Biography of William Forker

William Forker, of Garfield county, living on a well improved and highly cultivated ranch eight miles northeast of Glenwood, in Spring valley, is a native of that great hive of productive industry of almost every kind, Pennsylvania. He was born in Venango county, that state, on April 23, 1843, and there he was educated in the public schools and reared to habits of industry and thrift on the farm. His parents were Levi J. and Isabella (Bell) Forker, natives of the same state, the father of Venango county and the mother of Westmoreland. In that state they were reared, educated and married, and there they passed the whole of their lives, the father dying on March 19, 1888, and the mother in 1891. At the end of their long and useful lives their remains were laid to rest beneath the soil which was hallowed by their labors and amid the people who held them in the highest esteem. The father was a prosperous farmer and stock-grower in occupation, first a Whig and after the death of that party a Republican in politics, and a member of the United Brethren church in religious affiliation. The mother also belonged to this church. They had a family of twelve children, eight of whom are living, John B., Jane (Mrs. Wesley M. Brown) and Samuel are residents of their native county of Venango, Pennsylvania; William, of whom this account is written, is living in Garfield county, this state; Perry dwells at Gilsonburg, Ohio; Charles W. in the state of Washington; and Myra (Mrs. Addison Ogden) in the same state. William assisted his parents on the home farm until he was twenty-one years old. In the meantime he also worked on oil wells when his services were not required at home. After reaching his legal majority he continued working on oil wells until 1869 when he embarked in the production of the oil on his own account. After sinking several wells at Parker’s Landing, on the Allegheny river, and at Mt. Hope, Pennsylvania, he went into the machine business, manufacturing oil well drilling tools and did repair work of all machinery pertaining to the production of oil, following the business until 1880, at which time the mining boom in Colorado lured him from his native state. He, in company with his brother Charles W., landed at Silver Cliff in Mountain valley and prospected all the way from there up the river to Buena Vista; thence to Camp Harvard near Cottonwood Hot Springs; thence over the Cottonwood mountain to Tincup; thence up the Taylor river and over Taylor range to Ashcroft and Aspen and while, in company with his brother, C.W. Forker, he was prospecting and hauling west of Aspen, discovered the fertile valley where he now resides, christening it “Spring Valley” from the numerous springs arising in it. This being an ideal place for a hunter, game being very plentiful of all kinds common to these mountains, they built what might be called a hunter’s lodge, making their headquarters here until the Indians were removed and the land opened formally to real settlers by the United States government. At the time of locating here, in July, 1881, the nearest post office and place of procuring supplies was at Aspen, forty-two miles up the Roaring Fork, and as there were no wagon roads west of Aspen transportation of game meats to market and provisions back to camp was all done by pack animals. Glenwood Springs at the time boasted of but one building, and that a log cabin occupied by a hunter claiming the place as a town-site, but as soon as roads were built so that the afflicted could get there, the town sprung up like a mushroom. Soon after locating in Spring valley, Forker discovered coal on Fourmile creek and opened and equipped a mine with all necessary machinery and as soon thereafter as there was a demand for fuel in Glenwood in 1885, opened the first coal yard. In 1887 they sold their entire interests in the coal business to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and Mr. Forker went back to his pre-emption claim of one hundred and sixty acres to improve and bring it into cultivation, which was no small task, it being covered with sagebrush and water, about seventy-five acres being a marsh or slough which has since been thoroughly drained and brought into a high state of cultivation and yields good crops of the farm products common to the region. He also raises cattle and conducts a dairy business with good profits. In political matters Mr. Forker is independent of party control. While in the oil business he invented and patented a number of devices for the benefit of the industry and since locating here has invented a camp stove which is of the take-down pattern and is very conveniently carried on a pack animal over rough trails in the mountains, and is in great demand where it has been introduced, being the tourists’ favorite, President Roosevelt and party having used one of them while here on his last bear hunt near Glenwood Springs. His last patent, bearing date of August 25, 1903, consists of a dehorning device. With it, horns are quickly removed from calves in such a manner as to effectually stop further growth of horn. In connection with his other business, Mr. Forker is manufacturing the last two named articles to meet the rapidly increasing demand for them. In 1865 he was married to Miss Hannah M. Atwell, a native of the same county as himself, who died in 1867, leaving no children, the two they had having died in infancy. In 1870 he married Miss Melissa Sopher, of Mercer county, Pennsylvania. By this marriage he had one son, George H. Forker, who after growing to vigorous manhood, served his country as a private soldier all through the Cuban war, being honorably discharged soon after peace was declared. He now lives at Spokane Falls, Washington. The subject’s third marriage occurred on August 17, 1897, and was with Mrs. Tillie Gibson, a daughter of James and Eliza Welsh, also Pennsylvanians and successful farmers in their native state. The father was a Republican and both were Presbyterians. Of their six children, only three are now living, Henry and Lucy (Mrs. S.N. Bell), in Pennsylvania, and Tillie, in this state. Mr. Forker is well pleased with Colorado as a place of residence and of great opportunities and has an ardent devotion to her welfare and the advancement of her interests.

Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.

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