The first settlers in Wilbarger County were the Doans family who came to the area in 1878. They settled on the Red River north of Vernon near a spot where the Western Trail of the famous Chisholm Trail crossed the Red River going north to cattle markets in Kansas. Millions of cattle were driven out of Texas to northern markets over this route. Judge Doan and C.F. Doan established a trading post at this point and the old building still remains. The Wilbarger County Historical Society has renovated the original adobe owned by C.F. Doan for a permanent historical attraction.
Just across the river from the Doan’s Community were the Comanche and Kiowa Indian Reservations. These Indians were food customers of the store. The nearest Post Office was Henrietta some 70 miles to the east. In 1879 a mail line was established from Wichita Falls to points north through Doan’s. A mail route was also established south to Seymour in 1880 and settlers began to move in very rapidly.
Wilbarger County was officially organized on October 10, 1881, and the county government was established at the time. A trading post was located at Condon Springs (now Hillcrest Country Club) and a community was established called Eagle Flat because of the many eagles nesting in the area. The Post Office Department later changed the name to Vernon in honor of Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. There being no mountains hereabouts, the “Mount” was dropped.
Headquarters for the W.T. Waggoner Estate operates one of the nation’s largest ranches. More than 500,000 adjoining acres extend into six counties. The operation contrasts the old and the new as it is not uncommon to witness a cowboy on horseback gesturing to a helicopter hovering overhead. Waggoner Ranch cowboys captured an unprecedented title by winning the Ranch Roundup Competition for three years in a row. Ranch Roundup is held every August in nearby Wichita Falls and features cowboys from the working ranches representing their brand by competing against other ranches.
Santa Rosa Palomino Club
The Santa Rosa Palomino Club has been honored as the official “Ambassadors on Horseback” for the State of Texas, the outstanding riding club in America, and the National Drill Team Championship. The riders use precision horsemanship with matched palomino mounts, colorful attire and unparalleled esprit de corps to maintain its position year after year as one of the greatest non-professional riding groups ever assembled. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1999, the self-supporting group draws superlatives wherever it performs.
Santa Rosa Roundup
The Santa Rosa Stud Farm provides facilities for one of the major rodeos in the nation. Annually, thousands thrill to the feats performed by top professional rodeo contestants. The 4-day event is held the third weekend in May, starting with a Rodeo Parade downtown on Wednesday afternoon. Rodeo performances are held nightly at 7:30 p.m.
Vernon is the county seat of Wilbarger County. It is located in the Western Plains of Texas, near the Red River, east of the Texas panhandle in the Red River/Pease River watershed. U.S. Highway 287, U.S. Highway 183, U.S. Highway 283, and U.S. Highway 70 intersect in the city. Vernon is 180 miles northwest of Dallas, 180 miles southwest of Amarillo, 170 miles east of Lubbock, 140 miles northeast of Abilene, 50 miles west of Wichita Falls, and 170 southwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The present population of Vernon is 11,660. Wilbarger County population is 13,535. Within a 100-mile radius of Vernon the population approaches 150,000. A summary of the city and county population over the past years is as follows:
The ethnic background of Wilbarger county according to the 2010 census is as follows: White, 10,585; African American, 1,034; American Indian, 145; Asian, 98; Hispanic, 3,508; Other 1,271.