Yuma History


Yuma History

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Older than we look...

16,000 and 10,000 BCE The first indigenous peoples arrive in the area now known as Arizona.
1540 First European explorers arrive by sea from the Gulf of California, noting the natural crossing point of the Colorado River as a potential settlement site.
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Spanish expeditions led by Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz arrive in Yuma by sea from the Gulf of California, noting the natural crossing of Colorado River as a potential site for settlement. The explorers find members of two tribes, the Cocopah and the Quechan, living and growing crops along the river banks. The explorers called the Indians the Yumas, from the Spanish word for smoke (humo), because cooking fire smoke filled the valley as the Spaniards viewed the Crossing from "Indian Hill."

1687 Father Eusebio Kino arrives in Sonora to establish missions and convert the Indians. His expeditions throughout Arizona, New Mexico and California mapped an area 200 miles long and 250 miles wide, including what is now Yuma County. He led the first land expedition to Baja California, confirming that it is a peninsula, not an island.
1774 Juan Bautista de Anza, captain of the Presidio of Tubac (near present-day Tucson), arrives in Yuma in January, seeking an overland route from Sonora to northern California on behalf of the Viceroy of New Spain.
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His friendly relations with the Quechans prove critical to his men's survival when the expedition becomes lost in the sand dunes and is forced to retrace its steps. Anza and a portion of his forces finally arrive at Mission San Gabriel (near present-day Los Angeles) at the end of March, opening the way for greater Spanish settlement of Alta (northern) California.

1781 Quechans rebel against Spanish oppression, injustice and a significant loss of their crops and food stores. The Spanish settlement at the Crossing is destroyed with many Spaniards killed and taken captive. The Spanish retreat and never again try to dominate the Quechan or control the Yuma Crossing.
1781 Quechans rebel against Spanish oppression, injustice and a significant loss of their crops and food stores. The Spanish settlement at the Crossing is destroyed with many Spaniards killed and taken captive. The Spanish retreat and never again try to dominate the Quechan or control the Yuma Crossing.
1821 Mexico wins its independence from Spain, but decade of war destroys the silver-mining industry and leaves new country bankrupt; northern missions and presidios begin to wither as mountain men and other pioneers from the United States increasingly move into the area.
1846-1847 Mexican-American War begins; U.S. Army uses Mormon volunteers under the command of regular Army officers to blaze a southern wagon trail to California, crossing the Colorado River at Yuma.
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The Mormon Battalion's grueling march of nearly 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego remains one of the longest infantry marches in history. After the U.S. Army occupies Mexico City, Mexico is forced to give up its northern territories, including much of present-day Arizona but not (yet) the lands south of the Gila River.

1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ends war, requires the U.S. to pay $15 million in compensation for the territories ceded by Mexico.
Loaded Ferry Crossing Colorado River 1849 - 1850 More than 60,000 travelers en route to California gold rush pass through Yuma, crossing the Colorado using a rope ferry that ran from the riverbank at the end of the Gila Trail (now Main Street).
1850 Camp Independence established near crossing by U.S. Army (settlement where Yuma now stands known as Colorado City).
1852 Fort Yuma established by U.S. Army.
1854 Gadsden Purchase ratified; Yuma and lands south of Gila River and west of Rio Grande become part of United States territory. (Interestingly, original agreement called for U.S. to pay Mexico $10 million, but Congress only agreed to $7 million - and when payment arrived in Mexico City, $1 million had gone missing!)
1857 First stage road is built from San Diego to San Antonio through Yuma. Butterfield signs overland mail contract. First post office established in Colorado City.
1862 Colorado City washed away by the Colorado River. The rebuilt town is renamed Arizona City.
1863 Arizona territorial government set up under law signed by President Lincoln
1864 Pioneer pony express is established through Arizona City.
1864-1883 Thousands of tons of Army supplies are offloaded from ships steaming up the Colorado River from the Gulf of California. These supplies are then staged out of the Quartermaster Depot and transported by 20-mule teams to forts and Army installations throughout the Southwest. Men of the local tribes are valued as steamboat pilots because of their knowledge of river navigation.
1866 Arizona City town site is laid out. Right of way for Main Street is established at 100 feet to accommodate heavy wagon traffic and to promote commercial development along the frontage.
1871 Arizona City is formally incorporated under territorial law.
1873 Arizona City is renamed Yuma.
1875 The Signal Corps establishes a telegraph and weather station at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, remaining at the site until 1891. The U.S. Weather Service is later made a separate agency and operated there until 1949.
1876 Arizona Territorial Prison built (in operation until 1909).
First Rail Bridge Across Colorado, About 1870 1877 First railroad crossing of Colorado River (at Madison Street alignment); first train enters Arizona from California; the line across Arizona is built west to east, reaching Tucson in 1880.
1884 Quechan Indian Reservation established.
1893 Quechan tribe forced to auction much of its land.
1900 Yuma City Hall is constructed on 1st Street.
1903 Yuma County Water Users' Association established; the abandoned Fort Yuma Military Reservation is set aside for use by the newly established U.S. Reclamation Service (created in 1902 within the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency became independent bureau in 1907).
1904 The Yuma Project is authorized; it is one of the first significant undertakings for the Reclamation Service.
Government Headquarters at Laguna Dam Reached by boat from end of stage line one mile down stream during flood - May 29, 1906 1905 Construction begins on the Laguna Dam, which will become the first dam on Colorado River.
1905-1907 Colorado River leaves its banks and breaks into the Imperial Valley in California, creating the Salton Sea.
Yuma Territorial Prison From California Side of River, 1903 1909 Laguna Dam is completed. Yuma Territorial Prison closes. Yuma High School established. Original county courthouse built (this building burned in 1927 and was rebuilt soon after at same site). The Chicago White Sox become the first major league baseball team to play in Arizona (territory), taking the field against a local Yuma team on March 30.
1910-1914 After a fire destroys its building, Yuma High School moves into the Territorial Prison. Classes are held in the cell blocks, assemblies in the old prison hospital. Students later turn taunting after a victory against a Phoenix rival into a unique - but proud - mascot name, the Yuma Criminals.
1911 Boston Red Sox play their first exhibition game "outside the United States" here on March 27 - part of a grueling preseason barnstorming trip of 68 games.
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The Yuma hosts were unable to find a full squad of players "with nerve enough" to face the major leaguers, so the Sox loaned them pitcher Hugh Bedient, catcher Red Kleinow, infielder Duffy Lewis and center fielders Billy Purtell. Those players accounted for nine of Yuma's 14 hits off Sox starter Eddy Cicotte (of later Chicago "Black Sox" fame) - but Bedient was battered for 17 runs by his teammates.

1911 First airplane to land in Arizona, a Wright Model B biplane with an engine rented from the Wright Brothers, touches down at the present-day site of the Yuma Landing restaurant en route from Santa Monica, Calif., to the East Coast.
1912 On Valentine's Day, Arizona becomes 48th state of the union.
1912 Construction of Yuma Siphon, which moves irrigation water from California to Arizona through a tunnel dug underneath the Colorado River, is completed.
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The tunnel, a 14-foot diameter concrete tube built in the sandstone 50 feet below the river bed, stretches 955 feet between a vertical shaft 76 feet deep on the California side and an exit shaft 74 feet deep on the Arizona side. The first water is delivered via the Siphon on June 29.

1914 City of Yuma is chartered as a city under the laws of the new state of Arizona state on April 7.
1915 First highway crossing of Colorado River via Ocean-To-Ocean Bridge; opening of bridge drives rope ferry out of business.
Yuma Flooded at North Main, Jan. 1916 1916 Flood pours down Gila River into the Colorado; waters sweep into Yuma, destroying many downtown buildings. (Frequent flooding combined with adobe construction is the reason that very few buildings from Yuma's earliest days have survived. The buildings atop Mission and Prison hills and those on the higher ground of the Quartermaster Depot are notable exceptions.)
1917 Cocopah Indian Reservation established.
1917 Gandolfo Theater built, becomes place to go for vaudeville performances.
1920s Many new buildings constructed downtown, old facades remodeled in the popular Spanish Colonial style.
Yuma Main St. Looking South, 1936 1925 Main Street is paved for the first time.
1927 Early Yuma County Court House Old Yuma County Court House Burning, Late 1920s Yuma County Court House, About 1930
County courthouse burns, is rebuilt at same site.
1928 Federal government leases 640 acres from Yuma County to establish Fly Field at site of present- day Marine Corps Air Station Yuma; Fly Field serves as stopover point for 25 planes competing in New York to Los Angeles air race.
Yuma Looking North, 1929 1929 The famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart runs off the end of the runway in Yuma while competing in the first Women's Air Derby from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland (Earhart had a new propeller flown in, continued the race and finished third).
1930s Depression stalls growth, construction. U.S. Post Office on Main Street (now Gowan Company headquarters) is one of the few buildings completed (1933) during this period.
1938 Coronado Motel - now known as the Best Western Coronado - opens for business. It is Arizona's first "modern" style motel - with side-by-side rooms in a connected building rather than separate buildings or cabins in an "auto court."
1939 Kofa National Wildlife Refuge established.
1941 Imperial National Wildlife Refuge established.
1941 Civil Aeronautics Administration authorizes permanent runways at Fly Field.
1942-1944 Major Gen. George S. Patton establishes Desert Training Center (later known as California-Arizona Maneuver Area) across a huge swath of desert straddling the state line and extending from Mexican border to tip of Nevada; more than 1 million men trained for combat under the harshest conditions possible at four camps in Arizona and seven in California (Hyder, Horn, Laguna and Pilot Knob are located near Yuma).
Yuma looking west in the 1940s 1943 First classes of pilots graduate at what is now Yuma Army Air Base; it becomes one of the busiest flying schools in the nation, training pilots to fly AT-6 single-engine trainers, T-17 multi-engine trainers and B-17 Flying Fortresses.
1943 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opens Yuma Test Branch near present-day site of Yuma Proving Ground to test bridging equipment; Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa are used to help construct facilities (and are allowed to visit town of Yuma once a week).
1944 Medjool dates introduced into Bard Valley.
1945 With war's end, flights cease at Yuma Army Air Base and area is partially reclaimed by desert; land controlled by War Assets Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.
1946 Coronado Motel becomes one of the charter affiliates of the Best Western brand; today the property is the oldest operating Best Western in the country.
City of Yuma endurance flight 1949 As a publicity stunt to spotlight Yuma's perfect flying weather, the Jaycees stage a record-setting endurance flight. The "City of Yuma," an Aeronca Sedan, flew nonstop for nearly 47 days - from August 24 to October 10, 1949.
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The plane's record-setting 1,124 hours aloft were made possible by volunteers who passed food and fuel to pilots Woody Jongeward and Bob Woodhouse from a Buick convertible as it sped along the runway, with the plane flying just above it.

1950 Yuma Test Branch closes.
1951 Test Branch site reopens - with greatly expanded mission - as Yuma Proving Ground.
1951 U.S. Air Force reactivates Yuma Air Base, and the 4750th Air Base Squadron resumes training as part of the Western Air Defense Forces.
1956 Yuma Air Base renamed Vincent Air Force Base in memory of Brig. Gen. Clinton D. Vincent, a pioneer of bombing techniques who died in 1955.
1959 Vincent Air Force Base signed over to the Navy Jan. 1; nine days later, Col. L.K. Davis became the first commanding officer of the newly designated Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station.
1962 Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station is renamed Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
1963 Arizona Western College established.
1964 Cibola National Wildlife Refuge established.
1964 Cocopah Indian Tribe adopts first constitution.
1969 Main Street Mall is created, blocking traffic on Main Street.
1978 25,000 acres restored to Quechan Indian Tribe, reversing action of 1893.
1983 City adopts North End Redevelopment Plan, committing to revitalization of downtown.
1985 The Cocopah Tribe gains an additional 4,200 acres for its reservation through the Cocopah Land Acquisition Bill.
1985 224 Shops downtown are built as a reminder of 1950s-era shops that once stood in their place.
1987 Cocopah Tribe opens convenience store, gas station, smoke shop and bingo hall near location of present-day casino.
1988 Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge is closed to vehicle traffic.
1994 Quechan Tribe opens bingo hall.
1995 City workers and community volunteers clear underbrush, plant grass and install portable toilets to create "Madison Beach Park" in the historic river crossing area. This informal, ad hoc park provides the only public beach and access to the Colorado River within city limits.
1996 The Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center opens.
1997 The City of Yuma and Arizona State Parks work together to build and open "Yuma Crossing State Historic Park" at the site of the original Quartermaster's Depot.
2000 Millennium Grove planted at West Wetlands, first step toward reclaiming town dump as park.
2000 Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is officially designated under federal law. anniversary this year).
2000 Fountain installed at Third and Main Street.
2001 Main Street Cinemas opens downtown.
2002 Through partnership of Quechan Indian Tribe, City of Yuma and Yuma County, historic Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge is restored and reopened.
2002 Phase one of West Wetlands Park opens; new City Hall building on Giss Parkway opens.
2003 Habitat restoration begins in Yuma East Wetlands; non-native vegetation is cleared and replaced with native willows, cottonwood, grasses and other plants.
2003 Cocopah Indian Tribe opens its new (current) Cocopah Casino. County opens courthouse parking structure and breaks ground for new Justice Center.
2004 Yuma Art Center complex opens downtown, with restored Historic Yuma Theatre as keystone.
2005 New Yuma County Justice Center opens adjacent to historic courthouse. Yuma East Main Canal bike path is completed between 40th Street and the riverfront.
2007 Thousands of volunteers turn out to build Stewart Vincent Wolfe Memorial Playground at West Wetlands Park. Renovations to historic courthouse are completed. Main Street is reopened to traffic. Gateway Park, at the site of historic crossing and rope ferry, is dedicated. Ground is broken for Pivot Point, a $32 million riverfront development that is first private investment in area since 1927.
2008 General Motors, U.S. Army announce joint-use agreement to develop $120 million hot-weather testing track at Yuma Proving Ground. A 1907 Baldwin steam engine is moved to future site of Pivot Point interpretative plaza on riverfront. Pivot Point Conference Center opens.
2009 GM test track opens. Hotel development continues apace, bringing total rooms in the Yuma area to nearly 4,000.
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City voters give stamp of approval to continuing development of parks, riverfront and tourism by extending hospitality tax for 15-year term. City and Heritage Area agree to lease and operate Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, averting its closure. YVB Visitor Information Center relocates to Quartermaster Depot main entrance building.

2010 Yumans step up to "save" their second state park, raising more than $70,000 in private donations to keep the Yuma Territorial Prison from closing at winter's end.
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Pivot Point Interpretative Plaza opens at spot where first train entered Arizona in 1877, including panels that detail the historic role of the Yuma Crossing, "ghost train" audio system that re-creates the arrival of a steam train and lasers that trace the path of the original tracks across the river.

2011 YVB kicks off major agritourism initiative with field tours and more. Herb Guenther Overlook opens on the banks of the Colorado in March, providing panoramic views within easy stroll from Gateway Park.
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Quechan Indian Tribe opens new public park just east of the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge. Ground broken for new federal courthouse on riverfront. Major renovations continue at Territorial Prison and Quartermaster Depot. For Arizona Centennial, YVB renews promise of "free board every day the sun doesn't shine" beginning August 1.

2012 Arizona celebrates 100thYuma Siphon opens at Yuma Quartermaster Depot (Yuma Siphon first brought irrigation water to the Yuma Valley in 1912 - under the Colorado River - and still operates largely unchanged a century later), New Centennial exhibit showcasing the construction of the New water park, Waylon's Water World, opens.
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Centennial promotion promising "free board every day the sun doesn't shine" wraps with sunbelievable finish: 365 straight days of sun, zero free meals given away! City of Yuma endurance plane installed in Yuma City Hall along with related exhibits. Founders Plaza dedicated at Yuma Quartermaster Depot. First Yuma Medjool Date Festival is held.

2013 New granite timeline unveiled at Yuma Territorial Prison. Yuma Visitors Bureau moves its administrative offices to the historic Old City Hall building.
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Multi-purpose trail is extended along Yuma East Wetlands. Agreement for 50 years of irrigation and maintenance on East Wetlands restoration area announced. Property acquired for development of new youth sports complex near East Wetlands and downtown. Arizona Western College celebrates 50th campus celebrates its 25th riverfront is completed. First-ever Rio de Cerveza Brew Fest washes ashore in October. New master plans for state parks in development.

Upcoming 2014 City of Yuma celebrates 100th new state of Arizona. John M. Roll United States Courthouse to be dedicated. Growth and development continues as city enters new century of progress.

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