Utah History Encyclopedia


By M. Guy Bishop
In the summer of 1863, Latter-day Saint apostle George A. Smith called upon George Washington Bean to take a small company of men and explore the valley of the Sevier River in south-central Utah. As a result of this early exploration, a small community named Fort Alma was founded on the east side of the Sevier River. Indian hostilities during the Black Hawk War drove the original settlers from Alma during 1866. By 1871 Moses Gifford, Walter Jones, Andrew Rassmussen, and several other men reclaimed the abandoned fort, planted crops, and built homes in preparation for moving their families to the Sevier Valley.

They made application to the federal government for a post office. The permission was soon granted, and the community was renamed Monroe after the fifth president of the United States. Monroe was incorporated in 1898, with Andrew Larson elected as the city's first mayor.

Early Monroe was an amalgamation of peoples. Its founders hailed from Scandinavia, Great Britain, and numerous American states. Two noted features of nineteenth-century Mormonism were highly visible at Monroe--plural marriage and the communal life of the United Order. In many ways, Monroe typified small-town Utah Mormonism of the late 1800s.

Monroe soon developed into one of the more prosperous and thriving agricultural communities in the Sevier Valley. The cultivation of hay and wheat were basic to Monroe's farming activities. In order to guarantee farming success in a marginally productive semi-arid country, the residents of Monroe constructed two lengthy irrigation canals on the eastern side of the Sevier River. These canals, along with natural water sources, including Clear Creek, Monroe Creek, and Glenwood Springs, sustained life in this harsh land. By 1880 Monroe had grown to be the second largest community in Sevier County. Today, in the late twentieth-century, its population numbers approximately 2,000 people and it continues to be touted by local boosters as the "center" of south-central Utah's farming region.