James was born 1782 in Philadelphia, the oldest of the 6 children of Andrew Forsyth and Agnes Loughead.
After serving an apprenticeship as a young man he returned to care for the family farm near Northumberland. Soon after, in 1804, he was instructed by his father to visit a now-dying Col. William Cooke, his father’s old wartime friend. It was on this trip that he met Eleanor Cooke, Col. William’s niece, and as the story goes, at a ferry-crossing on the banks of the Susquehanna. They married a short time later.
In 1810 his brother-in-law, John Beatty, convinced him to join a wagon-train going to Ohio. He and Eleanor joined the party as it passed through Northumberland and stopped in Steubenville, OH to purchase land, sight unseen.
From Northumberland to Bloomingville is 300 miles in a straight line, and they didn’t travel in a straight line. They inched their way across rivers and down Indian trails. They traveled along the sand beaches of Lake Erie to avoid the thick underbrush and at points where boulders jutted into the water they drove their teams through the shoals. After this grueling trek they arrived in what is now Erie Co. and a place they named Bloomingville. Only half a dozen families preceded them into this area so they literally carved themselves a life out of the wilderness.
from the “History and Genealogy of the Beatty Family” by John D. Beatty:
Oxford Township had been only sparsely settled by 1811, and Dempster and William found very little trace of civilization. Several families had formed a small community by the name of Bloomingville, some seven miles inland from Sandusky Bay, but there was little about this settlement of a few cabins that one could call a town by the New England definition. To the north there stood a dense forest, unbroken from Oxford Township to Sandusky Bay; to the south stretched a vast prairie of waving grass and abounding with herds of deer, wolves, wild turkeys, and prairie chickens. L.B. Gurley recalled in particular the huge flocks of wild geese preparing for their autumnal flight southward, sweeping in circles around the heads of his family members. Indeed, all accounts of early settlers on the Firelands remain uniform in their description of the surrounding forests and prairies abounding with game. In Perkins Township, where John Beatty would eventually settle, large packs of wolves often gathered in the night and together sent forth a continuous mournful howl until the early dawn. Deer were so plentiful that a pioneer could often shoot several merely by standing in the doorway of his cabin. One could frequently count herds of more than eighty deer in clearings, grazing the tops of newly fallen trees. During one winter, a storm dropped more than two feet of snow, followed by several more inches of freezing rain. Many deer became imbedded in the snow, allowing two hunters with dogs, to kill over seventy-five deer in one day.
author unknown, Firelands Pioneer, June 1862:
“James Forsyth settled about one mile and a half southwest of Bloomingville and one-fourth of a mile west of Pipe Oreek.
….. The next year the war with Great Britain checked emigration, and the surrender of Hull, at Detroit, shortly afterward, exposed the thinly scattered settlements of north-western Ohio, to the depredations of roving bands of Indians. The inhabitants were greatly alarmed, and many of them fled to the older settlements for safety. The larger number of those who fled from this section went to Mansfield, conveying their provisions and household goods on pack-horses and in wagons, driving their stock; my father was with this company, and from his account, the roads were deep and mirey, and their progress slow and tedious. The women and children during this march suffered much from exposure, privation of the common necessaries, and that annual pest of the new settlements of the west, fever and ague. Their Exodus was conducted with military precision. When encamped or on the march, the main body was surrounded by sentinels and scouts, to prevent surprise. They arrived at Mansfield without being molested by Indians, and without any unusual occurrence, except the accidental killing of a child about two years old, by the fall of a small tree, one evening, when they were clearing off the underbrush and saplings from a piece of ground on which to encamp for the night. An incident that occurred a few days after their arrival at Mansfield will convey a correct idea of the exposed condition of the country at that time;—A scouting party a few miles north-west of that place, fell in with a small band of Indians, fired upon, killed and scalped two of them. My father saw the party return and exhibit their bloody trophy. I do not think it was customary to scalp the Indians who were killed in their various encounters, but barbarous as the custom may seem, the proof is very conclusive that it was frequently done. A small part of the inhabitants remained in the township and in connection with some from Cold Creek and other adjacent settlements, in the fall of this year, (1812) erected a block house at Bloomingville a few rods east of where Mr. Joseph Brownell’s tavern now stands. I can recollect seeing it as late as 1816. This, like other block houses erected during this period in the west, although generally occupied by a few persons, was not calculated to be permanently garrisoned, but was merely a place of refuge, to which the inhabitants of the neighboring settlements fled, in case of sudden alarm—but I have been unable to learn that the Indians ever committed any depredations on the inhabitants of the township.”
James first built a log cabin on his property where their three daughters were born between 1812 and 1818. They were friendly with their native Indian neighbours and both James and his first daughter, Nancy, are known to have been adept in herbal medicine.
Eleanor died in 1844. After many years of homesteading, James Forsyth died at Bloomingville in 1858.