North Vernon is located in Jennings County, which was established in 1817. It was named in honor of Jonathon Jennings, the first Governor of Indiana. The city of North Vernon traces its roots to 1882. The development of the city began when a plot of land was bought so it could be turned into a fairground. With the arrival of railroads and industry, the community developed into a city rapidly.
The following history provided by Byron Buckley
John Cope, former co-owner of The North Vernon Plain Dealer (with A.S. Conner) in the 1860’s and postmaster of North Vernon in 1873, wrote a series of newspaper articles highlighting North Vernon after the Civil War.
In 1867, Cope reported that Hoosier Street from Fourth to Sixth was “much the best graded and finished street in town, which is saying little for it.”
Ironically and presently, Mayor Howard “Soup” Campbell with a stellar grant is upgrading this same Hoosier Street and the Irish neighborhood as reported by Cope as the best graded and finished street in North Vernon in 1867.
The former Carnegie Building has been restored and is now the new City Hall, named the Carnegie Government Center, and houses the Mayor's office, Clerk-Treasurer's office and Council Chambers.
Cope shared, “In 1873, a city hall was necessary. It was agreed to vacate Sixth Street south of Buckeye and J.M. Jones appointed to arrange matters satisfactory with Mrs. Ganghan. Joseph Pietzuch was architect, and the contract let to Caleb Whitmore, the lowest bidder, $3000. Bonds were issued to pay for it. These were sold to V.C. Meloy at par.”
How did the city finance other municipal projects in 1873? North Vernon began as an incorporated city with only $3200 in its treasury in 1873. Cope reported, “To raise funds, an ordinance was passed levying a tax of 70 cents for expenses and interest on bonds and $1 on each dog.
The dog tax was unpopular and petitions for its repeal were presented and refused. Liquor licenses were increased from $25 under the town to $100 (under the new city). This caused much ill feeling on the part of some, but was enforced.”
Submitted by C. Byron Buckley, August 10, 2012.
North Vernon is extremely unique because it was founded by two Civil War heroes - Colonel Hagerman Tripp and Hiram Prather - who suffered severe leg wounds at Chickamauga and Shiloh, respectively. There is only one Jennings County (1817) in the USA and North Vernon (1854) is its biggest and most viable city.
In the nineteenth century North Vernon gained the moniker, "Crossroads of Indiana" because 90 plus trains rattled through North Vernon coming and going north, south, east, and west in the 1890's. Later famed bank robber John Dillinger refused to "hit a bank" in North Vernon because "too many trains could prevent a quick getaway." North Vernon has attracted many businesses also because of its central location among Indianapolis, Louisville, and Cincinnati. The railroad has been an important entity for North Vernon ever since Cololonel Hagerman Tripp sawed railroad ties in his Trippton Mill - burned down in 1948 and was once located where The Stained Glass store is now located behind the post office. The first nickname of North Vernon was "Lick Skillet" bestowed by the nearby Vernon folks as a put-down of the crudeness of the North Vernon people on the hill who let their dogs lick out of their skillets after meals. Others say Lick Skillet was dubbed by Vernon folks because "The
North Vernon folks licked off the economic profits from Vernon, especially when the first east-west railroad came through North Vernon and not Vernon thanks to Colonel Hagerman Tripp. Then Tripton" or "Trippton" became the city's name to honor Colonel Hagerman Tripp. Those people jealous of Hagerman Tripp complained that their mail was going to Tripton (Columbus area) in confusion. Colonel Tripp graciously relented and accepted the new name, "North Vernon."
In the early 1900's Frank E. Little, successful lawyer and entrpreneur, wrote many poems describing the wonderful attributes of North Vernon. Little has been dubbed the "Chamber of Commerce" poet but he really did love North Vernon - its charm, its friendly people - "a gem in the Midwest landscape."
North Vernon has produced many
gifted writers and poets, but the most renown, Jessamyn West, the famous
Quaker writer, was born on the outskirts of North Vernon, near the airport.
She loved North Vernon and came from California in the late 1940's, rented a
room in a boarding house on Jennings Street, and wrote her first novel, "The
Witch Diggers," followed by 21 other books. Jessamyn checked out research
books from the North Vernon Library, soon to be the home of the Mayor and
the City Council. Jessaymn West, the cousin of Richard Milhous Nixon (who
also visited North Vernon and its sister town, Vernon, in the 1970's)and is
most remembered by her book and movie, "The Friendly Persuasion." West
includes a delightful account of her stay at North Vernon's Metropole Hotel
in her memoirs. Byron Buckley has honored Jessaymn West in his book, "Write
from the Heart: The Jessamyn West Story."