Biggest Little City of the Railroad
While the settlers were still in their fort, they sometimes called their community “Jericho,” for the Biblical Walls of Jericho; “Hatch Town,” because of the three Hatch families that lived there; or simply “The Bench,” because the settlement lay on a rise four miles due south of Ashley, the first little frontier town in the valley. Although residents eventually wanted to call the place Ashley Center, the federal postal service refused their request and assigned them the name Vernal in 1886. Few people liked it then, but it obviously stuck.
It wasn’t too many years before Ashley was nothing more than a ghost town. Led by prominent saloon keeper and mayor S. M. Browne, Vernal had become the “biggest little city off the railroad” and a “model of city government.” In 1902 Missouri’s St. Louis Globe gushed:
This little burg is governed in such a manner as to make it the envy of all the other cities in the state. The one thing which makes Vernal unique among the cities of the United States, if not the whole world, is that there has never been a dollar of money raised by a city tax since it incorporated.
There are no boodlers [bride-takers] in Vernal and there never has been a suspicion of scandal since it became a city.
Politics cut no figure in the city elections, and the best men in the place are chosen to fill the offices. To be a member of the city government is considered a high compliment to the business ability of the man, so the offices are sought by the leading businessmen of the place and, when once elected, they gladly served out their terms without pay.
While elected officials have since levied taxes to pay for city services, Vernal continues to be the biggest little city in northeastern Utah.
This is #12 of the 21 stop history walking tour in downtown Vernal, Utah. See the other stops on this page: