JEFFERSON — Guests to the start of the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club’s 74th annual Pilgrimage event on Friday toured some of Jefferson’s most historic homes, perused the annual craft fair and selected some fresh plants at the Heirloom plant sale.

The Pilgrimage event continues with more activities today, kicking off with the Pilgrimage Parade at 10 a.m. in downtown Jefferson.

This year’s Grand Marshals for the 2021 parade are Mike and Carla Riordan and the theme follows the Pilgrimage theme for this year, “Bygone Days on the Bayou.”

Pilgrimage allows guests to come celebrate historic Jefferson by taking a step back in time to the 1860s and offers them a chance to see inside some of the bayou city’s most historic homes.

Proceeds from Pilgrimage go to support the historical properties owned by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club, a 501c3 non-profit.

The Historic Home and Garden Tour

This year’s Historic Home and Garden Tour features four historic Jefferson homes and four beautiful local gardens.

This year’s homes include Jefferson author Mitchel Whitington’s home, the Grove, along with the Stilley – Young House, the Sagamore, Twin Oaks Plantation and the Terry House.

Tickets former the Home and Garden Tour may be purchased on the Pilgrimage website.

Diamond Bessie Murder Trial

A Pilgrimage fan favorite each year is the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial, which covers the real life love story turned tragedy of Jefferson visitor “Diamond Bessie,“ who is buried in the city’s cemetery.

This year’s 67th annual Diamond Bessie Murder Trial continues today with shows at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. showing on Sunday.

The play brings to life the true story of the murder of Diamond Bessie in Jefferson in 1877.

Tickets for the 67th Diamond Bessie Murder Trial may be purchased by calling Beth Crawford on the Diamond Bessie ticket-line at 903-665-0737. Advanced ticket purchase is strongly advised as seating is limited.

Heirloom Plant Sale

Each Pilgrimage includes a chance for visitors to snag some unique and beautiful greenery at the annual Heirloom Plant Sale, benefiting the Club.

Bulbs, cuttings, seeds and locally, home-grown plants are for sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today on the front porch of the Excelsior House Hotel on Austin Street.

Excelsior House Hotel Salad Luncheon Buffet

Set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the historic Excelsior House Hotel, the annual salad luncheon buffet gives guests a treat and a chance to help support the Club.

Served in the hotel’s grand ballroom or outdoor courtyard, depending on the weather, guests will enjoy a homemade lunch buffet and desserts provided and served by Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club members.

Early ticket purchasing is strongly recommended as seating is limited. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased online on the Pilgrimage website.

Tickets may also be purchased at the Excelsior House Hotel or by calling 903-665-2513.

Tour the Atalanta, Jay Gould’s Private Rail Car

Take actual steps in and have a seat from bygone days on the bayou by touring the private rail car of railroad baron Jay Gould of New York, and learn the history of how it made its way to Jefferson.

Owned and maintained by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club since 1954, the 20-minute Atalanta tour is located Directly across from the Excelsior House Hotel at 211 West Austin Street. Tickets are $5 per person, with children under six-years-old free with an adult ticket. Tours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets may be purchased online.

Heritage Quilt Exhibit

The Heritage Quilt Exhibit will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located 501 East Jefferson Street in Jefferson.

Craft Fair Sale

Craft and store vendors will be set up and selling their wares throughout Pilgrimage weekend. Homemade jellies, local honey, natural soaps, handmade clothing and toys, as well as food will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at William Perry Park, adjacent to Pilgrimage Headquarters by the Excelsior House Hotel.


To purchase tickets for Pilgrimage activities or to find the schedule of events, visit the website at

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