The Gilbert area’s earliest homestead was purchased in 1891; some of these farms were free if the family stayed for at least five years and made improvements on the land.
Others paid the government cash for their land, which could be purchased for as little as 50 cents an acre.
Because of a strip annexation of 53 square miles in 1975 and the construction of the US 60 freeway in the early 80s, growth in Gilbert exploded.
This Centennial video produced by Joe Garcia shares how Gilbert used to be in the years leading up to and after the growth as seen through the eyes of local residents.
The Town of Gilbert owes its name to William “Bobby” Gilbert who sold a right-of-way through his land to the Phoenix and Eastern Railroad Company in 1902. The railroad line was built from Phoenix to Kelvin, Arizona in 1903. The line was later known as the Arizona Eastern Railway. A rail siding was established on Bobby Gilbert’s property; the spur line and the town that sprung up around it, became known as Gilbert. The railroad depot that was built just north of the railroad tracks and west of Gilbert Road in 1905 was unfortunately torn down in 1969.
Around 1910, when Gilbert was first getting established, there were no paved streets, no electricity, and no indoor running water or toilets. Most people built sleeping porches onto their homes because there were no cooling devices.
Ayer’s Grocery Store, the first store in Gilbert, opened in 1910 and became the location of the first Post Office in 1912. The town’s Post Office moved locations regularly before settling for many years on the east side of downtown Gilbert Road. In 1979 a new Main Post Office was built on Elliot Road; it was only then that the Post Office began delivering mail to town residents. The Val Vista Station opened in 1992.
Gilbert became a prime farming community; the construction of the Consolidated Canal in 1904, later the Eastern Canal, and the Roosevelt Dam in 1911 assured continuing water flow to the area. Rich soil, good irrigation and the hard work of the early pioneers made for a successful combination.
Alfalfa, cotton and dairy farms surrounded the square mile of Gilbert in those early years; so much so that Gilbert was known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World” during the WWI period when Gilbert farmers supplied the U.S. Army with hay for their horses.
Farming was done by horse-drawn equipment until the 1920’s, even though cars started to appear around 1910. Products shipped from Gilbert went by train; the ramps east of town next to the railroad tracks were used to transport sheep and cattle. Gilbert farmers also grew and shipped watermelons! Gilbert would remain just a small farming community for many years, until expansion started in the 70s and 80s.
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Gilbert is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, located southeast of Phoenix within the city’s metropolitan area. Once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World”, it is the sixth-largest municipality in Arizona, and the fifth-largest in the Phoenix metro area. Wikipedia
Thriving in business and leisure activities, access to a nationally ranked public school district, and with over 300 days of sunshine per year, Gilbert has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Live in the United States by CNN/Money Magazine.
The Hay Capital of the World
Gilbert was a prime farming community, fueled by the construction of the Roosevelt Dam and the Eastern and Consolidated Canals in 1911. It remained an agricultural town for many years and was known as the “Hay Capital of the World” until the late 1920s.
Gilbert is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, located southeast of Phoenix within the city’s metropolitan area. Once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World”, it is the sixth-largest municipality in Arizona, and the fifth-largest in the Phoenix metro area. It covers an area of nearly 69 square miles (179 km2).
Gilbert has made a rapid transformation from an agriculture-based community to an economically diverse suburban center located in the southeastern valley of the Greater Phoenix area. It has grown at an extremely high rate over the last three decades, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to 243,254 as of the 2020 census. The town grew at an average annual rate of nearly 13% during this 30-year period. In 2019, the town’s population was estimated to be 254,114. It is the largest incorporated town in the United States.
These performers have been associated with Gilbert:
Gilbert is home to a 9/11 Memorial, located at Town Hall,that features an eight-foot steel girder beamwhich held up the North Tower of the World Trader Center. Former Gilbert Fire Chief Collin DeWitt fundraised extensively for three years to create the memorial, and to bring the beam from New York City to Arizona. He drove to collect it himself along with his then Assistant Fire Chief Jim Jobusch.
The design of the memorial angles the beam, which puts it in reach of everyone. Four granite walls bear the names of those lost to the attacks. Concrete was poured in the shape of a pentagon for the foundation of the memorial, and it is surrounded by bricks which carry names of some of those who helped to donate to bring the memorial to life. There was an unveiling ceremony of the memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attack on September 11, 2011.
The following is a brief description of the historic structures which are pictured. Some of these structures are listed in the National Register of Historic Places while others are listed as historical by the Gilbert Heritage District.
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