Yuma Territorial Prison
If you were a murderer, cattle rustler, stage robber, or
even your average convicted adulterer (boy have times ever changed); this is not the prison you wanted to be
sentenced to. Sorry about that, because it was the only “prison” in the southwestern
part of the country. If you've ever
viewed even a few American Westerns or “cowboy” movies, you've probably heard
this place being referenced.
I apologize about the glaring sky in this photo. I hope you brought sunglasses.
The prison was isolated in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, where blistering summertime temperatures average over 100 degrees. Being locked in a cell with up to 5 other
men, with a bucket for a toilet (changed once a day if you were lucky); is not
where I would want to be when it’s blistering hot. From what we saw, the cell looked pretty good, because...
Most of them looked much more like this.
This cell was called the “snake pit” or “hell hole” and was probably the worst thing that could happen to you. The iron grating on the floor is what is left of the ten by ten feet, iron box that was in this room. The walls and top were made of the same material. When they really wanted to punish you, they threw you in here; unfortunately you weren't always in there alone. Anybody else who needed “special” treatment was also in there with you and sometimes there were several men in there at once. Stripped down to their underwear and given bread and water once a day. The only light came from a small open vent in the ceiling. The worst thing was the fact that they didn't even have a bucket. You just did your business right there in the cage, on the floor. Imagine the fragrance of that after a few 100 degree days! I just triggered my own gag reflex! Believe me, that isn't easy...
Main guard tower
Escaping wasn't a very good option because the place was surrounded by desert. If you did happen to escape (and many tried), they were usually hunted down (for money) by the local Indian tribe.
The prison was opened in 1876 and the last prisoner was discharged in 1919. After the prison closed, the city of Yuma used it as the local High School (after their school was destroyed) for a while. That’s pretty weird, right? Can you guess what the school’s sports teams were known as? Yep! The Yuma Criminals! The name stuck and it is still the school mascot today!
Go Criminals! Go Team Go!
Although the prison was a terrible place and a lot of crazy things went on there, I think the oddest thing we found that day related to the Yuma High School mascot. Seriously, isn't that odd? When combined with other things we've learned about Arizona recently, maybe it isn't really isn't all that odd...
Don't get me wrong, being different is one of the great things about this state. You never know who you are going to run into, or what you are going to see.
Speaking of the Arizona desert. We are back in Arizona again. Same state, different desert. This time the Mojave. We've put a lot of miles on the jeep since we got here a week ago and have seen some great and interesting things...