Welcome to Jefferson, Texas population 2000. Prepare to step back in time. It's a cozy nook of old southern charm with a fresh coat of paint and a welcome mat. Turn of the century homes lovingly restored, cottage gardens and a lurid past that will give you goosebumps as cold chills flutter up your spine in the night when the floor boards creak and foundation groans in that 100 year old haunted hotel you are staying in.
Towards the end of the 1800's Jefferson was a thriving hub of commerce. Population 30,000, it was a wild port town. The furthest inland river port that steam driven paddle boats could enter and turn around in before the Big Cypress Bayou closed in. Cotton was king. Saloons and brothels sprung up like cypress knobs along the bayou. It was ruled by a hard and corrupt sheriff who once, when summoned to investigate a body found hung in a hotel room,a corpse with hands tied behind it's back, just shrugged and called it a suicide.
Jefferson is considered one of the premier places in the United States for paranormal activity. Some locals quite frown on this reputation claiming it to be all hype and bunk. This is particularly true of the owner of one of the oldest hotels in Jefferson. All workers are told that under no circumstances are they to admit to any kind of ghostly paranormal activity. Former employees will gleefully tell you stories of hauntings and of the time Steven Spielburg got spooked and left the hotel in the middle of the night refusing to return.
At the end of the Civil War, Jefferson became a Union stockade for Conferderate prisoners.
When railroads started to replace riverboats as the best way to move goods across a new America, towns along the smaller waterways began to suffer. A wealthy railroad tycoon by the name of Jay Gould came to Jefferson wanting to run his train straight through the center of town. The towns people would not agree to the razing of their main street and already historic homes. Angry, Jay Gould left town shaking his fist as he cast a curse upon Jefferson and it's residents to become a ghost town...
Today Jefferson has a population of slightly over 2000. Stubborn, the descendents of original Jefferson refused to leave or let their town completely die. They rebuilt Jefferson as a beautiful example of old southern architecture and charm. Where there used to be sixty saloons, you can now find sixty comfortable Bed and Breakfasts. Many of the homes and buildings are now designated historical sites and people are happy to share their stories. The simple looking Manse House across the street from the showy House of Seasons has an amazing history. In the front parlor during the Civil War, the Articles of Succession Of Texas were written. Many years later in the back bedroom, the script for the original Pink Panther movie was written.
We visited during the anuual May Pilgrimage. This is when a few hundred folks show up wearing period dress and Civil War uniforms to set up Union and Confederate camps across the parks and flat grassy open spots of town. White pup tents, campfires surrounded by Civil War soldiers, ladies in hoop skirts, kids in period clothing, horses and cannons stand in a surreal contrast to Chevy Suburbans and pick-up trucks parked nearby. Saturday was a parade down main street followed by skirmishes betweem Union and Conferderate troops throughout the downtown area.
If you like ghost stories and history, Jefferson ,Texas is a rare gem during festival time.
Updated: 10:15 AM GMT on May 07, 2010
A A A