Located on the Hoosac Range, at the northern end of The Berkshires, Monroe comprises a total area of 10.8 square miles and is bordered on the north by the towns of Stamford and Readsboro, Vermont, on the east by Rowe, and on the south and west by Florida. The town has a population of slightly more than 100.
Monroe State Forest, is a 4,321-acre forest encompassing southern and central Monroe, extending into Florida. It is accessible by traveling east on Monroe Road on one mile from Route 2. The forest includes a lookout platform on the side of Hunt Hill, more than five miles of streams supporting native brook trout, and several miles of trails for hiking and horeseback riding. Hunting and winter activities are also available. Call 413-339-5504 for further information.
Deerfield River offers fishing, swimming, conoeing and whitewater boating. Whitewater boating access to the Monroe Bridge section of the river is located below the bridge. On a scale of I to VI, with VI being the most dangerous, this stretch of river offers Class IV whitewater. Below the Fife Brook Dam, there is a long stretch of river to Buckland that is popular with conoeists, kayakers, rafters, tubers and anglers. Catch-and-release fishing areas are from Fife Brook Dam to the Hoosac Tunnel railroad bridge, and from the mouth of Pelham Brook to Mohawk Campground in Charlemont.
Named after President James Monroe, who served in office from 1817 to 1825, the town of Monroe was settled in the early 1800s and incorporated on February 21, 1822. It was a farming community until 1887, when paper mills were built. The first white settlers began to establish roots around 1800. David Canedy and his family from Colrain are believed to be the first settlers. Among the others were Ebenezer Hayward, Samuel and Daniel Gore, the four Ballou brothers, Thomas Hines, Dana Phelps, Thomas Stafford, Asa Bullock and the Briant family.
The town is sometimes called Monroe Bridge. The reason for this is that after completion of the Hoosac Tunnel & Willington Railroad, crewmen were told to leave the town's mailbags at the Monroe bridge, which spanned the Deerfield River, connecting Monroe with Rowe. When the post office was established in 1888, it became known as the Monroe Bridge Post Office. Monroe Bridge refers to the center of town.
The area's first railroad was put in operation in 1885, helping to establish industry. It was built by the Newton brothers from Holyoke for the purpose of hauling pulp from their pulp mill in Readsboro, VT, to Holyoke. Residents referred to the railroad as the "Hoot, Toot & Whistle."
The railroad attracted the James Ramage Paper Co., which was built in 1887 and put in operation the next year. The mill was the forerunner of Deerfield Specialty Papers Inc., which closed in 1984. The Ramage family built a store, post office and houses for workers and themselves.
Monroe was the first Franklin County town to elect a woman to its board of selectmen, voting in Inga Koksvik in 1932.