Forman: A Village Long Gone

By Bruce Micinski, Lake County Historical Society

Today at the intersection of U.S. 10 and Forman Road there is not much going on. Perhaps the most interesting thing you find looking at a plat book is that this is the exact common corner for Webber, Cherry Valley, Pleasant Plains and Yates Townships. Well, back in 1873, while Baldwin was becoming a railroad town, just two and a half miles east the village of Forman was started and was becoming a booming mill town. The middle branch of the Pere Marquette River just south of the village provided water power for Forman’s Mill.

William and Cornelius Forman bought land from early Lake county pioneer, John Thomas Batchelder. Early residents wanted to call the town Batchelder, but John objected and the folks settled on Forman in honor of the two brothers. John’s land included a lake, where he built a saw mill called Batchelder Lake. The name was changed to Mill Lake and is known today as Paradise Lake. The village sprouted near the Pere Marquette railroad line to the north, and became an ideal point for shipments of lumber. Forman had a population of about 200 in the 1870s and another 100 lived near the mills. The business directory included the following: C. H. Forman postmaster, Cook Brothers Shingle Mill, C.H. Forman general store, James Forman - Hotel proprietor and William Forman - Station agent and James Roxburgh - proprietor of a train way from Forman Mills to Forman. Perhaps the most interesting character was Talmy Hill. Talmy, born in 1847, worked as a railroad engineer for the Pere Marquette Railroad. He was known for his inventions, and in the two photos we see one of his creations. His newly invented steam wagon was the talk of Baldwin and a hit at the 1909 Lake County Fair. He also created a water wheel in a stream by his home, which was attached to long ropes to run a cross cut saw.

By 1885 Forman was a major village in Lake County. In the early 1900s Forman added an Episcopal Church and district school then the town expanded to two hotels, a large supply store, a barber shop, a blacksmith shop and a flour mill. By 1913 the village of Forman dwindled to only a few hearty souls and nothing remains of the old town today. The new Pere Marquette bicycle trail now passes through this historic site.

While Forman faded in 1912 the Branch Brothers Real Estate agents brought new life to this area with a venture called the Idlewild Resort Company!