Happy 175th Birthday, Monroe County!
January 01 , 2011
President James Monroe
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association
On April 1, 1836, after nine long years of debate and discussion, Monroe County was formed from pieces of land cut from Northampton County and southern Pike County. Although settled by some of the earliest-arriving European colonists, Monroe County was not one of the earliest-formed counties in Pennsylvania. It was the 53rd recognized county out of 67 statewide. Years before its official recognition as a separate entity, residents living in this developing area petitioned the legislature to create the new county.
Joseph Ritner, the Governor of Pennsylvania from 1835 to 1839, with an Act by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, acknowledged that the area known as “north of the Blue Mountains of Northampton County” had been settled for long enough and that its population had grown enough to be considered an independent county. Ritner and, more importantly, the residents of this area, felt that the region was too far away from either Easton or Milford for those county seats to care about the local populous.
So, the early townships of Chestnuthill, Hamilton, Pocono, Ross, Smithfield, Stroud, and Tobyhanna of Northampton County along with townships Coolbaugh, Middle Smithfield, and Price of Pike County were made into a single county.
This new county needed a name. Between 1830 and 1836, many names for the new county were suggested. The first name to be proposed was “Fulton” County. Robert Fulton, a Pennsylvania native, was an engineer and the inventor the of submarine, and he is credited with developing the steamboat into a commercial success. In January 1831, dozens of petitions supporting Fulton County were taken to Harrisburg to the House of Representatives. The House created the Fulton County bill and sent the bill to the Senate, where it failed. In 1835, the Fulton County bill was again resurrected, but it failed to receive the necessary number of votes.
Other petitions for names for the new county included “Evergreen” County, for the many conifer trees, and “Jackson” County after President Andrew Jackson. Neither of these names, however, received enough support for adoption.
It is unclear how exactly the name “Monroe” was suggested for the new county, but it is clear that it is named for President James Monroe. James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States. He served as a popular two-term president in 1816 and again in 1820. Having years of public service, Monroe served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, was the governor of Virginia, a United States senator and the minister to Spain, France, and Great Britain. President Monroe died July 4, 1831. Public support for the popular late president created enough votes to secure the new county’s name as Monroe. In March 1836, the Monroe County bill was introduced and was passed easily in Harrisburg.
James Monroe never traveled to the area north of the Blue Mountains, but his dedicated service to the country earned him a place in Pocono Mountain history.