Jefferson, Texas Page6
 
Courtesy of James Neel, TX
 
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Enlarge In the 1870's and 1880's it was common for communities to commission "aerial views" like this 1872-dated example of Jefferson, pictured as though seen from a balloon. This seems to pretty faithfully show the buildings of the time, unlike some that showed a great deal more development and construction than was actually the case in an attempt to lure prospective residents and investors. South is at left with Urquart and Alley's street layout well-depicted. Especially note in the detail below how this pre-dates the clearing of the Great Raft by the width of Big Cypress Bayou; the Turn Basin is obviously much larger, possibly with an assist from the dredge pictured at left.

Enlarge Close-up of a map section in previous photo

      
 

Enlarge This map above from an unknown source was already of poor quality before I scanned it, but it depicts pretty well the importance of the route of Caddo Lake, Big Cypress Bayou, and the primitive road leading from Jefferson to other early settlements. Several of the communities shown have disappeared, like Granny's Neck and Tarrant; others have undergone a name change, such as Sulphur Springs replacing Bright Star and Black Jack Grove becoming Cumby. The east-west Jefferson Road conforms generally to U. S. 67/I-30 between Greenville and Mt. Pleasant. Note that the Big Cypress Bayou/Caddo Lake watershed covers a large area resembling the chain of lakes I've seen it described. (The full names of Shreveport and Nachitoches in Louisiana have been cut off.) Present I-30 turns to the northeast at Mt. Pleasant towards the twin cities of Texarkana which post-date what this map represents; at Greenville it turns to the southwest running on to Dallas.

 

(2015) Enlarge Oakwood Cemetery
 
One of four entrances to Jefferson's vast Oakwood Cemetery, final resting place for most of the town's notable and notorious - and some were both! Dating from 1846, the oldest marked grave is of cholera victim Rev. Benjamin Foscue who died Jan. 1, 1850.

     
 

(2015) Enlarge Oakwood Cemetery
 
The cemetery occupies an elevated hilltop somewhat above the level of the town which lies along the bayou. It's much larger and more well-kept than the current size of Jefferson would indicate, reminding that in its heyday the population was ten times that of its current level.

 

(2015) Enlarge Oakwood Cemetery
 
Probably the best-known and most visited grave here is that of murder victim "Diamond Bessie" Moore, subject of the play Diamond Bessie Murder Trial performed annually during Jefferson's Pilgrimage. Bessie was not a resident of Jefferson but boarded locally with her lover Abe Rothschild, a low-level member of the famous banking family of that name. She was noted for the apparent diamond necklace she habitually wore and which was missing when her body was discovered on Feb. 5, 1877 in the woods across the bayou from town. Rothschild was found missing but later extradited back to Jefferson where he was tried not once but twice and eventually acquitted on appeal in the second trial held in 1880, subject of the play. Although poor Bessie was a penniless stranger, local citizens combined to provide her with this plot and marker.

     
 

(2015) Enlarge Oakwood Cemetery
 
Occupying a space between the two cemeteries are two rows of U. S. Government headstones commemorating soldiers who were buried here during the turbulent Reconstruction years when Jefferson was an occupied town. There are twenty-five headstones, most bearing dates of 1868, 1869 or 1870, like that of the only officer, 1st Lt. Edward P. Colby below. Markers of enlisted men show most to have belonged to the Reconstruction garrison consisting of the 11th Infantry and 6th Cavalry, with one each from the 4th Cavalry and 24th Infantry.

 

(2015) Enlarge Oakwood Cemetery
 
Grave marker for 1st Lt. Edward P. Colby.

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