Most contemporary American historians would agree that possibly one of the most pivotal events in our nation’s early history took place somewhere along the banks of the Connoquenessing Creek within what is now Forward Township. In 1753, a young George Washington was selected by Virginia Colonial Governor Robert Dinwiddie to venture into what is now Western Pennsylvania on a scouting/diplomatic mission. The goal was to discover to what extent the French had established a claim on the region and the hope was that Washington, armed with a letter from Dinwiddie, could convince the French to recognize the claim of Virginia on the area around the “forks of the Ohio.”
Washington was accompanied by an experienced guide, Christopher Gist on the trek from colonial Williamsburg, VA. to the French Fort Le Boeuf (located near present-day Waterford, PA. in Erie County). After a cold reception by the French, Washington and Gist returned via the Venango Trail until reaching Murdering Town (a Native American village) near what is now Evans City. A Native American then offered to lead them to the “forks of the Ohio.” However, after a few miles march the guide turned and leveled his musket at Washington and fired. The shot missed and the guide fled the scene. Washington and Gist traveled on and into further adventures along the Allegheny River. Thus, had it not been for an errant shot, the future military leader of the American Colonial Army, Founding Father, and first President of the United States may have been assassinated along a creek in what is now Forward Township.
Of course, the first residents of what is now Forward Township were Native Americans. At the time of French and Indian War the area was largely under the control of the Seneca Nation with groups of Delaware, Shawnee and other eastern tribes which had been forced to move west as a result of the growing European colonial presence along the Mid-Atlantic coast. They lived as virtual refugees in upper Ohio River Basin. Upon conclusion of the conflict the area came under the control of the British Empire and the first European settlers (mostly Scots-Irish) began to migrate into the western frontier of colonial America. Historical sources identify Peter McKinney and his wife as the first of these settlers with the area of our township. He claimed about 400 acres near the current border with Connoquenessing Township and established a homestead and farm reportedly centered on what is now the Wilson’s Ridge residential development. Many sources list the McKinney’s daughter, Elizabeth as the first European child to be born in Butler County. William and James Critchlow soon followed. James held a land grant from colonial authorities and the family established their property along what is now Brownsdale and Reibold Roads. Eventually, a saw mill and a grist mill became the first industrial enterprises in the area. Other early families in the township were the Andersons, the Browns, the Blakelys, the Buhls, the Johns, and the Watters. Many of our current roads and points of reference take their names from these early residents.