Fornance family papers
Held at: Historical Society of Montgomery County [Contact Us]1654 Dekalb Street, Norristown, PA, 19401
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Montgomery County. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Honorable Joseph Fornance (1804-1852) was born in 1804 in Lower Merion and died in 1852. He graduated from law school and started a law practice in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Joseph Fornance was President of Norristown Town Council, a member of Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1834), and a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives (1839-1843). He was married to Anne McKnight (1817-1852) and had two children: Mary and Joseph. He is buried in Montgomery Cemetery.
Colonel Thomas Pope Knox (1809-1879) was born in Savannah, Georgia to Andrew and Rebecca Knox in 1809. When Knox was twelve he and his family moved to the Norristown, Pennsylvania area for better business opportunities. After arriving Andrew Knox purchased Selma Farm from the heirs of General Andrew Porter. The Porter family had built Selma in 1794. Thomas was raised on the Selma farm. In 1840 Thomas married Sarah A. Leedom (1816-1846) with whom he had four children. Sarah died six years after they married, and soon after the death of three of their children. Their surviving child, Ellen, later married Joseph Fornance (1841-1923). Thomas was involved in politics and the Democratic Party. He was nominated to the State Senate in 1855, serving for three years. He also served as President of the State Agricultural Society for several years. Thomas spent most of his adult years as a successful farmer. He died May 29, 1879 after a long illness. Knox and many of his family members are buried at Montgomery Cemetery.
Joseph Fornance (1841-1923), eldest son of the Honorable Joseph Fornance (1804-1852) and Anne McKnight Fornance, was born April 24, 1841 in Norristown and died in 1923. JFII grew up at Selma farm, went on to study law, and eventually practiced law in Norristown. A Democrat, he was involved in the nomination of William Jennings Bryan for the Presidency in 1896 and again in 1900. He had a great interest in local history and became active in the Historical Society of Montgomery County, serving as president for several years and playing an instrumental role in planning the centennial celebration of 1884. He married Ellen Knox (1844-1928) in 1881 and they had three children: Joseph Knox (1882-1965), Eleanor (1883-1893), and Lois (1885-1934).
Ellen Knox Fornance (1844-1928), the daughter of Colonel Thomas P. Knox and Sarah Leedom Knox, was born at Selma Farm on November 14, 1844. She was one of the original members of the Valley Forge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She married Joseph Fornance (1841-1923), the son of the Honorable Joseph Fornance (1804-1852), and they had three children: Joseph Knox (1882-1965), Eleanor (1883-1893), and Lois (1885-1934).
Joseph Knox Fornance (1882-1965) was a prominent soldier, lawyer, and civic leader in Norristown. The son of Joseph Fornance (1841-1923) and Ellen Knox Fornance, he was born on September 16, 1882 at Selma farm. He attended Swarthmore Preparatory School, Princeton University (BA, 1904), and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Fornance earned his law degree in 1907 and was admitted to the Montgomery Bar the same year; he continued to practice law on-and-off for over half a century until his death. Just like his father, JKF had his own successful law firm. He took a break from law and served aboard the USS Iowa in 1910 for six months before returning to his law practice. In 1910 he began his political career in the Democratic Party by running several times for State Legislature (and losing). After these losses JKF became active in organizing committees to elect Woodrow Wilson for President. He also served as Assistant Appraiser in the Philadelphia Customs Department under the United States Navy Reserves. In 1915, after serving for several years as Assistant Appraiser and working in his law firm, JKF was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania National Guard. He eventually transferred to the United States Army and served during World War I in the European Theatre. JKF attained the rank of Major and received the British Military Cross for outstanding service. After the conclusion of the war, he continued his law practice and was also active in the Historical Society of Montgomery County. He married Ruth Ryder Fornance in 1930 and they had no children. He was a prominent figure in the local community, serving as a Democratic Presidential elector in 1936, president of the Norristown Community Chest, and chairman of the Norristown Civil Defense program during World War II. He died in 1965. His wife Ruth lived on at Selma farm until her death in 1982.
Lois Fornance (1885-1934), daughter of Ellen and Joseph Fornance (1841-1923), was born at Selma on October 28th, 1885. She was the sister of Joseph Knox Fornance. She attended Swarthmore College and went on to marry J. M. Power Wallace in 1918. They had two children, one of whom died as an infant. Lois died in 1934.
The Fornance family papers, 1794-1989, consist of the personal papers of the Fornance family of Norristown, Pennsylvania, particularly Joseph Fornance II (1841-1923), his wife Ellen Knox Fornance (1844-1928), and their son Joseph Knox Fornance (1882-1965). The collection, which dates from 1794 to 1989, consists of correspondence, financial records and receipts, diaries, legal documents, invitations, family genealogy, photographs, pamphlets, property records, scrapbooks, and many other types of records. These papers document the military (especially World War I and the Civil War), politics and the Democratic party, legal practice, societies and clubs (particularly the Daughters of the American Republic and the Society of the Cincinnati), education, and other subjects. It is a robust collection that portrays the lives of a locally prominent family in Norristown in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, as well as their involvement in social and political movements and events of wider significance, over the course of about two centuries.
The collection is arranged into seven series by family member: "Series A. Joseph Fornance I (1804-1852) papers, 1815-1858"; "Series B. Thomas P. Knox (1809-1879) papers, 1837-1880"; "Series C. Joseph Fornance II (1841-1923) papers, 1827-1935"; "Series D. Ellen Knox Fornance (1844-1928) papers, 1850-1928"; "Series E. Joseph K. Fornance (1882-1965) papers, 1882-1976"; "Series F. Lois Fornance Wallace (1885-1934) papers, 1885-1914"; and "Series G. Other family members and unattributed items, 1794-1989."
"Series A. Joseph Fornance I (1804-1852) papers, 1815-1858" is organized into three subseries: "Subseries 1. Booklets," "Subseries 2. Letters," and "Subseries 3. Memoranda books, financial records, and maps." There are nine printed booklets, spanning from 1826 to 1856; political, social, and legal correspondence dating from 1815 to 1854; and a small amount of memoranda books, financial records, and other materials.
"Series B. Thomas P. Knox (1809-1879) papers, 1837-1880" is organized into three subseries. "Subseries 1. Financial records" includes an account book, cancelled checks, receipt books; estate papers from Rebecca and Robert Knox; and expense books from Knox's house and farm (Selma in Norristown). "Subseries 2. Letters" is organized into two sub-subseries: "Sub-subseries a. Letters by subject" (including the State Agricultural Society, the Civil War, and political matters) and "Sub-subseries b. Letters by sender." "Subseries 3. Miscellaneous" includes additional scattered papers relating to Thomas P. Knox.
"Series C. Joseph Fornance II (1841-1923) papers, 1827-1935" is organized into five subseries. "Subseries 1. Booklets" consists of printed pamphlets and publications on history, the military, and other subjects of interest to JFII. The booklets are arranged in chronological order and date from 1827 to 1908. "Subseries 2. Diaries" contains JFII's personal diaries, 1862-1922; and daily accounts of his home and farm, "Selma Farm Journals," 1891-1918. "Subseries 3. Financial records" contains account books, receipts and invoices, and check stubs. Some of the account books are general, and some are specific: personal, household, groceries, farm, clients or named individuals/estates. "Subseries 4. Letters" is further organized into three sub-subseries: "Sub-subseries a. Letters by subject" (including legal letters), "Sub-subseries b. Letters by correspondent," and "Sub-subseries c. Invitations." Lastly, "Subseries 5. Miscellaneous" contains legal summaries and other documents relating to JFII's law practice, an address book, materials from his involvement with local historical societies, and other miscellaneous documents and papers. Of special interest is JFII's notes on his elocution class, 1867-1870, including his descriptions of hearing Fanny Kemble and Edwin Booth perform.
"Series D. Ellen Knox Fornance (1844-1928) papers, 1850-1928" is organized into four subseries. "Subseries 1. Daughters of the American Revolution materials" contains published booklets, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and documents. There are materials from the national and state organizations of the DAR, as well as from the local Valley Forge Chapter. "Subseries 2. Letters" are organized alphabetically by correspondent. Most of the correspondents are family members (immediate family and cousins). "Subseries 3. Financial records" includes account books, Knox estate records, and other financial papers. "Subseries 4. Miscellaneous" includes six diaries (1893-1914), family genealogy and related documents, photograph albums (with most individuals identified), and many other documents.
"Series E. Joseph K. Fornance (1882-1965) papers, 1882-1976" form the largest group in this collection, and are arranged into four subseries by period of JKF's life. "Subseries 1. Childhood and education" consists mostly of letters, with some photographs and other documents, from JKF's time as a student at Swarthmore Preparatory School, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania. "Subseries 2. Military career" contains documents relating to JKF's time in the United States Navy, Pennsylvania National Guard, and service in the United States Army during World War I. It consists chiefly of correspondence, with some photographs (including training in Texas and action in France/Belgium), and a small number of official documents. "Subseries 3. Politics" includes materials relating to JKF's run for office, as well as his involvement with the Democratic Party and politics in general. He was an active supporter of Woodrow Wilson, and many campaign materials are included in his papers. Of special interest are an invitation to the Harding White House (1925) and JKF's certificate for becoming a Presidential elector for Pennsylvania (he voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936). "Subseries 4. Miscellaneous" mostly includes materials from later in JKF's life when he was a lawyer. The subseries features personal financial records, diaries, materials relating to JKF's law practice (including case files), drawings, booklets/printed pamphlets collected by JKF, photographs, Society of Cincinnati materials, and many other miscellaneous documents.
"Series F. Lois Fornance Wallace (1885-1934) papers, 1885-1914" consists chiefly of correspondence, with some photographs and a map of Philadelphia.
"Series G. Other family members and unattributed items, 1794-1989" is organized alphabetically by family member. It includes account books, diaries, letters, booklets, and other documents from members of the Fornance and Knox extended family, especially Lieutenant John Fornance. This series also includes unattributed items, including a large number of calling cards, several maps, and pamphlets and ephemera.
The collection has a very broad scope and touches on many subjects of potential interest to researchers: the Civil War and World War I, politics and the Democratic Party, Norristown high society, historical societies and clubs, law practice in the 19th and 20th centuries, and numerous other topics.
Gift of Ruth R. Fornance, circa 1965.
This collection was processed in 2012 by staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), with assistance from volunteers of the Historical Society of Montgomery County. The HCI-PSAR project was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Historical Society of Montgomery County also holds a variety of textiles, household items, and other three-dimensional objects from the Fornance family, stored with HSMC's museum holdings.
- Fornance family
- Fornance, Ellen Knox, 1844-1928
- Fornance, Joseph Knox, 1882-1965
- Fornance, Joseph, 1804-1852
- Fornance, Joseph, 1841-1923
- Knox family
- Knox, Thomas P., 1809-1879
- Wallace, Lois Fornance, 1885-1934
- Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
- Democratic Party (U.S.)
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
- World War, 1914-1918
- World War, 1939-1945
- Historical Society of Montgomery County
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories with assistance from Anne Hoke
- This finding aid was created by staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) with assistance from volunteers of the Historical Society of Montgomery County. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
Contact Historical Society of Montgomery County for information about accessing this collection.
Volume also includes estate accounts to 1856.
Includes accounts with Kelsay Wilson, John Fornance, and farm account.
Volume re-used as call book, 1901-1901.
Folder includes letter mentioning inauguration of Jefferson Davis
Includes references to Fanny Kemble and Edwin Booth.
Includes some James Fornance items
Includes invitations to impeachment of President Johnson.
Includes Joseph K. Fornance's ballot for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Includes genealogical information.
Calendars picture Selma (Fornance home).
Inscribed to Ruth R. Fornance.
The overwhelming majority of the series is letters from Lois to her mother Ellen K. Fornance.
I. T. Fornance ("Tom") was Sheriff of Wood County, Grand Rapids, Wisconsin. Mrs. A. B. Fornance was his mother.
This Bible does not include genealogical information.
This Bible does not include genealogical information.
Contains Pray's will.
First Presbyterian Church of Norristown and others