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.
Those 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." ...more
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...