County Seat: Carthage * County Population: 22,989
The Panola County Courthouse was built in 1953 in a Modern style as designed by Preston M. Geren.
The original county seat was Pulaski located some 15 miles east of Carthage, the current county capitol, on the Sabine River. In her book “The Texas Courthouse Revisited,” June Rayfield Welch describes the theatrics surrounding the transition:
Pulaski was not as centrally located as the Carthage site, a dense pine and oak forest which became the capital after a bitter 1848 election. Carthage supporters made off with the records under the cover of darkness, and when Pulaski men came after them the next day, serious trouble seemed unavoidable. After much rhetoric one fellow was peppered with bird shot, and that helped cool tempers. The last court at Pulaski was held by Judge Allison on July 18, 1848. Court convened on September 12, 1849, at Carthage.
Carthage was named for Carthage, Mississippi, while the county name, Panola, is an Indian word for cotton.
County business was conducted in a multitude of courthouses built of new logs, hand-sawed lumber, brick, and finally concrete.
On July 7, 1891, Panola County paid $100 to John M. Bradley for a lot to house the first permanent jail, a two-story structure fashioned of red brick with iron doors, bars, and cells. Panola County used the building, now known as the Old Jail, until 1953 when a new courthouse and jail were erected.
Thanks to the Panola County Bicentennial Commission, in 1976 the Old Jail was eventually registered as a National Historic Shrine. The Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association organized in 1987 and decided to transform 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. In 1966, U.S. Rep. 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 1967, the Old Jail was named a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
Carthage is home to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame/Tex Ritter Museum, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to country music and were born in the state of Texas, including singers, songwriters and disc jockeys. The museum includes informational panels that cover each inductee’s career and accomplishments through text, photographs and artifacts. In the center of the exhibit area, a replica of a 1930s theater marquee reminds visitors of the role of country music in film. The marquee serves as the entrance to the Tex Ritter Museum. Ritter, who was born in Panola County, was one of the first singers inducted into the Hall when it was established in 1998.