History of Monroe NY
Monroe, NY of Orange County didn’t start life as “Monroe.” In fact, it was first sliced from Cornwall in 1799 and was given the name of Chesekook (Cheesecock). I’m glad the name was changed since I’d really rather not put Cheesecock, NY as my return address.
After its start in 1799, the name was changed again in 1801 to Southfield, and then again in 1808 to Monroe (being named after the then-future president, James Monroe). In 1864 the town of Monroe was divided into three towns; Monroe, Highlands and Southfields. All three exist today with Southfields as a very small hamlet north of Tuxedo Park, NY. and Highlands as the home to the West Point Academy.
The area was home to abundant forests and lime as well as many minerals including iron, quartz, mica and feldspar, which were a natural segue into the iron industry. For over 100 years, the iron industry ruled the area, with Sterling Iron Works, and Forest of Dean, Queensborough and Greenwood as the major iron works companies. Abel Nobel and his father produced the first ship’s anchor. In 1810, blistered steel was developed. The ironworks industry provided the Continental Army during the American Revolution with ammunition and arms, as well as providing anchors for the Navy ships. In 1778, Peter Townsend produced a 65 ton iron chain for the Continental Army which was placed across the Hudson River at West Point to Continental Island as a barrier to British Vessels. However, the chain was never tested as the British did not attempt to traverse the Hudson at that point. The chain was subsequently removed, with a portion being displayed at West Point, and a portion being melted down for other uses.
After the Civil War, the iron industry slowly disappeared from the area, but if you hike or drive around the area today you can still see the remains of mining industry, with furnaces and mines still evident. In addition, a hike through many areas show that many of the forests in the area include relatively new growth, as the mining industry necessitated removal of much of the forest to fuel the ironworks.
Monroe was subsequently known for its production of Leiderkantz and Velveeta cheeses, as described in another post.
Monroe then became a popular vacation site in the early 1900s with the rail system changing to a passenger rather than commercial system, and the introduction of automobile. Vacationers were attracted by advertisements about the Monroe lakes and clean air. Hotels and boarding houses drew visitors who eventually made Monroe their home, starting Monroe in its move towards a suburb for metropolitan New York.
Today, many residents of the area commute to Manhattan and other NY buroughs on a daily basis, continuing to enjoy the areas lakes and forests.
I hope you found this interesting!
For more information on Monroe’s history, see the Monroe Historical Society web site.