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Home North Carolina Rutherford County City of Rutherfordton Historical Markers Joshua Forman

Joshua Forman

Main Street, Rutherfordton, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 21' 46.86768", -81° 56' 30.399"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Founder of Syracuse, N.Y., early advocate of Erie Canal. Moved to N. Carolina, 1829. Land and mining speculator. Grave is 50 yds. east."
     Joshua Forman, one of the founders of Syracuse, New York, came to Rutherfordton in 1829 after purchasing a vast tract of land in Rutherford County. Born on September 6, 1777 in Pleasant Valley, New York, Forman attended Union College in Schenectady, where he graduated in 1798. After studying law for three years, Forman became an attorney. In 1806 he served as a member of the New York state legislature, where he put forth the legislation that led to the Erie Canal’s construction.

     Forman remained an attorney for the next twelve years before moving to the village of Onondaga Hollow in 1818. He purchased several hundred acres nearby, had them platted off, and then began selling plots to settlers and other business entrepreneurs. The end result of his efforts was the founding of Syracuse. His land speculation brought Forman great wealth; however, it also led to claims of embezzlement and corruption. In 1826, Forman left Syracuse for New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he opened a highly successful copper mine. While in New Jersey, he still had influence over New York politics, and in 1829 was instrumental in getting his friend, New York governor and future President Martin Van Buren, to convince the legislature to pass the Safety Fund Act. The act required chartered banks to pay three percent of their capital to the state into a fund that would be set aside for the liquidation of all liabilities in the event that the bank failed.

     Forman’s life took a tragic turn shortly before the passage of the Safety Fund Act, as his wife Margaret, who he had married in 1800, died of pneumonia. Shortly after her death, Forman chose to move his entrepreneurial operations once again. Having purchased several thousand acres in Rutherford County, Forman decided to adapt the same strategy he had used in Syracuse into developing Rutherfordton. Exactly how Forman knew about Rutherford County before moving there is unclear, and he may have done it sight unseen. However, he was instrumental in the development of the city, and spent the remaining nineteen years of his life there. Forman died on August 4, 1848, in Rutherfordton. His remains were returned to New York, and he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 220-221—sketch by C. Sylvester Green
Clarence Griffin, History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties, North Carolina, 1730-1936 (1937)
John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of Western North Carolina (1851)
Joshua Forman Historical Marker Location Map, Rutherfordton, North Carolina