Before Vernon Parish was known as Vernon Parish, it had a sordid history. Known as the neutral strip, Vernon Parish rested in a strip of land in dispute between the United States and Spain. Because it was in dispute, it was not patrolled by soldiers from either country, and local history suggests it was a home for outlaws.
The Parish was named in 1871 after George Washington’s home in Virginia, and the disputed area was no longer in dispute after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 ceded not only Vernon Parish but a large chunk of the American West to the US.
While Vernon Parish muddled its way through the 1800s, it didn’t achieve real financial success until 1897, when the Kansas City Southern Railway extended into the parish. This allowed for an outlet for the booming logging, lumber and pine product business.
While the parish is filled with smaller communities, none has been so influential to the present day as Fort Polk, the fifth largest Army base in the country. With roughly 200,000 acres, the fort opened permanently in 1941 and quickly surpassed the logging industry as the economic-driving force of the parish. Fort Polk has served different functions for the Army, from the 1950s when it was home to the 1st Armored Division until today, when it houses the Joint Readiness Training Center. As of 2013, there were 10,877 troops stationed at the fort.
Other towns in the parish include Leesville. Although not incorporated until 2005, Leesville has served as the county’s seat since its founding, and as of the 2010 census has a population of roughly 6,753.
The town of New Llano, founded in 1917 but not incorporated until 1945, holds a unique place in American history. With a current population of slightly more than 2,000, New Llano was originally named Staples, but changed its name as it hosted one of the longest-living socialist communes in the country. The colony began in 1917 but was disbanded in 1965.
Hornbeck was first settled in the 1830s, but didn’t become a town until 1897 when the railroad moved through. A post office opened in 1897, followed quickly by a public school in 1898. The town has seen recent economic growth with the construction of a reservoir.
Rosepine, with a population of about 1,500, was incorporated in 1902 as primarily a logging town. As the second largest city in the parish, it has the largest school in the parish.
Anacoco, translated “muddy sands,” is more than likely named for the sands around the creek. In 1875 a post office was created for a town named Orange, but the town’s name changed to avoid confusion for a town of the same name in Texas.
The town of Simpson is one of the few in the county whose economy and founding did not rely solely on the timber industry. Instead, it was founded on a path where Texas cattlemen took their cattle to ship. The post office for the town was established in 1891, although settlers had reputedly been in the area since the 1960s, and the town is known for a cotton gin constructed in 1929.
Today Vernon Parish is home to roughly 52,334 residents and exists much as it always has. Truly a haven for outdoorsmen, it is mostly a rural area, and much of its economic future depends on the fort.
Chris J. Roy, Jr.APLC has been serving the people of Louisiana from its Alexandria office since 1989. We handle a variety of personal injury of cases, and look forward to addressing your legal needs. If you have questions or want to set up a consultation, contact us onlineor call us at 318.487.9537.
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