FORNEY, Stehman

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FORNEY, Stehman (1846-1916), Pennsylvania-born Civil War veteran and employee of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey beginning in 1865. In 1867 Forney traveled to Alaska with George Davidson. By 1868 Forney was promoted to sub assistant, and in 1871 he was appointed Assistant. Forney was in charge of the topographic surveys of the California Channel Islands in the 1870s. He revisited many of the sites previously established by William E. Greenwell in 1856, 1858, and 1860. Commander Coffin of the Hassler moved Forney from island to island.

Forney died August 8, 1916 in New York City at age 70, and was survived by his wife, Leonora Von Schenck, and a daughter, Fredericka (b. 1893 in Austin, TX- d. 1975).

Both Forney’s Cove and Forney’s Flats on Santa Cruz Island’s west end are named for him. His unpublished letters are located in the U.S. National Archives II, Silver Springs, MD, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Surveys Record Group 23.

  • San Miguel Island (April 12, 1871-October 31, 1871)
  • Santa Rosa (April 20, 1872-February 15, 1873)
  • Santa Cruz Island (1874, 1875)
  • Santa Catalina Island -August 26, 1878
  • San Clemente Island: Sept. 14, 1878
  • San Nicolas Island 1879

Forney established the following island markers:

Santa Cruz Island 1873-5 Santa Rosa Island 1872-3
(April 1, 1872-April 1, 1873)
San Miguel Island 1871
(April 1-October 1)
Alta Black Mountain Bench Mark
Azimuth Mark Blunt Brockway 2
Bench Mark Divide Cactus 2
Black Hill Fox Gull Island
Black Point Grouse 2 Harbor 2
Bluff La Mesa San Miguel 2
Dixon Pecho Seal Point
Flagstaff Point West Point
Gull Sand  
Kinton Soledad  
Mesa Summit  
Punta Diablo    
Punta Gorda    
West Point    

In the News~

November 21, 1871 [SFDEB]: “W. G. W. Harford presented before the Academy the following remarkable variety of composite, collected under the auspices of Captain S. Forney of the U. S. Coast Survey in Cuyler Harbor, San Miguel Island…”

September 24, 1873 [SBDMT]: “The season of the U.S. Coast Survey will soon begin. Captain Forney is making active preparations, repairing tents, overhauling boats, etc., and will probably start out between now and October 1st. The theatre of his operations will be, we understand, Santa Cruz Island.”

October 12, 1873 [SBDMT]: “Captain S. Forney of the United States Coast Survey, and his party are now at work upon the Santa Cruz Island making a topographical survey of the island. He has already completed a survey of San Miguel and Santa Rosa. We hope that when the survey by the United States of all the islands of the Santa Barbara Channel is completed, that map-makers will inspect the charts before they attempt to locate them. On all the current maps neither the shape nor position of the islands is properly represented.”

December 23, 1873 [SBMT]: “Captain S. Forney of the Coast Survey service, arrived from Santa Cruz Island yesterday morning. His service, though laborious, seems to agree with him. He looks as ruddy and blooming as a college urchin.”

August 24, 1876 [SBDP]: “The United States Coast Survey sloop Catalina arrived here last evening from Santa Catalina Island. She came up in charge of one man, and made the passage against a head wind in fifty-four hours. The sailing master who brought her up slept but two houses on the passage, during which time the sloop was in charge of Captain S. Forney, United States Coast Survey, and has been employed during the past year at Santa Catalina Island.”

September 4, 1876 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney, U.S.C.S., and party left by the surveying yacht Catalina yesterday, for Catalina Island, where operations pertaining to its survey will be resumed. So many empty farewells are said by newspapers nowadays that they don’t amount to much, but, Captain, this is between ourselves. May your pennon ever wave!”

September 13, 1876 [SBDP]: “A survey party returned this morning from the island of Santa Catalina.”

May 7, 1877 [SBDP]: “The body of Edward Tittman, Esq., who died of consumption at Santa Catalina Island on Thursday, was brought to this city yesterday by Captain Forney and O. H. Tittman, brother of the deceased. Mr. Tittman was a prominent lawyer of St. Louis and had gone to the island for the benefit of his health.”

May 14, 1877 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney and family have returned from their expedition to the island of Anacapa, and have located in the brick house belonging to Dr. Shaw on the corner of Yanonali and State Street.”

June 29, 1877 [SBDP]: “A report has been maliciously circulated that an offensive smell is caused in the island by the slaughter of sheep. Captain Forney, who has been over there for some time, states that there is nothing offensive at all about the place. Those intending to visit the island on the Fourth can do so confident of spending a pleasant day.”

April 4, 1878 [SBDP]: “P. N. Newell today shipped two dry loads of groceries and provisions by the Matinee to Santa Catalina Island for government use, during the stay there of the survey party under charge of Captain Forney.”

June 30, 1879 [Stehman Forney to Mr. Carlile Pollock Patterson, Superintendent, U.S. Coast Survey]: “…Having made the survey of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, from San Miguel to Santa Catalina, I feel a pride in having my name associated with the survey of the whole group. If it is your intention to leave the survey of the islands San Nicolas and San Clemente until some future time, I respectfully request that you assign to me some of the surveying triangulations and topography on the main shore, from Newport to San Diego…”

October 25, 1878 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney, Coast Survey; G. E. Coffin, F. R. Simmonds, R. Mitchell steamer Hassler and E.K. Moore steamer McArthur are registered at the Arlington [Hotel].”

December 22, 1878 [NYT]: “The Lebanon (Penn.) Courier prints the following extract of a letter from Stehman Forney of the United States Coast Survey, dated on the Island of San Clemente in the Pacific, December 1, 1878: ‘I am at present engaged in making a survey of San Clemente Island. It is 40 miles from the mainland, and is 22 miles in length and 2 miles wide. It is a wild, dreary place, with no water on it, except in immense natural tanks, which are so deep and precipitous that the water in them is inaccessible. I transport the water for my men and horses from the mainland. There is no wood, either, on the island, which is of volcanic formation, and composed of lava and conglomerate. The top of the island is covered with an abundance of grass, which sustains about 10,000 sheep, and, strange to say, they live, grow very fat, and are very profitable to their owners, and yet in the summer season get no water, except in the form of dew on the grass. There is, however, a peculiar plant on the island, called the ice plant, which is filled with moisture and is eaten by the sheep to quench their thirst. They are very fat, and make the finest mutton I have ever eaten.”

September 19, 1879 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney has completed the survey of the islands and returned to Santa Barbara...”

September 20, 1880 [SBDP]: “The Coast Survey. Captain Forney has completed the survey of the islands and on Thursday evening returned to this place with his party. The work on Santa Barbara Island will be finished in about two weeks, and work will then be begun north of Point Conception working toward Port Harford. About 30 years ago Captain Greenwell made a survey of the islands, and Captain Forney reports that in doing is branch of the work he found and located by observation nearly every one of the marks and corners made by the former party. This speaks well for the accuracy of both surveys…”

March 22, 1880 [SBDP]: “The national bird in captivity. Mr. Fisher, of the California Market, has on the lot adjoining his meat shop a cage containing a large bald eagle. The bird is quite tame from its long captivity, it having been captured when very young on one of the islands by Captain Forney of the Coast Survey, and presented to Col. Haines, in whose possession it has remained until now. Eagles were at one time very numerous in this vicinity, and were a source of great annoyance to sheep men, often swooping down and carrying away lambs of three and four weeks age, apparently with ease.”

May 10, 1881 [SBDP]: “Captain S. Forney of the U.S. Coast Survey, is registered at the Arlington.”

July 6, 1881 [SBDP]: “Captain S. Forney of the U.S. Coast Survey has been fitting out a camping party in Santa Barbara this week preparatory to an active summer campaign. The Captain’s field of labor will extend from Point Sal to Monterey Bay. The Captain has many warm friends in this city, and his visits are always appreciated.”

October 13, 1881 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney and wife arrived last night. They are stopping at the White House and will remain two or three weeks.”

October 19, 1881 [SBDP]: “Captain Forney leaves for Washington next Monday.”

July 26, 1883 [SBDP]: “A report was concurrent upon the streets this morning that Captain W. E. Greenwell of the United States Coast Survey stationed at this point had been relieved from duty and had been directed to turn over to Captain S. Forney of the United States Coast Survey now at the Arlington in this city, all government property. A Press representative called upon Captain Greenwell with a view to ascertaining the truth of the report. Captain Greenwell denied emphatically that he had been relieved or removed, but acknowledged that he had been relieved from all further field service in the Coast Survey. The instruments belonging to the government, now in his possession, are to be turned over to Captain Forney who takes charge of field survey operations here. Captain Forney was not seen by the reporter, hence no statements of his were obtained. Captain Greenwell has been in the Coast Survey service of this coast for thirty years, and about twenty years of that time, at or near Santa Barbara. He has performed some very efficient service and stands very high in the estimation of the people of this city.”

1884: “Mr. H. W. Henshaw thinks that this bird is well named “Wandering Tattler,” and states that it has a very wide range, being found on the islands of the Pacific generally, and from Alaska to Australia Santa Cruz Island is the only place where he has enjoyed an opportunity of meeting with it, though, as he is informed, it occurs on other islands also. Captain Forney, of the Coast Survey, secured quite a number on the Island of San Miguel, where this bird occurs in considerable numbers. It is not at all a bird of the sandy shores, but resorts exclusively to rocks covered with seaweed, following the tide as it ebbs and flows, running back and forth, picking up the worms and marine animals, which are found in such localities in abundance...” [S. F. Baird, T. M. Brewer, and R. Ridgway. The Water Birds of North America in Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, p. 291]

June 22, 1888 [SBMP]: “Colonel Forney has taken charge of the barracks at Mare Island.”

September 19, 1894 [SBMP]: “Captain Forney of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey spent a good deal of time in Santa Barbara some years ago. There has been a rumor that he was killed by Mexican brigands…”

Forney’s Cove, Santa Cruz Island is a large anchorage on the south side of the extreme west end of the island. It was named by Commander Phillip C. Johnson, U.S. Navy, for Stehman Forney who was in charge of the topographic surveys of Santa Cruz Island conducted by the U.S. Coast Survey in 1874 and 1875. The entire group of Chumash village sites which extend for nearly two miles along the shore of Forney’s Cove was called Ch’oloshush by A. L. Kroeber. Vessels wrecked at Forney’s Cove include:

  • Helene (1898)
  • Joan (1974)
  • Trilogy (1966)
  • Englyn (1974)