Teritorial Prison 1875 - 1910 by “Sid” Hagel
Yuma Territorial Prison was commissioned in 1875 and operated until
1910, when the
prisoner built facility at Florence AZ was completed. Yuma
Territorial Prison was dubbed “The Hell Hole”. This nickname was not
as well deserved as many desperados would care to have us believe.
It was a well operated facility that housed a capacity population of
around 200. Throughout the entire operating period Yuma Territorial
Prison was at 120 to 130 percent over populated.
conditions lead to both the “Hell Hole” moniker and the high
percentage of pardons. Most prisoners incarcerated in Yuma did not
spend the entire sentence behind the infamous walls.
prison wagon struck out from Yuma Territorial Prison to the far
reaches of Arizona Territory to collect convicted prisoners and take
them to the walled confines of the infamous prison, presumably for
the duration of their sentences. At each stop more convicts were
added. The journey was long and hard. There was little or no room to
sit, therefore, the ride to Yuma was the start of a miserable period
in the lives of Arizona desperados. The prison Wagon consisted of a
standard freight wagon with an iron cage bolted to the bed. The
entrance was at the rear. Heavily armed guards shoved the new
prisoners into the cage forcing those already inside toward the
front. There was no protection from the elements, such as the
fiercely blown sand, or
the driving rain. Worst of all was the continuous sun. The only
relief was when the wagon turned and the other prisoners provided a
brief period of shade.
Some died of
various diseases of the period, some were hanged, and others died
trying to escape. Only a few escapes were accomplished. AA Stewart
was one of those escapees.
few infamous outlaws of the West were incarcerated in Yuma. One of
those was inmate number 632 “Buckskin” Frank Leslie. He defended
himself by killing “Billy” Claiborne, over his self proclamation as
“Billy the Kid”.
All photos were
taken at the Yuma Territorial Prison by “Sid” Hagel