Return to Headlines
The History of EFHS
The earliest students in Elizabeth Forward School District centuries ago were the Iroquois children being taught life skills of hunting and home crafts by their elders. The Indians who lived in this area were part of the Six Nations of Indians. Artifacts from camps and graves of hunters, wanderers, and warriors have been found over the years in many different parts of this school district. Remains of an Indian village from the fifteenth century were unearthed in Bunola in 1966. In 1768, the British signed a treaty with the Iroquois which ceded Western Pennsylvania to the British. This area was part of the large tract of land granted to William Penn’s family by the King of England.
The region between the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers was known as “Forks of the Yough”. In the early 1750s. Christopher Gist, a land agent, had several families settle in this area known as the Upper Forks. However, they were forced out during the French and Indian War. The earliest permanent immigrants came to this area after this war. In 1766, five Applegate brothers and two Wall brothers settled in what is now known as Forward Township and called the area “The Jersey Settlement”. They had emigrated here from New Jersey. Forward Township was latter named for a resident, John Forward.
In 1769, the year after the treaty which ceded this area to the British (on the first day the land office opened), Donald Munro, a Scottish settler, purchased 331 acres fronting on the Monongahela River and named it Greenock for the town in his native Scotland. Three months later, Mr. Munro sold the tract to Aenas Mackay. In 1787, Colonel Stephen Bayard, his wife Elizabeth Mackay Bayard, daughter of Aenas Mackay, and her brother Samuel Mackay established the town names Elizabeth Town, for Elizabeth Bayard. It was called Elizabeth Town until 1834 when it was incorporated as Elizabeth. Elizabeth Township took its name from Elizabeth Town.
A similar building served the same purpose in Elizabeth Town at about the same time. Shortly after the turn of the nineteenth century, a schoolhouse was built at the head of Mill Street which was replaced in 1818 with a brick schoolhouse. Elizabeth School on Third Street in Elizabeth was built in 1853 when the Fifth Street School and the Second Street School were closed. It was at the building on Third Street that the practice of flying the American flag over the public school was born. Jacob Friend of Elizabeth enlisted in the Union Army at the age of seventeen. At the close of the Civil War, after three years of service, six month of which were spend in Andersonville Prison, Jacob returned to his home in Elizabeth. When he reentered school, he was the oldest and largest pupil in the school. He organized a company of older boys, taught them how to make wooden rifles, and instructed them in military drill tactics. It was this group of boys who originated the flying of the nation colors over the school building. Some time prior to 1813 the Round Hill School came into existence in Elizabeth Township. That school was near the present Round Hill Church in what is now Round Hill Cemetery. It was a one-room log structure held together with mud. It had a log chimney lined with stones and a window covered with greased paper to keep out winter’s cold and allow light to filter in. The pupils sat on long seats made from split logs. Another early Elizabeth Township school, Harmony School, was located a stone’s throw away from the present high school and is marked by a stone marker at its site in Round Hill Park. It was build there as a one-room log structure. In 1857, the log building was replaced by a gram building and names Harmony School. In 1990, the frame building was replaced by a brick schoolhouse.
Many one-room schools and some bigger schools sprang up in the last half of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. The names of some of them were Axleton School, Boston School, Buena Vista School, Bunola School, Crescent School, Douglass School, Fergus School, Franklin School, Greenock School, Industry School, Jersey School, Lincoln School Lincoln Hall School, Lovedale School, Mentor School, Mount Vernon School, Smithdale School, Sunnyside School. Taylortown School, Victory School, Washington School, William Penn School. William Stewart School, and Wylie School. These were all elementary schools. Most of them educated children up to the eighth grade.
The school term in these early days was five months long. Students attended school five and a half days a week. The weekend was Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Each week day consisted of two four-hour sessions.
The borough of Elizabeth had the only high school in this area. In 1848, Miss McFarland’s School for Girls was established. The Elizabeth Collegiate Academy was another finishing school for girls. The family of Laura Billick Guffey has the record of her being valedictorian of Elizabeth Collegiate Academy in 1881. Elizabeth Collegiate Institute was established in 1858. It was a boarding school for boys. Elizabeth High School was built on Third Street in Elizabeth beside Elizabeth Elementary School in 1992. In 1924, the Elizabeth School Board purchased the O’Neill Mansion called “Nut Coal Mansion” on Fifth Street in Elizabeth and moved Elizabeth High School into that mansion. Although it was remodeled and enlarged in 1930 and 1937, one could always see the part that had been the O’Neill mansion. John Nixon O’Neill, builder of the mansion, was a brother of J/ Denny O’Neill, and Allegheny County Commissioner from 1908 to 1915. The O’Neill brothers had built side-by-side mansions on the brow of the hill. Elizabeth High School was a good college preparatory high school, but offered vocational programs in agriculture, business, industrial arts and home economics as well.
The school boards in Elizabeth Township and Forward Township paid for their high school students to attend either Elizabeth High School, McKeesport High School, Monongahela High School or West Newton High School. In 1953, the three school districts joined and became Elizabeth Forward Joint School System and the Elizabeth High School was names Elizabeth Forward High School. The class of 1954 was the first class to graduate from Elizabeth Forward High School. One of the first ordered of business for the join school board was to build a new high school building. The present Elizabeth Forward High School building opened in the fall of 1957. The first class was graduated from this building 1958.
Elizabeth Forward High School rests on a 63-acre campus that is situated at the geographic center of the school district. The building houses a multitude of classrooms including 8 science laboratories, a state-of-the-art Gaming Room, a computer programming suite with PCs, 2 art rooms, a woodshop with a computer-programmable CNC router, a fabrication lab with laser and 3D printers, a home economics room with four kitchens, a suite of rooms for the guidance and counseling program, a competition-size swimming pool, 2 gymnasiums, and a Nautilus equipment room. The fine arts wing houses a 780-seat auditorium with a stage, and instrumental music room, and a choral music room. The school library was replaced with a media center in 2013 which houses a TV studio and a Sound studio and addition to a Café. The campus has a track and football field in the 200-seat Warrior Stadium. There is also a baseball field on campus. The school cafeteria, which seats up to 350 people at a time, is operate by Nutrition Food Services.
The faculty supports a student body of 780 students in a diverse academic program. In addition to the academic program, there are 24 activities or clubs in the extracurricular program, with faculty sponsors, and 14 athletic teams.
The first yearbook, called The Eli-Mon for Elizabeth on the Monongahela, was published in Elizabeth High School in 1952. In 1984, the name was changed to The Warrior. The school newspaper has always been called The Warrior. The words and music of the Alma Mater, “Wave Forever Red and Black,” were written in the late 1950’s by Walter Iacobucci, former band director.
Elizabeth Forward High School is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 2013, Elizabeth Forward was honored as an Apple School of Distinction and implemented a 1:1 initiative which placed iPads in the hands of every student in the district.
The Warrior has been the school’s mascot and nickname. Those Indian warriors from this area who were buried in graves with their arrows and tomahawks centuries ago would be amazed to see the thousands of Elizabeth Forward High School scholars and athletes, the students and alumni who have followed them, take the name, “Warrior.”
The Warrior News Team would like to give thanks to Class of 1954 and retired faculty member Mr. David Caird for sharing the history of the school.