History of Vernon Parish Louisiana
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 Natchitoches, Rapides and Sabine parishes. The parish economy was largely 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. The railway is still in operation today.
Burr Ferry, established in 1809 by Dr. Burr, one of the first doctors in the area, is known as the Gateway to Louisiana. An artillery site, manned by the Confederacy to guard against Union movements along the Nolan Trace during the Civil War, still stands near the Texas border.
Leesville, an area known as No Man’s Land of Louisiana, was designated the seat of Vernon Parish in 1871 and incorporated on February 15, 1900. The city was founded by Dr. Edmund E. Smart and named by his father, Senator R. Smart for the Confederate hero, General Robert E. Lee. The city was laid out on the plantation owned by Dr. Smart. His home still stands on the corner of 1st and Lula streets.
New Llano, a former cooperative colony that 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 disbanded.
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. 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 three miles north of DeRidder, this community hosts six churches within its four square mile area.
Anacoco may have been named for the muddy sands of present-day Anacoco Creek – known as Bayou Lan Anacoco in earlier years. The Caddo Indian name of Lan’Acoco or L’Anacoco translates broadly to muddy sands. The name Orange was a prominent 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. Holly Grove United Methodist Church established in 1826 (pictured on this page) is the oldest continually operated Methodist Church west of the Mississippi.
Simpson is located about midway between Comrade Creek and the Calcasieu River. 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. The Beef Road, which ran through the area, likely attracted early residents to the community. It was the trail used by Texas cattlemen as they 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
Fort Polk Fort Polk was established in 1941 during the Louisiana Maneuvers. Fort Polk is named in honor of the Reverend Leonidas Polk, the first Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana who, as a Confederate general became known as The Fighting Bishop. Tens of thousands of soldiers trained at Fort Polk prior to deployment to the European or Pacific Theaters of Operation for World War II. Upon the completion of hostilities, the post was deactivated and placed in reserve status in 1946. The post was later reactivated as a training base during the Korean War and to conduct large-scale exercises such as Operation Sage Brush, with the 1st Armored Division being station here until their redeployment to Fort Hood in 1959. At this time, the post was once again deactivated only to be reactivated in 1961 during the Berlin crisis. Fort Polk was soon selected to become a Basic Training Center and to provide Infantry Advanced Individual Training as the United States increased its involvement in the Vietnam Conflict. More than a million soldiers trained at Fort Polk until 1973, when the Army closed the Basic Training Center and moved all Infantry Advanced Individual Training to Fort Benning, GA. The 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) was reactivated at Fort Polk in 1974. The subsequent hundreds of millions of dollars invested in construction make it one of our most modern Army installations. In late 1992, the 5th Division was redesignated as the 2nd Armored Division and moved to Fort Hood, TX, as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act, which caused Fort Polk’s troop strength of 15,000 to drop by about 40 percent. In 1993, Fort Polk officially became the home of the Joint Readiness Training Center, which relocated here from Fort Smith, Arkansas. The 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, one of the Army’s new modular brigades, officially activated in 2005 at Fort Polk. This Brigade Combat teams is a stand-alone, self-sufficient, standardized tactical units of between 3,500 and 4,000 soldiers that has deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2015, the 4th Brigade was reflagged as the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, and recently redeployed from Afghanistan where they provided support for Operation Freedom Sentinel. Fort Polk is also the home of United States Army Garrison, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, the 115th Combat Support Hospital, 46th Engineer Battalion, 519th Military Police Battalion, and 5th Aviation Battalion.