Panola County History

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Comes to life

The Old Jail Museum is a very interesting place to visit. Built in 1891, it’s the oldest building in Carthage. Once used by twelve different sheriffs, the upstairs of the building now houses the original jail cells plus collections from many areas of Panola County history. When touring the second floor, one finds a beautiful collection of drawings by Q.M. Martin, military memorabilia, displays reflecting the life of early settlers in Panola County and much, much more.

The downstairs area houses the Leila Belle LaGrone Family Research Center. Just about anything and everything that has to do with researching family history in Panola County can be found in this small, three-room area.

Robbie Sutlive, noted county historian, says, “If your people were ever in Panola County, I can find them for you. The difficult, I can do right away; the impossible may take a little longer. There is no great secret to successful research, except perhaps perseverance.” Mrs. Sutlive, a member of the Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association since its inception in 1987, volunteers on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. She is familiar with every collection found in the Research Center. Some of the collections available include:  microfilm of the Panola Watchman from 1873 to the current date, family history books, military reference materials, references of several southern states, a 245 volume Alabama Records Collection, Confederate soldiers roster, family histories researched by Bill O’Neill’s history classes, family bibles, pioneer store ledgers, patient ledgers of Dr. John Neal from 1905 to 1930, even a collection of old telephone directories and editions of the Carthage Pine Burr and Panola College Pony. Computers are also available for research on the Internet.

The Research Center and Museum are visited by hundreds of people from all parts of the United States, all with a common goal—finding family members. Recently, visitors from as far away as Florida, California and Ohio have come to locate ancestors.  “One of the collections we have are the journals of Dr. Thomas Jefferson Reagan, a doctor in the Beckville area. They were purchased at an estate sale for $500 by the Dorman family, and they donated them to the library. Dr. Reagan delivered an enormous amount of illegitimate babies, and when he did, he always recorded the name of the father. We have birth records that are not available anywhere else.” Sutlive continued, “I’ve had lots of unusual requests over the years. I had a man from the town of West, Texas, call me one night about 10:30. He wanted help finding his siblings. When he was an infant, the family home burned and his mother was killed. There were six children and his father let people adopt them. All he knew was that his mother was buried in Macedonia cemetery. I said there’s always somebody that knows about the people buried in a cemetery, so I called the preacher and he gave me a lady’s name. When I called her, she said she knew the family well, so I gave her the man’s contact information. That was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”

The Center is always looking for historical information on families who have lived in Panola County. Volunteers are also needed to help with the research. Interested persons may want to become members of the Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association. Membership fees are: student-$5, single-$20, couple-$25, benefactor-$50, patron-$100, life-$250.  Hours for the Old Jail are Sunday, 1:00-5:00pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00am-3:00pm. Special requests may be made for other hours. The Center is located at 213 N. Shelby, one block off the square. The telephone number is 903.693.3388 and email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Sutlive summarizes, “This is why we got money gathered up--to help people find their families. We promise to do that.”