In 1732 James Oglethorpe, a Member of the English Parliament, proposed that the area south of Charlesfort and north of the Spanish claimed lands of Florida be colonized. Oglethorpe and other English philanthropists secured a royal charter as the Trustees of the Colony of Georgia on June 9, 1732. With the motto, "Not for ourselves, but for others," the Trustees selected colonists for Georgia. On February 12, 1733, the first settlers arrived in the ship "Anne" at what was to become the city of Savannah. Georgia was named in honor of King George II of Great Britain.
In the late 1700’s, settlers began relocating to the Cherokee indian territory of Northeast Georgia. The land was fertile from the Apalachee, Alcovy and Yellow Rivers and newcomers began to settle into the area and work the land.
Walton County was laid out by the Lottery Act of 1818, was organized in 1819, and named in honor of George Walton, one of the three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence. The first court held in Walton County was at Cow Pens, about three miles southeast of the present courthouse, and Judge John M. Dooley from the northern district presided.
Cow Pens is said to have gotten its name from its use at the time by Richard Easley of Athens, GA. Easley owned large herds of cattle and came into possession of lands surrounding the spot where Cow Pens is now located. He sent his herd there to graze, erecting sheds and pens for their protection and later building a log cabin for his herdsmen. Since Easley owned several grazing places, when speaking of this particular place, he would call it the “Cow Pens” and so it became commonly known by that name.
Later, the location of a county seat came into question and Walter J. Colquitt, a lawyer, and Dr. Thomas Moody took up their residence at Cow Pens, believing it would be the county seat and the name was consolidated into one word, Cowpens.
At the same time, a doctor by the name of Johnson and a lawyer, whose name is unknown, took up their residence at “Spring Place,” now the City of Monroe. They thought that the county seat would be located there.
Elisha Betts of Virginia offered a gift of land for county buildings, private and public cemeteries, and six acres surrounding “Spring Place,” this being a public gathering place for citizens in the surrounding community. This benefactor also suggested to give the town the name of “Monroe” in honor of James Monroe, fifth president of the United States. His offer was accepted and Monroe became known as the county seat of Walton County in 1820. The City of Monroe was incorporated in 1821.
Elisha Betts aided the erection of log and frame houses, stores, and a tavern known as “Major Humphries Assembly Room,” which was used for public meetings, dancing, and other forms of amusement. His own two-story log house is said to have stood on the lot at the corner of Broad and Washington Streets.
A fire in 1857 swept the entire downtown area of Broad Street between the streets now known as Spring and Washington. The Courthouse was the only building left standing.
Following the fire, the first brick buildings were erected, many of which are still present in one form or another today. The original City Hall building erected during the late 1800's still stands at the corner of Spring Street and Wayne Street, as does the second City Hall which was built in 1939 on South Broad Street. Many other homes and storefronts from the late 1800's and early 1900's still exist here today.
Monroe did not make very rapid progress until after the “War Between the States,” but since that time, it has grown and prospered. Monroe became a bustling cotton/textiles mill town during the early half of the 20th century, as well as attracting local industries and building a strong business presence both downtown and from one end of town to the other.
It is known as one of Georgia’s most civil-minded and cultured smaller cities. Monroe also proudly claims the honor of being the “City of Governors,” having furnished seven men to act as Governor of Georgia. Monroe also claims a native son who left Monroe for the West and later became Governor of Texas.