Vernon Schools

     The new town of Vernon didn't have a school in town until 1905 when the District 43 School Board voted to build a new two room school house in town to replace the 1887 Sunny Side school located 1½ miles west of town. "Block 9" in the original Vernon plat was purchased by the board for $7.99 at the County Treasurer's tax sale and $600 was spent on the building.

The Vernon school 1905-1912.

On the right in this detail from a circa 1910 photo shot from Allison's field is the rear of the first Vernon grade school.
The then Christian Church, left center, was the 1921-1926 Vernon High School. The two story store is Wakefield and Stevens. That's the town well in the middle and stores along the north side of the park.

     By 1911 the Vernon grade school population was crowding the two-room building. An extension was added to the south in 1913 and a third teacher hired. The original two room building is on the right in the photograph below from "Vernon Area Schools". The bell tower and a large bell were added in 1917.

     Vernon put in a bid to be the home of the Yuma County High School in 1907 but along with the rest of the bidders lost out to Wray. Until branch high schools were established several years later, all county students desiring an education past the 8th grade had to attend the one Yuma County High School in Wray. In the summer of 1921 the Yuma County school board approved a petition from Vernon residents to establish a branch. Classes started that fall in the rented Christian Church building across the street from the grade school. The first graduating senior class in 1925 had five seniors. By then the district had purchased the church building, partitioned it into two rooms, had rented another building and hired a third teacher for a growing high school student population.

     Vernon school athletic events were held in the Vernon town park. I have an early photograph from the Steven's porch showing play on two "packed earth" basketball courts in the southwest corner of the park. Baseball was a town team sport and was played in Deterding's pasture north of the town. Shortly after the high school was started, residents decided to build a community building with an undersized court for the school basketball team. The new building was erected just south of the Methodist Church. To reduce cost they settled on a "sheep shed" design with a center loft open to the rafter peak just fitting the court with shed roof extensions on the two long sides to provide a place for seating. The long sides of the taller center portion were tied together with rods that spanned the court. I understand a long shot or pass had to be arched over the rods. A ball hitting a rod was still in play and they made for quite a home court advantage for Vernon teams.

     In the late 1920's the Vernon Grade School and Yuma County High School boards voted to fund a new building to house both the Vernon grade and high schools. Construction was started in 1927 and classes were held in the new brick building that fall. I don't know what happened to the original grade school buildings but the high school, nee Christian Church, building was moved to the Foreman, later Fred Critchfield, farmstead 5 miles south and 2¼ miles west of Vernon where it housed a farm shop into the 1980s. The corner church lot was occupied by the "Log Cabin" service station until it burned in the early 1940s.

Vernon Consolidated School 1927-1949

     The new school building had three grade school classrooms to house the first to sixth grades off a center hall along the south side with folding wood partitions between the west two classrooms that could be opened to seat the community for school plays or community P.T.A. meetings. A small stage was provided on the west wall of the southwest first/second grade classroom. A junior high room was in the northeast corner. The rest of the north side of the building had three high school classrooms and a school office all opening off the center hall. The west facade matched the east shown in the photo above. The building had a partial basement to house the coal furnace and a very small apartment for a janitor to feed the furnace. (The 1920s/1930s janitors were usually high school students who would otherwise have been forced to board with a family in Vernon.) Separate boy's and girl's privies were located on the back (west) side of the lot.

     In 1947 the Vernon district was reorganized as District 4 consolidating districts 65 (Prairie Ridge), 66 (Pleasant Hill), 99 (Mount Hope), 46 (Glendale) and 43 (Vernon) with bus routes to transport outlying students to school. A bus garage was constructed where the current Vernon firehouse stands.

In 1949 funding to build a gymnasium, school kitchen and lunchroom, indoor restrooms, lockers and a school stage was approved. The gym and a two story cement block extension (half-flight up to the lunch room/kitchen and a half-flight down to restrooms, lockers and stage) was completed in time for the 1949-1950 school year. In the new gym west of the two-story extension, Vernon had the the first regulation basketball court in the league with the playing floor about three feet lower than the stage.

Photo from the 1955 Vernon Bobcat.

     1951/1952 brought a further consolidation adding the Bunch Grass, Riverside and Dewey Ridge school districts. In 1954 the Radnor school district was added. The Riverside school building was moved to Vernon and placed on a full basement west of the bus garage providing a "Teacherage" with several apartments. When the school board stopped providing housing for teachers it was used for school music classrooms.

     The class of 1959 marked the end of Vernon High. Declining student population had lead to a county-wide consolidation of high schools into just two districts, east and west, with four high schools (Wray, Idalia, Yuma and Liberty). In the fall of 1959 Vernon high school students were bused to either the Idalia or Wray schools. In an example of local politics at its best, parents were allowed to chose which school students attended on a family level. No bus service fees were charged during the following forty years when District RJ-2 ran overlapping school bus routes from the Vernon area to the Wray and Idalia schools.

     According to the 1959 Vernon Bobcat the last graduating class had six seniors, almost the same as the first 1925 graduating senior class. In the thirty-seven years between, 185 seniors had graduated and received diplomas from Vernon.

     Closure of the rest of the Vernon Consolidated School followed over the next ten years.. The Vernon Junior High class of 1966 was the last to graduate from Vernon. The grade school was closed at the end of the 1968-1969 school year.

     Today the school building is on the State Historical Register and is owned by the Vernon Community Center board. The teacherage was purchased in 1963 and moved to Wray where it was converted to apartments. The bus garage served as the Vernon Fire District fire house for many years until it was recently replaced with a new fire hall.

Note: If you have photographs of the 1913-1927 Vernon three-room grade school, the 1921-1927 church/high school building, the "sheep-shed", the teacherage or an early 1950s photo of the school with the gym and lunchroom, I'm begging for a copy for this page.

Contributed by Lee Zion,, from what would have been the Vernon Senior Class of 1964.

Return to Yuma County Data