Standing stately on Austin Street in Jefferson, the Jefferson Historical Museum was once the center of Marion County operation. It housed both the courthouse and the post office, and although today it is a wonderful portal into Jefferson's history, it still has many distinguishing features of both the courts and the postal service from that bygone era. It is now the Finest Museum in East Texas, your museum and inside you can find examples of porcelains, potteries, paintings, early Jefferson home furnishings, and other collectibles.

The building itself is a very historic place - it bears the following historic markers:

State Historical Survey Committee Marker: Old Federal Court and Post Office Building, Used 1890-1964 by Court of Eastern District of Texas, now a museum.

Entered in the National Register of Historic Places

One hint to Jefferson's history is standing sentinel outside of the museum - a Civil War era cannon. While there were no battles fought at Jefferson, when the War Between the States was over a garrison of Union troops were dispatched to the town because of its importance as a river port. During the Union army's occupation there were a few skirmishes with townspeople, including the famous "Stockade Incident".

This museum is unlike any other that you've ever seen - there is literally something that will fascinate everyone! You'll find antique dishes in one glass case, and Civil War artifacts in a display just around the corner. There are gadgets that you've never heard of before, and things from yesteryear that will bring a nostalgic tear to your eye.

There are countless maps and papers if you're interested in Jefferson's past, along with hand-made quilts and covers that are works of art in their own right. There is a display of old medical instruments that will make you glad that you live in the 21st century, and a display of antique dolls that would impress any collector. Hey, if you're a techno-geek like me, you'll even enjoy seeing the very first computer in Marion County - it had a whopping 16 kilobytes of memory!

In the basement, you'll find some nautical items displayed, mostly from steamships. That may seem strange for a land-locked city like Jefferson, but you have to realize that at one time the Big Cypress Bayou - which now flows lazily through town - was once deep enough for steamships from New Orleans to bring their passengers and cargo upriver. In fact, Jefferson was one of the largest cities in Texas, and was destined to be the second largest port, until the river levels fell. The ship's bell in this photo is from the Mittie Stephens, whose wreck on Caddo Lake was one of the worst steamship tragedies of its time.

In the weaving room, you'll get a glimpse back into how fabrics were made in olden times using looms and spinning wheels. The loom in the center of the room is 200 years old, and is one of the most impressive pieces in the museum. You only have to spend a couple of minutes looking at the complexity of this hand-operated machine to appreciate how easy it is to drive down and pick up a new shirt at Wal Mart.

Another room in the basement is an authentic pioneer kitchen. Many of the properties in Jefferson, especially in the very early years of the city, contained log cabins with kitchens that would mirror this one. All of the pieces are authentic, making this display one of the museum's favorite stops for school classes - they can't imagine living like this!

Ahhhh... now we're really getting into another one of my obsessions - uh, make that interests. Can anybody tell me what time it is? It's TOOL TIME! Yep, here in the tool room you'll find every conceivable tool from the past times of Jefferson. I could literally let an hour go by in this room alone. If you spend any time at all looking at these old implements, you'll wonder how the craftsmen of the day were able to produce such beautiful pieces of furniture and other works. They could certainly outdo me, even with all of the electric wonders that I have on my workbench.

In the Caddo Room, you're going to learn a lot about the people that inhabited this land before the Europeans arrived. In fact, nearby Caddo Lake is named after these peaceful tribes, who actually tie their own history back to that of the lake's. In 1811, the Caddo Chief had a dream that he should move his people to high ground. It was so vivid that he felt it was a message from God, so he did just that. The next day, an earthquake measuring a whopping 8.9 occurred in Missouri whose aftershocks knocked down enough trees to form the great raft that dammed the Red River, and formed Caddo Lake. Although that Caddo settlement was buried beneath the new lake, many artifacts have been found in the area, and many of those are in the museum.

Along with the pottery and artwork of the Caddo Indians, you'll also see one of the largest Caddo weaponry collections that you're likely to find. The arrowheads alone fill the display cases along one wall, and there are many more to examine in the museum - each authentic, and hand-carved by a Caddo hunter many, many years ago.

If you're looking to do research, then the Jefferson Historical Museum has a lot to offer. This special room is home to the Lucile Blackburn Bullard Archives, along with many other references available for your perusal. It's a researcher's dream come true.

There are still many reminders that the building once held a Post Office and Federal court. In this photo of the research room, for example, you'll see that there is an open door above the safe. This is where the postmaster could keep a vigilant watch over his employees!

In this page of photos from the museum, you've seen only a fraction of the displays that it has to offer. No matter what your interests are, you're going to have a great time at the Jefferson Historical Museum. It's open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, and it's only a nominal fee for a wonderful visit: five bucks for adults, and only a buck-fifty for kids under twelve. Pre-schoolers are free, although there are many items that they'll love at the museum!


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