GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A railway expansion was the catalyst for the beginnings of the town of Gilbert.
It was 1901 when plans to build a railroad from Phoenix to Benson were coming together for the Phoenix and Eastern Railway Company.
In 1902, they began to purchase land to lay the first stretch of line between Phoenix and Florence.
Enter into history one William "Bobby" Gilbert, whose family had homesteaded 160 acres of land (in 1898) in what would later become the town.
He provided the land where a rail siding was established, and the community that rose around it evolved into the town of Gilbert.
The community's first general store, Ayer's Grocery Store, opened in 1910. Two years later, the town's first post office opened there, as well.
That same year, the turbulent actions by Gen. Pancho Villa spurred the exodus of Mormons from their colonies in Mexico. They came to Gilbert in 1912 to make a new home for themselves.
Incorporation for Gilbert came in 1920. And with a listed population of 865, the farming community made their place on the map!
Primarily an agricultural community, the area provided hay for the war effort during World War I.
The largest hay shipments in the world left from the train depot in Gilbert and headed to Europe, where it was fed to the horses of Calvary units. Gilbert, for many years, was known as the "Hay Capital of the World."
The Gilbert we know today began to take shape during the 1970s, with the annexation of 53 square miles of land. At the time, the population was only 1,971. Gilbert was not positioned for growth, and what a boom it saw.
By 1990, Gilbert's residents were listed at 29,188. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau listed Gilbert as the fastest-growing municipality in America from 1990 to 2003.
The year 2020 will mark the Gilbert's centennial celebration.
The occasion will also bring a change to the community. You see, the little town now has grown enough to bring a change of title-- a promotion of sorts. As from that point on, Gilbert will bear the new title of the City of Gilbert!