History of Vernon Parish
Vernon Parish was named after George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, and was created by an act of the Louisiana legislature on March 30, 1871, from portions of the Parishes of Natchitoches, Rapides, and Sabine. Originally the area comprising Vernon was apart of a tract of land that was in dispute between the United State and Spain, this land was called the “Neutral Strip”. As a result of this dispute the area became a haven for outlaws. Prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the only persons who came to the area were a few French and Spain settlers. The Parish economy has largely been based on pine products since its earliest days. The logging and lumber business became a thriving business in 1897 with the coming of the Kansas City Southern Railway still in operation today.
Burr Ferry, established in 1809 by Dr. Timothy Burr, one of the first doctors in the area, is known as the 'Gateway to Louisiana'. Also located near this community, there sill stands an artillery site (now called the “Confederate Breast Works”) which was manned by the Confederacy to guard against Union movements along the '’Nolan Trace' during the Civil War.
LEESVILLE, an area known as 'No Man’s Land' of Louisiana, has been designated the seat of Vernon Parish since the parish was created in 1871, though it wasn’t’ incorporated until February 15, 1900. The city was founded by Dr. Edmund E. Smart and named by his father, Senator John R. Smart for the Confederate Hero, General Robert E. Lee. At the time of Leesville’s founding, the site was the home of a plantation owned by Dr. Smart. The house from that plantation is still found today at the corner of First Street and Lula Street.
NEW LLANO, a former cooperative colony which experimented with socialism was formed in 1917 by professional and skilled people. This is where the hopes and ideals of over 10,000 people came together to create America’s longest lived socialist community, the Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony.
The town of New Llano was incorporated in 1942, but the colony survived in some form until 1965 when it was officially liquidated.
HORNBECK, has history as early as the 1830s of people settling in the area, but a town didn’t begin to form until 1897, when an agent for the Arkansas Town Site Company named F.A. Hornbeck purchased land along the Kansas City Southern Railroad (KCS) for $8,640. Structures necessary for servicing locomotives were constructed as well as a brick kiln to supply bricks for construction.
In 1897, the first Post Office opened in the area with Walter Carey as the first postmaster. The first public school in Hornbeck opened in 1898, with Miss Fannie Monk and W.L. Ford serving as the primary and grammar school teachers.
In the 1960s, with the construction of Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Sabine River, Hornbeck gained an asset and started promoting itself as the “Gateway” to Toledo Bend.
Today, Hornbeck has maintained modest growth, with its elected officials taking a pro-active approach to economic development. On October 21, 2002, Hornbeck celebrated its 100th Anniversary.
ROSEPINE, incorporated in 1902 with logging as its primary industry, is a small community with a population of about 1,452 located in the southwest Louisiana countryside. Rosepine is midpoint, and home for many who work to the north and south of the town. As the second largest town in Vernon Parish, Rosepine’s Elementary School has the highest student population in the parish. Located about 13 miles to the south of Leesville/Fort Polk and only 3 miles north of DeRidder, this community also hosts six churches within its 4 square mile area.
ANACOCO may have been named for the 'muddy sands' of present-day Anacoco Creek which was known as 'Bayou Lan Anacoco' in earlier years. The Caddo Indians name of 'Lan'Acoco,' or 'L'Anacoco,' translate broadly to muddy sands.
First to come to the area was the family of Rev. Jonathan Franklin with a wife and six sons. This was in 1834. It wasn't until 28 September 1875 that a post office was established. The first postmaster was Mr. John I. Kirk. Another post office called 'Orange' was opened in 1898. Both post offices were combined on 21 October 1911 with the new combined post office retaining the name of Anacoco.
The name of 'Orange' was a prominant one for the area. Some say it was after the House of Orange in honor of the Royal Dutch family. In 1913, one map listed Anacoco as Orangeville. To avoid confusion with Orange Texas, Orangeville was changed to Anacoco early in the 20th century.
SIMPSON is located about midway between Comrade Creek and the Calcasieu River. The Beef Road, which ran through the area, likely attracted early residents to the community. It was the trail over which the Texas Cattlemen drove their herds of wild, long-horned cattle to the shipping points on the Red River. Settlers used the local streams for power to grind corn and polish rice, and in 1929 the village got a cotton gin. Because it was not located on the railroad, Simpson’s history is not as closely tied with the timber industry as many other villages and towns in the parish.
In September 1891, the Simpson post office was established on land owned by Mrs. Tom Burns. The post office was located in the center of Vernon Parish’s northeastern quarter at a location formerly known to settlers as Pine Island.
If not the Simpsons, certainly several people had settled here from at least 1860, and the community continued to grow through the late nineteenth century. The first settler was Elias Haymon, who came with his family and settled just two or three miles from the center of what is now The Village of Simpson.
FORT POLK, the 5th largest military installation in the nation, was opened as Camp Polk in 1941 by the United States Army, shortly after the 1939-40 maneuvers. Camp Polk quickly surpassed the timber industry as the dominant force in the parish’s economy, which became evident in the parish seat of Leesville when its population jumped from 3,500 to 18,000 after the camp opened. The Camp was named in honor of Leonidas Polk, the first Episcopal Bishop in Louisiana, known as the 'Fighting Bishop of the Confederacy' and served as one of the major training camps during World War II. Now called Fort Polk contains approximately 200,000 acres. With the constant movement of soldiers and their dependents in and out of the parish, Vernon experiences a unique blend of culture from numerous states and countries creating a true 'melting pot.'