Saturday, July 23, 2016

DESTINATION: Jefferson, Texas

It was a hot and humid July day when we decided to make our way to the historic east Texas town of Jefferson.  Located along the Big Cypress Bayou, Jefferson dates back to around 1841 when it was founded on land ceded from the Caddo Indians.  

Map of Jefferson, Texas, 1872

Steamboat on Cypress Bayou
At the time Jefferson was formed a log jam on the Red River, in Louisiana, acted as a dam raising the water levels of Caddo Lake and the Red River several feet. The corresponding rise of water in the Big Cypress Bayou permitted commercial riverboats to travel to Jefferson from ports such as St. Louis, New Orleans, the Mississippi River and Red River. Thus, Jefferson became known as "The Riverport to the Southwest."  Many attempts were made, but failed, to clear the log jam until 1873, when the discovery of nitroglycerin allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to clear the jam.  This lowered the level of Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou to the point that riverboat traffic to Jefferson was no longer commercially feasible. 

Near Jefferson on Big Cypress Bayou

Jefferson now considers itself, "The Town that Time Forgot." Almost every commercial building and home along the old water front has a historical marker. 

Confederate Civil War Memorial outside of Marion County Courthouse

Tourists come to Jefferson to enjoy the ambiance of the past, stay in the many bed and breakfast inns, shop, enjoy boat, train and surrey rides or to hunt for ghosts or Bigfoot. Every weekend ghost tours of Jefferson (the most haunted town in Texas) are available and every year the Jefferson Visitor Center hosts the Original Texas Bigfoot Conference.

Our first stop in Jefferson was to the Jefferson Tourism and Visitors Center where we were allowed to park our truck and trailer in the parking lot.  We spent the afternoon roaming the streets of Jefferson, antiquing, and catching up on Jefferson's history by reading the historical markers.

Excelsior House Hotel

The Excelsior House Hotel (above) opened in the late 1850’s. Famous people registered at the Excelsior House include Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde, Rutherford B. Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson to name a few. 

Jefferson Playhouse

The Jefferson Playhouse (above), once a Synagogue, was added in 1876 as an addition to the now Ruth Lester Memorial House. It is a transitional building between Victorian and Greek Revival designs. The Jefferson Playhouse is now used as a local theatre that includes seating for 92 guests, stage and lighting systems. The Playhouse is available to rent for theatrical performances, meetings and events.

Joseph's Riverport BBQ

We ate a delicious BBQ lunch at Joseph's Riverport BBQ located on the corner of N. Polk St. and W. Lafayette St. We then made our way to Auntie Skinner's Riverboat Club located on Austin St. for a cold adult beverage. 


Auntie Skinner's River Boat Club

Outside the Jefferson General Store

Feeling revived from the oppressive heat we headed to the Jefferson General Store. In the store we spent some time shopping for souvenirs and reminiscing about our youth at the candy bins.  

Although there was much more to see in the historic city of Jefferson it was time for us to hit the road and move on to our camping site at Lake O' the Pines.