Forbes Road

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the building (perhaps hewing may be more accurate) of Forbes Road. The Seven Years War between France and Britain was raging around the globe. Pennsylvania found itself at the epicenter of the North American theater of what Americans generally call the French and Indian War. General Forbes set out from Carlisle in 1758 to take Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh) from the French. He followed Indian paths from Carlisle south along what is today Route 11 to Chambersburg and headed west along what later became Route 30. He widened and improved the crude existing roads and, beginning at Bedford hacked his way west to Pittsburgh. 157 years later, in 1915, Pop Warner likely followed the same route when he left Carlisle to take the reins at the University of Pittsburgh.

Warner took more than his belongings to Pitt; he also took his single- and double-wing offenses. But before football season started, he held a summer camp for his players at Camp Hamilton, a facility Pitt owned just outside the town of Windber. To get to Windber, Warner would have backtracked on Forbes Road past Ft. Ligonier and halfway to Bedford before heading north to Camp Hamilton. It was at Camp Hamilton that Pop schooled his new players in the intricacies of the single- and double-wing. Many Carlisle players headed west to Altoona and Pittsburgh to play for independent teams, but they would not have followed Forbes Road because they most likely traveled by train.

Camp Hamilton became an expensive luxury for Pitt during the Depression, so ownership of it passed to Windber Area School District. In 2003, after posting Windber’s 500th win, Coach Phil DeMarco was looking for something new. That something new turned out to be the single-wing. So, the single-wing returned to Camp Hamilton after a long absence, not so long, however, as Pop Warner’s absence from Pittsburgh. Windber ran the single-wing at Camp Hamilton back in the 1930s when they won two state championships with it by beating John Harris one year and Steelton another.

The 250th anniversary of Forbes Road celebrates more history than the victory of the British over the French, it also honors the opening of the Northwest Territory to settlement and other things that traveled along the road, wanted or not.

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