Cornelius Hagerman Forman was not a young man when he gathered a group of friends and family from Michigan, along with a load of lumber, and struck out to establish a town in eastern Dakota Territory. Colonel Forman was fifty-five and had already started another town named for him in Michigan. But Forman, North Dakota was to be an even greater chapter.
Forman was born in New Brunswick, Canada. He came to live in Michigan after working in farming, mercantile and lumber businesses in Canada. He had also served in the military in Ontario. He was struck by a train as a young man and afterward wore a prosthetic leg.
Forman came to Dakota Territory in 1882 and bought land in Sargent County. He and his family and friends began to build in Center Township, which was renamed Forman. The load of lumber was used to build a general store, the Forman family home, and a number of other houses. Forman successfully sought the title of county seat for the town, and eventually built the Sargent County courthouse after donating the land. By statehood, in 1889, the town had several hotels, law offices, stores, a dentist, and even two newspapers. The railroad also came to town. Colonel Forman served in several roles – as justice of the peace, town clerk and township supervisor.
Colonel Forman and his wife, Adeline, had seven children. His wife died in 1895 from a stroke. Colonel Forman then lived his son, Harry. Having spent most of his money, he was poor in his final years. He died from complications of a paralytic stroke on this date in 1923 at the age of ninety-six. At his funeral, schoolchildren marched to the Congregational Church on a cold and blustery day to stand at attention while a bell tolled ninety-six times to honor the town’s founder.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Book Committee. (1984). Century of progress Forman, ND 1884-1984. Women’s Literary Club: Forman, ND