PLACE Yuma Territorial Prison
399 Penitentary Ave
Yuma, AZ 85365
Yuma Territorial Prison
Law in the West in the latter half of the 19th century was a spotty affair. This was the forge of characters like Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James and hundreds of other outlaws. More often then not, guys got killed in the street before there was ever any kind of official justice, but when people did get sent up, the most feared name in the West was Yuma.
Yuma is about 170 miles from San Diego and 220 miles from Tucson making it extremely remote. The first prisoners arrived at Yuma Territorial Prison on July 1st 1876 and it ultimately held 3,069 prisoners, of which 29 were women. The first group of 9 prisoners built their own cells and then moved in. Burglary was the most common offense that got someone sent to Yuma, but some were there for “the sale of spirituous liquors to indians”, others for “seduction under the promise of marriage”. There were polygamists, adulterers, embezzlers, child stealers, and cattle rustlers. One of the female prisoners, Maria Moreño shot and killed her brother for making fun of the way she danced, though she only served one year. Another woman was in because she left her husband to run away with a troupe of vaudeville jugglers, she served two years.