James Fontaine is believed to have been born in Hanover County, Virginia in 1757. At an early age he entered on a military career, becoming a member of the first expert rifle company raised in Buckingham District, Virginia, for the defense of the colony in 1775. Later this company was attached to the 2nd Virginia Regiment, Oct 21, 1775. Served until March 1776, near Williamsburg, Virginia.
Fontaine moved to Kentucky, where he served as Major in the Northwest Indian War. In 1790 he served under General Josiah Harmar in a march northward from Cincinnati against the Miami, under the leadership of Little Turtle.
Fountaine was killed on October 22, 1790 at a battle variously known as Harmar's Defeat, Battle of the Maumee, Battle of Kekionga, or Battle of the Miami Towns. This occurred near where the St. Joseph River and St. Marys River merge to form the Maumee River, near modern Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Miami called it the "Battle of the Pumpkin Fields", because, after the battle, the scalped heads of the Americans reminded them of a pumpkin field.
Fountain County, Indiana was named in his honor.
Hulbert, Archer Butler. 1904. Military roads of the Mississippi Basin the conquest of the Old Northwest. Historic highways of America, v. 8. Cleveland, Ohio: A.H. Clark.