Historic Yuma Visit 2014
April 2014 had us on the road to visit the fine town of Yuma, AZ. We decided to visit a couple of State Historic Parks as well as explore the local area. We had a great time during the visit as the city celebrates 100 years. Enjoy the images.
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
“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 the walls during the prison’s 33 years of operation."
"Despite an infamous reputation, 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. Come experience this fascinating slice of Arizona history. The park offers a museum with exhibits, a gift shop, video presentation, picnic area, and restrooms.”
“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. 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 a glimpse of convict life a century ago.”
Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park
“As you walk the grounds of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, imagine the once-bustling grounds teeming with military life, preparing to travel to all parts west. The Yuma Quartermaster Depot was used by the U.S. Army to store and distribute supplies for all the military posts in Arizona, and some in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. Five of the original depot buildings remain on the park grounds, and four of these buildings contain exhibits which cover both the military history of the site and the history of the Bureau of Reclamation’s construction of major irrigation works in the Yuma area during the early 1900s.”
“The Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park is located within the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, an area that seeks to conserve, enhance, and interpret the natural and cultural resources of the community. The park offers a visitor center, exhibits, gift shop, picnic areas, group use areas, and restrooms.”
“Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, site of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, was used by the US Army to store and distribute supplies for all the military posts in Arizona, as well as posts in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. A six-month supply of clothing, food, ammunition, and other goods was kept at the depot at all times. The supplies were brought from California by ocean vessels traveling around the Baja Peninsula to Port Isabel near the mouth of the Colorado River. There, cargos were transferred to river steamers and brought upstream to Yuma. The supplies were unloaded near the stone reservoir just west of the commanding officer's quarters and hauled up on a track running from the river dock through the center of the storehouse. They were shipped north on river steamers and overland by mule-drawn freight wagons. The depot quartered up to 900 mules and a crew of teamsters to handle them.”
“The Southern Pacific Railroad reached Yuma in 1877 and heralded the end of the Quartermaster Depot and Fort Yuma. Trains could ship supplies much faster and cheaper than the Army could by water and freight wagons, and the depot was no longer needed in Yuma. When the railroad reached Tucson, the depot's functions were moved to Fort Lowell (in Tucson) and the depot officially closed in 1883.”
“In the early 1870s, the Signal Corps had moved into a portion of the quartermaster's office and established a telegraph and weather station. After the supply depot was terminated by the Army in 1883, the Signal Corps remained on site until 1891. In that year, the Weather Bureau became a separate agency from the Signal Corps. Civilian employees of the Weather Bureau then lived in the quartermaster's office until 1949.”
“In 1902, the commanding officer's quarters were acquired by the U.S. Customs Service. The Bureau of Reclamation, the Boundary Commission, the Yuma County Water Users Association, and the Assistance League of Yuma have also utilized portions of the old depot during the twentieth century.”
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