Quartermaster depot played key role for Army and Yuma

[Source: Chris McDaniel, Yuma Sun]

Yuma Sun File Photo

The U.S. military has had a presence in Yuma County for more 160 years and was instrumental in getting local communities established.

The Yuma Quartermaster Depot opened in 1864, resulting in Yankee soldiers in blue uniforms to be permanently stationed in the area to oversee the distribution of supplies brought up the Colorado River from the Gulf of California.

Today, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park at 201 N. 4th Ave. is open to the public and boasts five buildings that have stood for more than a century.

“The fact that literally Yuma was founded and based on its connection with the U.S. military is significant,” Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, said of the depot.

And the military is still here today. They are even more important to our economy and to our community.

However, if it had not been for the efforts of local citizens, the park would now be closed.

“Back in mid-2009 Arizona State Parks announced they were going to close this park because of budget cuts,” Flynn said.

We were able to work with the city and get some support from them and worked with the Yuma Visitors Bureau to move their welcome center into that site. We were able to pull the resources together through a joint effort and keep the park open and operating.

Flynn said the depot is an essential part of the historic North End.

We have always sort of assumed these national historic landmarks would always be there, but when the Hilton Garden Inn opened up there on the riverfront in April of 2009, within 60 days the state was talking about closing the Quartermaster Depot, which is directly adjacent to the hotel. We had designed this plan over 11 years to integrate all of these amenities, and to all of a sudden lose them just didn’t make any sense.

The depot was far too significant a resource to lose, Flynn said.

Frankly, these were community resources the community had worked long and hard to preserve and keep, and that is why the committee stepped up.

According to the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, the depot’s storied past began during the height of the American Civil War but matured during the Indian Wars of the 1870s.

During this period, the U.S. Army on the western frontier spent much of its time fighting with Native American tribes as the federal government attempted to force them onto reservations.

In 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad line reached Yuma and construction continued into the interior of Arizona. With the railroad, the military could ship supplies much cheaper and faster than previously allowed, and the Yuma Depot along the Colorado River was no longer needed.

Largely abandoned by the late 1870s, the depot officially closed in 1883 after the quartermaster moved to Fort Lowell in Tucson.

The Signal Corps, having arrived at Fort Yuma and the Quartermaster Depot in 1875, remained there until 1891. After the departure of the Signal Corps, the property was transferred to the control of the U.S. Weather Service, which worked out of the depot site until 1949.

Other federal government agencies would also use the old buildings over the years. These agencies included the Bureau of Reclamation and Customs Service.

According to the city of Yuma Visitors Center, the depot was identified as a possible historic park in the early 1960s.

Groundbreaking for the park was held in 1986 after the land was purchased from the U.S. Department of the Interior by the city of Yuma and donated to the state park system.

In 1990 the Yuma Crossing Foundation Inc. established an agreement with the state parks board to manage, develop and operate the site as a living history museum.

After seven years of construction and rebuilding, the park was opened to the public in 1997 and is now part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. For more information about the park, call 329-0471.

Opinion: Hope efforts work to keep Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park open

[Source: Yuma Sun.com, Jesse Torres, 1-24-2010] — It was with great sadness I read that the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park will be closing.  A brief history, if I may.  The Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma operated for 33 years.  It was open from July 1876 to September 1909.  During this time, 3,069 convicts were housed in this institution, of which 29 convicts happened to be female.  A total of 111 prisoners met their death due to consumption, murder, being shot while trying to escape and accidents.  The remains of 104 are buried in the prison cemetery.

The prison was quite modern for its time.  It had electricity and phone service in 1885.  Unfortunately, Yuma Prison closed due to overcrowding.  It was moved to Florence, Arizona.  But the prison was still used by the Yuma community.  The superintendent’s residence was used as a county hospital and from 1910 to 1914 the prison hospital and shop buildings were used as Yuma High School.  It was also a haven for people during the Great Depression.  In the 1930’s Hollywood discovered the Yuma Territorial Prison and many movies were filmed there.

In 1941, Yuma Prison became a museum started by the city of Yuma.  Clarisa Windsor became the first curator.  In 1961 the Yuma Territorial Prison was handed over to Arizona State Parks and became our third state park.  [Note: To read the full letter to the editor, click here.]

Officials: Vandalism in Yuma parks cost taxpayers $200,000

[Source: Associated Press] — Officials say Yuma’s parks and recreation areas have seen a spike of vandalism in the past month.  Toilets are getting smashed, trees have been cut down, playground equipment is being taken apart, and even drinking fountains are being destroyed.  City spokesman Greg Hyland says there are about 80 drinking fountains throughout all the parks in Yuma and each one gets fixed about once a week — sometimes even daily.  Hyland says it cost city taxpayers more than $200,000 last year to repair property damage and clean up graffiti left behind by vandals.

Now with budget cuts, he says the city might not be able to fix everything at the parks, which are usually open daily from dawn to 11 p.m.  Since the parks belong to the community, city officials are asking for the public’s help in watching the parks more closely and reporting any acts of vandalism or graffiti they see.

Yuma history under Arizona governor’s budget ax

[Source: Stephanie Wilken, Yuma Sun] — Cuts in Gov. Jan Brewer’s state budget could close the Sanguinetti House Museum in Yuma and three other history museums across the state, cutting the state’s past out of millions of Arizonans’ lives. Brewer’s proposed state budget would cut $473,000 in funding for the Arizona Historical Society.  The society operates four museums around the state and houses the state’s historical archives, totalling about 1 million artifacts — some predating statehood.  The proposed cuts would reduce the funding by 20 percent a year for the next five years, which means state support for the society would end completely in 2015.

Mark Haynes, president of the Rio Colorado Chapter, the Yuma chapter of the society, said he is dismayed that the governor would propose anything like that.   But Paul Senseman, spokesman with the governor’s office, said in a time when the state is facing an estimated $3 billion deficit, there are proposed cuts across the board — even in education and social services.

Haynes said the cuts would have a “pretty big impact,” and without the Sanguinetti House, Yumans will have no place to see their history, research the past, including the area’s history of mining and agriculture.  “Once it’s lost, it’s very hard to go back and recapture what you’ve lost,” he said.

The Sanguinetti House is one of the oldest adobe structures in the state, Haynes said.  And if the museum closes, it could affect its three employees — two full-time and one part-time — along with about 20 volunteers.  Haynes said the possibility of local, private funding could help provide minimum maintenance to sustain the facilities, but there is no firm answer if that could happen.  He said this proposed cut is the latest round, with cuts from the Legislature dating back to 2001, which eliminated various positions and aspects of the society’s functions. “This is just the last nail in the coffin, so to speak,” he said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]