Historical Facts About Monroe County
From the Directory of Monroe County, Michigan
Issue of 1997-98
Compiled and Arranged By
Monroe County Clerk/Register of Deeds Geri Allen
French missionaries came to this territory as early as 1634. They named the river the River Aux Raisin because of the many grapes in this locality. A trading post and fort were established here in 1778. Francois Navarre was the first white settler in 1780. The first settlement was called Frenchtown when about 100 French families came here from Detroit and Canada. The American Flag was first raised in Michigan at Monroe in honor of President James Monroe. St. Antoine's Church on the banks of the River Raisin was the second church in the state.
First records on file in the County Clerk's Office:
[These records have been compiled by the Genealogical Society of Monroe County and published by the Monroe County Library System , 3700 So. Custer Rd., Monroe, MI 48161. They may be purchased from the Monroe County Historical Museum .]
Monroe County was established in July, 1817 as one of the first steps in the organization of the Michigan territory after the War of 1812. The old settlement of Frenchtown, which centered upon the square of the present Courthouse, took the name of Monroe and became the County Seat in September, 1817.
Controversy over the County's southern boundaries culminated in the bloodless Michigan-Ohio War in 1835-1836. In settlement of this dispute, the United States Congress gave Monroe County land to Ohio, which became Toledo. Michigan in return obtained the Upper Peninsula.
The County Courthouse
The original Courthouse was a two-story structure, built of logs and located across the street from the present Courthouse at the current site of the Presbyterian Church. It housed not only the Court, but also the jail and the jailer's quarters, and served as such from 1818 to 1839. A new stone Courthouse was constructed in 1839 on the site of the present Courthouse. It served Monroe County until February 28, 1879 when it was destroyed by fire, with almost a total loss of all records. There still remains in the County Clerk's Office some of the partially burned records, and some records dating back to 1856, which are still legible and are used for historical facts. The present courthouse was built in 1880, and there have since been three additions. The first was built in 1954 directly behind the structure along Washington Street. The second was constructed in 1966 along First Street and the most recent was built in 1986 on the site of the former jail.
||The Monroe County Courthouse
as it appears today.
During the early morning hours of April 13, 1992, an arsonist set fire to the Monroe County Courthouse. Fires were set in four separate locations, with extensive damage to the Probate Court, the Historic Circuit Courtroom, Treasurer's Office and main entrance. The restoration and remodeling took some ten months to complete, at a cost of $930,000.00. The arsonist has yet to be apprehended, despite the offering of a $25,000.00 reward by the County Board of Commissioners for information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the person(s) responsible.
The County is governed by a legislative board which is presently called the Board of Commissioners. It consists of nine (9) persons representing districts throughout the County, which have been divided so as to have approximately equal population. The Board elects from its membership a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman for purposes of moderating the meetings. The Vice-Chairman chairs meetings of the Finance Committee.
The population of the County has grown from 2,618 in 1825 to 133,600 in 1990.