Vernon, the county seat of Wilbarger County, is just south of the Pease River on U.S. highways 70, 183, 283, 287, and the Burlington and Northern Railroad, fifty miles northwest of Wichita Falls and sixty miles southeast of Childress in the north central part of the county. The site was called Eagle Springs by the Tonkawa Indians as early as 1858 for the unusual abundance of nesting eagles. Substantial numbers of settlers came into the area after the Civil War, and Robert Franklin Jones, an early resident, gave a half section of land for a new townsite in 1880. Application was made for a post office to be called Eagle Flat, but the postal department complained that too many Texas towns already had the word eagle as part of their name. The second-choice name of Vernon was accepted, and a post office was granted to the community in 1880. Though sources disagree, Vernon was probably named either for George Washington's Mount Vernon or for a traveling whiskey salesman named Vernon Brown. Wilbarger County was organized on October 10, 1881, and Vernon, with a population of twenty-five, was chosen as the county seat. Within two years the Vernon Guard had been established there as the first newspaper, and by 1892 the Vernon Texan and the Vernon Call were also being published. By 1885 the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway had reached the town, and the next year the courthouse was completed. Settlers poured into the new trading center, and Vernon was incorporated on February 12, 1889. By 1892 it had 3,500 residents, who were served by a street railway, a fire department, electric lighting, three newspapers, two flour mills, and two ice factories. By 1900 more than eight church denominations had been organized there. The St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas Railway joined the Fort Worth and Denver at Vernon about 1901. The town population was estimated at 9,137 in 1936 and at 10,500 by the 1940s. Beginning in 1950 the population generally averaged more than 12,000. In 1990 Vernon was a center for agriculture-related products and for oil. At that time the city was the home of Vernon Regional Junior College and reported 12,001 residents. In 2000 the population was 11,660.
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