The Rev. James McMurdo Forbes 1912-1919

The Rev James McMurdo Forbes served as rector of St Paul’s Put-In-Bay 1912-1919.

James McMurdo Forbes, an Anglican Priest from Prince Edward Island, Canada who became an Episcopal Priest after moving to the Diocese of Western New York in 1902 at the age of 47. Ten years later he would move further south to Put-in-Bay, remaining until he was 64. He was the first rector after the parish was restored to the Protestant Episcopal Church after a 43 year absence.

James Forbes was born in the Tyne Valley of New Brunswick Canada in 1855. James McMurdo Forbes played an active, prominent, and positive part in the life of Tyne Valley. Mr. James M. Forbes prospered and who began as a store owner, at O’Leary Station. His family grew to five children.

“Mr. Forbes was the only dry goods merchant here and did a good business. J. M. Forbes’s new residence caught the attention of local newspapers which described it as it was built.

In the fall of 1884, James Forbes brought his brother Donald into the business – which became Forbes Brothers. The firm continued to do well, James had other interests and he left store keeping to study for the Anglican priesthood.

Although James M. Forbes had been quite successful in the mercantile business, a friend, Rev. Thomas Blanchard Reagh who was Rector at St. James Church, Port Hill in 1882-83, influenced him to study for ministry. In 1887 James and D.N. dissolved partnership. Three years later, a local news item in October 1890, told that the Rev. James Forbes, who began as Deacon-in-Charge at Alberton in 1899, was ordained to the priesthood. He was ordained deacon in 1889 and priest 1890. Rev. James Forbes and his wife had moved thirty miles north of their store to Alberton.

During the 1890s he was rector of St. Peter’s Church in Alberton, New Brunswick. His family grew up and left home, his wife died, and he eventually moved to the United States.

Arriving in the Diocese of Western New York, in the fall of 1901, he served St. Peter’s before moving to Grace Church South Cleveland. Initially he served a second parish named St. Phillips until the work at Grace grew into a full time position. He was received as a priest in the Episcopal Church by the Diocese of Western NY on December 30th 1901. [Journal of the Proceedings of the Convention of the Episcopal Church. Diocese of Western New York. 1901]

October 30th 1902 – The Belmont Breeze Newspaper reported J.M. Forbes had resigned as rector of St. Phillips and intended to move to Cleveland Ohio. He was an active member of the Masons in 1902, serving as their chaplain.

The 89th Annual Convention report (May 1906, page 65) of the Diocese of Ohio gives a report of Rev. Forbes work in Cleveland. “ {A} marked advancement at Grace Church South Cleveland When the present rector of that parish the Rev JM Forbes came to Cleveland in 1902 he took up his residence in St. Philip’s mission Cleveland from which he drew half of his living and from there ministered to Grace Church South whose rectory was rented and whose vestry could add to his living only $500 per annum Since that time Grace Church South has been able to ask for the entire time of the Rev Mr Forbes and it now pays him $1,000 per annum with rectory” [See 506 in A History of the Diocese of Ohio Until the Year 1918]

While Rev Mr Forbes was in Cleveland the Grace Church became self supporting and free from debt

The Churchman of January 1908 reported that The Rev James M Forbes rector of Grace Church South Cleveland accepted a call to the rectorship of St Peter’s church Ashtabula O succeeding the Rev James A Miller who had moved to Dunkirk NY. He began his duties at Ashtabula on Jan 1 1908 and remained there for four years.

In 1912 The Rev. J. M. Forbes came to Put-in-Bay Ohio. He served St. Paul’s Episcopal Church until 1919.

JM Forbes holds a unique position in St. Paul’s history.

1816 The American Church Almanac lists J M Forbes as rector of St. Paul’s PIB with 88 members.
1817 The American Church Almanac lists J M Forbes as rector of St. Paul’s PIB with 57 members.

In 1919 Rev Forbes departed to become rector of Grace Church in Ravenna, Ohio.

After his move to Ravenna Ohio, he was still listed as the rector of St/ Paul’s in the 1920 Living Church Annual of 1920 indicating The Rev D. A. Cassetta had not arrived at the time of its publication deadline At the time of his departure the parish had 67 members listed. [Stowe’s Clerical Directory 1920-1921]

The Churchman, Michigan – 1919 carried an advertisement for the Ashley & Dustin Steamer Line and their daily excursions to Put-in-Bay—Cedar Point. It said the magnificent steel steamer named Put-in-Bay had a capacity of 3,200 people. It also says the Big Hotel Victory now open at Put-in-Bay. The Steamer Put-in-Bay had a ball room, — No charge for dancing.

It appears The Rev Forbes also assisted with services at St. Paul’s for a short time in 1924.

Elsie Forbes Brennan was Rev. Forbes youngest daughter. In 1912 she was married to Stephen Brennan of Ontario Canada. She lived in Ontario and New Brunswick throughout her life and dies in Toronto in 1926.

Rev. J. M. Forbes lived to the age of 95 (1950).

Contributions of Rev Forbes 1912-1919

The Rev. James McMurdo Forbes arrived on Put-in-Bay in 1912. The congregation voted to return to the Episcopal Church from the Reformed Episcopal Church in September of that year and called him as their new rector. He began the first Sunday in Advent.

He married his second wife, E. Josephine Brown Whitney on May 12th 1909. She came to PIB with him.

The Rev J. M. Forbes remained until 1920
when the The Rev Dominick A. Cassetta, (from Italy) became Rector.

Rev. J. M. Forbes worked on the renewal of the church setting the wheels in motion to make repairs and up date the sanctuary by adding new candles, a book stand and new prayer books.

In 1912-1813 he was involved in the celebrations honoring the Centennial of 1813 The Battle of Lake Erie. With several Bishops and Perry descendants on the island that fall, he would have been very busy.

He was part of the grand procession carrying the officers from DeRivera Park and Perry’s Peace Memorial on September 10th 1913..

Rev. Forbes also built a small boat so he could provide worship services on Middle Bass Island.

St Paul’s, was closed for three weeks in October 1914, for repairs.

Each following year from 1914 to 1919 there were several people confirmed.

In 1919 Rev. James Forbes prepared a “Historical Sermon” which was the best summery of the church’s history at the time. He delivered it just before his departure.

On Aug. 14, 1919, the Hotel Victory burned down to the ground.

The Prohibition Act of 1919 put most of the wineries out of business.

Rev. Forbes departed, preparing the way for the next rector of St. Paul’s.

A Story of Bideford and Surrounding Communities by Pauline A. Millar
The American Church Almanac and Year Book 1911 – Page 283- St. Peter’s Ashtabula 1912
History Of Crapau, Prince Edward Island, Compiled By W. I. Crapaud
The American Church Almanac 1902-1946