Where We Be
The guard tower at Yuma's Territorial Prison covers the water supply
tank and used to connect to a high wall that surrounded the prison
Yuma, Arizona
The warden’s wife transformed from reformer
to Gatling gun wielder during a prison break!
The prisoners included women. Pearl Hart was the most famous --
she even starred in her own movie after her incarceration.
The museum used huge "Wanted" posters to tell
the stories of the inmates and prison guards
Many from Yuma called it the “Country Club on the
Colorado” but many inmates called it “The Hell Hole”
Opened in 1875, the territorial prison has the feel of the
Old West. In fact, several old westerns were filmed here.
Southern Arizona is not where you want to
get locked up in summertime without AC
Sleeping six to a cell in iron beds with straw mattresses filled
with lice and termites and a single chamber pot... Good times.
Your opinion about the Territorial Prison tended
to depend on which side of the gate you were on
She didn't do it...but I did!
The prison was active from 1875 to 1909. After that it served briefly as a temporary
high school. To this day, Yuma's sports teams still proudly call themselves The Crims.
Gamble, fight, or argue with a guard...
Welcome to a free stay in the Dark Cell
You could be imprisoned for seduction, adultery,
prizefighting, mayhem, or obstructing a railroad!
We toured Yuma's Territorial Prison imagining
what it must have been like to be a prisoner in
frontier days. Insufferable heat, vermin, lice,
tuberculosis, and a special place called the
Dark Cell (used for punishing the bad 'uns)
made us decide "not all that nice." The prison
was actually advanced for its time, with fans,
electricity, running water, showers, library, etc.,
which made it more modern than most homes in
Yuma. Many from Yuma called it the “Country
Club on the Colorado,” but many inmates called
it “The Hell Hole,” so I guess it depended on
which side of the wall you were on.

We especially liked the stories of the inmates
and guards. One guard was fired for dropping
his loaded weapon into the prison yard! Another
regularly snoozed during work detail and had to
be woken by the inmates. Prisoners included
women, one of whom was incarcerated for rape.
Some of the men were sentenced for seduction,
others for adultery or polygamy. The warden's
wife was quite the character too -- a reformer
most of the time, but during one escape attempt
she wielded the Gatling gun that kept the
escapees pinned until they could be recaptured.
Robin has decided to trade in our old
wagon for one of these newer models