There’s a reason the name Forbes has adorned a major sporting venue and a main street in Pittsburgh: He gave the city its name.
In 1758, British Brigadier-General John Forbes successfully defeated the French at Fort Duquesne—now known as The Point in Pittsburgh—at the height of the French & Indian War. Immediately after, he etched his name into Pittsburgh history by renaming the new settlement for future British Prime Minister, William Pitt.
What made Forbes’s victory at Fort Duquesne so noteworthy wasn’t defeating the French—they basically abandoned the fort by the time his troops arrived. It was his decision to undertake the daunting task of carving a 300 mile trail through the dense and trackless Pennsylvania wilderness with nothing more than hand tools like axes, winches, cranes, barrows, tongs, hooks, adzes, and saws. Employing his army of more than 7,000 regular and provincial troops, he created not only a road that today is known in part as Forbes Road, but built forts—including Fort Ligonier and the fort at Raystown—to serve as supply depots.
For decades, Forbes’s amazing feat of logistics, strategy and bravery—known as the Forbes Expedition—was marked on an oak tree on what is now Penn Avenue. The tree was cut down in 1907, but the stump continued to mark the spot with a bronze plaque that simply stated: “This tablet marks the site of a giant oak, which is on the northerly side of the road built in 1758 by Brigadier-General John Forbes.”