The Marion County Courthouse was built in a Texas Renaissance style as designed by Elmer George Withers. The county capitol, erected in 1912, also displays Classical elements.
The county was named for Gen. Francis Marion of the American Revolution, while the county seat honors the third president of the United States.
As a center of culture and refinement, Jefferson played a key role in the early development of the Lone Star State. Organized in 1860, the county seat was the first town to use gas lighting and was the site of the first artificial icemaker in Texas.
Marion County became part of the United States territories in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The town of Jefferson received an influx of early immigration thanks to the “Great Raft,” a routed waterway into the Cypress Bayou that allowed the steamboats to reach Jefferson.
The steamboats traveled up the Mississippi River into the Red River, through Caddo Lake, and up Big Cypress to what was known as the “Turning Basin.” The first steamboat, the Llama, reached Jefferson in late 1843 or early 1844.
Jefferson experienced its heyday after the Civil War ended as people came in from the war-torn southern states to start new lives.
Today the county seat offers a quaint atmosphere with tourists taking advantage of antique and gift shops, along with horse-drawn carriages and trolley rides on original brick streets. Jefferson boasts 84 Texas Historical Commission medallions signifying historic locations within its city limits. Area visitors may choose from more than 60 bed and breakfast establishments.
The county is known for its reenactments of Civil War battles, including the Battle of Port Jefferson in 1864. This year’s event is set for May 1-4 at the Tuscumbia Ranch owned by the Key Family. Along with the reenactment, the weekend will include riverboat excursions, steam engine rides, trolley and mule/horse-drawn wagon tours, various city and ghost tours, and living-room theater.
Marion County is also famous for its scenery, including two spectacular lakes. Caddo Lake is a 25,400-acre lake and wetland located on the border between Texas and Louisiana, in northern Harrison County and southern Marion County in Texas and western Caddo Parish in Louisiana. The lake is the largest natural lake in Texas and features interconnected waterways, bayous, sloughs, ox-bows, channels, islands and cypress thickets.
Lake O’ the Pines is a reservoir on Big Cypress Bayou, also known as Big Cypress Creek, located chiefly in Marion County. The reservoir occupies a small part of Upshur and Morris counties; the dam is located approximately 8.5 miles west of Jefferson. The lake has been touted as one of the most beautiful lakes in Northeast Texas, brimming with bass, catfish and crappie.
(Texas Almanac 2008-2009)