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Lincoln Herald | Lincolnton, NC

home : community : education October 21, 2021

5/22/2021 2:51:00 AM
General Peter Forney

Compiled by Frances Goins
Jacob Forney Chapter of the DAR

Peter Forney was the second son of Jacob and Maria Bergner Forney. His father was the son of a French Huguenot, and his mother Swiss. General Forney was one of the earliest and most unwavering Whigs of the revolutionary struggle. He attended local schools, served as volunteer in the Whig Army as a captain in the Revolutionary War, fought with Col. William Graham in Rutherford in pursuit of Cherokee Indians, and with General Rutherford in various other contests, and in the skirmish against Tarleton at Torrence Tavern. Peter Forney was in the march with General Rutherford from Tuckaseege to Ramsour’s Mill reaching the battleground two hours after the victory had been won by Col. Locke’s troops.

Few patriot families suffered heavier losses on account of the British invasion than the Forneys. When Cornwallis invaded Lincoln County (then part of Tryon County) he used the home of Jacob Forney, Sr as his headquarters, forcing the old people to occupy the cellar, while the British troops literally stripped the plantation and also that of his son, Peter Forney, who was away from home fighting for the revolutionaries. The British butchered the sheep and cattle, fowls and hogs for food and confiscated all the grain. Jacob Forney’s three sons, Jacob, Peter and Abram were all in the Patriot army.

Peter married Nancy Abernathy on February 27th, 1783, and they reared a large family of sons and daughters, who along with their descendants, figured prominently in local and state history.

In 1787 Peter Forney, Abram Forney, Abram Earhardt and Turner Abernathy took advantage of the land grant act passed by the Assembly of 1788 to encourage iron manufacture and erected a forge at Big Ore Bank in what is now Lincoln County and were the pioneer iron manufacturers in this area. Later Peter Forney sold an interest in the business to General Joseph Graham, Alexander Brevard, and their father-in-law John Davidson. Later they erected Vesuvius and Mt Tirzah forges.  Peter Forney sold his interest to his partners who continued the business under the firm name of Joseph Graham and Company.

Peter Forney left Mount Welcome forge to his son-in-law Dr, William Johnston, who with his sons operated it until 1860 when Jonas W. Derr bought and ran it until his death in 1881.

In the early days lime was hauled a long distance from Kings Mountain, but later an abundant supply was found in the Ironton township, in the mine which was operated many years by Lawson W Keener. Iron was a medium of exchange among furnace employees and merchants from afar brought goods to Lincoln to exchange for iron. The country to the west bought cooking utensils and other iron products and a market was found for the metal as far east as Hillsboro and Fayetteville. The coming of the railroad brought competition form Pennsylvania which discouraged the local industry and the iron business was abandoned in Lincoln after the death of Jonas W. Derr in 1881.

After the war Peter Forney was commissioned General of the State Militia. He was a member of the House of Commons from 1794 to 1797 (4 terms), State Senator, 1800-1802 and Councilor of State in 1811. In 1813 he was elected to the United State Congress over John Phifer of Cabarrus and served one term when he declined re-election and was succeeded by his son, Major Daniel M. Forney who served from 1815 to 1819. He died at his home (Mt. Welcome) in Lincoln County, February 1, 1834, full of years and honors. His tombstone bears the following inscription

From Annals of Lincoln County: “To the memory of General Peter Forney, who was born April 21, 1756 and died February 1, 1834. In public life the deceased acquitted himself with reputation as a useful and efficient member of Congress and as an Elector of the people of the United States. He carried out the Republican principle on which he voted through life by voting successively for Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and General Jackson, and in all relations of private life he acquired the love and esteem of all who knew him.”

References: Annals of Lincoln County, Sketches of Western North Carolina

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