Houston Museum Natural Science (HMNS Sugarland)

While moored in Houston, we wanted to keep the tours and adventures alive, and the Houston Museum of Natural History in Sugarland is just down the street.

The museum naturally is focused on oil, gas, and energy.

The coolest thing I thought was the “curio exhibit.” Back in the day, so to speak, well-traveled folks would have curio rooms to display items from their travels, and several displays in the museum were set up in similar fashion.

As always, there were the usual bones and other animals.

The museum facilities also have quite the history:

The Main Unit of the Central State Prison Farm – which reopened as the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land on Saturday, October 3, 2009 – and three barns were built in 1939 to replace existing wood structures on the older Imperial Prison Farm, which was located on the same grounds.

Two Camp
When the Main Unit opened for operation, the facility was renamed the Central State Prison Farm, No. 2 and nicknamed “Two Camp” by the residents and staff. Prisoners fired the red bricks for Two Camp at the nearby Jester Unit plant. The building marked a shift in prison construction from wood to brick structures.

Between 1939 and 1968, the Main Unit housed mostly African-American inmates distributed among nine wards called “tanks,” which were located on the first and second floors of the structure. The Main Unit also housed administrative offices, solitary confinement cells, laundry facilities for officers, an interior picket area for monitoring prisoner movement, a small school house, kitchen, a dining hall, a small infirmary, a theater and a stage. The harvest of cotton was the main field crop at Two Camp. Convicts were generally organized into work parties, called Squads, of up to 20 convicts.


Midnight Special
Before Two Camp was constructed, Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Lead Belly) was incarcerated in the wooden structures at the Imperial Prison Farm, until his pardon in 1925. The train from Houston to San Antonio would arrive in Sugar Land at about midnight with its light shining brightly. Lead Belly’s words to “Midnight Special” reflected on his experience in Sugar Land.

If you’re ever down in Houston
Boy, you better walk right
And you better not squabble
And you better not fight

Bason and Brock will arrest you
Payton and Boone will take you down
You can bet your bottom dollar
That you’re Sugar Land bound

Let the Midnight Special
Shine the light on me
Let the Midnight Special
Shine the ever-lovin’ light on me

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