Henry Forsyth

Forsyth purchased Henrietta Wood when she was sold away from the Tousey Family, according to her 1876 narrative. Wood remembered him as “a pretty mean man” who whipped her frequently, and the owner of a “naval supply store” for whom she did housework for two years.

Forsyth appears in the 1840 census, and in the 1850 census he appears in the slave schedule as owner of two black women in their forties, one black sixteen-year-old girl, and four enslaved children. He also appears in the 1850 census, where his birthplace is identified as Ireland. By the 1860 census he appears to have moved to Chicago.

He is also in an 1832 Louisville city directory as part of a partnership called “Forsyth and Co., merchants,” based on Water and 3rd. His home address is listed on Green and 3rd.1 His firm is listed on Pearl Street in the 1837 Western Address Directory. In the 1838 city directory, examined at the Filson, he is listed on the “s e cor green and 3rd.”2 In the 1841 directory, he is listed only as “Forsyth Henry H, near mansion house.”3 In 1843, he is listed as “clerk at David L Adams’, h s e corner main and 1st.”4 He does not appear in the 1844 directory.

According to crutcher2012, he was also a director of the Bank of Kentucky who “operated steamboats along the Ohio and Mississippi” and served as a cotton commission merchant.5

Tax Assessment Rolls

Based on tax assessment records from Jefferson County, Forsyth may have gone bust in the Panic of 1837.

Year Deeds Value Slaves Total Property
1833 5 $20,000 2 N/a
1834 5 $25,000 3 N/a
1835 4 $25,800 5 N/a
1836 13 > $100K 9 $124,987
1837 12 N/a 8 $105,050

Forsyth does not appear (at least as far as I could find) in the tax assessment rolls for 1838 or 1839.

Note: Rows for 1833 and 1834 include property held both by Forysth individually and by his company. “N/a” indicates I didn’t record this. The slaves he owned in 1837 were valued by the assessor as worth $2,000. In 1833, slaves were listed in a column headed “Black Possessions.”

Source: Jefferson County Tax Assessment Rolls, Microfilm Reels 008053 and 008054, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

Newspaper Articles


Hits from the Courier-Journal on Newspapers.com show that his firm often sold Alabama cotton and sugar from down the river to buyers in Louisville.

  • Notices placed by H. B. Hill and William Prather for an “Agency and Commission Business” (beginning November 26, 1830) say that the new firm will be in “the House formerly in the occupancy of Forsyth & Co., Main street.”
  • A notice from December 20, 1830, p. 3, says that freight has arrived from Wheeling on the steamboat Mountaineer for Forsyth and Co. Similar notice on December 25, 1830, says twelve boxes of dry goods have arrived for the company from Pittsburg aboard the Hercules.
  • Notice appearing on December 27, 1830, advertises 16 bales of “prime Alabama Cotton” for sale by Forsyth & Co. (Also appears January 4-6, 1831, this time advertising 72 bales on the steamer Herald)
  • Notice on January 8, 1831, advertises 50 hogsheads of prime sugar for “sale in lots” by Forsyth & Co., from the steamer Hibernia, as well as another 7 bales of cotton on the steamer Constitution.
  • Notice on January 24, 1831, advertises arrival of sugar for Forsyth & Co. on board the steamer George Washington
  • An ad on February 25, 1831, reads: “Landing from steamers Hudson and Orleans, 150 bbls Molasses, in fine shipping order; 25 hhds New-Orleans Sugar; 5 tierees Carolina Rice,–for sale low, if taken from the wharf, by FORSYTH & CO.” The same issue contains notice of the steamer Herald departing for St. Louis, and informs readers that they can apply for freight or passage to Forsyth & Co.
  • A subsequent notice on March 3, 1831, also notes that Forsyth & Co. will handle freight and passage applications for “the splendid new steamer ORLEANS,” bound for New Orleans.
  • Ads on March 2, 1831, advertise “50 bags green Havanna COFFEE and 35 bbls MACKEREL No. 3” for sale by Forsyth & Co., from the steamer Louisiana, as well as more hogsheads of New Orleans sugar from the Lady Washington
  • The March 4 issue advertises tar, clover seed, nails and window glass, and ale and porter made by Moore & Morris, for sale by Forsyth & Co.
  • The March 19, 1831, issue says Forsyth and Co. are “authorized to sell one-fourth of the steam boat GLEANER, very low, and on a long credit.”
  • The March 26, 1831, issue lists for sale, in addition to coffee and mackerel, “Bloom Raisins” from the steamer Hibernia. Same issue has an add for 300 BBLS. 1st quality Kanawha Salt.
  • The March 31, 1831, issue advertises “superfine FLOUR, superior brand,” landing from the steamboat Monticello
  • Freight arriving on the Mountaineer from Pittsburg for Forsyth * Co. (April 8, 1831)
  • Forsyth & Co. advertised a two-story brick house to rent on Water Street between Third and Wall, “with a convenient Store,–immediate possession can be given” (April 9, 1831)
  • Notice of freight for Forsyth from New Orleans on the Uncle Sam (April 12, 1831)
  • Notice on April 26, 1831, of the imminent departure of the Gleaner (a “new and light draft steam boat”) for Nashville; invites application to Forsyth & Co. for freight or passage
  • Advertisement of the steam boat Citizen for sale by Forsyth and Company (April 30, 1831); there is still an ad for the boat on July 20, 1831
  • Ad for 800 barrels Conomaugh Salt on May 14, 1831
  • Sugar and coffee for sale “per steam boats Wanderer, Orleans and La Fourche” (May 11, 1831)
  • A single add on July 28, 1831, lists these goods for sale: New Orleans sugar, Havana sugar, Havana coffee, Turks Island Salt, Kanawha Salt, Monongahela Whiskey, Alabama cotton, Eastern Nails, Shot, Bale Rope, Bagging
  • Ad for “the splendid steam boat WANDERER,” bound for New Orleans (August 3, 1831), and also for the steamer Huntsville (August 27, 1831)
  • Cotton received by Scout and Galena from Tennessee and Alabama (August 22, 1831)
  • Ad for “25 dozen Pittsburgh Sieves, Townsend’s brand,” and 100 Wheeling sieves (August 27, 1831)
  • Ads for nineteen barrels of cranberries; and 27,000 pounds Pig Lead from steamboat Charleston (October 13, 1831)
  • 6000 bushels T. I. Salt (Turks Island) and 120 kegs Baltimore Oysters (November 30, 1831)
  • On January 3, 1832, the firm forms a “co-partnership” with William Riddle of Pittsburgh and P. H. Goodwyn of Florence, Alabama: “they will continue to transact a General Agency and Commission Business, and attend particularly to the Receiving and Forwarding of Goods
  • On January 21, 1832, receipt notice for molasses, mackerel, “sweet malaga wine,” and Liverpool salt
  • On May 6, 1836, Java and Havana coffee by the steamer Homer, as well as “20 casks superior Bordeaux Claret
  • On May 27, 1836, by the steamer Baltic, 117 bags Rio Coffee, along with 100 bales cotton
  • Ad for “Malaga Wines & American Brandy” (August 27, 1836) “on hand and for sale low to close consignments”
  • Ads for freight and passage on the new steamboats Chancellor and North America, bound for New Orleans (November 28, 1836)
  • Ad advertising that the firm has been “appointed agents for the sale of Myers, Dahl & Co.” patented scales, together with an image of one.
  • Ad for James River tobacco and Tennessee cotton (December 23, 1836)
  • Ad for 50 dozen silk hats (March 8, 1837)

The firm of Forsyth and Co. (composed of Forsyth and Riddle) dissolved on November 13, 1838 (see the January 1, 1839, issue of the Courier-Journal), with Riddle continuing on with the “commision & forwarding business.” In the same January 1 issue, Forsyth advertises “three brick stores on the south side of Main … nearly opposite the Galt House” for rent. Later that month, on January 18, 1839, Forsyth offered “the house he now occupies, on the corner of Green and Third Cross Streets” for sale. The firm was later taken over by Charles Riddle, successor of William Riddle (November 25, 1839). Forsyth appears to have rebounded slightly in the mid-1840s, judging from shipments for him reported in the “Steamboat Journal” section.

H. H. Forsyth served on the business committee of the Merchants’ Louisville Insurance Company, according to Courier-Journal, January 10, 1832, which provided “insurance on Steam boats, Keels, Flats, Merchandize and Country produce, against the perils of the seas or rivers on as favorable terms as any Insurance Company.

A lawsuit in Louisville Chancery Court in 1836 pitted H. H. Forsyth and William Riddle, of the firm of “Forsyth & Co.,” against William Brown.

The firm is listed as a reference for John J. Clendenin, attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, in June 18, 1836 issue of Louisville Courier-Journal

Forsyth placed a runaway ad for an eighteen-year-old named Easter in the July 1, 1836, issue of the Courier-Journal. The ad also appeared on the Fourth of July that year.

A runaway ad in the July 1, 1836, issue of the Louisville Courier Journal, placed by Henry Forsyth.

A runaway ad in the July 1, 1836, issue of the Louisville Courier Journal, placed by Henry Forsyth.

Public Advertiser

Forsyth and Company also frequently advertised in the Public Advertiser during the year 1830, available through GenealogyBank and apparently digitized by American Antiquarian Society and Newsbank.

  • A July 19, 1830, ad advertised the firm’s move to its warehouse on Third and Water Street.
  • A January 22, 1830, said Forsyth & Co. handled bookings for “the steam boat INDUSTRY,” which was “plying as a regular Packet between New-Orleans and Fort Smith.”


There also appears to have been a “Jacob Forsyth & Co.” in Pittsburgh in this period, perhaps related, and also a “Mrs. Forsyth (late of Baltimore)” who appeared offering piano lessons in Louisville (see July 16, 1836, issue).

An enslaved man hired to Forsyth & Co. escaped on a steamboat in the late 1850s.

On August 9, 1836, H. H. Forsyth appears at the President in a Courier-Journal ad for the Galt House Company calling for a meeting of stockholders. He also appears in August 10, 1836, as part of a committee of the Fulton Company advertising 8 different steamboats for sale. See also the 1834 law chartering the company.

An issue of the Courier-Journal of January 2, 1837, also shows that Forsyth, George Keats, and William Cirode of the Cirode Family were all voting members of the Mechanics’ Saving Institution of Louisville. (Also appears on December 29, 1836.) But by the February 22, 1837, notice, Cirode no longer appears on the list.

Later he was president of a telegraph company to connect Louisville and New Orleans.

The 1848 Louisville City Directory, examined at Filson Historical Society, still lists Henry H. Forsyth as a grocer and commissioning merchant on 3rd between Main and Water, and house on Chestnut between 4th and 5th, but he does not appear in the 1845-1846 Jegli directory, also examined at the Filson.

  1. The Louisville Directory for the Year 1832: to which is Annexed, the Municipal, County and State Officers … (Louisville: Richard W. Otis, 1832), 34.

  2. G. Collins, The Louisville Directory for the year 1838-9 (Louisville: J. B. Marshall, 1838), 38.

  3. G. Collins, The Louisville Directory for the year 1841 (Louisville: Henkle, Logan and Company, 1841), 24.

  4. 1843 City Directory, examined at Filson Historical Society.

  5. [crutcher2012], 220. Forsyth is also listed as a stock commissioner with in 1834.