Early this year, I had the opportunity to visit the Texas City Museum during my twelve-day tour of Texas. The Museum located in thirty thousand square foot former JC Penny building hosts some impressive exhibits on the history of Texas City.
The USS Westfield, a Civil War vessel, was scuttled by the crew in 1863 in Galveston Harbor to evade capture by Confederate forces. A salvage expedition on the ship in 2009 brought up many artifacts from the main canon which is now on display at the museum.
One of the largest exhibits is the April 16, 1947 explosion that occurred on the SS Grandcamp as its cargo of ammonium nitrate was being unloaded. You may recall that this was the same substance used in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing. The force of the explosion was felt up to 150 miles away and the debris was found over a mile from the site.
The ship’s two-ton anchor was found over a mile away. The force of blast level a nearby Monsanto plant and over 200 homes were destroyed. Darlyne E. Knappenberger saw the smoke and grabbed her camera. She relocated to a better position and caught the explosion as it happened. The aftermath left hundreds dead and would lead to the first class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government.
There is a lot to learn about Texas City from the first aviation squadron in the early 1900s to petrochemical plants. On the second floor of the museum is a huge display of model trains. If you are on the way to Galveston, stop in and see this thought-provoking museum. @TexasCityMuseum