Various dates between 1836–40 are cited as the beginning of Jefferson at a river landing on Big Cypress Bayou. Whatever the date, early settlers were already established when the town was laid out in 1842. Today, it is one of Texas' most historic towns. More than 30 structures bear state historical medallions.
Jefferson became an early major East Texas river port of entry; Big Cypress was then navigable by steamboats from New Orleans. Discovery of nearby iron ore brought smelters and plow works, while plentiful pine and cypress stimulated the lumber industry.
It is the location of one of Texas' first breweries and, in 1873, the world's first ammonia refrigerant ice plant. It was the state's first city to use artificial gas for street lighting. Shortly after the Civil War, it reached a peak population of 30,000 with as many as 15 steamboats at a time lining the docks and scores of wagon trains passing through on the way West.
More than 60 bed-and-breakfast accommodations are offered in historic buildings. Explore several antique shops.
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