Jefferson is the county seat of Marion County, Texas, located in the northeast corner of the state. It has a population of just over 2,000 people and is a historic city filled with antebellum mansions and haunted houses.
Located on the Big Cypress Bayou, the town boasts a vivid presence in Texas history. Visitors from all around the world come to enjoy its bed and breakfast inns, great fishing at Caddo Lake, and riverboat and carriage rides around the Civil War sights in town.
1. Jefferson Historical Museum
© Jefferson Historical Museum
The Jefferson Historical Museum resides in the 1888 stately red brick building that once served as the Jefferson Post Office and the Federal Courthouse. It contains artifacts pertaining to the history of Jefferson and of Marion County.
The museum has four floors of exhibits, which include 1880s homestead furnishings, art, antique guns, needlework, dolls, crockery, quilts, fine porcelain, china and silver, and Caddo Indian artifacts. On the museum property there is a replica of an early 1900s railway depot that contains an HO gauge model railroad that took over thirty years to build. The railroad has 193 feet of track, and is a miniature of a 1950s Texas and Pacific Railroads train.
223 W. Austin, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-2775
2. The Grove, Jefferson, Texas
© The Grove
The Grove is a historical house and private residence in Jefferson that was built in 1861 in the Greek Revival architectural style. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been featured in many television shows about the paranormal, as it is said that The Grove is haunted. In the Grove’s emporium, visitors can buy books with a haunted house theme.
Over the years, the house has been a home to many families, and at one point it was a restaurant. It has been remodeled to resemble a fine 1860s home with period furniture and décor. Hour-long tours of the house led by the current owner are held on weekends; reservations are required for all tours. Visitors are also welcome to visit the Grove’s property, which has a particularly nice butterfly garden.
405 Moseley Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-8018
3. Jefferson Ordnance Magazine
The Jefferson Ordnance Magazine, built in 1863, is a brick structure and part of a network of sites for transporting ammunition downriver during the Confederate war effort in the American Civil War. Made of brick, the magazine is 10 feet square, 15 feet high, and a foot thick, with ventilation slots to keep the interior cool.
Its strategic location during the war has become its downfall, as the Big Cypress Bayou is encroaching on it, eroding the shoreline, and putting its survival in jeopardy. The Jefferson Ordnance Magazine is on private property and can only be viewed from a distance; interested visitors can see it from a boat on Turning River Basin Riverfront Tour or from a train car aboard the Jefferson and Cypress Bayou Railway.
Historic Jefferson Foundation, Phone: 903-665-7064
4. Caddo Lake State Park
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Caddo Lake State Park is a wilderness of swamps and bayous amongst cypress trees hung with Spanish moss. The State Park is located 13 miles southeast of Jefferson near the town of Karnack. The 26,000-acre lake has over seventy types of fish in it, so it is perfect for anglers, who catch mostly largemouth and white bass as well as crappie.
Visitors may bring their own kayaks or canoes for exploring the lake’s 50 miles of paddling trails, or they can rent a boat at the park. The park is full of wildlife, including alligators, as well as armadillos, turtles, minks, beavers, and white-tailed deer. Caddo Lake State Park has camping facilities and cabins for rent, and it is perfect for picnicking and hiking.
245 Park Road 2, Karnack, TX 75661, Phone: 903-679-3351
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5. Famous Howe Truss Train Trestle
The Famous "Howe Truss" Train Trestle was originally built in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania by the Phoenix Bridge Company back in the year 1897 and was later installed in 1907 in Jefferson, Texas. The “Howe Truss” bridge design was introduced by William Howe. One of the main reasons people visit this famous bridge is the LED light show that takes place from dusk to dawn every evening. This beautiful light project was installed on the "Howe Truss" Train Trestle in 2018 by Longview Lights and first premiered on July 4th of that year to more than 1,500 people.
6. Museum of Measurement and Time
© Museum of Measurement and Time
The artifacts in the Museum of Measurement and Time were once the private collection of Jefferson residents Johnny and Edith Ingram. To this day, the elderly couple oversees the museum and gives excellent tours to those who visit.
The museum has a reputation for excellence and for eclectic items. They have over 400 clocks, mostly American made, from the period 1700-1900; more than 1,000 salt and pepper shakers, some of them practical, others whimsical; rare and vintage maps from the 19th century; and a large number of items relating to surveying. Johnny Ingram was a Professional Engineer and Land Surveyor who became interested in the early period of surveying and started a collection of early surveying tools. Next read: TX beaches
301 North Polk Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-6668
7. Historic Jefferson Railway
© Historic Jefferson Railway
The Historic Jefferson Railway is a sight-seeing steam train in Jefferson, Texas. It travels for several miles along the shores of the Big Cypress Bayou and through the dense forests of northeastern Texas. From the train, visitors can view the Jefferson Ordnance Magazine, an old sawmill and blast furnace, and extensive natural beauty.
Bald cypress trees overhung with Spanish moss can be seen throughout the bayou, and the woods is thick with magnolias, sweetgum, redwood, dogwood, and coniferous trees. It is common to see white-tailed deer, armadillos, and red and gray foxes from the train. The hour-long train ride makes a pit stop at Diamond Don’s Gator Pit, where riders can watch the feeding of nine alligators.
400 East Austin, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 866-398-2038
8. Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk
© Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk
Paranormal television shows and books consider Jefferson, Texas to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. The ghost walks, which are given on Friday and Saturday evening, acquaint visitors with the violent occurrences in Jefferson’s past on a walk through some of the town’s most haunted locales.
Unlike other ghost tours, the historian who leads this one has managed to gain access to some of the buildings, and the walk in the dark through the Old Mill is, by all accounts, very creepy. The tour lasts two hours and paints a colorful history of Jefferson and the people who met their untimely ends in the town. Comfortable shoes are recommended, and reservations are required.
Tour leaves from: The Sandwich Shoppe, 101 S. Market Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-601-3375
9. Turning Basin Riverboat Tours
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Turning Basin Riverboat Tours takes visitors on a one-hour journey through the Big Cypress Bayou, and knowledgeable guides with a solid grounding in the local history and flora and fauna of the region lead the tours. The one-hour tours take place in boats that hold twenty-two adults and have roofs to shield its passengers from the sun and light rain.
Narration by the guides covers many topics: the history of Jefferson, the steamboat business, the trees on the banks, and the animals that live in or near the water. The launch site has a shop that sells new and second-hand books about Texas, local history, and the plant and animal life of East Texas. School and community groups are welcome.
200 Bayou Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-2222
10. Lake O’ The Pines
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Lake O’ The Pines is a 17,000 acre reservoir of Big Cypress Bayou. It has extensive parks with tall pines along its shores and an excellent fishery that has stocked the lake with large mouth, white, and spotted bass as well as catfish, crappies, sunfish, and pickerel.
Alley Creek Park and Brushy Creek Park are the best of the parks for camping overnight, Cedar Springs Park has a lovely picnic area, and Lakeside Park and Johnson Creek Park have great beaches and swimming. The park has marinas and boat ramps for people who bring their own watercraft. Pontoon boat rentals are available at Johnson Creek Marina.
Contact info: 2669 Fm 726, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-2336
11. Jefferson General Store
© Jefferson General Store
The Jefferson General Store was built in the 1860s and was the first hardware store and general store in the region. It was ideally located at the turning point for the riverboats, and as such, stocking the store was easy. The same family owned it from the 1860s until 1977, and its current owners have beautifully preserved it. The original cast iron safe is still used today.
With its wooden floors and baskets of goods, the Jefferson General Store still resembles an old-time emporium, and visitors will love the five cent cups of coffee and five cent cups of ice cream. A nickel is all you need to operate the old-fashioned juke box as well. The store sells gifts, southern memorabilia, and the penny candy of long ago.
113 E. Austin Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-8481
12. Scarlett O'Hardy's Gone With the Wind Museum
Scarlett O'Hardy's Gone With the Wind Museum opened on November 27, 1998 in historic Jefferson, Texas. The museum is the private collection of Jefferson resident Bobbie Hardy, who has spent her lifetime amassing collectibles of the novel by Margaret Mitchell and the film by David O. Selznick. The walls are covered in movie posters from all over the world, and there is a vast store of film memorabilia, including reproduction costumes, movie stills, dolls, jigsaw puzzles, figurines, and the autographs of notables such as Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, and Butterfly McQueen.
A beautiful GWTW-themed Christmas tree decorated with dozens of Gone with the Wind ornaments is on display year-round. The museum has more than one hundred foreign editions of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, in dozens of different languages, and a signed first edition of the book. The museum gift shop offers souvenirs relating to the novel, its author, and the motion picture.
408 Taylor Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-1939
13. Singleton's Virginia Cross Home
© Singleton's Virginia Cross Home
This beautiful antebellum home was constructed in 1859 in Greek Revival architecture. Built from Cypress lumber with heart pine floors, the house is decorated in period wallpaper and contains antique furnishings consistent with the style of the times. The house remains a family home and is only open for tours on Saturday afternoons. Reservations are required.
Tours last approximately 45 minutes and allow visitors to take in the beautiful antiques, the history of the house, the lives of the previous owners, and the stories behind acquiring the furnishings that now grace the home. The beautiful display of antique dolls is a highlight of the home’s collectibles.
401 N. Soda Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-3938
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14. Jefferson Fudge Company
© Jefferson Fudge Company
The Jefferson Fudge Company started as an antiques shop in an 1876 General Mercantile building. Owner James Goolsby traveled the United States buying antiques and was struck with the idea of selling candy alongside the antiques. He bought an adjacent building and started the fudge company. The store sells fudge and hard candy reminiscent of another time.
At any given time, at least twenty different flavors of fudge will be on sale, including half a dozen sugar free flavors. Twenty-five types of gourmet chocolate are sold in the store, including sugar-free varieties. The store has branched out and now sells jams, jellies, and preserves as well as fudge and gourmet chocolate.
123 N. Walnut Street, Jefferson, TX 75657, Phone: 903-665-3562
15. Excelsior House Hotel
© Excelsior House Hotel
The oldest hotel in the state of Texas, the Excelsior House Hotel in downtown Jefferson is a historic hotel that has welcomed guests since the year 1858. Among its list of famous guests over the years are Steven Spielberg, Lady Bird Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes, Oscar Wilde, and Ulysses S. Grant. Owned and operated since 1961 by the Excelsior Foundation and the ladies of the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club, the hotel is full of old world charm and beautiful antiques. Ideal for a romantic getaway, the Excelsior House Hotel also serves a Plantation Breakfast during the weekends.
211 W Austin St, Jefferson, TX 75657, 903-665-2513
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16. The House of the Seasons
© The House of the Seasons
A historic home in Jefferson, The House of the Seasons is a charming bed-and-breakfast with great hospitality that offers tours of the historical grounds, as well as hosts special events and weddings. Tours of The House of the Seasons are offered Monday to Saturday throughout the year at 11:00am, with the exception of December 24th through December 26th and December 31st through January 2nd. The beautiful Victorian Garden features a granite walkway meandering around the gazebo and through the garden. From the house, a “secret garden” can be seen consisting of formal plantings, bird baths, and native plants.
409 S Alley St, Jefferson, TX 75657