Vernon Parish, Louisiana
Parish of Vernon
Vernon Parish courthouse in Leesville
Vernon Parish courthouse in Leesville
Location within the U.S. state of Louisiana
Location within the U.S. state of Louisiana
Louisiana's location within the U.S.
Louisiana's location within the U.S.
Country United States
State Louisiana
RegionCentral Louisiana
FoundedMarch 30, 1871 (153 years ago) (1871-03-30)
Named forMount Vernon
Parish seatLeesville
Largest municipalitySimpson (area)
Leesville (population)
Incorporated municipalities
6 (total)
  • 1 city, 3 towns, and 2 villages
  • (located entirely or partially
    within parish boundaries)
 • Total3,470 km2 (1,341 sq mi)
 • Land3,440 km2 (1,328 sq mi)
 • Water40 km2 (14 sq mi)
 • percentage3 km2 (1.0 sq mi)
 • Total48,750
 • Density14/km2 (36/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
Area code337
Congressional district4th
WebsiteVernon Parish Police Jury

Vernon Parish (French: Paroisse de Vernon) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2020 census, the population was 48,750.[1] The parish seat is Leesville.[2] Bordered on the west by the Sabine River, the parish was founded in 1871 during the Reconstruction era.[3]

It was long a center of the timber industry, which harvested pine in the hills and bottomland hardwoods. Construction of a railway to the area in 1897 stimulated the marketing of lumber and businesses in the area.

Since World War II, Fort Johnson, formerly Fort Polk, has been most important to the parish economy. The population of the Leesville area rapidly increased fivefold after the fort was opened. Vernon Parish is part of the Fort Johnson South, LA Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the DeRidder-Fort Johnson South, LA Combined Statistical Area.[citation needed]


The area comprising Vernon was a part of a tract of land whose control was disputed in the late 18th century between the United States and Spain. They called this land the "Neutral Strip" and refrained from posting police or military personnel there. As a result, the area became a haven for outlaws. Prior to the United States acquisition of this territory through the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, the primary settlers who came to the area were ethnic French and Spanish.

During this period, Dr. Timothy Burr, a Massachusetts native who had migrated to Louisiana from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, established the community of Burr Ferry at his landing on the Sabine River. This community became known as the "Gateway to Louisiana" from the west. For decades this area was part of the Natchitoches, Rapides, and Sabine parishes, which were established soon after the US acquired this territory in the early nineteenth century. The timber industry was most important to the local economy, with both pines of the hills and bottomland hardwoods being harvested. Some landowners had their land cleared by slaves to establish plantations for cotton cultivation.

During the American Civil War, an artillery site was constructed nearby. Now called the "Confederate Breast Works", it was manned by the Confederacy to guard against Union movements along the Nolan Trace.[4][5]

On March 30. 1871, the Louisiana General Assembly passed an act to create Vernon Parish, by taking territory from the three parishes noted above, as population had increased in the area. There are four versions of how the parish was named; the only official State version is that it was named in honor of Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington.[6]

Leesville was designated as the parish seat of Vernon from the start. It was incorporated February 15, 1900. The city was founded by Dr. Edmund E. Smart, who donated land from his plantation for the development of the parish seat. It was named by Senator John Rowell Smart, his father, in honor of General Robert E. Lee. The Big House from the Smart plantation still stands, where the city has grown up around it. It is located at what today is the corner of Lula and First streets.[5]

Folklore accounts of the naming of the parish are: 1) that it was named after a race horse owned by Joe Moore, one of the members of the committee chosen to name the parish, who claimed that by naming the parish after his fast horse the committee would insure the growth of the parish: 2) that it was named after a popular teacher who had been an officer in the Royal Navy, only mentioned as "Mr. Vernon". The decision was made to avoid disputes among the parish founders, each of whom wanted to name it after himself. 3) The final account tells that the committee had been arguing over the name while drinking in a store. Trying to preserve his precious whiskey and profits, the host suggested the committee stop a local man passing by on a mule-drawn cart and name the parish whatever the man said was the mule's name. The man responded, "I calls him Vernon, 'cause he's the fastes' mule in de country."[7]

Vernon Parish map, 1895.[8]
Old First National Bank Building in downtown Leesville, LA, now the Courthouse Annex building.

In the late 1890s the timber industry, which was the dominant industry in the parish from its creation, began to boom with the construction of the Kansas City Southern Railway in 1897. It increased access to markets. The railway continues to operate in the early 21st century.[5]

20th century to present

In the period after World War I, Vernon Parish became the site of two socialist-based communities. The Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony[9] developed as New Llano, established in 1917. The second was the Christian Commonwealth Colony. These colonies attempted to attract economists and sociologists to conduct an experiment in communal membership and the sharing of labor duties. Llano del Rio was the larger community, with more than 10,000 people, and was also the longest-surviving. Both colonies failed in the 1930s during the economic stress of the Great Depression.[5]

In 1941, the United States Army opened Camp Polk, shortly after the outbreak of war in Europe, with the German invasion of Poland and other actions. Camp Polk quickly surpassed the timber industry as the dominant force in the parish's economy. After the camp opened, the population of the parish seat of Leesville rapidly climbed from 3,500 to 18,000. Named after Leonidas Polk, the first Episcopal Bishop in Louisiana and known as the "Fighting Bishop of the Confederacy", it served as one of the major Army training camps during World War II.

In the 21st century, Fort Johnson is the 5th-largest military installation in the nation. The facility covers approximately 200,000 acres (810 km2). It has stimulated the development of associated businesses in the area and related populations. With the regular reassignment of soldiers, accompanied by dependents, to and from the fort, Vernon Parish has a more varied culture than might be expected from its location. Its residents come from all over the country.[5]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 1,341 square miles (3,470 km2), of which 1,328 square miles (3,440 km2) is land and 14 square miles (36 km2) (1.0%) is water.[10] It is the largest parish in Louisiana by land area.

Major highways

Adjacent parishes and counties

National protected area


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790–1960[12] 1900–1990[13]
1990–2000[14] 2010[15]
Vernon Parish racial composition as of 2020[16]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 33,599 68.92%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 6,325 12.97%
Native American 484 0.99%
Asian 862 1.77%
Pacific Islander 289 0.59%
Other/Mixed 3,016 6.19%
Hispanic or Latino 4,175 8.56%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 48,750 people, 17,696 households, and 12,375 families residing in the parish.


The Vernon Parish Library in Leesville

Primary and secondary education

All public schools in Vernon Parish are operated by the Vernon Parish School Board, which operates 18 public schools and one optional school.[17] Schools providing a secondary education include:

Colleges and universities

The Louisiana Technical College (LTC) system operates the Lamar Salter campus south of New Llano. The Central Louisiana Technical College Lamar Salter campus is one of 40 LTC campuses across the state.[19]

Northwestern State University (NSU), is a four-year public university primarily situated in Natchitoches, Louisiana and is part of the University of Louisiana System. The NSU-Leesville/Fort Johnson Campus is located on Highway 467 near Fort Johnson. It serves the civilian communities of Vernon, Beauregard, and Sabine parishes, as well as the military community at Fort Johnson.

The Fort Johnson Education Center offers self-development opportunities for Service members, military family members, Department of the Defense employees, military Retirees, Department of Defense contractors, and civilians from the local community in the classroom, distance learning, and online environments. Civilian students coming to the post for classes are required to use the main entrance located off U.S. Highway 171.[20]

Central Michigan University (CMU) operates a campus at Fort Johnson.[21]

Central Texas College (CTC) is a public, open-admission community college offering associate degrees and certificate programs in academic, professional and vocational/technical fields. Due to its proximity to Fort Johnson, CTC has evolved from a small junior college into a college catering to the military. CTC also help students transition from a 2-year to a 4-year degree through numerous articulation agreements with 4-year institutions nationwide.[22]

Louisiana State University offers a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts.[23]

The Upper Iowa University (UIU) at Fort Johnson offers classes on post to both military personnel and civilians in the area. It was opened in 1995 and offers bachelor's degrees in nine majors. Courses can also be blended with UIU distance learning programs (online and independent study) to complete 11 other majors. Certificate programs are also available. UIU offers courses on post during five eight-week terms during the academic year. All courses are offered during the evenings and on weekends.[24]

Public libraries

The Vernon Parish Library operates public libraries. It operates the main library and the Dunbar Branch Library in Leesville and the Pitkin Branch Library in Pitkin.[25]

National Guard

The Louisiana Army National Guard maintains a maintenance facility which services its vehicles on Fort Johnson. 3-156 IB part of 256th Tiger Brigade is located at Fort Johnson.


Map of Vernon Parish, Louisiana With Municipal Labels




Unincorporated areas

Census-designated places

Other communities

Notable people

This is the Vernon Parish Police Jury's Gov't Complex located in the old First Liberty Federal Savings building.


United States presidential election results for Vernon Parish, Louisiana[29]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 14,107 81.69% 2,898 16.78% 263 1.52%
2016 13,471 80.99% 2,665 16.02% 497 2.99%
2012 12,150 77.83% 3,173 20.33% 287 1.84%
2008 11,946 75.76% 3,534 22.41% 289 1.83%
2004 11,032 72.44% 4,035 26.50% 162 1.06%
2000 8,794 63.60% 4,655 33.67% 378 2.73%
1996 5,449 39.02% 6,195 44.36% 2,322 16.63%
1992 5,912 40.04% 6,005 40.66% 2,850 19.30%
1988 7,453 58.40% 4,998 39.17% 310 2.43%
1984 9,035 67.58% 4,076 30.49% 258 1.93%
1980 5,869 43.68% 7,198 53.57% 369 2.75%
1976 3,970 37.94% 6,202 59.26% 293 2.80%
1972 6,225 77.62% 1,345 16.77% 450 5.61%
1968 1,574 18.29% 1,496 17.38% 5,536 64.33%
1964 3,696 50.91% 3,564 49.09% 0 0.00%
1960 1,991 32.32% 3,145 51.06% 1,024 16.62%
1956 2,372 49.81% 2,158 45.32% 232 4.87%
1952 2,130 35.73% 3,832 64.27% 0 0.00%
1948 296 6.46% 1,939 42.32% 2,347 51.22%
1944 1,022 24.95% 3,075 75.05% 0 0.00%
1940 311 8.29% 3,439 91.71% 0 0.00%
1936 928 24.65% 2,831 75.21% 5 0.13%
1932 46 1.55% 2,868 96.60% 55 1.85%
1928 500 18.58% 2,191 81.42% 0 0.00%
1924 142 9.18% 1,372 88.69% 33 2.13%
1920 205 15.21% 1,143 84.79% 0 0.00%
1916 44 3.45% 754 59.09% 478 37.46%

See also


  1. ^ Fort Johnson North is actually a military community contained within Fort Johnson Army Installation.
  2. ^ Fort Johnson South is actually a military community contained within Fort Johnson Army Installation.


  1. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: Vernon Parish, Louisiana". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 22, 2023.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "Vernon Parish". Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  4. ^ The Nolan Trace
  5. ^ a b c d e Information in the History section may be found on the Greater Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce Website Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ The State of Louisiana maintains an official website for each of the State's 64 parishes at
  7. ^ All four found in: Wise, Erbon. Tall Pines II: A History of Vernon Parish, Louisiana and its People. LCCN 87-51644. OCLC 18715154.
  8. ^ The map may be found at this website; it was researched and posted by Pam Rietsch.
  9. ^ Not to be confused with the Llano del Rio established in Antelope Valley, California in 1915 and abandoned in 1917.
  10. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  11. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  12. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  13. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  14. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  15. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  16. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  17. ^ "Vernon Parish School District – School List". Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  18. ^ "Vernon Parish Optional School History".
  19. ^ "Central Louisiana Technical College-Lamar Salter-Campus". Archived from the original on January 7, 2011.
  20. ^ "Fort Polk Education Center". Archived from the original on June 29, 2012.
  21. ^ "Central Michigan University at Fort Polk, Louisiana".
  22. ^ "Central Texas College – Fort Polk Site". Archived from the original on April 25, 2012.
  23. ^ "Louisiana State University – Special Programs". Archived from the original on December 11, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  24. ^ "The Upper Iowa Center at Fort Polk, LA". Archived from the original on August 19, 2012.
  25. ^ "Sexual Predator Policy." ( Archived September 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine) Vernon Parish Library. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  26. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812–2016: Vernon Parish" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  27. ^ "Rep. Frank A. Howard". Retrieved July 19, 2011.
  28. ^ "Obituary of Bryan A. Poston, Sr". Shreveport Times, October 4, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2009.
  29. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved March 9, 2018.

31°07′N 93°11′W / 31.11°N 93.19°W / 31.11; -93.19