East Texas is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places in the Lone Star State. If you love forests and lakes then this is the place for you. This is definitely road trip heaven. On a recent road trip through East Texas, we headed over to Jefferson near Big Cypress Creek and Caddo Lake at the junction of U.S. Highway 59 and State Highway 49.
Jefferson was named for Thomas Jefferson when it was founded in the early 1840s by Allen Urquhart and Daniel Alley. In those early years it became the state’s leading inland river port as well as the leading commercial and distribution center of Northeast Texas. By 1870, Jefferson was the sixth largest city in Texas. But, with the advent of the railroad and less reliance on river boat transport of products, Jefferson gradually declined in population.
Today, Jefferson is one of the coolest road trip destinations in Texas. The town is home to more than fifty historic structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the old historic buildings in the downtown area now house all kinds of specialty and antique shops. One must-see stop in Jefferson is the Jefferson General Store.
The Jefferson General Store occupies a building first used as a hardware store in the 1860’s and has remained an important part of the community through the years. There are not many places left in Texas where you can step through the door of an old building and go back in time. But that is exactly the feeling you’ll get when you step across the threshold of the front door and into the Jefferson General Store.
The sign above the door boasts “we have everything” — and that is not far from the truth as far as general store merchandise goes. The moment my wife Cheryl and I stepped through the door we looked at each other and smiled. This place was crammed with more interesting things than we could have imagined — including some of the hard-to-find candy we enjoyed as kids like Chick-O-Stick.
You can browse the stuff at the store, sit at the soda fountain and sip on five-cent coffee or any of their nostalgic soda fountain offerings, play a game of checkers on an oversided checker board, or fill a bag at the old-time candy counter. In addition to enjoying some of our favorite candy, we discovered fried peanuts in the shell. Delicious, indeed!
I enjoyed browsing through their eclectic selection of books on everything from Texas history, flora and fauna, recipe books, collections of humorous sayings, and more. If you like signs with funny messages, you’ll find plenty of those. They also have a great selection of Texas jams, jellies, and salsas.
If your travels take you to East Texas, I hope you’ll make time to go by Jefferson and to stop by the Jefferson General Store. Walk slowly. Look at everything. Have a soda. Eat candy. Peruse a book and laugh. Take a selfie. Have fun.