A History of Jefferson, Marion County, Texas, 1836-1936
A History of
Marion County, Texas
One-Time Gateway of Texas
Retains Its Glory in Rush and Hurry
Of Modern Times
A HISTORY OF JEFFERSON
This pamphlet contains items of interest that we should
know about our home town, and was compiled
Mrs. Arch McKay
Mrs. H. A. Spellings
Proceeds of sale to be used by Women’s Auxiliary, ChristEpiscopal Church.
These items have been taken from articles written by various writers for the
Prescott Daily News
Texarkana Twentieth Century
Capt. George Todd
Will Hill Thomas
And as told by individuals who once lived in Jefferson and bymany who are now living and those who lived in Jefferson duringher palmy days.
“From the region of the Upper Trinity and the headwaters of theSabine, each traveler tells us, as he passes, some new tale of how thewilderness is falling under the axe of the builders of habitations andopening up of the earth.”
“The town of Jefferson, in the Southern division of our country,was but yesterday a mere name upon paper and now we are told, quitea number of buildings are going up—several persons will have goods theredirectly. It is a town destined to concentrate a large inland commercialbusiness.”
“Immigration from Europe is filling up the beautiful country in thefar west.”—Northern Standard, January 16th, 1854.
The above article was given through the courtesy of Lola M. Bell,assistant to Advisory Board of Texas Historians.
While Texas, this year of 1936 celebrates the Centennial of its independencefrom Mexican rule, two cities of Texas will attain the anniversary of their birth.
In 1836 the townsites of Houston, Texas, and Jefferson, Texas, wereestablished, similarly on the banks of bayous. Houston, the largest ofSouthern ports today, was founded on Buffalo Bayou and Jefferson, Texasequally important as a center of trade and commerce during its brief reignin the days before and following the Civil War, was located on CypressBayou.
Jefferson is known as the “Old Time Metropolis of East Texas,” andthere is something pathetic about Jefferson’s history.
In the days following the Civil War Jefferson had a population of25,000. It was the trading point of East Texas, and all roads led toJefferson.
A natural barrier in Red River backed water into Cypress Bayou toan extent that navigation was possible as far as Jefferson. Steamboatslanded in Jefferson from New Orleans, La. and points on the Ohio andMississippi Rivers. River traffic in Jefferson goes back as early as 1845.The city of Shreveport, La., was long considered the head of navigationon Red River and was for many years the depot of trade for the largescope of country tributary to Jefferson.
About the year 1850 it became known that steamboats could ascendfarther into the interior and finally the extreme terminus of navigation wasfixed at Jefferson and a large portion of the shipping was diverted fromShreveport. No other inland town of the State ever attained the importancein river shipping that came to Jefferson in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Asthe extreme terminus of navigation on the waters of Cypress Bayou, Jeffersonranked among the established cities of the State, being second only toGalveston.
Some of the most palatial steamboats on the western rivers, and therewere palatial steamers in those days, plied between Jefferson and New Orleans.Among them were: The Danube, Bessie Warren, Red Cloud, IronCities, Koontz, John T. Moore and Lizzie Hopkins. The cabins wereelegantly furnished and the furnishings surpassed those of the best hotelsof the country. Each steamer carried an Italian band which played atthe landings, during meals, for balls in the evening, or whenever wantedfor the waltz or schottische. People dressed most elaborately in those days,both men and women. They carried immense trunks, with two or threecompartments for hats alone. Suit cases were unknown. In the early days,large oil lamps with reflectors were used as headlights on the boats andpine knots supplied the illumination for the negro deckhands to see howto work. All boats carried signal lights in the smoke stacks, which couldbe seen from all directions. A red light on the left, a green light onthe right, they were known as “Larboard” and “Starboard.”
The deckhands could not read and in order to distribute freight aplaying card was placed over the name of the towns, for instance, Marshall,Texas, was known as “King of Diamonds,” Longview, Texas, as “Aceof Hearts” and Jefferson as “King of Spades.” The deckhands were toldthe freight went to “King of Spades,” etc., and a piece of freight wasnever known to get into the wrong place. The most troublesome of allfreight to handle was mules.
The deckhands often worked 18 to 20 hours without rest. Theirsongs were known as “Coonjines.” They had a haunting and somewhatbarbaric quality and the harder the negroes worked the more they sang,keeping perfect time with their feet.
The captain’s responsibility was great. He was responsible for theprotection of life and property and the captains were often most heroic.Many captains on Red River never refused passage to anyone unable topay, and their deeds have been recorded in history.
The largest steamers had a capacity of 6,000 bales of cotton.
While Jefferson was crowded with traffic, there were landings atpractically all the big plantations on the Bayou and Lake. Some of thewharves at Jefferson were built by Thomas Hinkle, grandfather of TomHinkle of Paris, Texas, for whom is named Hinkle’s Camp on CypressBayou, founded by Mr. Hinkle during the days of the Texas and Pacificrailroad construction.
A few months before the Civil War the Legislature, under GovernorPease, passed a bill for an appropriation of some $200,000 to be used forthe widening and deepening of the waterways of Texas. To Jefferson wasallotted about $21,000 for a new turning basin and the general bettermentof Big Cypress. The work was only partially completed when thewar broke out and operations ceased.
As the war passed into its second year Red River became vitally important5to the Federal Government because the Northern armies had notyet gained a foothold in that part of the country. After the capture of theforts below New Orleans, many of the Confederate ships fled to the safetyand security of Red River and its tributaries.
During the Civil War the Confederate Government established aslaughter house, or packing plant, at Jefferson, through which to drawon Texas for a meat supply for the army. Cattle and sheep were slaughteredby the thousand and the dressed meat carried down to New Orleans,where it was reshipped to various branches of the army. The Federalssought to capture the meat supply of Texas but were defeated and thepacking house continued to be operated until the end of the war.
In those days, before the railroads became a great factor in thecountry’s development, the growth of a town with water transportationwas deemed certain, and many of these supposedly fortunate townsscorned the railroads when they began to span the continent. Such wasthe attitude of Jefferson when the Texas and Pacific put through its mainline from Texarkana westward.
At this time, about 1873, appeared Jay Gould upon the scene—thebuilding genius of the Texas and Pacific railroad, seeking a right-of-wayfor his road. Meeting with a cool reception and failing in his attempt toget the right-of-way through Jefferson, he left the town in disgust andchagrin, making the somewhat prophetic statement that “Jefferson wouldsee the day when bats would roost in its church belfries and grass growin its streets.” The Texas and Pacific, instead of going through the town,made a half circle to avoid it and today the station is small, unkempt, anda considerable distance from the town. Freight rates went high and sometime after this the United States Government removed the natural damthat backed water up and made Big Cypress Bayou and the lakes navigable.
Jefferson in its early days had no money and did not need any. Thewomen spun the wool, wove the cloth and made the clothes for the family.Shoes were paid for in hides.
As Jefferson grew, towns sprang up to the west, and there was acontinual stream of wagons going and coming. Mrs. Spearman owned thetoll bridge and Mr. G. E. Dalby then a mere lad, was employed by herat fifty cents a day to keep the bridge. He is said to have often taken in$60 and $70 a day in toll.
All the cotton raised in Louisiana, Southwestern Arkansas and NorthTexas was “wagoned” to Jefferson, and was often stacked up for six orseven miles out waiting to be weighed. The annual receipts exceeded100,000 bales. Farmers would take nothing but silver and gold for theircotton. They had no faith in bank notes and greenbacks, except when theywent to pay their taxes. Then they exchanged silver and gold for papermoney which was worth only seventy-five cents on the dollar but wasaccepted at face value by the government.
The late Capt. W. R. White of Nevada is said to have beenJefferson’s first merchant, while Bateman Bros. (King, Andy and Quincy)were the leading merchants and cotton buyers. When a farmer got hismoney for his cotton he received a gallon of whiskey free.
Jefferson in her palmiest days, is said to have had a population of30,000. There was plenty of money and people seemed quite as anxiousto pass it around as they were to get more, which spirit kept thingsmoving.
EXCLUSIVE SOCIAL SET
Jefferson even boasted an exclusive social set, left over from theSouthern Aristocracy of Ante Bellum days, and keeping up the customsin the steamboats and parlors of the city hotels, both of which werepalatial in their appointments.
An example of a steamboat advertisement follows:
REGULAR JEFFERSON AND NEW ORLEANS PACKET
St. Maurice, Cotile, Alexander, Norman’s Berrin’s and Way Landings.
Stand A No. 1 in all Insurance Companies
The Light Draught Passenger Steamer
J. T. ROOT, Master
SAM LAWSON, Clerk
Will run between Jefferson, (Texas) and New Orleans, during theseason.
For Freight or passengers, apply on board, Feb. 17, 1868.
Just after the war between the States the town of Jefferson wasthrown into panic by the murder one night of a “carpet bagger”—carpetbagger being the name given to those men who came into theSouthern towns immediately following the war to stir up the people,and especially the negroes, against the authorities,—it was necessary forthe government to send troops to Jefferson to restore order. A stockadewas built on the hill called “Sand Town,” this stockade was made ofimmense timbers, and was about 70×100 feet, with walls fifteen feethigh and broad enough on top for the soldiers to walk constantly. Manyprominent men of Jefferson were placed in this prison, where life wasmost cruel and unbearable. Many died from exposure and pneumonia.7Mr. Lev. Gray told us that he made just one visit to the stockade, goingwith his mother and Mrs. Slaughter. Just after leaving to go home Mr.Slaughter escaped. Mr. Slaughter had only one arm but he proved himselfa fast runner. He made his way to the river and cast a stone across. Thesoldiers, hearing the noise and seeing the water disturbed, began searchingfor Mr. Slaughter on the other side, while he followed the bank of theriver into the City and to Allen and Ligon Wholesale and Retail GroceryStore on Dallas Street. Major Allen hid him in the basement of the store.When the soldiers came to look for Mr. Slaughter and started down inthe basement Major Allen said: “All right, but what if there is a bull dogdown there?” The soldiers left immediately.
This is just one instance of many narrow escapes from the Stockade.
The Corral, now used as a swimming pool, and known to the youngboys for years as the “swimming hole” was the barracks for the FederalArmy and Infantry, which was later moved to San Antonio. The headquartersfor Gen. Buell was situated on the corner, just across the Broadwayrailroad crossing, east of the Cypress Bottling Works.
CHIEF JUSTICE HAUGHN
Chief Justice Haughn came to Jefferson in the early days of Jefferson’shistory, with the backing of the U. S. Government to create discordbetween the white and colored population. He entered politics, afterserving as Chief Justice a number