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1891 Panola County Jail

Home of the
Leila B. LaGrone Family History Center
& Mini-Law-Enforcement & Pioneer Museum
and Veterans Memorial

211 N. Shelby St. Carthage, Texas 75633
(903) 693-3388    Email    

Current link to the Panola County
 Historical & Genealogical Association

On July 7, 1891, Panola county paid $100 to John M. Bradley for a 50 feet by 100 feet lot at 213 S. Shelby St. in Carthage, Texas. Upon this lot, the county built its first permanent jail, a two story building of red brick with iron doors, bars, and cells.

Panola County used the building until 1953 when it built a new courthouse with a new jail. From 1965 - 1970, the city of Carthage leased the building to the Carthage Book Club for a historical museum. Thanks to the efforts of the Panola County Bicentennial Commission, in 1976 the Old Jail was registered as a National Historic Shrine. In the meantime, the building became deserted and suffered the destruction of time and vandalism.

The Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association organized in 1987 and decided to turn the old jail into a family research center and mini-law enforcement and pioneer museum. At the time, the structure had little left except the walls, the iron front door and upstairs cells.

However, with the determination of a few people and the donations of time, money, and materials, the building stands restored and proud once again.

Awards & Recognition

In 1966, U.S. Representative Wright Patman dedicated the Old Jail, the oldest building in Carthage, and a State Historical Medallion was placed on the front near the doorway.

In May 1967, the historic Panola County Jail received recognition from the Texas State Historical Survey Commission as a "Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, significant to the history of this community and state and worthy of preservation." A certificate signed by then governor John Connally was presented at the dedication. The marker reads,

Old Panola County Jail Built in 1891. Two cells with corridors and door ordered from Covington, Kentucky. Electric lights installed 1903. Twelve Panola County sheriffs have served as custodian of jail; used as residence by some, and child of one born in jail. Purchased in 1956 by Carthage for use as city jail; leased to the County Historical Association, 1965, for annual rental of $1 for as long as used as Panola County Historical Museum. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1967.

Plaque on Old Jail honoring the landmark

In 1976 a new plaque told of yet another honor to the then nearly century old building:

Panola County Jail has been listed in the National Registry of historic places by the United States Department of Interior - - 1976.

In 1991 then governor Ann Richards honored PCHGA with a visit to the Old Jail as part of its 100th birthday celebration. Other state and local dignitaries were on hand also to tour the facility as part of the Open House celebration.

In 1995 the East Texas Historical Association honored the Old Jail by awarding it the coveted Lucille Terry Award.

 East Texas Oral History Archive

A new addition coming to the library is the East Texas Oral History Archive which consists of hundreds of oral histories collected by the Carthage High School and later the Panola College students of Mrs. Ann Morris. Each interview includes a cassette tape and a typed transcript. An index cross-referencing the name of the interviewee and the name of the student interviewer is available. The collection began in 1986 and continues to grow as more are added. Popular topics include The Great Depression, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, church history, Panola College, and general family recollections.

In 2003, Professor Joe Hough, recently retired from Panola College, contributed approximately 200 cassette tapes of interviews collected by his college history students. These are being cataloged and labeled and are located at the Old Jail.

Questions about the collection may be addressed by contacting the Family History Center or Ann Morris.


LaGrone Family History Center Hours

Sunday 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Tuesday 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday 10:00 a.m.  - 3:00 p.m.

Special arrangements made upon request. Hours are subject to change.

Phone (903) 693-3388.

Since its organization in 1987, the LaGrone Family History Center has amassed over 2,000 cataloged volumes used in genealogy and other research. This does not include several hundred quarterlies and periodicals which are not cataloged individually. Nor does this number include what is probably its most prized possession, the Current Family Research Files.

Many of these works have been purchased with memorials, but most of them have been donated by friends of the library, some of whom no longer live in Panola County.

Special Collections

Among the Center's  special collections are:

  • Roster of Confederate Soldiers (16 volumes)
  • Panola County family histories (compiled by family members)
  • pioneer store ledgers
  • Alabama Records Collection (245 volumes)

Also available for use by patrons are microfilm and microfiche records. Microfilm information available includes:

  • Texas Census Records 1850, 1860
  • Panola County Census Records 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
  • The Panola Watchman 1873-1990's

Microfiche information includes:

  • Miscellaneous information from Mormon Research Library
  • Texas and Texans (2 of 6 volumes published in early 1900s)

A copy machine is also available.  All information stored in the computer files is available with the assistance of the library staff.

Recently Acquired Books
The Family History Center receives new books on a very regular basis.
Harrison County, Texas Cemetery Index
Beckville, Texas History
Newton Co., TX Marriage Records 1900-1940
Census, Newton Co. TX:
(1820, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900)
WPA History
Kentucky Court & Other Records
Carthage High School Class of '51 - 50th Reunion
Carthage High School Class of '53 - 50th Reunion
Newton County Cemetery Book
Mississippi - War of 1812 Pensioners
Timpson Area Obituaries
Newbern Cemetery Shelby Co., TX
Whispers of Newton Co. History 1940-2000

Panola County Historical Commission

The Panola County Historical Commission is dedicated to the preservation of historical sites in the county and to documentation of people who have played an important role in the history and development of Panola County. The commission also plays a role in the acquiring and dedication of Texas State Historic Markers placed in the county. In 1975 the county judge saw the need for a historical commission in the county and prevailed upon local historian Leila B. LaGrone to serve as the chairman.

 Mini-Law-Enforcement & Pioneer Museum

The museum on the second floor utilizes the cell space to pay tribute to past law enforcement and fire department officials. One cell is complete with a "prisoner" and food.

A front area is set aside to honor artist Q. M. Martin and contains collection of several of his paintings as well as personal memorabilia.

Other displays, replete with original photographs and items of interest generously donated or loaned by local citizens, reflect pioneer home and school life. Also acknowledged in the museum area the various natural resources that help keep the Panola County economy healthy and make it the "Gas Capital of the World".

A highlight of the museum is a tribute to all Panola County veterans. Main attractions include a scale model of the "Via Panola Express," a World War II plane named for Panola County.

Tours, conducted by official hosts of the library-museum, are free.


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