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The Town of Monroe contains three villages: Monroe and Kiryas Joel, as well as the majority of the Village of Harriman, which it shares with the Town of Woodbury. The town is also home to the original Velveeta Cheese factory, which, now tightly located next to Monroe 6 Cinemas in the village, stands as a historic landmark as the small building that started the now popular "cheese food".
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.
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.
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 Worlf-Tribe, and the Unamis, the Turtle tribe” (Welcome to Monroe). 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” (Welcome to Monroe). “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” (Welcome to Monroe).The town was set off from the precinct of Goshen in 1764 and named Chesekook. This name continued until 1801, when it was changed to Southfields. On April 6, 1808, it took its present name of Monroe. (Belcher, pp. 68–9)
Quoting from Gen George Washington's daily journal:
So that it would seem as though the town of Monroe started out as simply being called Cheescocks or the Cheesecocks Patent area, which remained largely wild prior to the Revolution.
Then parts of it began to be named after the earliest landowners such as the Smith's Clove area, which was named after William Smith, and then Galloway's, which was named after the settler who erected the log cabin that Washington temporarily called his home.
Then in 1801, the town's name was changed to "Southfields," and then in 1808 the name of "Munroe," which apparently was changed to Monroe in 1818 to honor the President of the same name.
David Smith a resident of Smithtown, Long Island bought land from Philip Livingston. Smith “purchased lot 43, consisting of 276 acres, he built the first home” (Welcome to Monroe), just on the outskirts of town. Smith built a dam and a grist mill, out of the Ramapo River, which created the Mill Pond today. The creation of the mill allowed for several other businesses in the area such as blacksmiths, tinsmiths, harness and carriage makers, as more inhabitants moved to the area.
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.
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”(Welcome to Monroe). The first race was held on August 8, 1908 there was 2,2000 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 replace 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.
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