This is one of an occasional series of reports on people, events and places in Marion County’s past.
From the Proposed Caddo National Heritage Area Phase Zero Feasibility Study by Sam Collier of Vivian, LA
Prior to the Civil War, Jefferson became a primary commercial port.
Representative of its commercial importance is the 1857-58 year in which Jefferson exported 25,000 cotton bales compared to Smithland’s 5,000, Benton’s 8,000, Port Caddo’s 5,000, Swanson’s 8,000, and Monterey’s 1,500.
Thanks to primitive wagon roads, Jefferson’s full geographic market area extended up to 200 miles to the west and north and goods shipped to Jefferson were finding their way to Dallas. Jefferson was the principal port for a great portion of the upper Red and Trinity Rivers, and Cross Timbers region of Texas for both immigration and commerce.
Freight, immigrants, and other passengers arrived at the port by steam boat and moved out of the market area locally and to the west primarily by ox-wagons. Those wagons constantly traversed the area. By 1880, as many as a thousand teams could be at Jefferson at the same time.
The wagon trade there was so large that the roads leading to the west were blocked by the wagons making passage difficult at times. Between 1867 and 1870, trade grew from $3 million to $8 million.
The 1870 census ranked Jefferson second in commerce and industry among all Texas cities. Such modern novelties as gas lighting, artificial ice, refrigeration, and soda water were in common use by Jefferson’s commercial elite. Cotton exports from Jefferson’s wharves increased from 25,000 bales to 76,238 bales in 1872.
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