Huntsville: A City of Rich History

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There is more to Huntsville than Sam Houston State University and rolling hills, it is a city filled with an abundance of history.

Less than a mile from the Wynne Prison Unit, located toward the south west side of town, is the Texas Prison Museum.

The museum was established in 1989 after the prison system realized they needed a place to display the substantial number of artifacts accumulated throughout the years.

“You can find out a whole lot about the history of the prison system in Texas from the angles of prisoners and offers,” Texas Prison Museum Director Jim Willett said. “You can also find out how the prison system operates today.”

The museum is home to a wide variety of both intriguing and horrifying artifacts.

Among the most notable is a display of artwork created by inmates. The display features a detailed mask carved from soap using only a toothbrush and tooth pick. Next to the mask there is a purse made out of used Camel Cigarette packages.

Some of the more unsettling artifacts include an electric chair, a display of weapons and tools used to punish inmates, and three replica pistols that were carved out of wood by three inmates who planned to escape the prison in the 1960’s.

“The most interesting artifact we have is the three replica pistols,” Willett said.  “It’s one thing to have the talent to carve, but those guys didn’t have a replica to work off of. They did it all from memory.”

Texas Prison Museum will host their annual gathering for museum retirees on October 8. The gathering will provide a free meal and a place to visit for those in the community who have retired.  Also at the event will be a book signing for books about the prison system, history and the prison rodeo.

The museum is open Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. The admission fee for Sam Houston State University students is $4.00 and the museum is located at 419 SH 75 North.

Adjacent to the Texas Prison Museum is the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum. Established in 1994, the museum was first opened at the West Hill Mall and in 2009 moved to their current location off of Interstate 75 North.

Featured outside the museum is an array of military aircrafts, tanks and vehicles. Once inside museumgoers can walk through five rooms which are dedicated to the different branches of the military.  There is also a display of weapons that date back to 1915 and a library of over 25 hundred donated military books.

The H.E.A.R.T.S museum also has a unique feature that other museums do not have, which is that visitors of the museum are allowed and welcomed to touch artifacts and take photographs.

For a more in depth article about the H.E.A.R.T.S museum visit houstonianonline.com.

The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m – 5p.m. and the admission fee for SHSU students is $3.00.

Up next, directly across the street from SHSU lay the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

The museum is an educational and historic site that honors the life and legacy of General Sam Houston. The land where the museum is located is also the original homestead of Houston.

The memorial has numerous exhibits dedicated to the life of Houston and the impact he made on both Huntsville and Texas.

On Thursday, September 15th at 6:30 p.m. the museum will be hosting a presentation with award winning SHSU professor Caroline Crimm about women ranchers in Texas.

The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 p.m.- 4:30 p.m. Admission is free for SHSU students with a valid student ID.

Huntsville is not only the home to General Sam Houston, but also Samuel Walker Houston, a prominent African-American who was a pioneer to the education of blacks.

Walker Houston was born a slave to Sam Houston and once the emancipation process began, Houston saw that education was key to the future of African Americans in Walker County.

In 1907 Houston founded the Galilee Community School, a private school for African Americans with an emphasis on vocational, mechanical, academic, musical and humanity curriculum. This school that was the first of its kind in the Huntsville area.

In 1991 the Samuel Walker Houston Culture Center and Museum was open to preserve the legacy of Houston and the achievement of the African American community in Huntsville and in 2001, the museum moved to its current location at the former Huntsville Negro High School on 10th Street.

“The legacy Mr. Houston left with education is very significant,” director of the SWH Culture Center and Museum, LaJuanan Glaze said.

The main exhibit in the museum is called the Business Room and it showcases photos from some of the first African American owned business in the Huntsville area such as Cox’s Funeral Home, Williams Barber Shop and Lennox’s Liquor Store.

“This museum is so interesting,” Glaze said. “You find so many exciting things about the folks in the community.”

The museum and culture center is open Tuesday – Friday from 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

For more information about museums in the Huntsville area go to www.hunstvilletexas.com .