William Innes Forbes was a true Pennsylvanian and a natural to become Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion; he lived for a time only a block from the MOLLUS headquarters at 1805 Pine Street in Philadelphia. William Innes Forbes was born on November 22 1868 in Philadelphia. He was the third child of William Smith Forbes and Celauire Bornadou.
William graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in 1889. He joined the Company "D" of the First Regiment Pennsylvania National Guard in 1892 and served for one year. He was then commissioned a Lieutenant JG in the Pennsylvania State Naval Militia and served in that unit until 1894 when he joined the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, serving with that unit as a first lieutenant in the Spanish American War. His military career continued during World War I when he commanded the 57th Field Artillery in Texas. He closed his military career with the rank of Colonel commanding the 305th Reserve Cavalry in 1932.
When not on military duty Col. Forbes was employed as the head of the credit department of Wanamaker's Men's Store in Philadelphia. He married Daisy Cox Wright in 1912. In addition to his active and reserve military service William was a great fan of the theater and participated in the Mask and Wig Club as one of its founding performers in 1889 at its opening at the Chestnut Street Opera House. He had the leading role in the opening show, Lurline. The Forbes's owned a 5,000-acre plantation in North Carolina as well as Scrooby, their home in Villanova.
William Innes Forbes was steeped in stories of the War of the Rebellion told him by his father and other Companions of the Loyal Legion. Major William Smith Forbes was surgeon in the Union Army during the war. He had been commissioned as an acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army on May 15, 1862 and served until he resigned with the rank of Major on October 3, 1864. William Smith Forbes joined the Pennsylvania Commandery of MOLLUS and was assigned Insignia Number 10260. He died at his home at 901 Pine Street in Philadelphia on December 17th 1905.
Two days prior to his father's death William Innes Forbes applied for membership in MOLLUS. His application as a Companion of the First Class by Inheritance was approved on February 15, 1906 and he was assigned Insignia Number 14949. Following his service in World War I Companion Forbes became very active in the Loyal Legion. He served on the Council of the Pennsylvania Commandery from 1924 to 1926. He was elected Senior Vice Commander in 1931 and served until July 6, 1932 when he was elected Commander of the Pennsylvania Commandery, a post he held until May 20 1942. On October 27, 1933 William Innes Forbes was elected Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief and on October 25, 1935 he was elected Commander-in-Chief serving in that position for over four years, retiring on May 23, 1940. He served on the Council-in-Chief from May 20, 1942 to his death and as the elected representative of the Commandery-in-Chief on the Board of Governors of the War Library and Museum from October 21, 1942 until his death on July 4, 1967 in Philadelphia. Colonel Forbes wife, Dorothy, preceded him in death passing away in 1946.
William and Dorothy Forbes had three sons, all of whom became Companions of MOLLUS: William Innes Forbes, Jr., Insignia No. 19077; Francis Coxe Forbes, Insignia No. 19458; and Charles Wright Forbes, Insignia No. 19635. All were Companions of the Pennsylvania Commandery. In addition William Innes Forbes brother, James Fitzgerald Forbes, was also a Companion of the Pennsylvania Commandery with Insignia No. 19988.
During his term as Commander-in-Chief Col. Forbes oversaw the purchase of additional lands to increase the size of the Spottsylvania Battlefield. This 162-acre tract was donated by the Pennsylvania Commandery at impressive ceremonies on May 11, 1940 the 76th anniversary of the fierce struggle at the "Bloody Angle." Approximately 300 members of the Pennsylvania Commandery of MOLLUS attended the dedicatory ceremonies at which William Innes Forbes acted as master of ceremonies. Attending was Branch Spalding, park superintendent and James H. Price, Governor of Virginia who was introduced by M.R. Tillotson, Service Director of Region One of the National Park Service. This magnificent donation to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park culminated William Innes Forbes momentous leadership of both the Pennsylvania Commandery and the Commandery-in-Chief but it was by no means the end of his many contributions to MOLLUS.
In addition to serving as Commander-in-Chief of MOLLUS Colonel Forbes was also Commander-in-Chief of both the Military Order of World War I and the Military Order of Foreign Wars and was a member of the Sons of the Revolution.
Special thanks to Adam P. Flint, the Registrar-in-Chief and Registrar of the Pennsylvania Commandery for his assistance with the research for this article. RGC
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