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Tamaha Jail

Location Class:
Built: 1886 | Abandoned:
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (1980)
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: John Rupp
Not much is left within the town of Tamaha, Oklahoma but one thing that does still stand is its historic rock jail. Built in 1886, it’s said to be the oldest jail in Oklahoma. The towns dwindling population has been proud of its historic roots and tiny jail. The rock work has been repaired several times over the years but without annual upkeep, it has deteriorated and the roof is obviously collapsing into the building.
Bass McGuire, a former Haskell County sheriff, left, and Burl Prentice, nephew of Frank Prentice, former prisoner. Credit to David McDaniel, December 10, 1993.

Supposedly the first inmate within the Tamaha Jail was Frank Prentice, how he got there is a store all in itself. Prentice had supposedly been hired as a horseback mail carrier for the Whitefield to Tamaha route. Deciding to have a little fun on his trip he decided to have a few drinks, apparently, he had a few more than expected because a majority of the letters in his saddlebags had been scattered throughout the some twenty or so miles between the towns. Upon arrival, his drunken mistake was discovered and authorities threw him into the Tamaha Jail, just long enough to sober him up.

Gallery Below


McDaniel, David. [Photograph 2012.201.B0389.0635]photographDecember 10, 1993; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc420848/accessed February 6, 2021), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.

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Emily Cowan

Emily was brought into the Abandoned OK Team in December of 2019. “I’m not gonna lie I fangirled a bit. My first published post I was ecstatic, I felt like I finally had the right audience for my work. The opportunities that came with it made me love the website even more. I remember my first interview with a couple at Waukomis Christian Church. They had bought and restored the 1897 church and insisted on keeping the original sanctuary despite being advised on moving it. We talked with them for at least a good 40 minutes about the church, the abandoned Waukomis Middle School beside it, and the towns other disappearing buildings. They even rang the bell for us that has sat in the bell-tower for the last 120 something years ago. We could tell they were just as passionate about preserving Oklahoma’s dwindling history as we were. When interviewing people and hearing the first-hand stories and recollections of a place and seeing how a person connects to a building, it forms a connection between not only you and that person but yourself and that building.”

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9 months ago

We currently live in Tamaha….we LOVE it!

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