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August 3, 2011

Boathouse Jail

CLAREMORE — It seemed to be a simple request and an interesting one to boot.

Family friend Bob Clements approached me after Sunday church services a few weeks back and we were visiting in the parking lot.  As we started to depart he causally said I should write an article about the jail cell at Claremore Lake.

Whoa, wait a minute. There is no jail cell that I know about and my parents have lived on that lake going on now almost a half century.

Oh yes there is. It is in the old rock boathouse and it has an interesting history, he corrected me with a wide smile across his face.

There would be no reason for this wise gentleman to make up such a tale. He didn’t have all the details and I am positive he was never incarcerated in the cell. Still what he told me was enough to start a fact-finding journey to learn more. Bob said to watch out for the water moccasins. That was an attention-getter also.

First step was to see the structure for myself.  I had to know a little more detail before seeking additional information. The lake attendants on duty when I arrived said yes, the boathouse certainly did have a cell; no, they didn’t know why or when it was used; and yes, I could see it.

The jail cell is directly under the former lake office. The solid steel door had been removed and now is leaning up against the wall nearest the boat ramps. The only window was about 12 inches square. Encased in concrete were one-inch rebar pipes, crisscrossing the opening.  This allowed the only light into the cell. The 40-watt light bulbs over the docks didn’t produce much light to start out.

The floor was concrete and covered with lake water. This has been the case since the level of the lake was raised back in the 1970s.

About two feet of pitch black water was in the cell that day. The rangers said they had removed the snakes, but I noticed one of them still carried a long pole in case it was needed. I stayed behind him during my visit, only peeking around him to take a few pictures.

Telephone calls and personal visits followed. Surely someone would know the building’s history.

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