The Lake That Wasn't and Was
and Wasn't and Is by C. F. Eckhardt ("Charley Eckhardt's Texas" Column)
The story of Caddo Lake and Jefferson
"... In 1861 Jefferson
was one of the most prosperous towns in Texas, shipping tons of cotton down Caddo
Lake to the logjam, where they were transported overland a short distance to the
Red River and then shipped down the Red to the Mississippi, loaded onto seagoing
ships at New Orleans, and then shipped to Europe to be sold. Jefferson even had
a railroad. Ambitiously named Southern Pacific, Jefferson's railroad was all of
seven miles long, leading from the wharfs in Jefferson back into the pines. It
existed to supply cordwood for the boilers of the Caddo Lake steamboats.
Everything went fine until 1874. Jefferson became a tourist destination, and among
the signatures in the Excelsior House registration book is that of Roscoe Conklin.
Though little remembered today, Conklin was considered the finest orator of the
second half of the 19th Century. It was in that fateful year, so the story goes,
that diminutive railroad robber baron Jay Gould visited Jefferson. He proposed
to build a railroad in Jefferson - and, or so the story goes, it was his intention
to lay tracks directly in the middle of the town's main commercial street.
Jefferson told the miniature billionaire - Gould only stood about five feet
tall - that there was no way in the name of Perdition he was going to mar their
beautiful town by running trains down its main street. Gould wrote "The end of
Jefferson!" in the Excelsior House's registration book and left.
who study Gould's career insist he never set foot in Jefferson, Texas, in his
life. Be that as it may, somebody wrote "The end of Jefferson!" in the
Excelsior House's book, and shortly afterward Jefferson almost did end. For reasons
unexplained to this day, the US Army's Corps of Engineers dynamited the logjam
at the end of Caddo Lake, and in less than a week Jefferson was left-well, hardly
high and more soggy than dry, but without its main source of commerce. Jefferson
very nearly did die..."
"Jefferson is still where it was, though
the remains of the wharfs that once docked steamboats are a long way from the
shore of the present Caddo Lake. It does have a railroad - the Kansas City Southern
- though the rails don't run down Main Street. Jefferson exploits its past, and
has acquired Atalanta, Jay Gould's private railroad car named for a Greek
goddess. It, along with Excelsior House and much else, is exploited for tourism."
on Jefferson, a Historic Town by Robert
I first heard my father mention the town of Jefferson
when I was quite young. Jefferson is located approximately forty miles southeast
of the farm in Hopkins County where I grew up... more
On the road leading from Jefferson to Daingerfield there is
a spring known by the old settlers as ‘the poison spring,’” the Texas Republican
reported on June 12, 1852...