Timeline

Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River, three miles west of the confluence of the Colorado and the historic Gila River, stand the ruins of Arizona's famous Territorial Prison, and a short distance west are the remaining buildings that served as a part of the Yuma Quartermaster's Depot. Fernando de Alarcon, who accompanied Coronado on his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola, passed this site in 1540. Padre Kino saw the present location of the Prison and the Quartermaster's Depot in 1683, and Padre Graces established a mission directly across the river and was later killed there by the Indians in 1781. Yuma began to experience the American westward surge when countless immigrants crossed by ferry from Yuma on their way to the California gold fields in 1849. In 1850, a military post was established at Yuma, and when rich placer gold strikes on the Colorado River precipitated a gold rush in 1858, Yuma experienced a boom. In 1871 Yuma incorporated and became the county seat of Yuma County. The Territorial Prison was authorized by the Legislature in 1875 and $25,000 was budgeted for the project. Ground was broken on April 28, 1876, and some of the prisoners were pressed into service to build their cells. The first seven inmates moved into the facility on July 1, 1876. The Prison held a variety of law violators, including the legendary stagecoach robber Pearl Hart. The Prison continued in operation for 33 years when, due to overcrowding, all inmates were moved to a new facility in Florence, Arizona.

1875

Yuma Territorial Prison authorized by Territorial Legislature.

1876

Prison opens. First Convict: William Hall

1878

First Female Convict: Lizzie Gallagher, First escape by J. Lewis

1882

Guard Tower built

1884

Electricity created at Prison, first place in Yuma to have electricity

1885

Sally Port built
Hospital created at YTP, only hospital in town

1887

Gates Riot: four convicts dead, one wounded

1891

Women's cells built

1893

First Library in Yuma created at YTP

1894

Dark Cell dug out of south wall

1900

New Yard opens

1909

Prison closes and everyone transferred to Florence, AZ

1910

Yuma High School operates at Prison until 1914

1915

Ocean to Ocean Bridge built

1941

City operates Prison as Museum until 1960

1942

Guard Tower used for WWII spotting

1961

YTP becomes third State Park in Arizona

2010

Yuma Chain Gang saves the Prison and YCNHA takes over management of the Park to present

2018

Lowell Perry, Jr. takes over as Executive Director, Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area