According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 11.6 square miles (30.1 km²), of which, 11.5 square miles (29.8 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (0.86%) is water.
Mt. Vernon is located on high ground between Casey Creek and the Big Muddy River, which join south of the town in what is now Rend Lake. In pre-settlement times the area around these waterways was a swamp, a heavily forested area that was waist-deep in water during much of the winter and during wet summers. Mt. Vernon was thus often surrounded by water and swamp on three sides.
High ground was located to the north of Mt. Vernon. A ridge ran between the Big Muddy River and Casey Creek north toward what is now Dix, Illinois.
There are high places west and east of Mt. Vernon from which one can see the town as a forested point of high ground jutting out into the bottoms. These high places are: from the west, near the Woodlawn interchange off Interstate 64 and from the east, on Old Fairfield Road near Summersville School, with the highest point located on Old Route 15 right before it merges with New Route 15, near Bluford, Illinois.
The town was named for George Washington's plantation, Mt. Vernon, which was named for Edward Vernon, a British naval hero. When Mt. Vernon was founded there was no road to it. Travellers had to get there by either following the high ground from the north or crossing the swamps from the south.
In the early 1800s the Goshen Road crossed Illinois in a northwesterly direction from Old Shawneetown, Illinois to the Goshen Settlement, near what is now Edwardsville, Illinois. This road was the main road in Illinois.
When Mt. Vernon was first settled, the Goshen Road made a wide arc across Jefferson County, crossing Casey Creek and the Big Muddy north of Mt. Vernon, avoiding the swamps to the south, but by-passing Mt. Vernon. The Road entered the County at its southeast corner. It passed through, or near, what are now Opdyke, East Salem, Idlewood, Dix and Walnut Hill.
It was apparent to the early settlers that the town would fail without roads. In 1820 - 1821, Ben Hood and Carter Wilkey built a bridge over Casey Creek, to the southeast of town. This bridge was near the present bridge on Illinois Route 142. A road was built from there northwest, over ground that is now impassable, toward the old cemetery behind the modern Bethel Cemetery. Deep cuts through the old cemetery attest to the location of the road. From there the road probably followed modern Route 37 into town, somewhere shifting from 10th Street on west to 12th Street.
After the State capitol was moved to Vandalia, Illinois in 1819, it became apparent that a road to Vandalia was needed. A party was sent out to the northwest to mark the road.
In 1823, Thomas D. Minor and William Maxwell built the "Vandalia Road", now called the "Old Centralia Road". It runs northwest out of Mt. Vernon to Walnut Hill. Although legend says that this road is crooked because of the drunken state of the surveyors, the path is probably just the natural path of a pioneer road following the terrain.
After the bridge and the Vandalia Road were built, Mt. Vernon was "on the map". The bridge across Casey Creek and the Vandalia Road provided a much shorter path across Jefferson County than the original Goshen Road. The new Goshen Road soon captured most of the traffic, and Mt. Vernon became an important stop on the road west.
In 1836 Joshua Grant came to Mt. Vernon from Christian County, Kentucky with several of his sons and daughters. His family was an extremely wealthy, southern, slave-owning family, most of which soon moved to Arkansas, probably because slavery was illegal in Illinois. Joshua left behind several daughters and one son, Angus McNeil Grant, who soon became extremely important in the development of the town. "Upon his arrival, there were but four or five houses in the place, and from that time to the present (1883) he has constantly and ably exerted himself in securing to it the full development of its resources."
Angus M. Grant's brother, Joshua Grant, Jr., taught school in Mt. Vernon in 1838. Some sources cite him as the first school teacher in the town.
In 1848 the Illinois Supreme Court was relocated to Mt. Vernon. The 5th District Appellate Court was constructed around 1857 and is still in use today as the Appellate Court House. When the Supreme Court was in session, the important lawyers in Illinois, including Abraham Lincoln, gathered in Mt. Vernon to argue their cases. The lawyers gathered at the Mt. Vernon Inn, owned by Angus McNeil Grant and his in-laws, the Andersons.
In the 1870s Mt. Vernon for a time prohibited the sale of alcohol. A village called "East Mt. Vernon" was organized in 1877 to allow the sale of alcohol. A court fight eventually held that the village was organized illegally. Mt. Vernon then voted alcohol back in, and the area of East Mt. Vernon was annexed into the City.
On February 19, 1888, a tornado cut a path a half mile wide through Mt. Vernon, killing 37 people and destroying more than 450 houses. The Jefferson County Courthouse was destroyed. This event was one of the first disasters to which the American Red Cross responded. Clara Barton herself directed the relief efforts.
The Mt. Vernon Car Manufacturing Company opened in 1889 after moving from Litchfield, Illinois. This relocation may have been an outgrowth of the relief efforts following the tornado. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad hauled in some 1,900 carloads of supplies for reconstruction of the town. Somehow, this effort translated into a major business building railroad cars, at first building about ten cars per day. By 1909, the car shops were producing 25 cars per day, employing more than 1000 workers, with a payroll of $60,000 per month.
During World War II, portions of the "Car Shops," as they were to come to be known, were converted over to wartime production, including the production of bomb casings.
In 1954, the car shops closed, causing a temporary jump in unemployment throughout the city and the 108 communities called "home" by its former employees.
Around 1939, a portion of the car shops was purchased by Precision Engineering, which originally built components for locomotives. During the 1970s, this company purchased old diesel/electric railroad locomotives, which it scrapped out or refurbished. Today, the plant thrives as a hub for National Railway Equipmentwhich rebuilds and services diesel electric locomotives for rail lines across the globe. Ironically, the facility is poised to again become one of the area's largest employers as sales of its innovative hybrid locomotives fuel plant expansion to include another facility across town.
The Interstate Highway System was built in the late 1950s and 1960s. The Concurrency (road) of I-57 and I-64 is along the western border of the ridgeline which divides the Big Muddy River and Casey Creek. The Stack interchange on the southwest side of town complements the historic Casey Creek bridges, allowing much shorter travel times through the swamps to the east and south.
Mount Vernon hosts a 48-acre facility for Continental Tire of North America - the German company's only manufacturing site in North America - and is home to major distribution centers for Anheuser-Busch, NAPA and Walgreens.
The town is a regional hub for recreation, retail, employment, health care and is in the process of having a new I-57/64 Interchange being constructed 0.9 miles south of the current Rt 15 interchange.
There were 6,988 households out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.1% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present and 40.5% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.7% under the age of 18, 9.1% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64 and 19.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 84.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,145 and the median income for a family was $36,660. Males had a median income of $31,569 versus $20,198 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,268. About 13.0% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.5% of those under age 18 and 12.9% of that age 65 or over.
Boys' Basketball has been in Mount Vernon since 1905 and they have an overall record of 1,733 wins and 849 losses. The Rams are third in the state in total victories and they are tied for second most Illinois State Championships with four . After the recent retirement of Coach Creel, the Boys Varsity team is now led by Coach Scott Gamber. The Junior Varsity Coach is Tom Portner.
The Mount Vernon Rams Varsity American football team has an overall record of 412 wins, 317 losses and 24 ties. The Rams might not look overly impressive with their record but they have rapidly improved over the past six years. The 2002 team put Coach Mings and the Rams on the map, with their first playoff appearance in 14 years. In 2005, the Rams completed a perfect regular season but lost in the playoffs and finished with a record of 11-1. Since Coach Dan Mings has taken the helm in 2001, the Rams have had five playoff appearances (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 & 2007), one South 7 Championship (2005) and one undefeated regular season (2005). All statistics and records can be found @ mtvrams.com
The Varsity Wrestling team has an overall record of 368 wins, 202 losses and 3 ties. They have struggled over the past eight years but with Coach Scott Tickner back as Varsity Coach, the Rams are in for a bright future once again.
The Rams Varsity Baseball team has an overall record of 361 wins, 292 losses and 3 ties. With new Coach Tim Holloway, the Rams will look to move back into their winnings ways. The Junior Varsity is coached by Nathan Boldt.
The Lady Rams Varsity Basketball team has an impressive overall record of 598 wins and 293 losses. Sara Rennie has coached the Lady Rams for 32 years with only five losing seasons. They have been one of the most consistent teams in Mount Vernon sports history. The Junior Varsity team is coached by Jeff Lonnon.
The Girls' Volleyball team has an overall record of 159 wins, 104 losses and 1 tie. New coach Nancy Deaton finished last season with a record of 9 wins and 15 losses.
Records and Stats can be viewed @ ihsa.org Video & pictures of Mount Vernon sports can be viewed @ areasports.com or the Mt. Vernon Register-News
Mount Vernon's Outland Airport is home to the Adult Flag Football League (AFFL). The AFFL was created by former NFL player Vernon Turner and is considered by many as the premiere flag football league in the region. The season begins every year in March and continues until July where there is a playoff. After the Championship Game (Flag Bowl) there is an All-Star game. All Statistics are recorded and shown online at the AFFL official website adultflagfootballleague.com