The Old Choctaw Jail is located on Rock Jail Road. From Panama, follow Rock Jail Road west for approximately three miles.
The jail was originally built in 1840, and then rebuilt in 1895. To the north of the jail was the old Choctaw County Court House for the Choctaw Nation. The old court house burned in 1949. To the south was the area where the executions were held.
The jail was used for Choctaw Indian prisoners and federal prisoners in Indian Territory, but not all prisoners who had been sentenced ware detained in the jail. Especially was this so of the Choctaw Indians who had been sentenced to be shot. They were not kept in jail at all following their trial but were allowed to return home and wind-up their business affairs after which they would return at the appointed date and place to be executed. They usually requested that their closest friend be allowed to do the shooting and in most cases a white cross was pinned over their heart as a target for the executioner. The Choctaw Indian’s word was his bond, and there was never any doubt among the Choctaw officials that the condemned man would return for his execution.
There was a large elm tree near a hand dug well close to a ravine about 200 yards from the jail where executions took place. White men who rented land from the Indians, and who were to pay a portion of their crops as rent, but who failed to make such payment were often sentenced by the Choctaw Courts, and in most cases, upon conviction, were tied to this large elm tree and whipped with a “cat-o-ninetails.”
This photo was provided by Linda Sue Hearon. Left to right is Arthur Bruce, Lon Willingham, his brother Earnest Willingham, and their father Brooks Willingham. When they first came to Oklahoma they lived in the old jail. Photo takenaround 1915-1920.