Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yuma Territorial Prison: History and 2015 Photography

It was on July 1, 1876, when seven prisoners were incarcerated inside the Yuma Territorial Prison.  These seven convicts were part of the team who built the prison.  After it was finished, these men began their sentencing in the tiny cold cells.  Since then, over 3,000 jailbirds spent time within the walls of the prison and 29 of them were women.  The inmates were in for many types of crimes such as murder, robbery, and even polygamy.  The Yuma Territorial Prison was in operation for 33 years before closing its doors in 1909 when the last of the prisoners was moved out and sent to a newer facility in Florence, AZ.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Yuma: History and More

Yuma is definitely one of Arizona’s hottest cities with temps rising well over 110 degrees for several days in the summer.  Yuma is located along the Colorado River and is the gateway between Arizona and California.  It is also the way many will travel to get to Baja California.  Those coming from Arizona to San Diego will usually find themselves traveling through Yuma to get to their location.
A Spanish excursion navigated their ships up the Colorado River in 1540 and came across the area where Yuma is now located.  They found the area to be a perfect locale for a community to flourish.  There were other villages along the river where Indian settlements existed and they choose not to disturb them.  The explorers referred to these people as “Yumas” which meant smoke in Spanish.  The Native Americans of Yuma lived quietly until the 1680’s when Father Eusebio Kino came to the region, mapped a 200x250 mile area which encumbered three states, set up missions, and then explored the Baja California area noting that it was not an island, but a peninsula. 

It was the gold rush of 1849 that help get Yuma noticed because many traveled through the territory to get to California.  These gold seekers found it to be the fastest route to get to their fortune.  Yuma was called Colorado City at the time and because of its significance, Fort Yuma was built where they could oversee the path those took across the river.  In the late 1800’s, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot was built which today is part of Yuma’s state historic park.  Some of the building’s walls still remain.  A road was finally being constructed along with a post office.  Unfortunately, it was swept away by a flood in 1862, so when the settlement was reassembled, they changed the name to Arizona City.  In 1864, the Pony Express started their runs in the town.  In 1871, Arizona City became incorporated and two years later in 1873, it was given the new name of Yuma.  In 1876, the Yuma Territorial Prison was launched on a hill diagonally from the fort.  It quickly gained a reputation as a gritty place with some of the most infamous prisoners spending time behind bars in the tiny cells.  The railroad was next to land in Yuma which spawned the movie 3:10 to Yuma.

By 1905, the Laguna Dam started construction and was finished four years later.  The dam made it impossible for the steamboats to continue using the river.  The dam also made it possible for irrigation and the flourishing of farming.

From their website, they note some of Yuma’s firsts.  Here is what it says:  Through the early years of the century, Yuma was still a place for firsts:  the first plane to land in Arizona touched down here in 1911; the first highway crossing of the Colorado River was the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge in 1915; Fly Field (now Marine Corps Air Station Yuma) was one of the first airports in Arizona and in 1928 hosted 25 planes in a cross-country air race.  In 1929, the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart ran off the end of the runway in Yuma while competing in the first Women's Air Derby from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland (Earhart had a new propeller flown in, continued the race and finished third).”  

The orgainzers of Yuma decided to rejuvenate the riverfront and their historic district. They began this task in the 1990’s with the overhaul and renewal beginning in 2002.  The first of their endevors was the West Wetland Park and two years later the East Wetlands Park was refurbished.  Also in 2002, the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge was restored and revived for public traffic.  New pathways along the river were constructed along with a conference center and hotel.  Many more museums, exhibits were opened along with revitalization of several historic buildings.

I just spent some time in Yuma with Sharon and we had a nice time.  We only stayed one night and toured the Yuma Territorial Prison.  We drove through the historic downtown, but didn’t stop.  Next time we will.  Meanwhile, my next posts will be about the prison, its history, photos, and some of its notorious prisoners.

We stayed there.  It was near the prison.  We had a nice visit.

The view from our room.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wellton (Well Town)

Along Interstate 8 in Arizona, and 29 miles east of Yuma, sits the settlement of Wellton.  This small town is chalked full of businesses, services, recreation, and an easy-going way of life.  They have a large RV park for all their winter visitors and retirees.

Wellton was established in 1878 and was first known as “Well Town”.  The name came from the “time water wells” which were created to provide water for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  There was a need for these water stations by the employees of the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoaches.  The community grew out of necessity by people such as the Tacna and Wellton families. They offered water for the steam engine trains from their water stations. 

Today, the trains still run through Wellton where they are cared for and where agriculture is the main source of income for those living there.  Like many small towns, we were able to do some urban exploring.

Monday, September 28, 2015


The tiny town of Dateland, AZ, can be found along Interstate 8, flanked by Phoenix and Yuma.  It was founded in the first part of the 1920’s, and started out as a water stop located alongside the railroad lines.  People traveling along the highway would stop in Dateland to cool off from summer’s scorching heat and swim in the town’s irrigation pond.

In the 1940’s, the settlement was used by General Patton as a desert training camp, Camp Horn, and was one of two he utilized in Arizona.  By 1942, they constructed three landing strips in Dateland to train the military for B25 Bombers.  After two months, the military quit using the airstrips and the buildings were then operated as an Italian confinement camp.  Nowadays, all that is left is the footings of the buildings and landing strip.

When Highway 80 was changed to Interstate 8 in 1965, the town relocated slightly north of where it was first built.  The original building was abandoned for years before they decided to pull it down in 1997.  Today, they have the Dateland Travel Center with gift shops, places to eat, and their famous Date Shakes.  Next to that is a gas station, RV Park, and the Date Grove.  Occasionally the military will train their troops in the deserts of Dateland preparing them for deployment to Afghanistan.

Sharon and I stopped in Dateland on our trip from her place in Chandler to Yuma.  We needed to stretch our legs, but what we really wanted was to try their Date Shakes.  They are yummy!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...