City of Monroe
The area was settled by Indian tribes (specifically the Potawatomi) hundreds of years before the French reached the area for the first time in the late seventeenth-century. Robert de LaSalle claimed the area for New France after his 1679 exhibition on the Griffon. In 1784, Francis Navarre was given a portion of land south of the River Raisin by the Potawatomi. Frenchtown was settled shortly thereafter as the third European settlement in the state. Around the same time, the Sandy Creek Settlement was established just north of Frenchtown by Joseph Porlier Benec.
Front Street looking east toward the Old Village around the year 1900 (top) and in 2010 (bottom)The area, because of its close location to Detroit, was of strategic importance during the War of 1812, especially after Detroit fell to the enemy British during the Siege of Detroit in August 1812. The area of Frenchtown served as a stepping stone for the American forces to retake Detroit, and this led to the devastating Battle of Frenchtown in January 1813. The American forces camped in the area in an attempt to move to retake Detroit when they met British and Indian opposition near the shores of the River Raisin on January 18. Initially, the Americans, under the command of James Winchester, fought off the British and Indians in what was later dubbed the First Battle of the River Raisin. However, four days later, the Americans were counterattacked in the same location. Many of the Americans were injured from the previous battle, and their escape routes were cut off. The British, under Henry Proctor, and their Indian allies slaughtered almost 400 American soldiers in what would later be known as the Battle of Frenchtown (or the Second Battle of the River Raisin). The surviving Americans who were unable to retreat became prisoners of war, but some were later slaughtered by Indian forces in an incident dubbed the River Raisin massacre. Today, the site of the battle houses a small visitor center and the recently authorized River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
Custer’s statue, unveiled in 1910, now sits at the corner of Elm Street and Monroe Street.The area of Frenchtown was renamed and incorporated as the village of Monroe in honor of President James Monroe, who visited the Michigan Territory in 1817. In the same year, the city of Monroe was named the county seat of the newly-created Monroe County. Monroe re-incorporated as a city in 1837. Monroe is known for the residency of United States Major General George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876) during his childhood. While he was not born in Monroe, Custer spent much of his boyhood living in Monroe, where he later met and married Elizabeth Bacon (1842–1933) during the Civil War in 1864. In 1910, President William Howard Taft and the widowed Elizabeth Bacon unveiled an equestrian statue of Custer (George Armstrong Custer Equestrian Monument) that now rests at the corner of Elm Street and Monroe Street. Custer’s namesake is honored as street names, various historic markers, buildings, schools, and the Custer Airport. City limit signs for Monroe also mention the city as "the home of General Custer." The city is also known as the home of La-Z-Boy, which was founded in Monroe in 1927. Their world headquarters are located in Monroe on Telegraph Road. In 1974, the Monroe Power Plant, currently the fourth largest coal firing plant in North America, opened. At 805 feet (245 m) tall, the dual smokestacks are the visible from over 25 miles away and are among the tallest structures in the state.