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Monroe is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan located on the western shore of Lake Erie. The population was 20,733 at the 2010 census. It is the largest city and county seat of Monroe County. The city is bordered on the south by Monroe Charter Township, but both are politically independent.
The city is located approximately 14 mi (23 km) north of Toledo, Ohio and 25 mi (40 km) south of Detroit. The United States Census Bureau lists Monroe as the core city in the Monroe Metropolitan Area, which had a population of 152,021 in 2010. Monroe is officially part of the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint CSA. The city is sometimes unofficially included as a northerly extension of the Toledo Metropolitan Area.
When first settled by European Americans in 1784 shortly after the American Revolutionary War, this was still part of British territory and their Province of Quebec. French Canadians were early settlers here. The area later became part of the United States and Michigan territory, after the US and Britain settled the northern boundary with Canada. The US took control of Fort Detroit, which it briefly lost during the War of 1812.
It is remembered for the Battle of Frenchtown during the War of 1812. It was named after the war for President James Monroe. Monroe was platted in 1817.
This was the childhood residence of George Armstrong Custer and other members of his family, including his brother Boston Custer and wife Elizabeth Bacon. The city has numerous historic museums and landmarks, and is committed to their preservation.
Since the mid-20th century, Monroe has been the site of the La-Z-Boy world headquarters. The population has declined slightly since its peak in 1970.
Long occupied by varying cultures of indigenous peoples, the area around the River Raisin was settled by the historic Potawatomi hundreds of years before French explorers and colonists reached it in the late seventeenth century. Robert de LaSalle claimed the area for New France after his 1679 expedition on the Griffon.
In 1784, after the American Revolutionary War, Francis Navarre of Canada was given a portion of land south of the River Raisin by the Potawatomi. Colonists settled Frenchtown shortly thereafter as the third European community in what in the early 19th century became the state of Michigan. Around the same time, the Sandy Creek Settlement was established just north of Frenchtown by French-Canadian Joseph Porlier Benec.
Because of its proximity to Detroit, the area was of strategic importance during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, especially after Fort Detroit surrendered to the British in August 1812. American forces en route to retake Detroit had camped in the area of the River Raisin in the winter of 1812-13. A force of 200 Native Americans and 63 Canadian militia were forced to retreat north away from the River Raisin by 600 Kentucky militiamen and 100 French, under the command of James Winchester, on January 18, 1813. This skirmish was later dubbed the 'First Battle of the River Raisin'.
But, on January 22, 1813, a force of 800 Native Americans and 597 British, under Henry Procter (British Army officer), surprised the force of 1,000 Americans and captured Frenchtown. Many of the American militia were inexperienced, ill-trained, and badly equipped. They suffered 397 killed and 547 captured. The British and their allies had only slight losses.
When the British departed with their captives to Detroit, they left those Americans too wounded to walk in the homes of Frenchtown inhabitants under the guard of a small British detachment and Native American allies, including Potawatomi. The morning after the battle, Native Americans returned to Frenchtown. They plundered and burned homes, killing and ritually scalping many of the remaining American captives, and taking others as slaves. The official U.S. estimate of casualties in this aftermath include a dozen named individuals killed and up to 30 more who were likely killed. The British estimated six Americans were killed.
This event became known throughout the United States as the "River Raisin Massacre". This was also known as the Battle of Frenchtown (or the Second Battle of the River Raisin). Today, the site of the battle is preserved as the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, authorized in 2009. It is the first and so far the only national battlefield established for a War of 1812 site. It has a small visitor center.
The area of Frenchtown was renamed after the War of 1812 and incorporated as the village of Monroe in honor of President James Monroe. He visited the Michigan Territory in 1817. In the same year, the city of Monroe was named as the county seat of the newly created Monroe County. Monroe was re-incorporated as a city in 1837.
Settled mostly by American migrants from New York and New England, Monroe later became associated with events in the West in the later 19th century, particularly the Indian Wars. It is known as the childhood home of Major General George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876). His family moved here when he was young, and he lived in Monroe for much of his childhood. Here he later met and in 1864 married Elizabeth Bacon (1842–1933), during the Civil War. He led troops in the Indian Wars and died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which his forces were killed by the Lakota. They call it the Battle of the Greasy Grass.
In 1910, President William Howard Taft and the widow Elizabeth Bacon Custer unveiled an equestrian statue of Custer, which now stands at the corner of Elm Street and Monroe Street. Custer is also honored in street names, various historic markers, buildings, schools, and the regional Custer Airport. City limit signs for Monroe describe the city as "the home of General Custer."
The La-Z-Boy furniture company, which became known for its reclining easy chairs, was founded in Monroe in 1927. Their world headquarters are still located in Monroe, but in a secluded area south of the intersection of La-Z-Boy Blvd and Stewart Road. This new facility is roughly 1/2 a mile east of the original location on Telegraph Road; the iconic building still stands and is being prepped for potential redevelopment.
In 1974, the Monroe Power Plant opened. In the early 21st century, it is the fourth-largest coal firing plant in North America. At 805 feet (245 m) tall, the dual smokestacks are visible from more than 25 miles (40 km) away and are among the tallest structures in the state.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.19 square miles (26.39 km2), of which 9.17 square miles (23.75 km2) is land and 1.02 square miles (2.64 km2) is water. Monroe sits at the lowest elevation in state of Michigan, which is the shores of Lake Erie at 571 feet (174 meters). The average elevation of the city of Monroe is 594 feet (182 meters). The Port of Monroe is the only Michigan port on Lake Erie, and Sterling State Park is the only of Michigan's 98 state parks located on or near Lake Erie. The River Raisin and Sandy Creek travel through Monroe; they are non-navigable because of the several dams and other obstructions.
Monroe lies in the humid continental climate zone. Monroe receives an average of 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) of snow a year — the lowest average snowfall for any large city in the state. July is the warmest month with an average high temperature of 84 °F (29 °C), and January is the coldest month with an average low temperature of 16 °F (-9 °C). Monroe does not normally have extremely hot or cold temperatures, as its climate is moderated by the lake. On average, the temperature only drops below 0 °F (-18 °C) a couple of times during a winter season, and it is even rarer for the temperature to rise above 100 °F (38 °C) during the summer. The coldest recorded temperature was -21 °F (-29 °C) on February 5, 1918. The highest recorded temperature was 106 °F (41 °C) on July 24, 1934, with another equal temperature recorded on one occasion many years earlier.
The city of Monroe is served by one public school district, Monroe Public Schools (MPS), which enrolls approximately 6,700 students. MPS operates five elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, one alternative high school, and two specialized education centers. At around 2,100 students, Monroe High School is one of the largest high schools in the state. Monroe is also served by the Monroe County Intermediate School District, which provides services to other schools in the form of special education services, support staff, substitute teachers, and educational technology (such as computers and distance learning). Students in Monroe may also attend one of two public charter schools.
More than a dozen various parochial schools operate in and around Monroe. In 2012, the three largest parochial elementary schools (St. Michael the Archangel, St. Mary, and St. John the Baptist) merged to form Monroe Catholic Elementary Schools, serving infants through 8th grade. The St. Michael Campus serves infants through 1st grade, while St. John serves 2nd through 4th grade, and St. Mary functions as the Middle School for grades 5 through 8. The largest of the parochial schools is St. Mary Catholic Central High School, which enrolls more than 400 students annually. It has a full sports program that competes against the other public school districts. Parents may also homeschool their children.
Marygrove College, sponsored by the local Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), was founded in Monroe in 1905 as a Catholic, liberal arts college. The college moved to its current location in Detroit in 1927. The IHM also operated a boarding school, the Hall of the Divine Child, in Monroe from 1918–1980. Monroe County Community College was founded in 1964 just west of Monroe. It is the only higher education facility in Monroe County.
Only in Monroe is a monthly public-access television program covering news on the Monroe area. It is hosted by Kaye Lani Rae Rafko and Michelle Bowman. Comedian and nationally known talk show host Stephen Colbert was a guest host of the show on July 1, 2015. Colbert interviewed musician Eminem. "Only in Monroe" and other public access programming can be found on Monroe Public Access Cable Television.
Rewind 94.3 WERW is the low-power educational FM frequency in Monroe, the station at one time belonged to Monroe Public Schools and is currently run by Monroe Public Access Cable Television.
The Monroe News is the daily newspaper in Monroe, reporting on all of Monroe County. The newspaper was founded in 1825 and for many years known as The Monroe Evening News. It was purchased by GateHouse Media in fall 2015, just prior to that The Monroe News had about 20 years of employee ownership.
Monroe County Radio is an Internet radio station founded in fall 2012, the studio is in Monroe with news and sports coverage focusing on Monroe County.
Nash Icon WMIM 98.5 is the Cumulus radio station in the area, the studio is in downtown Monroe. The current music format is country. Prior to Cumulus owning the station, it was locally owned.
Monroe is the hometown of the Southern Michigan Timberwolves, a semi-professional football team that completes in the Great Lakes Football League. The Timberwolves have won their league championship four times, three in the Mid-Continental Football League (1996, 97 & 99) and the Minor League Football Alliance championship in 2016.
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