Gilbert - Our Railroad Heritage
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 - “The Hay Shipping Capital of the World”
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.
This article in the East Valley Tribune (from 2010) offers an interesting insight into early Gilbert life from some of our senior residents.
Gilbert’s Astounding Growth
Gilbert will celebrate its 100th year of incorporation in July, 2020, and now encompasses 76 square miles; the population grew from 1,971 in 1970, to 5,717 in 1980, to 110,000 in 2000, to an estimated 250,000 today. Build out is anticipated in the next decade with a population forecast of over 330,000.
Gilbert School District
When the elementary school was built at the southwest corner of Elliot and Gilbert Roads in 1913, the Gilbert School District was formed. Students would often hitch a ride to school on a farm wagon heading to the new creamery that was built in 1911! Beats the big yellow school bus doesn’t it?
In 1977, the “Alamo”, as our building was nicknamed, was closed for classroom use. In 1982, it reopened as the home of the Gilbert Historical Museum, the only Gilbert building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Contact Gilbert Museum today
If you have any questions about the Gilbert Museum at HD South, or if you would like to record your Gilbert family history, please feel free to contact us; we’re open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.