Monday, February 17, 2014

"The Hell Hole"

Cocopah RV Resort
February 13, 2014
Yuma, AZ

 By 1870, Yuma had become the second largest city in Arizona. The fierce heat and rugged terrain around Yuma made it a perfect choice for a prison.

The prison opened in July, 1876 with seven prisoners...the very men who were forced to build their own cells.

With the fierce summer heat in Yuma, the prison quickly became known as "The Hell Hole".  

Overlooking the entire prison was the Main Guard Tower...a structure that still remains today. Commanding the top was a Lowell Battery Gun capable of aggressively spitting fire to any part of the prison yard with its 4 muzzles.

Underneath the wooden tower was the prison's rock-walled water reservoir.

Today, the tower offers an awesome view of the surrounding area.

Also among the original structures is the Sally Port. Each outlaw who ventured thru the iron gate was given an identification number. During the 33 years of operation, 3,069 prisoners (29 were women) served time.

Situated on the original site of the Prison Mess Hall is a museum.

It was built with 60,000 adobe bricks made by "Yumans" during the Great Depression. We watched a short informative film describing some of the inmates along with history of the prison. It also houses photographs and exhibits of those who once "involuntarily" stayed here.

Its hard to imagine rough hands and fingers making something so delicate.
 During their free time, prisoners hand-crafted many items. Those items were sold at public bazaars held at the prison on Sundays after church. I read that the money each prisoner made was kept by the prison and given to him/her upon their release. 


Behind the museum are original cell blocks.

This area provides a vivid sense of what it was like to be a prisoner here. There were six prisoners to a cell with metal bunk beds and a pot.

Written evidence indicates that the prison was humanely administered and a model institution for its time.  The prison housed one of the first "public" libraries in the territory and many inmates were taught to read and write. 

 In recent years, Arizona's budget crisis posed a new challenge for Yuma as the two state historic parks were threatened with closure. The community rallied to "save the parks" (Quartermaster Depot in late 2009 and the Yuma Territorial Prison in 2010) by forming the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area and assumed management. Once again, with the help of grants, community fundraisers and capital funding from Arizona State Parks, major improvements to the grounds, buildings and exhibits have been completed. The City of Yuma celebrates the 100th anniversary of its charter under the laws of the new state of Arizona on April 7, 2014. Go Yuma!

This is a wonderful historical site...well worth the time for a visit.

Up next...a ghost town and a pleasant surprise!
What a beauty this full moon was a couple of nights ago...
Until next time...



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Merikay. Sure enjoyed our evening was a beauty!

  2. Enjoyed your tour of the prison. We visited there several years ago but somehow missed the bit about the lace. That's amazing. I think there is some gentleness in even the harshest of men.

  3. It is amazing how different it is today compared to then....seems that as crime gets worse, the prisons get better, not much of a deterrent from what I can see. Just a thought, I will get off my soap box now.... --Dave

    1. These prisoners worked hard that was well documented. We did see the sign that said the town folks resented the amenities the prison offered like electricity and 3 meals a day. The prisoners were well taken care of so I guess that hasn't changed.....

  4. We went to the fort during the Gathering of the Gun Fighters a couple of years ago. We had a great time. It was fun to visit it again through your tour.

    1. Gathering of the Gun Fighters sounds like fun Sandie. There really is so much to do here. We are having a great time!

  5. Very interesting & informative blog. For that period of time, the prisoners didn't have it too bad there. Your moon shot is gorgeous.

  6. Thanks for the great tour will have to check it out next time we are in the area.

    1. I think you and Suzie would like it. Lots of history!

  7. Love ALL your posts and also the fact you have on short sleeves! Not like that here in the south this year. I have learned so much and seen so many beautiful sights through your visits. Love to you and Joe! One day.......... :-)

  8. Love that moon shot!