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From Dairies to Developments: A History of Forks

Forks Township became valued politically and economically as part of a ring of non-Moravian agricultural lands that provided necessary farm goods and trade items to the region.

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Forks Township was founded in 1754 as an agricultural-based community located between the Bushkill Creek and the Delaware River north of the City of Easton.

The area comprising Forks had been inhabited by Native Americans and then by early Dutch travelers who started trade during the early 1600s. Prior to the infamous Walking Purchase of 1737, the Lenni Lenape Indians were the principal inhabitants of the area. This fact is evident in part by the abundance of American Indian artifacts that have been found in the Forks Township area over the years, particularly along the Bushkill Creek, the Delaware River and the areas of Tatamy, Stockertown and Hob Nob Hill.

Following Indian trails, rivers and creeks, early immigrants came to the fertile Lehigh Valley in the early 1700s. Permanent colonial settlement began in the late 1730s in the northern portions of the Township due to its proximity to the Scotch Irish settlement, called Hunter’s Settlement, in Lower Mount Bethel Township. By 1740 permanent settlers were coming into the Forks area, and Northampton County was created from Bucks County in 1752.

Many taverns, inns and hotels developed in the Township due, in part, to the important roads that crossed through this area, including Route 611. These early uses encouraged the development of small hamlets throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries. These early developments, along with the easily cultivated and irrigated farmland comprised primarily of silt loams underlain by limestone, enabled the Township to develop a prosperous agricultural industry.

and by 1857 the Township’s dairy industry was established. In the late 19th century, there was an increased demand in the region for perishable farm goods such as milk, eggs, cheese and various produce. The agricultural wealth of Forks Township became part of the crucial capital foundation of the Lehigh Valley upon which the Industrial Revolution would build.

In the mid 1800s, the promise of higher wages and ready employment began to lure residents from the farm to urban centers. This promise tended to decrease the total number of active farms in rural areas and either increased the number of non-agricultural uses of farmland or increased the size of the individual farms. By the early 20th century, rural townships such as Forks noticed a dramatic decrease in the importance of farming as a livelihood, partially due to decreased profits and increased production costs.

And so, as early as the 1960s, farmers began to realize that, because of the encroachment of non-agricultural development, their land had become more valuable as a subdivision than it would ever be as farmland. The conversion of Forks to large-scale suburban developments began. This development significantly increased during the 1980s and 1990s and today, Forks Township is considered a desirable place to live. 

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2 Responses

11.26.09

It used to be a desirable place to live. I grew up on one of the last working farms in forks township. Now forks township is mostly inhabited by people who aren’t even from the state, much less the region. A few years ago a man from new york took his neighbor to court (who owned the dairy farm next door). He was trying to sue the farmer because his cow’s manure “stunk.” Cost of living skyrocketed taxes exploded, houses that were once $18k are now $180k+. That’s why I moved out. What was once beautiful lush quiet farm land is now row homes, cookie cutter houses, and “McMansions.”

[…] create a partnership between farmers and the people who eat their crops. Cathy Coffey, owner of Forks Township-based Heritage Farms CSA, likes to consider it a commitment. The program helps farmers offset the […]

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