JEFFERSON, Texas (KLTV) - If you’ve been in East Texas for any length of time, you’ve likely heard about Jefferson’s historic houses, riverboats... and ghosts. It’s all part of the allure the historic city offers to guests, whether they’re looking for a good scare or an old-fashioned soda at the city’s general store.
Marion County is among 15 East Texas counties who received a Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Historical Commission (THC) for demonstrating “proactive, cooperative, and service-oriented activity” that leaves “positive impressions with citizens and visitors while promoting history and preservation,” according to the THC website.
Monday at the Marion County Commissioners Court the award was presented to the Marion County Historical Commission for being, well, distinguished. It was handed out to Board Chair Mitchel Whitington who is often seen zipping around downtown Jefferson in his golf cart.
He says the Texas Historical Commission has to see proactive upkeep for the award.
“We work throughout the year to promote the history of our county. And every year we have to file our report to the state to explain what we’ve done and show our hours and things like that. And they go through all the counties in Texas that they consider to be really exceptional in the work that they have done,” Whitington said.
He says most Texas Counties have a historical commission, but not all. He says Marion County has:
“A very active commission. We meet every month. We are very involved in keeping the history of our county alive. And so, it turns out we enjoy it so that makes it easy for us. We have a good time doing it,” Whitington said.
And carting through Jefferson the city pride shows in many of the historic structures which are still being used.
“I’ve heard it said, I can’t swear to it, but I’ve heard it said that Jefferson has more historic markers per capita than any other city in Texas. And that wouldn’t surprise me. We do have a lot because Jefferson has such an amazing history from having the first ice plant to having the first gas plant for gas street lights and things like that to all the wonderful homes and buildings that still stand today,” Whitington said.
How many historical markers in Marion County? Well, that’s a pretty big number and Mitchel reasons that, as far as visiting them all:
“I doubt you could do it in a day,” he said.
My count from the website is 138. And just where would the Chairman of the Marion County Historical Commission live? Well apparently he’s not scared of history. He lives at the Grove which many consider one of the most haunted homes in Texas. No wonder he has to get some fresh air in his golf cart from time to time.
The Grove is not only a Texas Historic Landmark; it’s also listed in the National Register of Historic Places, although it’s not open to the public. Marion County just got state approval for another Historic Marker of the railroad trestle over the Big Cypress Bayou, which runs through town.