Larry & Lee Ann's Journey travel blog

Entrance to the prison....

What the facility used to be....

Water tower and original guard tower, later used for a dance floor...

A few of the prison guards, nice looking bunch don't you think??

I found this story interesting...,

Many films were done here including Gene Autrey's Red River Valley, 1936,...

Interesting artifacts saved in time...

Our first view of the cell block...

Six men to a cell, wow There were originally wood bunks with...

Chains were used to hoist themselves up, ready to try that move...

Looking back at the cell block...

No dark cell for me!!!!

View from the guard tower...

Too funny!

Home Sweet Home!...


Today Larry and I traveled a few miles toward town to visit the Territorial Prison. The weather was beautiful, it has actually dropped back down to the high 70's low 80's. Much better! There weren't many folks there today so we really took our time with our tour. We started by viewing a 35 minute informational film that was very well done. Afterward, we checked out all of the 'things' on display in the museum. From there we exited to a yard that houses the entrance to the cells and what remains of the buildings. During the film we learned that after some major flooding, the townspeople considered the complex a source for free building materials. So they have destroyed many of the original structures. Still, for the $4 entrance fee, there is enough left to make it an enjoyable way to spend part of an afternoon. I have included some basic information concerning the prison below for those interested in knowing a bit more:

On July 1, 1876, the first seven inmates entered the Territorial Prison at Yuma and were locked into the new cells they had built themselves. At Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park walk through the actual strap iron cells and solitary chamber of Arizona Territory’s first prison. Now a museum, the building houses photographs and colorful exhibits of those who once “involuntarily” stayed there and the prison life they had to endure.

A total of 3,069 prisoners, including 29 women, lived within these walls during the prison's thirty-three years of operation. Their crimes ranged from murder to polygamy, with grand larceny being the most common. A majority served only portions of their sentences due to the ease with which paroles and pardons were obtained. One hundred eleven persons died while serving their sentences, most from tuberculosis, which was common throughout the territory. Of the many prisoners who attempted escape, twenty-six were successful, but only two were from within the prison confines. No executions took place at the prison because capital punishment was administered by the county government.

Written evidence indicates that the prison was humanely administered, and was a model institution for its time. The only punishments were the dark cells for inmates who broke prison regulations, and the ball and chain for those who tried to escape. During their free time, prisoners hand-crafted many items. Those items were sold at public bazaars held at the prison on Sundays after church services. Prisoners also had regular medical attention, and access to a good hospital.

Schooling was available for convicts, and many learned to read and write in prison. The prison housed one of the first "public" libraries in the territory, and the fee charged to visitors for a tour of the institution was used to purchase books. One of the early electrical generating plants in the West furnished power for lights and ran a ventilation system in the cellblock.

By 1907, the prison was severely overcrowded, and there was no room on Prison Hill for expansion. The convicts constructed a new facility in Florence, Arizona. The last prisoner left Yuma on September 15, 1909.

The Yuma Union High School occupied the buildings from 1910 to 1914. Empty cells provided free lodging for hobos riding the freights in the 1920s, and sheltered many homeless families during the Depression. Many left their names and the dates they resided there on the walls for all to see. Townspeople considered the complex a source for free building materials. This, plus fires, weathering, and railroad construction, destroyed the prison walls and all buildings except the cells, main gate and guard tower; but these provide an interesting glimpse of convict life a century ago. Worth a look for sure!

Arriving home I made fried chicken for dinner. One of Larry's favorites. And then we put on our suits and headed over to the pool. The water temperature was 90, just where I like it! We had the facility completely to ourselves, it was wonderful. A terrific end to another nice day....



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