the state, and have played well their individual parts in the praiseworthy work of advancing the reputation of their various communities in the world of agriculture. They have been men of the highest integrity and especially have they been distinguished by the character of their citizenship and by their public service wherever and whenever there was need for them to give of themselves for the public weal, He whose name introduces this necessarily brief biographical review, James Marion Forkner, has been not a whit less prominent in his activities than have others of the name, and he stands forth today among the substantial and dependable men of his city and country, marked by the high order of his citizenship as well as by the many sturdy traits of character that have contributed to his popularity and success.

James Marion Forkner was born 0n August 15, 1849, in Richland Township, and is the son of Madison and Charlotte (Blacklidge) Forkner, Mr. Forkner represents the fourth generation of the family privileged to claim American birth, and his great-great-grandfather, William Forkner, was born in Wales. He migrated to America in early life, coining to these shores just prior to the Revolutionary war, and settling in what is now Surrey County, North Carolina, There he died in about the year 1808, and it is worthy of mention that a copy of his last will and testament is now in the hands of John L. Forkner, the editor of this historical and biographical work. This interesting document bears the date February, 1807, and the instrument conveyed to his heirs his entire property, represented largely by slaves and land.

The son of this worthy patriot was Isaac Forkner, who was the great- grandfather of the subject, He was born in North Carolina in 1775, and when the War of 1812 was in progress he gave service throughout its duration, For his splendid aid he was awarded by the government a land warrant for 160 acres of valuable Indiana land, in lieu of a pension, Mr. Forkner settled in Wayne County in 1818, and he was one of the earliest inhabitants of the town of Centerville, where he lived for years and prospered in accordance with his merit, He died at Millville, in Liberty Township, in 1863, when he was aged eighty-eight years, and he was long remembered as one of the finest characters the community had known, The eldest son of Isaac Forkner was Jesse, who was born in North Carolina, like his father, It may be said that he was one of the earliest land owners in Henry County, this state, and he came here with his father, settling upon land in 1822. Liberty Township became his permanent home, and he became a power in local politics early in life. He was elected sheriff of Henry County in 1830, serving until 1833, and in 1837 he moved into Madison County, where he passed his remaining days. During his residence in Madison County he played a leading part in the public life and activities of his district, and was County commissioner one term, as well as having officiated in other capacities, He was a man of splendid integrity, and was remembered as one of the most progressive farming men the County possessed, None shared more fully in public esteem and approbation than he, and in addition to a fair estate, he left the priceless heritage of a good name, well protected by him throughout his life and passed on to his heirs without spot or blemish of his procuring.

Madison Forkner was the son of Jesse Forkner, and was second in order of birth, He in his turn became prominent in farming circles, and was one of the most successful and prosperous men in his community. Before he located in Henry County he married Charlotte Blacklidge, and to them were born seven children, named as follows: Cornelius, now deceased; James Marion, the immediate subject of this review; Mrs. Malinda Crone; Mrs. Martha Lower; Alfred L., deceased; Mrs. Elizabeth T. Porter, and Hattie B. Tappan.

James Marion Forkner was born on the old Forkner farm, now owned by Jasper Bronnenberg, As a boy he attended the Union school and later was a student in a well known college of the state, He was well tutored in the business of farming also, and when he was twenty-one years old set out independently on a forty-acre farm, with a log cabin home adorning his acreage, It is pleasing to note here that he did not long remain the proprietor of a ” forty,” nor did he continue as a dweller in log cabins, but rather that he became the owner of one of the finest stock farms in the state, A short time ago Mr. Forkner, wishing to retire from active business life, sold his place for $28,000, and a brief description of the place to which he gave so many years of his life and which prospered so bountifully under his care, is properly entered at this point. Forkner Stock Farm lies some eight miles distant from Anderson, the County seat of Madison County, and but six miles from Alexandria, a thriving young city of about 12,000 population, A solid tract of 225 acres of rich soil comprise the place, and including a twenty acre wood-lot and pasture, Slightly rolling, as is much of tbe best land of Indiana, the place has the best possible drainage, with an abundance of shade trees in the most appropriate places, and it boasts a fine orchard of 170 trees in bearing, with an abundance of small fruits, Three wells, none of which has ever failed, furnish a bountiful supply of the purest water, and a windmill adds further to the equipment of the place, The entire place is fenced in the most approved manner, and fine graveled roads lead to all points from the farm to the adjacent markets. A handsome residence, erected at on inside cost of $3,000, makes for the greater comfort of the owners, the same having been built by Mr. Forkner in the days when he was yet engrossed in the cares of farming and farm life, and a modern grain barn built at a cost of $1,500 provides for the bountiful crops that are annually enticed from the willing soil. Twelve other buildings are in evidence upon the place, included among which are two tenement houses, the whole representative of a cash expenditure of several thousand dollars on the part of Mr. Forkner. The chief industry of the place in the days when Mr. Forkner was its proprietor was stock raising, with some grain production, and the annual output of the place in stock and grain aggregated $5,000, On the whole, the place is one of the finest in the County and state, and represents a praiseworthy outlay of toil and money on the part of the man who founded the business and brought it to the admirable position it held when Mr. Forkner ceased to be the owner.

In December, 1905, after Mr. Forkner sold the farm, he moved to what is known as the Blacklidge Park, and today he is the owner of barely sixty-four acres, having gradually parted with all his farm lands but that small acreage. He has since given up all active interest in farms and farming as an operator, and is living a retired life near the city of Anderson, and is enjoying to the utmost the fruits of his years of strenuous attention to business.

Mr. Forkner in early manhood married Miss Ellen Catherine Tappan, a daughter of David D. and Elizabeth (McNear) Tappan, The mother is still living, at the advanced age of 82, Mrs. Forkner’s sisters are Mrs. J. M. Watkins, deceased, Mrs. Geo, Kirk and Mrs. Emma Jackson. To this union were born three children, concerning whom, with their respective families, brief mention is here incorporated. The first born, Charles E., married Aldine Mae (Smelser), and they have two children, Austin H. and Francis E. Charles Forkner makes his home in Marshalltown, Iowa, and has for some years been prominently known to the manufacturing interests of that city. In early manhood he was for six years employed as a mail clerk, but business interests of his own have later claimed him, Earl A. Forkner, the second born son of James Marion Forkner, passed through the common schools of his native community and later was a graduate of Anderson and DePauw, as well as the University of Indiana at Bloomington, He was later graduated from the University of Michigan in the electrical engineering profession, and is now engaged in its practice and in the manufacturing business in Marshalltown, Iowa, although he was engaged in educational work for some years, He married Martin J. Wolfe, and is now the business partner of his brother, Charles E., mentioned above, Walter M. Forkner, the third and last born of the three children of his parents, married Etta M. Gilcrist, a native daughter of Greenburg, Indiana, and they have two children, Marjorie E. and Gertrude C. Walter Forkner was educated in the common schools, and early took to farm life, in which he continued for some years. He later he became interested in the fire insurance business and is now active and prominent in fire and life insurance circles of Cass County, He, like his brothers, is a man who takes a leading place in business and political activities of his community, and all three are sturdy young men who are a distinct credit to their honored and honorable parents, and who are most creditably carrying forward the family name in Indiana.

Mr. Forkner, the father of these sons, is Republican in his politics, and like all the men of his family, from the earliest representative down to the latest, takes an intelligent and praiseworthy interest in the business of the city and County with which he is identified, He was elected by central committeemen of the County to the office of treasurer for ten or twelve years and was road supervisor, He paid insurance premiums policy for nineteen years in the Union Central and received $5,352, He has long been a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and his fraternal relations are confined to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, with which he has fraternized for some years as an active and esteemed member, In concluding this sketch, a newspaper article relating to the industry of Mrs. Forkner is here appended:

The recent discussion regarding a license ordinance for butter makers suggested to Mrs. J. M. Forkner that she find how much butter she had made and marketed, Mrs. Forkner has made and sold butter for many years. The past fifteen years she has kept an accurate count of her work. In that time she has .made 28,441 pounds or an average of from four to five pounds a day.

When Mr. and Mrs. Forkner lived on a farm in Richland Township there were times when they kept seven or eight cows, A year ago they moved to Anderson, Since then they have kept only one or two cows. There are some customers Mrs. Forkner has supplied with butter for eighteen years.

In making butter Mrs. Forkner was always slow to take up with new fangled notions, A paddle she used for nearly fifteen years was made by her and preferred over manufactured paddles, This paddle was practically worn out a couple of years ago, Mrs. Forkner gave it to her son Charles E. Forkner, who proposes to keep it as a memento, For a dozen years Mrs. Forkner did her churning with a gas engine.



Madison County IN,

Forkner, John. History of Madison County, Indiana: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests. Chicago: The Lewis publishing company, 1914.

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