The First Settlers to this land were American Indians from the Lenni-Lenape Indian nation. The Lenni-Lenape nation consisted of three tribes, "The Unulactus, the Turkey tribe, Minsis, the Wolf-Tribe, and the Unamis, the Turtle tribe". As white settlers started to move north the Lenni-Lenape nation was forced to move west, out of New York and New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, and later on into central North America, under the Treaty of Easton. The Treaty of Easton was a colonial agreement signed on October 1758. The British colonial government of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Native American tribes in the Ohio Country signed this document stating they would be allies in the French and Indian War.
In the early 1700s the lower Hudson Valley region was being mapped out to be divided up under the crown. On March 25, 1707, the "Chessecocks Patent was granted by Queen Anne". The patent confirmed deeds that had been previously acquired by purchase directly from the Lenni-Lenape Indian Nation. The Patent was given to seven people, six men and one woman". "Cheesecocks as a precinct included all of present day Monroe, Woodbury, Tuxedo, and Stony Point (Monroe New York). "Many of the patentees never saw the land they bought or were given". Many of the new settlers to come with the Cheesecocks Patent were Dutch, and English. Both groups of settlers came from Long Island to this unknown land for its "rich natural resources".
The original name for the area on the Ramapo surveyed by General Washington's Geographer and Surveyor, Robert Erskine, was " Smith's Mill", described by Erskine as being "on a sudden bend of the Ramapo." This site still contains the ruins of the grist mill built in 1741 by David Smith, the first settler.(Map of Orange and Rockland Counties Area laid down by R. Erskine 1778–1779). The Clove Road, which led from Haverstraw, home of Sir. William Smith, up through Tuxedo and the rocky defile known by the Dutch word "kloof" for Clove was vital to the American cause during the Revolutionary War. It was unknown to the British patrolling the Hudson, and gave Washington his escape route from New York to his New Windsor headquarters. The area was called Southfields prior to April 6, 1808,when it took its present name of Monroe. (Belcher, pp. 68–9)
Quoting from Gen George Washington's daily journal:
- July 15, . To Sovereign (Suffern's or Suffren's) Tavern, near the entrance to Smith's Clove . On Sunday, July 20, 1777, Washington has moved on northward into the Ramapo Valley and to the place then known as Galloway's, which is now the village of Southfields. (Belcher, p. 81)
David Smith a prosperous miller of Smithtown, Long Island bought land from one of the original patentees, Philip Livingston. Smith "purchased lot 43, consisting of 276 acres, he built the first home" . Smith built a dam and a grist mill, out of the Ramapo River, which created the Mill Pond today, as well as homes for himself and his four sons.
In 1889, a final division of the town resulted in a loss of territory to the Towns of Woodbury and Tuxedo. In 1894, the community of Monroe set itself apart from the town by incorporating as a village.
The town is the birthplace of Velveeta and Liederkranz cheese. Each year a cheese festival is held to honor the former and the noble history (and unfortunate death) of the latter. it also was the original home of the Orange and Rockland Electric Company, founded by Roscoe W. Smith, a descendent of David Smith.
Fire of 1895
On the night of March 17, 1895 the Village of Monroe had one of the most disastrous fires in its history, in which the center of the Village was nearly wiped out. "The total losses of real estate were three large business places, three barns, a storehouse, several sheds and smaller buildings valued altogether at $25,000. Personal property, goods-in stock and furniture destroyed were valued at $15,000". It was said that people from all over took the Erie Railroad to come see the remains of the “Big Fire”. A short time after the fire the Village decided to install a water works system which would be owned by the Village. “On July 24, 1895 the Mombasha Fire Company was organized. The Hook and Ladder Company was organized on October 4, 1895. In 1898 the two Companies consolidated as the Mombasha Fire Company”.
In the early 1900s the Monroe Race Track was established to "increase the towns popularity as both local residents and visitors flocked to the track to watch the horse races and place bets on the trotters". The first race was held on August 8, 1908 there was 22,000 people estimated at the race. The track became a part of the Orange County Harness Racing Circuit which included Endicott, Middletown, Goshen, and Monroe. “The first grandstand was located on the long side of the track, while the second grandstand wasn’t completed until 1910. It was seventy-five feet long and could hold one thousand people”. The Track only lasted nineteen years. “On August 13, 1913 the race track record was set with a time of 2:04¼ minutes for the mile pace on a half mile track. At this time this was also a world record for a pacer”. In 1927 Monroe was dropped by the circuit and was replaced by Elmira, New York which had just completed construction of a new 5,000 seat grandstand. The last purse offered at Monroe Track in 1927 was for $31,000. In 1964 the grandstands of the track were torn down.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 21.3 square miles (55.1 km²), of which, 20.1 square miles (52.0 km²) of it is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km²) of it (5.55%) is water.
The town is located in the Southern Region of the county, bordered on the northwest by the Town of Chester, on the north by the Town of Blooming Grove, on the east by the Town of Woodbury, on the south by the Town of Tuxedo, and on the southwest by the Town of Warwick.
NY-17 (future I-86) combined with U.S. Highway 6 NY-17M passes through Monroe village.
- Mombasha Lake – A lake by the south town line.
- Round Lake – A lake in the western part of Monroe, southwest of Monroe village.
- Walton Lake – A lake in the western part of Monroe, south of Round Lake.
Communities within the Town of Monroe.
- Harriman – The Village of Harriman is partly in the town.
- Kiryas Joel – The Village of Kiryas Joel is north of the Village of Monroe, by NY-17.
- Marycrest – community bordering the south part of Monroe village.
- Monroe – The Village of Monroe is located south of NY-17 on highway NY-17M.
- Mountain House – A location by the north town line.
- Newburgh Junction – A hamlet south of Harriman on NY-17.
- Walton Park – Part of the hamlet of Walton Park.
As of the census of 2000, there were 31,407 people, 8,228 households, and 6,878 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,563.5 people per square mile (603.6/km²). There were 8,517 housing units at an average density of 424.0 per square mile (163.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.91% White, 1.22% Black or African American, 0.25% Native American, 1.36% Asian, 1.15% from other races, and 1.10% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.91% of the population. 12.6% were of Italian, 12.4% Irish, 9.2% Hungarian, 6.0% American and 5.6% German ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 8,228 households out of which 53.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 74.3% were married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 16.4% were non-families. 13.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.72 and the average family size was 4.14.
In the town, the population was spread out with 41.5% under the age of 18, 11.6% from 18 to 24, 24.8% from 25 to 44, 16.2% from 45 to 64, and 5.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 107.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.3 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $50,889, and the median income for a family was $54,315. Males had a median income of $51,125 versus $34,547 for females. The per capita income for the town was $16,569. About 22.3% of families and 29.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.6% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.
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