HON. GEORGE VERNOR.
There is something exceedingly attractive in the voluntary retirement of a man who for a quarter of a century has taken an active and influential part in the affairs of the government. He leaves public life in the fullness of his strength, exchanging the exciting scenes of political turmoil, which present the most powerful attractions to the ambitious, for the peaceful labors of his profession, in the pursuit of which he, mayhap, finds time to ruminate on past events, on those that are passing and on those which the future will probably develop. Standing pre-eminent among the members of the bench and bar of Southern Illinois is the Hon. George Vernor, of Nashville, ex-judge of Washington county, who on his retirement from office in 1902 had a record of the longest continuous service in the history of the county. Judge Vernor was born in Nashville, October 23, 1839, and is a son of Zenos H. and Martha (Watts) Vernor.
Henry Vernor, the grandfather of the Judge, was born in county Armagh, Ireland, and died in Alabama. He was a Primitive Baptist minister and “steam doctor,” and married a Miss Enloe, who bore him the following children: Ezekiel, who died in Tennessee during the Civil war; Zenos H.; Benjamin, who passed away in Jefferson county, Illinois, during the 'sixties; Noah, who was a resident of 1347
Mississippi, where he died; James, who moved to Texas and there spent the remainder of his life; Jane, who married a Mr. Hodge; Nancy, who was the wife of a Mr. Stewart; and Sallie, who died in Alabama.
Zenos H. Vernor was born in 1808, in 1830 moved to St. Clair county, Illinois, and two years later removed to and entered land in Washington county. He enlisted for service against Black Hawk in 1832 and was in the field several months before the old chief surrendered his warriors at Prairie du Chien in 1833. Zenos H. Vernor is remembered now by but few people of the county. He was not a man of culture and broad education, but possessed a good mental poise, and his native ability commended itself to his countrymen. for they sent him to the constitutional convention of 1848 and made him a member of the lower house of the state legislature in 1850. In political matters he was a Democrat. He died in June, 1856, in Nashville, on his farm, after having spent some years as a blacksmith and in mercantile pursuits. Zenos H. Vernor married Miss Martha Watts, a daughter of James and Charlotte (Parker) Watts, who came to Illinois from Georgia, James dying in St. Clair county about 1827. The Watts were of Welsh origin and moved to Illinois about 1818. Mrs. Vernor was the oldest of four children, the others being as follows: Miriam, who married W. B. Feelwiler; Rebecca, who passed away as Mrs. John Alexander; and Judge Amos Watts, who occupied a prominent place at the bar of Southern Illinois and spent many years of his life on the bench. Martha Vernor died in Nashville, Illinois, in 1866, at the age of seventy years, the mother of these children: James, who died unmarried; William H., of Nashville; Augusta, who married John Leeter and died in Nashville in 1911; Judge George, of this review; Daniel, who left a family here at the time of his death; Frank M., of Salem, Illinois; Dr. R. E., of Nashville; John H., who is engaged in agricultural pursuits in Washington county; Mary C., who died as Mrs. James B. Stoker; and Laura H., who married Sidney Moore and is now deceased.
Judge Vernor acquired his education prior to the inauguration of the public school. As a youth he took up the study of law with his uncle, Amos Watts, at that time state's attorney of the county, and was admitted to the bar at Salem in October, 1860, before Judge H. K. S. Omelveny. He became a member of the firm of Watts & Vernor by forming a partnership with Judge Watts, and was so associated until the latter was elected to the Bench of the Third Judicial Circuit. He was elected county judge a few years later and his practice from the dissolution until recent years was done without an important partnership. In 1904 his nephew, Frank N. Vernor, who died in 1912, joined him and caused the law firm of Vernor & Vernor to launch itself and enroll as an active factor in the legal profession.
In 1877 Judge Vernor was first elected county judge, succeeding Judge M. M. Goodner. He had been associated with Judge Watts politically as well as professionally, and had his political tendencies greatly strengthened and his talent for organization and campaign work brought to the point of perfection. He possessed a belief in Democratic policies and principles that have ever received his support, and his faith was well known. Notwithstanding this he was elected in 1877. He inherited an extra year from the action of the Legislature changing the date of the election during this term, and in 1882 succeeded himself. He was chosen again in 1886, in 1890 defeated his Republican opponent again, as well as in 1894 and 1898, and retired from office in 1902 with a quarter of a century of public service to his credit and the longest continuous service in the history of the county. 1348
Judge Vernor was married in Washington county, in February, 1860, to Miss Martha Mitchell, daughter of John and Susan (Hunt) Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell was an agriculturist and an emigrant from Kentucky. Judge and Mrs. Vernor have been the parents of the following children: Kate and Hattie, who died in childhood; Zenos H., who died in St. Louis in 1892, leaving a son; Daniel H., a prominent merchant of Nashville; Mrs. Alice Stroh, a teacher in the Nashville schools; Deide, a resident of St. Louis, Missouri; and Edgar, a soldier in the regular army, serving in the Philippine Islands.
Judge Vernor has been an active Odd Fellow, attended the Grand lodge of the state as representative on many occasions, and served on the judiciary committee of the organization at various times. He is not a member of an orthodox church, but comes from the “Hardshell” Baptists, as indicated in the reference to his grandfather Vernor. The roster of distinguished jurists who have brought honor to the bench and bar of Southern Illinois contains many names of deserved eminence, and the place which Judge Vernor holds among these leaders is one of high credit and distinction. As a judge he made a record that held out a stimulus and example to all men who are called upon to bear the high responsibilities of a place upon the bench. The sound judgment, the well balanced, judicial mind; the intellectual honesty and freedom from bias which are required in a judge — these attributes were all his and enabled him not only to give opinions which today are quoted as authority, but to maintain the best traditions of the judicial office. From his return to private practice he has been a conspicuous and influential force not alone in the legal profession, but as a leading citizen interested in the important. public movements of the day. As a lawyer his gifts as a speaker and his capacity for close, logical reasoning have made him a peculiarly forceful and effective advocate. Probably no citizen in Washington county is better known, and certainly none are more highly respected.