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Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona and the Discovery of "Me Mudder"

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty and natural wonders. Amazing canyons (Grand!), mountains, and desert scenery await visitors.

Yuma prison main guard tower

Yuma prison main guard tower

Yuma Territorial Prison State Park

My grandparents often escaped the cold Wisconsin winters by traveling south. They had the time to leisurely explore many southern states and check out the different sights and places of interest that they encountered. One such location that they discovered on their sojourns is now a State Historical Park in Yuma, Arizona.

Here are a few quick facts about the prison:

  • It was the first prison in that part of the country and operated from 1876 to 1909.
  • After the old territorial prison no longer functioned as a usable building for housing prisoners much of the material used for construction was hauled off and utilized by people residing in the area for other purposes.
  • The three-foot granite walls changed purpose during the years between 1910 to 1914 and became that area's high school.
  • During the Great Depression, it served to shelter homeless families.
  • What remains to be seen there today are the cells as well as the main gate plus the guard towers.

Few Escape Attempts From This Prison

This State Historic Park sits high up on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. The Sonoran Desert surrounds this area. It is a hot and dry location.

At the time the prison was built the land adjacent to it would have been inhospitable. Because it was remote from other more settled locations escapes from the prison were seldom. If escapees were found they would then have a ball and chain attached to their leg to wipe out any further thoughts of doing such a thing. A few people were killed during escape attempts. 104 people are buried in that prison cemetery.

Other than putting up with loss of freedom and having to withstand the extreme heat of the area the prison experience there was actually rather humane for its time.

Is the Yuma Prison Haunted?

Discovery of a Poem at Yuma Prison

The poem that is shown below was discovered and carefully hand copied by my maternal grandfather who saw great humor in it when he and my grandmother were visiting the old territorial prison in Yuma, Arizona.

"Me Mudder"

When my prayers were early said

Who tucked me in my widdle bed

And spanked my ass till it was red?

Me Mudder

Who lifted me from my cozy cot

And set me on an ice cold pot

And made me pee if I could or not?

Me Mudder

And when the morning light had come

In my widdle crib I dribbled some

Who wiped my tiny little bum?

Me Mudder

Who did my hair so neatly part

And pressed me gently to her heart

And sometimes squeezed till I'd fart

Me Mudder"

"Who looked at me with eyebrows knit,

And neatly had a king size fit,

When in my Sunday clothes me shit?

Me Mudder.

When at night the bed did squeak,

Me raised me head to have a peek,

Who yelled at me to go to sleep?

Me Fadder.

Funny Poem

This poem so amused my grandfather that he memorized it and often recited it through the years to groups of family members and friends. Supposedly it was written by one of the inmates of the prison. The author is unknown.

I thought that I would share this bit of my family's history with you so that you can enjoy this bit of humor that we have thought so amusing for many years.

Though my grandfather has long ago passed on to the next life this handwritten bit of poetry that he copied down on a piece of paper has survived. It has been placed in one of my photo albums. It may now entertain future generations of people who may never get to read the original in the old territorial Yuma prison.

Yuma, Arizona Today

Agricultural products can be grown in the desert if there is enough availability of water. You can see how lettuce is harvested in the Yuma area by watching the video below.

If you are visiting the old territorial prison in Yuma you might also be interested in taking a river tour. The video below shows what refreshing fun there is to be experienced. You will also see more landscapes from this part of the country.

Two Vintage Postcards from Yuma

My grandparents took a few photographs but they largely relied upon picking up postcards of places that they visited and places they stayed while on vacation. Both of these vintage postcards below show the same lodging in Yuma from different angles. On the back of both the same thing is written.

Coronado Motor Hotel

233 4th AVENUE - YUMA, ARIZONA - On U.S. 80

Recommended by Best Western Motels, AAA and Duncan Hines. Telephone 3-4453. Room phones. The Sunshine Capital of the United States.

Color Photo by Bob Van Luchene

Published by Petley Studios, Phoenix, Arizona

Yuma, Arizona


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods