WILLIAM HENRY VERNON. The dean of the Pawnee County bar is William Henry Vernon, Sr., who, for over forty years has been in active practice and has gained much distinction through his profession and in public affairs. The present county attorney of Pawnee County and a lawyer whose attainments and capabilities have brought him prominently before the public mind is William Henry Vernon, Jr. These two lawyers, father and son, have handled a very large share of the legal business of Pawnee County since it was on the frontier, and at the same time have done much to add to the dignity of their profession in this part of the state.
William Henry Vernon, Sr., was born in Athens County, near Marietta, Ohio, in 1852. His father, Joseph S. Vernon, was a native of Athens County, Ohio, and his mother was a near relative of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The earlier members of the Vernon family were Pennsylvanians. Joseph S. Vernon spent his active life as a farmer and during the war he was a member of the Home Guard and afterwards was affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic. Three of his brothers were regularly enlisted soldiers of the Union army. Joseph S. Vernon married Sarah Edgerton. Her father, James Edgerton, was of Quaker stock, and one of his brothers, Walter Edgerton, organized a noted Quaker school in Indiana and for a number of years was its president and head. Walter Edgerton was a Quaker preacher. Joseph S. Vernon brought his family out to Kansas and settled in Douglas County but he died in the State of Washington at the age of eighty-four. His wife died when her son William H., Sr., was a child. Their children were: John; William H.; Elwood, who died at Lewistown, Idaho; Albert H.; Walter A., who lives in Lower California; and Charles, who died in California while engaged in the canning industry.
William H. Vernon, Sr., came to Kansas with his parents, and spent much of his early youth in Douglas County around the City of Lawrence. In 1866, at the age of fourteen, he entered the Missouri State Normal School at Kirksville, in the first year it was established, and after his training there he took charge of the graded schools in Perry, Kansas, before he was sixteen years of age. He taught both in the country and in the city schools in and around Lawrence, and while teaching he studied law in the office of Thacher & Steven. His legal instructor was the noted Solon O. Thacher, one of the great lawyers of Kansas. William H. Vernon was admitted to the bar at Lawrence in the spring of 1875, and he tried his first case in Douglas County.
In October, 1875, he came out to Pawnee County and found at Larned the bar composed of attorneys Adams, Van Winkel, Worrel and Freeland. Among these older attorneys he gained experience and some inspiration and all of them have now passed off the stage and most of them are deceased. The judge of the District Court when Mr. Vernon came to Pawnee County was Judge Peters. He practiced before him and his successors, Judges Strang, Vandivert, Andrews, Lobdell and Foulks. William H. Vernon, Sr., has had as much and as important practice as any attorney in Pawnee County. Of cases tried before the courts of the district he has handled more than 1,500. In the early days his practice was before the government land office, since other court business was very uncommon in pioneer times.
Mr. Vernon, Sr., was the first city attorney of Larned. He organized the town and prepared the first printed ordinances under which the town government is still working.
William H. Vernon, Sr., was married at Lecompton, Kansas, to Miss Ella Pate. She was a niece of Ex-Governor Woodson, for whom Woodson County, Kansas, was named. Governor Woodson was secretary of Kansas Territory and was subsequently connected with the old Kickapoo Land Office. He came to Kansas from Petersburg, Virginia. The mother of Mrs. Vernon married for her second husband George Zinn, who was a member of the first Kansas Legislature, a stanch republican. George Zinn lived at Lecompton, where he had taken up land under a warrant granted him for his service in the Mexican war. During that war he was a member of General Price's command.
Of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon, Sr., Mrs. Estelle V. Ingels is now court stenographer of the Thirty-third Judicial District, and is the mother of two children, Vernon and Anson. Laura P., the second child, is the wife of Senator A. A. Doerr, head of the Doerr Mercantile Company of Larned, and their two children are named Pauline and Isabel. The third of the family and the oldest son is William H., Jr. Robert is vice president of the Doerr Mercantile Company of Larned, and by his marriage to Matilda Garth has two children, Catherine and Garth. Joseph S. studied law in his father's office, completed his education in the University of Kansas, and is another lawyer in the family. He was actively associated with his father at Larned until he entered the army in April, 1918. He is a member of the headquarters company Three Hundred and Fifty-third Infantry, the "all Kansas regiment," and of the Eighty-ninth Division on the firing line in France.
William Henry Vernon, Jr., was born in Pawnee County January 4, 1880. He has spent practically all his life in this section and acquired his early education and most of his professional training there. He is a graduate of the Larned High Shool and in 1906 graduated from the law department of Washburn College at Topeka. For six years he worked as law clerk for Judge Mason, during and after his term in law school, and he was admitted to the bar in Pawnee County before Judge James F. Andrews. The law came to him partly by inheritance, partly by early environment and influence, and also as a result of a consideration of his inclinations and natural aptitudes. After his admission he began active practice and the first criminal case with which he was connected was as prosecutor in the office of county attorney.
He was elected county attorney in 1908 as successor to G. W. Finney. He is still in that office and in 1916 was re-elected for the fifth consecutive time and without opposition. The office of county attorney has had a rather remarkable record during his incumbency in the fact that it has never lost a civil suit. In the meantime the county has undertaken and carried out a large amount of public improvement work, including bridge construction and road maintenance, and the legal matters connected with this work and with the preliminaries for the building of a new court house have all been in Mr. Vernon's capable hands.
Mr. Vernon grew up in a republican atmosphere and cast his first presidential vote for Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. He has served three terms as vice president of the Kansas Day Club and vice president of the Seventh District Club twice. As a delegate he has attended congressional and state conventions and was a delegate to the state convention which nominated Governor Hoch the first time. He also helped name Victor Murdoch for Congress once and has done some campaigning outside of his home county. Mr. Vernon is affiliated with the lodge, chapter and with the Scottish Rite Consistory at Topeka and regularly attends the Masonic Grand Lodge. He is also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Woodmen of the World. Mr. Vernon is a member of the Presbyterian Church.
He was married at Topeka, Kansas, September 7, 1905, to Miss Ethel Small. Her father, John Samuel Small, came from Ohio to Kansas and was a farmer in Ford County, this state. Mrs. Vernon is a graduate of Christ Hospital at Topeka and was a trained nurse before her marriage. She is the mother of two. children: Virginia and William H., third.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project