John K. Forney

JOHN K. FORNEY. Dairying is more and more looked upon as one of the most important means of elevating the general agricultural industry of the country. One of the pioneers in stimulating dairying as a farm resource in Western Kansas is Mr. John K. Forney of Abilene, president of the Belle Springs Creamery Company. This is the largest creamery company in Kansas owned exclusively by Kansas capital. Like many other great business enterprises it has been developed from small beginnings.

Mr. Forney was at the beginning. He arrived in Kansas with limited capital in 1879, and bought a tract of raw land in Dickinson County, twelve miles southeast of Abilene. There he set up as a farmer and tilled his acres and was largely concerned with his individual home making and prosperity until 1886. In that year he with others organized the Belle Springs Creamery Company. It was then an entirely local concern. It took its name from its location at the old Belle Springs community. Mr. Forney has been president of this company since 1902. The company now operates large plants at Abilene, Salina and Emporia, the headquarters being at Abilene. Abilene is also the center of the immense butter manufacturing plant, where 2,500,000 pounds of butter are made every year. The company also handles other farm produce, especially poultry and eggs, and ships annually 200 carloads. At Salina and Emporia the company maintains cream gathering stations and also wholesale ice cream factories.

John K. Forney was born on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, December 1, 1850, and is of old American stock, his ancestry entitling him to membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. His great-great-grandfather, Abraham Forney, fought in the Revolutionary war with three of his sons. His parents were Abram R. and Anna (Keller) Forney, who were also natives of Pennsylvania. Mr. Forney grew up on a farm, attended the public schools, and was a practical Pennsylvania farmer until he moved out to Kansas and made his start is a pioneer in Dickinson County nearly forty years ago. He has always been active in public affairs, has served two years as one of the city commissioners of Abilene, and is a prominent member of the Brethren in Christ, commonly known as the River Brethren.

In 1873, at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he married Miss Anna S. Hoffman, who was born on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, July 15, 1845, a daughter of Christian and Anna (Schneider) Hoffman. Mrs. Forney died at Abilene, Kansas, August 16, 1916, and her death was widely lamented not only by her family but by the community and by her church. She was active in the Brethren of Christ Church from early childhood. The following children were born to them: Minnie and Annie died in infancy. The son Elmer H., who was born November 19, 1875, on the farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, came to Kansas at the age of four years, was educated in the public schools of Abilene, and since 1898 he has been active manager of the Belle Springs Creamery Company. He is one of the leading progressive young business men of the state, is a Knight Templar Mason and an Elk, and has a very happy family. On November 20, 1898, he married Miss Hannah Lois Nutt. She was born in Illinois February 28, 1877, and her parents were natives of the same state. Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Forney have three daughters: Frances Leona, born November 21, 1899; Ann Louise, born December 9, 1902; and Mary Olive, born May 14, 1912.

Mary H. Forney, the only surviving daughter of Mr. John K. Forney, was born in Dickinson County, Kansas, in 1885, has been connected with the Belle Springs Creamery Company as accountant since 1903, and on October 18, 1916, she married Robert J. Long. Abram H. Forney, the youngest living child, was born October 12, 1888, in Dickinson County, and is also connected with the firm.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Jason Morton, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 15, 1999.

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