Forward Township was first settled in the mid 1700s when a road built by General Braddock in 1755 provided a route for settlers to move in after the French and Indian war in 1763. Many of these settlers (the Applegates and Walls, to name a few) came from what is now Princeton New Jersey in 1766. This Pittsburgh Suburb was first known as the Jersey Settlement.
1778 was the year that Allegheny County was split from Westmoreland Countyand the area between the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers became Elizabeth Township, which included today’s Forward Township. The area was critical in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.
1869 saw today’s Forward Township split from Elizabeth Township. Many of the earlier settlers wanted to name it Jersey Township in honor of the first inhabitants and it’s unofficial name for almost 100 years. The case actually went to court, and a judge decided to name the township after Walter Forward, a lawyer and Pennsylvania legistor who served 2 terms in Congress and was appointed by President Taft as the first Comptroller of the Treasury. Foward became President Judge of Allegheny County in 1851, but died in 1852 and never did visit the area named in his honor.
The township was known for many ferries and bridges along the Monongahela river, to include the Devore and Parkinson Ferries. George Washington crossed the Monongahela on Devore’s ferry in 1784 to visit his land in Washington County.
Farming was the main industry well into the 1800s. Grist mills and timber mills dotted the landscape. Boat-building developed along the river. There were also a few small coal mines. The industrial revolution in the mid 1800s saw railroads and support industries move into the area as the population more than doubled into the early 1900s. As the decline of the steel industry and the depletion of the coal mines in the area occurred, the population began to dwindle.
Forward Township today offers typical residential suburban living as well as a rural farm feel. Many small villages and communities in Forward have maintained their own identities as mines and industries closed or relocated. Business such as Univar, Pittsburgh Tank, Ductmate, Merit Contracting and others are thriving in the industrial area along the Monongahela riverfront. Recreational opportunities are available with three marinas, Riverview Golf Course, and three municipal parks. Bunola River Road used by township residents and many from outside the community for running and cycling.
Forward is bordered by Elizabeth Borough to the north and Elizabeth Township to the east in Allegheny County.