JEFFERSON, TEXAS

Jefferson, Texas, the county seat of Marion County, is located on Big Cypress Creek and Caddo Lake in the south central portion of the county. Founded in 1842, and named for Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson quickly developed into an important port on the Red River. The first steamboat reached Jefferson in late 1843 or early 1844 and a post office was granted in 1846. That same year, Jefferson became the county seat of Cass County, upon that county’s separation from Bowie County, until Linden became county seat in 1852. In the late 1840s, Big Cypress Creek was cleared for navigation and soon steamboats were regularly making the trip from Shreveport and New Orleans, making Jefferson the state’s leading inland port. Construction of a railroad linking the town with Shreveport and Marshall was started in 1860, but only 45 miles of line were completed by the outbreak of the Civil War. Finally, in 1860,  Jefferson became county seat of the newly established Marion County. After Abraham Lincoln was elected Marion County voted unanimously for secession. In 1866, a fire destroyed practically the entire business section of town. In 1867, Jefferson became the first town in Texas to use natural gas for artificial lighting purposes. By 1868, ice was being manufactured on a commercial scale in Jefferson. By 1870, only Galveston surpassed Jefferson in volume of commerce. In 1873, Red River Raft, a natural dam on the river above Shreveport, was destroyed, significantly lowering he water level of the surrounding lakes and streams, making the trip to Jefferson difficult. To make matters worse, the Texas and Pacific Railway from Texarkana to Marshall bypassed Jefferson, giving rise to Marshall, Dallas, and other important rail cities, bringing an end to Jefferson’s Golden Age as a commercial and shipping center. The rise of the railroads and decline of the river had dire results for Jefferson, and by 1876 the town began to decline. In the 1930s, Jefferson’s economy rebounded briefly after the discovery of oil in the county.