Huntsville in Walker County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
Huntsville "Walls" Unit
(Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville)
The Republic of Texas Congress passed a law to establish a prison system in 1842, but it wasn't until 1848, after a new law passed the state legislature, that steps were taken to achieve the goal. Huntsville was selected as the site for the state prison facility, and Governor George Tyler Wood appointed master builder Abner H. Cook as first superintendent and construction supervisor for the prison. The first three inmates -- a cattle thief, a murderer and a horse thief -- arrived to a partially completed facility in 1849.
Throughout its history, the Walls Unit has cycled through periods of negligence and reform, with a variety of administrative boards governing its operations. In the 1850s, the prison operated a cotton and woolen mill with inmate labor to help generate its own revenue. In 1866, the state legislature enabled the superintendent to lease the prisoners for work in the private sector. This convict lease system lasted until the reform movement in the early 20th century accomplished its abolition in 1910. Additional reforms and a need created during the Great Depression to operate the facility more efficiently led
This penitentiary has held Kiowa chiefs Satanta and Big Tree, infamous gunslinger John Wesley Hardin, and Federal prisoners of war during the Civil War. As headquarters of the Texas prison system until 1989, the Walls Unit is the facility from which capital punishment was carried out from 1924 until 1964, and then again after 1982.
Erected 2001 by Texas Historical Commission. (Marker Number 12577.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Law Enforcement. A significant historical year for this entry is 1842.
Location. 30° 43.372′ N, 95° 32.827′ W. Marker is in Huntsville, Texas, in Walker County. Marker is at the intersection of 12th Street and Avenue I, on the left when traveling west on 12th Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Huntsville TX 77340, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Brick Academy (a few steps from this marker); State Penitentiary C.S.A. (within shouting distance of this marker); The First Baptist Church (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Historic Church Bell (about 600 feet away); Forrest Lodge No. 19, A.F. & A.M. (approx. 0.2 miles away); First Meeting Site of Huntsville's Masonic LodgeSam Houston Whittling Site (approx. 0.2 miles away); Site of Pleasant Gray's Trading Post (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Huntsville.
Also see . . . Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. TSHS - Texas State Historical Society (Submitted on September 10, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.)
Credits. This page was last revised on September 11, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 10, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 276 times since then and 78 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 10, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.