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Jefferson City

Jefferson City, Jefferson.

Jefferson City is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jefferson. Jefferson City is the oldest Anglo settlement in Jefferson, having been founded in late autumn 1782 at the conclusion of the original Wilderness Walk by General Nathanael Greene. Newspapers based in Jefferson City include the Jefferson Argus, the Jefferson Patriot, the Jefferson Times, and the Jefferson City Tribune.

Sobel doesn't say where in Spanish Tejas Jefferson City was founded, only that Greene's company arrived in San Antonio in September 1782, then continued for another 200 miles before setting up camp with the onset of winter. Sobel does state that Greene's settlement was only a short trip from Espiritu Santo, which suggests that Jefferson City was within fifty miles of Espiritu Santo. It is possible that Greene chose the former site of Espiritu Santo on the Guadalupe River, which had been occupied by the Spanish between 1726 and 1749.

Greene and his followers, who numbered around 2,000 at the conclusion of the Wilderness Walk, built a small, permanent town at Jefferson City, mostly in the Spanish style of adobe brick, interspersed with an occasional New England frame house. The economy was based on subsistence agriculture, with every member of the community working in the fields. The settlers quickly learned how to cultivate grains and vegetables with little water. Some Virginians experimented with tobacco, but the plant would not grow well in the Jeffersonian soil. Livestock became more important than it had been in the thirteen colonies.

The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 by Eli Whitney made the cultivation of cotton profitable in Jefferson. After the ratification of the Constitution of 1793, the Chamber of Representatives met in Jefferson City on 19 Janury 1784 to select the Senate and establish the government. The Senate first met and selected the three Governors on 25 January, and by 1 February all seven of the judges of the high court had been selected.

After General Andrew Jackson seized control of the Mexican government in June 1817, Governor Alexander Hamilton called for a union of Mexico and Jefferson. In the 1818 Jefferson elections, held a week after Hamilton's death, Jackson was elected co-governor of Jefferson, and set about implementing Hamilton's plan. The Continentalist Party majority in the Chamber of Representatives voted on 15 June 1819 to dissolve itself and regroup in Mexico City as a constitutional convention. Under the Mexico City Constitution, Jefferson and Mexico were united to form the United States of Mexico, and the new nation's capital was established in Mexico City. Jefferson City would only be the capital of one of the six states that made up the U.S.M.

During Jackson's grand tour of the U.S.M. in 1823, he visited Jefferson City in the summer, where he received a tumultuous greeting from the residents. In an address at the state capital, Jackson compared Jefferson to the Southern Confederation, greatly to the latter's disfavor.

The worldwide drop in the price of slaves in 1837 affected Jefferson less than the Southern Confederation. In the Confederation, the drop ultimately led to the abolition of slavery. In Jefferson, it merely resulted in the closing of the slave markets in Jefferson City for a few years. By 1842, the Jefferson City slave markets had re-opened and were doing better business than before the Panic of 1836. Although cotton sales rose in the 1840s, the added production of cotton from Egypt, India, and South America caused the price to continue to fall. This, combined with the California Gold Rush occurring at the same time, caused the population of Jefferson City to actually fall in the 1840s.

Jefferson City's fortunes were revived by the discovery of oil in the Tiempo de Dios area in 1863. At first, it was believed that the discovery was minor compared to those made in the 1850s in Pennsylvania and Indiana, and Jefferson produced only 10,000 barrels of oil in 1865. Within five years, Jefferson was producing 2.1 million barrels of oil, and by 1876 production had risen to 8.9 million barrels. In 1874, Monte Benedict united the state's oil production in his Petroleum of Mexico Corporation, which at the time was the leading corporation in the U.S.M. in terms of assets, sales, and profits. Benedict soon formed a tactical alliance with Bernard Kramer of Kramer Associates, and together the two were able to use their wealth and power to gain control of the Mexican government, ultimately installing Benito Hermión as dictator in September 1881.


Sobel's sources for the founding of Jefferson City are Baldwin Collier's The Lost Opportunity: Slavery in Jefferson City, 1782-1795 (New York, 1948) and David Christman's The Founding of Jefferson City: The First Three Decades (Mexico City, 1967).