Scenically set against the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Monroe is located in southern Snohomish County, near where the Snoqualmie and Skykomish Riv ers join to form the Snohomish. Home of Native American villages for thousands of years, white settlement began in 1860. Henry McClurg, one of the first settlers, claimed land along the river and in 1864 established the settlement of Park Place. The settlement remained nothing more than a few cabins, a school and a post office until the late 1880s when rumor of a railroad circulated. A building boom ensued, with construction of a store, hotel, saloon and community hall. The post office name was changed to Monroe in 1890 to honor President James Monroe, someone McClurg admired. When the Great Northern Railroad located a mile to the north, much of the town was relocated there, including the Monroe post office, from which the new town was given its name. About this time Snohomish County located a poor farm (now the Evergreen Fairgrounds) and hospital just west of town.
Monroe was incorporated in 1902 with a population of 325. In 1907, it was selected as the home of a condensed milk plant, the Carnation Condensery, and the state reformatory.
Monroe experienced rapid growth in the early 1900s due to nearby rich farmland and abundant timber, and its proximity to the railroad which provided a way to market for lumber and agricultural products grown in the valley. Since 1980 Monroe has experienced another boom, with population today almost 20,000. It is still home to the state reformatory, but it’s also the home of the Evergreen State Fair, the Evergreen Speedway track, a lovely historic downtown and is considered the gateway to the Cascade Mountains. The Monroe Historical Society was established in 1976 and operates a free museum at 207 East Main Street. To learn more about Monroe’s history, visit the Monroe Historical Society & Museum on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. or visit their website at www.monroehistoricalsociety.org. Additional information is available at www.monroehistoricalarchives.org and www.historylink.org.