The following is taken from the Gilbert Historical Museum.
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 becoming 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 location of the town Post Office moved 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 was 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 "Alfalfa 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.
‘Modern’ Gilbert began to take shape during the 1970s when the Town Council annexed 53 square miles of county land. Although the town’s population totaled less than 2,000 at the time, the Council realized that like the neighboring cities of Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler, the town would need room to grow.
Arizona Eastern Railway
In 1902, the Arizona Eastern Railway asked for donations of right of way in order to establish a rail line between Phoenix, Arizona and Florence, Arizona. A rail siding, which is a short stretch of railroad track used to store rolling stock or to enable trains on the same lane to pass, was established on property owned by William "Bobby" Gilbert. The railroad siding, and the town that sprung up around it, eventually became known as Gilbert.
Gilbert, Arizona was incorporated on 06 July 1920.
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