James H. & Mary E. Forney papers, 1878-1889

Overview of the Collection

Forney, James Forney, 1851-1937
James H. & Mary E. Forney papers
1878-1889 (inclusive)
0.5 cubic feet
Collection Number
MG 54
Letters from James Forney to Mary Belknap (1855-1927) prior to their marriage and letters from Mary's sisters to her after her marriage.
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 2350
Moscow, ID
Telephone: 2088850845
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

James Harvey Forney was born on a cotton plantation in Rutherford County, North Carolina, on December 29, 1851. After graduating from Wofford College in 1872 he moved to California. While employed as a teacher, he also took courses in law and was admitted to the bar in 1879.

Looking for a mining region in which to set up practice, he moved to Mount Idaho, now called Grangeville, where he was selected territorial prosecuting attorney. When Idaho became a state he was elected district attorney for the Second Judicial District. His seventeen years as territorial and state attorney equipped him for the position of U.S. District Attorney, a position he held for four years, having been appointed by President Grover Cleveland.

In 1881 he returned briefly to California to marry Mary E. Belknap of Santa Barbara. They made their home in Mount Idaho until 1891 when they moved to Moscow.

With the erection of the first building on the University of Idaho campus, the board of regents named Forney "provisional" president of the university to "formulate a curriculum and to secure professors for the chairs of learning." Forney served on the board of regents from 1891-1893 and from 1897-1899; he also served as chairman of the board. The University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1921.

On July 3, 1937, James Forney died of a heart attack at the age of 85.

Mary Emma (Belknap) Forney was born in Oregon to the Rev. Corrington and Anne Yorke Belknap. Her parents moved the family to California where she was educated in the public schools, graduating from the College of the Pacific with both AB and BS degrees.

In September of 1881 she married James H. Forney in Santa Barbara, California. She returned with him to his home in Mount Idaho, Idaho Territory.

In 1891 the Forneys moved with their two daughters to Moscow, where Mary Forney took an active role in the social life of the town. She was a prominent state club leader, aiding in the organization of the State Federation of Women's Clubs, holding several offices in that organization, including that of president. She was a member of the Pleiades and Historical Clubs. She also conducted the correspondence with Andrew Carnegie which obtained for Moscow the present public library building.

The Forneys were very interested in the University of Idaho and Mary was instrumental in setting up a student loan fund, a fund she continued to manage until her death. Several years before her death the new women's dormitory was named for her.

On August 5, 1927 Mary Forney died at her Moscow home at the age of 72.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Forney papers, which are contained in one small file box, consist largely of personal correspondence, letters to Mary Belknap from J.H. Forney prior to their marriage and letters to Mary from her sisters Cora and Rosa after her marriage to James Forney.

There are several legal documents as well as other miscellaneous material, including two manuscript sermon and devotion books which may have belonged to Mary Forney's maternal grandfather.

The Special Collections Department of the University of Idaho Library also has, in its Vertical File, photocopies of the letters written by Mary Belknap to J.H. Forney.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Description of Item], James H. & Mary E. Forney papers, MG 54, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I:  CorrespondenceReturn to Top

With only a few exceptions, all of the letters in this collection were written to Mary Belknap Forney. The largest single collection is a group of fifty eight letters written by James H. Forney to Mary Belknap between February 5, 1878 and August 14, 1881. These letters deal with his move to Mount Idaho, his law practice, daily events and often the weather. Letters from other members of her family written after her marriage to Forney are also personal in nature.

An Alphabetical List of Correspondents

Belknap, C.G. (Mary's father) 1882, 1883, 1884, 1887. 6 letters

Belknap, Charles C. (Mary's brother) 1887, 1888, 1889. 3 letters

Belknap, Cora (Mary's sister) 1882, 1887. 31 letters

Belknap, Mary Emma (to J.H. Forney) 1880. 1 letter

Belknap, Rosa A. (Mary's sister) 1882, 1883, 1887. 13 letters

Cressey, Cora. 1886. 1 letter

Forney, Cora (Mary's daughter) 1903. 2 letters

Forney, Emma (J.H.'s sister) 1882. 1 letter

Forney, James H. 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881. 58 letters

Kellogg, F.L. 1886. 1 letter

Mayhew, Judge Alexander E. (to J.H. Forney) 1902. 1 letter

Moore, Emily Y. (Mary's aunt) 1884. 1 letter

Parrey, W.E. (to J.H. Forney) 1928. 1 letter

The correspondence is kept in chronological order; file cards have been prepared which give the dates of all letters written by each correspondent.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
1 2
1 4
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 5
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 6
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 7
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 8
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 9
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 10
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 11
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 12
J.H. Forney Correspondence
1 13
J.H. Forney Correspondence

Series II:  Forney Daughter's FoldersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 15
Cora May Forney
Cora May Forney, the younger daughter, was born April 17, 1884 ,in Mount Idaho. She lived for fifteen years in Moscow and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1904. She taught in Coeur d'Alene from 1905 until her death from typhoid on May 17, 1906.
Two juvenile letters, scribbled, with only the name CORA printed
Three letters from Lillian K. Eisinbris, corresponding secretary of the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, University of Washington
Teachers certificate for first grade
Three letters of recommendation from William Wilson Baden, Prof. of Greek and Latin, Univ. of Idaho; D.P. Parham, Prof. of English, Univ. of Idaho; and James MacLean, President, Univ. of Idaho 1905
Two letters from Chrissy Dollar of Coeur d'Alene
1 16
Rosa Aletha Forney
Rosa Aletha Forney was born at Mount Idaho in August of 1882. While attending the University of Idaho, from which she graduated in 1901, she was a member of the Mandolin and Guitar Club. After graduating she went to Edmonton, Alberta as a piano teacher. She married William G. Harrison, and sometime after her mother's death in 1927 she moved to New York, where she was living at the time of her father's death.
Juvenile printed letter to Mary Forney
A letter from Isabel of Edmonton, Alberta

Series III:  Legal PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 14
Legal Papers
Additional Claims to be collected (by James H. Forney)
Affidavit. Isaac C. Hattabaugh to the Public
Agreement between J.H. Forney and Mrs. A.G. Kerns
Agreement between James H. Forney and Henry E. Corum of Lewiston, regarding a vehicle signal patent and the sale of vehicle signals
Bond of Mrs. Kerns to Patrick Brady
Cemetery Deed
Certificate of Election. James H. Forney as District Attorney, 2nd Judicial District
Declaration of Homestead, by Mary E. Forney
Decree Establishing Record Title to Community Property, Estate of Mary E. Forney

Series IV:  MiscellaneousReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 3
Holograph book of seven sermons on the Christian's Race
This book appears to have belonged to Mary Forney's maternal grandfather, Rev. John W. York
circa 1835
Holograph book of devotions
9 items
(Name on fly-leaf Rev. J.W. York)
circa 1836
Envelope containing newspaper clippings, several of J.H. Forney's legal cases, but mainly social events involving the Forney's
Funeral Notice of Rev. John W. York
Forney, James H. Five holograph speeches
IT National Inquietude
IT The Angle-Saxon Race
IT Salutatio Latina
IT May Day Address
IT The Beauties of a Cultivated Mind
Forney, Mary E. Holograph copies of five speeches
Idaho Third District Federation of Women's Clubs. Program for Annual Meeting
University Chapel, Graduates Recital
University of Southern California. Graduation Exercises
Speech describing a European Tour, probably by Rosa Forney
Typescript of the tribute to Mary Forney from the Lewiston Morning Tribune

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Lawyers
  • Love-letters

Personal Names

  • Forney, Mary E. Belknap, 1855-1927

Geographical Names

  • Idaho
  • Mount Idaho (Idaho)