Monmouth ( /ˈmɒnməθ/ is a city in Polk County, Oregon, United States. It was named for Monmouth, Illinois, the origin of its earliest settlers. The population has reached 9,726 as of the 2010 census, It is part of the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Monmouth was settled in 1853 by a group of pioneers who made a point of allocating 640 acres (2.6 km2) to build both a city and a “college under the auspices of the Christian Church” and proceeds from the sale of these lands were used to found Monmouth University. By the early 1880s the college fell on hard times. In 1882, ownership was transferred to the State of Oregon and it was renamed Oregon State Normal School at Monmouth, and later the Oregon College of Education. It is now known as Western Oregon University.
For decades, Monmouth was a dry town that banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, restaurants and bars. Monmouth’s status as the last dry town in Oregon was ended by a popular vote in the November 2002 election.Spurred on by the closure of Monmouth’s last grocery store, and a general decline of its retail sector, three local men (John Oberst, Paul Sieber, and Chuck Sheffield) led a referendum campaign to allow the sale of beer and wine. The measure passed 57-43%. In the May election of 2010, resident Cecelia Koontz placed a second referendum on the ballot calling for the repeal of the last vestiges of prohibition. That measure passed by a nearly identical margin, and Monmouth now allows the sale of hard liquor in addition to beer and wine. Subsequently, John Oberst was elected Mayor in 2006, and Cecelia Koontz became a City Councilor in 2010.
History of prohibition in Monmouth
Monmouth, Oregon was settled by Elijah Davidson and his Family. Originally a member of the Christian Church of Cameron (Monmouth, Illinois), Davidson was a devout advocate of prohibition. In 1852, sixty-three-year-old Elijah Davidson and his family set out for Oregon Territory By 1854, more than a dozen Disciples families from Monmouth, many of them related to each other or to Davidson, had joined him. In February 1859, Davidson and other trustees efforts to prohibit the importation, exportation, sale, and consumption of alcohol in Monmouth became a reality. One of the main arguments Davidson and his fellow religious supporters used to push prohibition legislation was, “to enable them to suppress and prevent nuisances, to render the possession of life and property more secure, [and] to enable them to improve and embellish the streets of the town.” 
Despite the efforts of certain merchants to repeal prohibition in Monmouth throughout its history, their efforts proved useless. What was most important to the local religious community was to keep prohibition for the betterment of the social order of Monmouth. Although opponents raised religious, moral, economic, and quality-of-life arguments similar to those preached during the nineteenth century, they also brought two new arguments to center stage: the historic nature of Monmouth’s prohibition and the uniqueness that local prohibition brought to the town. Opponents of prohibition pointed out that while it was historic, it was also detrimental to the normal development of the city, and that no visitor ever came to town to look at the dry law.
Eventually support for the prohibition ordinance started to wear thin throughout the community of Monmouth. Although die-hard supporters of prohibition continued to fight the inevitable, there were signs that it was starting to become more and more detrimental to the social and economic aspects of the community. Some claim that prohibition had reduced property values, others that it restricted development of the business sector in town. Opponents of repeal brought forth many arguments for staying dry, including initiating one rumor that the land donated so long ago for the site of the University would revert to the heirs of the donors if the ordinance was repealed, resulting in a huge cost to the state to repurchase it. The loss of the last grocery store in Monmouth in 2000 was the event that tipped the argument once and for all. Beer and wine sales began in January 2003. In the subsequent decade, at least 5 new alcohol serving restaurants, a wine bar and 3 convenience stores opened in the city, suggesting that the proponents of repeal were correct in identifying prohibition as a drag on the local economy. Despite the fears raised by proponents of prohibition, the alcohol related crime rate, and crime rate in general have remained flat since repeal.
After failing by a nearly 5 to 1 margin in the early 1970s, repeal was passed by the voters in November 2002, and Monmouth ended its long tenure as the last dry town on the west coast.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,741 people, 2,757 households, and 1,488 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,004.3 people per square mile (1,548.6/km²). There were 2,934 housing units at an average density of 1,517.7 per square mile (587.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.67% White, 0.92%African American, 1.05% Native American, 2.04% Asian, 0.74% Pacific Islander, 6.21% from other races, and 3.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.73% of the population.
There were 2,757 households out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.7% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city the population was spread out with 19.5% under the age of 18, 35.9% from 18 to 24, 21.2% from 25 to 44, 14.5% from 45 to 64, and 8.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 86.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,256, and the median income for a family was $48,600. Males had a median income of $33,500 versus $25,185 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,474. About 7.1% of families and 24.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.1% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.
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Posted on October 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm by Joni McClintock