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Gilbert is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, located southeast of Phoenix, within the Phoenix metropolitan area. Once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World”, Gilbert is currently the most populous incorporated town in the United States. Gilbert encompasses 76 square miles (197 km2) and has made a rapid transformation from an agriculture-based community to an economically diverse suburban center located in the southeast valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area. In the last two decades, Gilbert has grown at an extremely high rate, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to 208,453 as of a 2010 Census Bureau estimate.
Gilbert owes its beginnings to William “Bobby” Gilbert who provided land to the Arizona Eastern Railway in 1902 to construct a rail line between Phoenix and Florence, Arizona. 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. To this very day Gilberts post office still stands and is a promonient building to the Gilbert residences because of how long it has been around. In 1912, many Mormons who had fled the Mormon colonies in Mexico due to the actions of the forces of Pancho Villa settled in Gilbert. By 1915, they began holding church meetings at the Gilbert Elementary School. In 1918, they were organized into the Gilbert Ward.
Incorporated in July 1920, Gilbert was primarily a farming community fueled by the rail line and construction of the Roosevelt Dam and the Eastern and Consolidated Canals. It remained an agricultural town for many years and was known as the “Hay Capital of the World” from 1911 until the late 1920s.
According to the United States Census Bureau, in the 2000 Census, the town had an estimated area of 40 square miles (104 km2). As of 2009, and due to annexations the current Municipal Planning Area of Gilbert has a total area of 76.0 square miles (197 km2), of which, 75.76 square miles (196.2 km2) of it is land and 0.24 square miles (0.6 km2) of it is water.