Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yuma Territorial Prison Park and St. Thomas Indian Mission

Today was our last day in Yuma and we've decided that if we head west again in a couple of years, we'd like to spend more time here. We didn't even make a dent in the list of places to see around here!

First stop today was the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park and it was fascinating! The Yuma prison was built in 1876 by it's prisoners. The first 7 prisoners were transferred here on July 1st, 1876. In it's 33 years of operation, the prison received a total of 3,069 prisoners, including 39 women. There were only 2 successful escapes, and those who tried and failed were made to wear a ball and chain. If a prisoner disobeyed prison rules, he/she was placed in solitary confinement in the 'dark' cell...we walked inside this cell and, believe me, it was really dark! 111 prisoners died while incarcerated, which wasn't really alot.

By 1907, the prison was overcrowded, so the state of AZ had the prisoners build a new prison in Florence, AZ and on September 15th, 1909, the last prisoner was transfered to the new prison. During the depression, the empty cells were home to many homeless families. Since then, the prison has fallen into ruin until AZ took it over and made it into a park. Visitors are allowed to walk through the remaining facilities, including cells, and the courtyard. As of today, the park is scheduled to close on March 29, due to insufficient state funding, but hopefully, the city of Yuma will step in and take over the park.

We thoroughly enjoyed the park's was full of the history of the prison, as well as photos of the prisoners, the guards, and the superintendents. While we were there, a barbershop quartet dressed as prisoners strolled through the prison, so we asked them if they would take a picture with Flay Hayden. And of course they agreed, and even sang us a song while we took pictures! We even got a few pictures of Ed and FH lying on one of the cots in an open cell.

When we were finished with our tour of the prison, we headed for the St. Thomas Indian Mission, about a mile away, but found that it is not open for tourists. The mission was established in 1780 and was built by Father Francisco Garces. It is located on the Ft. Yuma Indian Reservation. The existing church replaced the original mission in 1922 and is a replica of the original mission, which was destroyed during a massacre in 1855.

Today was FH's last day with us and we will miss him! It was fun showing him around and involving people in our project. Everyone was very interested in his story and were happy to help us make his visit educational and fun!
Tomorrow we head back to Quartzsite just for the night and we head to Twentynine Palms on Friday, where we'll begin our trek up the California coast until we finish our west coast journey in Seattle, WA and start our trip back home. I can't believe we've been on the road for almost 6 months already!


Vera said...

Poor FH! First he sat on a cactus, then was handled by a threatening guy with a "killer" hat, fondled by weirdos at a chili cook off, was taken to Mexico where drugs run rampant and finally he ends up in prison! Have you sent the poor guy home yet?

Rena and Ed said...

Yes...the poor little puppet is on his way home for a rest! I didn't realize what we put the poor thing through until you pointed it all out to us! Thanks!!