Mammoth Jail stands as reminder of wilder, woollier days

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The Mammoth Jail or Courthouse as it stood in 2013.

  The Town of Mammoth was established in 1887 with the coming of its first post office. The first postmaster was Louis Ezekiels, a well known businessman. It is believed that the first jail in Mammoth was built before or around this same time. The jail was built on the east side of Main Street between McFarland and Bluebird Streets. It was a wooden building with a dirt floor. There were no cells and it was located behind the Sheriff’s office, according to Stan Benjamin the author of Mammoth Arizona an Illustrated History. Stan said he was told a number of different stories about prisoners escaping by digging their way out only to be captured by the deputy before they could make their way to freedom. A newspaper article from the Arizona Silver Belt in 1902 supports this.

  The Silver Belt reported that on Monday, Feb. 10 two Mexicans had been arrested near Mammoth for the murder of A.H. Vail a well known Aravaipa Canyon rancher. The Mexicans had been placed in the jail at Mammoth where one of them dug his way out through the walls. It was believed he was headed in the direction of Tucson. The constable and city and county lawmen were keeping an eye out for him. He was described as being a “blue eyed Mexican with a light mustache and for this reason,” the Bisbee Daily Review newspaper said, “he will be easy to identify.” 

  The old wood building acted as the jail until 1935 when the Works Progress Administration (WPA ) built a concrete and steel building on the west side of Main Street north of Galiuro Street at the base of the hill. This jail is the one pictured in this publication. On the side of the building is a sheet of steel with small holes in it that was used as ventilation for the jail. There are cells within the building. There are many stories told of how friends of prisoners held in the jail would bring their imprisoned buddies a cold beer from one of the bars right down the street. The holes in the steel vent were just large enough in circumference that a straw would fit through them. The prisoners would hold the can or bottle of beer up to the vent and let their pal sip on the straw. A cigarette would also fit through the holes in the vent. In 1958 a man died in the jail after being arrested the night before for drunkenness. Story was that he had hung himself. The old jail would be replaced in 1959 when a county jail complex was constructed. 

John Hernandez (565 Posts)

John Hernandez lives in Oracle. He is retired and enjoys writing and traveling. He is active in the Oracle Historical Society. He covers numerous public events, researches historical features and writes business/artist profiles.


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