Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The End of Martin Ubillos

"With his lips murmuring, but with a look of horror on his sensual, brutish face, Martin Ubillos was swung into eternity at the end of a rope in the Jail yard here last Friday at 10 o'clock." That is what the June 10, 1905, Arizona Sentinel newspaper wrote.

Martin's picture and the details of his incarceration at Yuma Territorial Prison was one of many - 3,069 - prisoners who involuntarily stayed here. Of course, not all were hung. A Mormon settler, Mr. Flake, was in prison alongside murderers, thieves, and other assorted "criminals" because of polygamy. He reportedly said, "It is far worse to have more than one wife than to commit murder." Between 1876 and 1909, the years the prison was in use, 39 of the prisoners were women.

When prisoners arrived, they were photographed before and after haircuts and shaves. Then they were issued uniforms made by Levi Strauss! Punishment for prisoners included the "dark cell" for those who broke prison regulations and a ball-and-chain for those who tried to escape. When in the dark cell, they received only bread and water. The entire prison complex, Arizona's first, was a pretty grim-looking place. It is now a State Historic Park, just a mile from Old Downtown Yuma. I spent several hours touring the prison.

Except for some canal bank bike paths, this part of Yuma isn't very bike-friendly. Mostly, I rode on sidewalks, taking advantage of the "handicap accessible" curbs at all the intersections. I rode about 16 accident-free miles total today. Tomorrow I'll tour the Yuma Crossing State Historic Park and either bike or walk the network of wetlands paths alongside the Colorado River.