Yuma Territorial Prison
Yuma, Arizona
April 2000


 

Our first stop after leaving San Diego was Yuma Arizona, home of the infamous territorial prison.  The prison was used for about thirty years from 1880 until 1910.   It was built by inmates from the local county jail.  As time went on the inmates in the prison worked in the rock quarry and on enlarging the prison. 

Even with a few clouds in the sky it was a very warm day, (and this was in April).  Just imagine what it was like working in the rock quarry on a hot, summer day.
Yes, this was the temperature in the shade.  I think the humidity was near 10% so it didn't feel like the heat back east or even in the Pacific Northwest.  We learned not to lean an elbow on our truck or step out barefoot.  Even our dog, Cocoa, would hop around when she stepped out of the truck.
Here's a view of one of the cells.  Originally, there was an adobe wall covering the steel bars that divided this room into two smaller cells.  (The wall went across where Mitch is climbing).  Each one of these tiny cells had six steel bunks, three on the left and three on the right.  At the end of the bunks there was a space of about 30 inches, (by the door where Cheryl is standing).  So for six men there was not too much room.  Steel beds were used because bed bugs had built nests into the original wooden bed frames. 
Here's an interesting remedy that claimed to provide relief for most aches and pains, "Kickapoo Oil"; (sounds like something from a cartoon).  In the museum we saw many displays and learned about the prisoners and their crimes, the wardens and what it was like for each to live here.  The crimes ranged from bank robbery and murder to fraud and bigamy.

Here's a mean looking one!

 


The Nodland Brothers behind bars

A train goes right past the prison.  Some of the prison was torn down to put in the tracks.  After the prison was closed it was either vacant, used as a school, used by families during the depression for housing, or by hobos.

Standing at the west edge of the prison yard you can look down upon the mighty Colorado River.  In the late eighteen hundreds riverboats would come up here.  Today there's hardly enough water for small boats.  Most of the water has been used to nourish the cities and crops along the way.
 
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