Sugar Land, TX – Sugar Land City Council approved a memorandum of understanding today for the future relocation of skeletal remains to the city’s Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery, 6440 Easton Ave.
The action is the first step toward a formal agreement with the Fort Bend Independent School District. The agreement will establish specific details of the formal relocation and interment of historical remains of prisoners discovered in an unmarked grave on FBISD’s property on Feb. 19.
“The school district and the Texas Historical Commission have been working together and told us the cemetery was uncovered during construction activity,” said First Assistant City Manager Steve Griffith. “The city of Sugar Land is an adjacent property owner, so we’ve closely monitored the ongoing developments and worked to establish a continued dialogue with all groups involved in the process.”
Sugar Land is working with the Texas Historical Commission and the Fort Bend Historical Commission to ensure the future relocation of historical remains to the city’s cemetery occurs under their guidance and direction.
City leaders recently organized a meeting with representatives of the Texas Slave Descendants Society – a group now called the Convict Leasing and Labor Project – to discuss preliminary plans for the relocation of the remains to the city’s cemetery and conceptual ideas for enhancing and memorializing the cemetery. Local activist Reginald Moore participated. The Texas Historical Commission recognized Moore many years ago with an honorary designation as cemetery guardian for past educational efforts to raise awareness of the state’s convict lease program. While the program was discontinued in 2012 (http://www.thc.texas.gov/preserve/projects-and-programs/cemetery-preservation/history-cemetery-preservation-program), the city continues to work with Moore to facilitate educational efforts.
The land owned by the city was proactively acquired in 2006 to preserve and protect the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery and surrounding land. The property comprised just over 63 acres and has been designated as parkland -- no development has occurred on the city’s site. The action taken by the city ensured that the cemetery would not suffer the same fate as many others across the country that have been neglected, forgotten and disappeared into history.
Should park development occur in the future, the city will work with the Texas Historical Commission and comply with all state antiquities laws and regulations governing archeological preservation prior to development. Additionally, the city will continue its coordination with the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation – which was established by the city to preserve and document the community’s rich history – including the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery on the city’s property.
In 2016, the city’s cemetery was designated a state historical site. An official marker designating the history of the cemetery and prison was installed; this city-led initiative was the result of more than a year of extensive research and coordination with the Fort Bend Historical Commission and the Texas Historical Commission.
The city’s cemetery contains the remains of prisoners and guards who died from 1912-1942 at the Texas Department of Corrections’ Central Prison Unit. For more about the city’s cemetery and efforts to preserve, protect and honor the area’s past, visit http://www.sugarlandtx.gov/1694/The-Imperial-Farm-Cemetery.
“Just as we’ve worked hard to honor and protect those buried at the Old Imperial Prison Farm Cemetery, the city of Sugar Land has a common interest in ensuring that the remains discovered on the school district’s property are memorialized with the utmost dignity and in a manner that honors their historical significance,” said Griffith. “We look forward to facilitating a coordinated effort that achieves this purpose and sharing more specific details as we work toward a more formal agreement.”
Sugar Land’s interest in historical preservation is consistent with past efforts such as significant contributions to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land, which was built inside what was once the Main Unit, known as Two Camp, where the prison’s African-American inmates were held.