Brief History of Vernon
The State of Connecticut was one of the original 13 British colonies established in the "New World". The name "Connecticut" comes from a native American word meaning "Long River Place" or "Beside the Long Tidal River" (the Connecticut River bisects our State, flowing south from the Canadian border through New England and empties into Long Island Sound).
Connecticut was first settled by British colonists in the 1630's. Today the State is home to about 3.4 million people, and although it is the third smallest state in land area, it is 29th in population. Today, Vernon is one of 169 towns in the State of Connecticut. Originally a part of the neighboring town of Bolton, colonists first settled here in the 1700's. It was known then as "North Bolton", and was a farming community. As the number of residents reached about 700 persons, they found that attending Sunday church services 12 miles away in the center of Bolton was troublesome during the winter months. They asked for and were given permission to form their own church, and in 1808 they were granted a charter from the State to break away from Bolton and form a new town which they named "Vernon" (most towns in New England were named either after towns in England or were taken from native American names for places).
In the early years of the "Industrial Revolution", the English tried to closely guard their technology, particularly in the textile and cloth industry. Those who held these secrets were prohibited from leaving England. Two men in particular, John Warburton and Peter Dobson, managed to immigrate to Vernon in the early 19th century with knowledge of this technology (Dobson hid in a large keg until his ship was safely at sea). Two small rivers in Vernon were ideal for providing the flowing water to power industrial mills, and led to construction of a number of textile mills in the 19th and early 20th century.
Most of the mills were located along the Hockanum River (a native American word meaning "bent" or "crooked") in the northern part of town. As the mills prospered, many German and Polish immigrants came to work in the mills. That part of town became densely populated and there became the need for government services such as fire and police protection, sidewalks, sewers and streetlights. This area became known as "Rockville", named after one of the early mills known as the "Rock Mill", and in 1889 a charter was received from the State Legislature allowed the formation of the "City of Rockville". As a small city within a town, the city residents elected a government which could collect taxes to provide the needed services. Rockville residents also continued to pay taxes to the Town of Vernon, most of which remained a farming community and did not yet need city services.
In the early 1950's, most of the mills closed when the textile industry moved to the southern United States where labor was cheaper. At the same time, new jobs became available in the area – Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Hamilton Standard Propellors and the insurance companies in the nearby capitol city of Hartford provided young families with an income sufficient to afford one of the new homes being built on former farmland. By the mid 1960's Vernon had become what we call a "bedroom community" where people live but work elsewhere.
With growth in suburban Vernon and the economic decline in the City of Rockville, it no longer made sense to have two government bodies in the same town. As a result, the City of Rockville gave up its charter and consolidated with the Town of Vernon in 1965.
Vernon, about 18 square miles in area, is currently home to almost 30,000 people. In addition to many multi-family homes in the Rockville section and single family homes throughout town, there are a number of large apartment complexes and various retail stores.
Vernon has a mayor – council form of government with local elections every two years. While our Fire Department remains a "volunteer" organization, they do have paid crews for the two ambulances which they operate. Our Police Department has an authorized strength of 52 police officers. The Town also provides trash removal, highway maintenance, sewers and other services such as Parks and Recreation. Our town seal includes the memorial tower to all war veterans located atop Fox Hill overlooking downtown Rockville. It was built in 1939 with government funding as part of an economic stimulus program during the Depression. Our town hall was built in 1889 as a memorial to American Civil War veterans, and a small Civil War museum is located on the second floor.