Barbed wire, cowboys, and prison inmates on display at the Pinal County Historical Museum

Timothy Rawles
Pinal County Historical MuseumCourtesy of The Pinal County Historical Museum

By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

The Pinal County Historical Museum offers visitors a unique mix of regional history, local true crime stories, and prison artifacts. This diversity of exhibits sometimes walks a fine line between the morbid and the educational. But those who are curious about Pinal County's history will most likely find it all interesting.

At a time when the Pinal County population is experiencing a housing boom, there is much to learn about the region especially if you’re a newcomer. The Pinal County Historical Museum is up for the challenge and doesn’t hold back when it comes to the nitty-gritty.

First, there are the people. Arizona is still home to plenty of farmers and ranchers even though new developments over the past few decades have taken their toll on the land. These dedicated people held a place in Pinal County history and some of their old tools are on display in the museum. From saddles to guns, to rifles and bullets, the old west exhibition gives guests a peek into the dangerous past of poaching and murder. And don’t forget to check out the vintage barbed wire display.
Saddle display at the Pinal County Historical MuseumCourtesy of The Pinal County Historical Museum

The Arizona State Prison is also one of the institutions that have deep roots in Pinal County. The prison was built by inmates and completed in 1908 in Florence. This new facility included a death chamber. At that time inmates were hung from scaffolding in full view of other inmates, but due to a botched execution in 1930, that system was replaced with a gas chamber.

The museum doesn’t shy away from the prison’s dark past. There are execution photos that depict actual hangings that took place in the prison. Another artifact is the tandem gas chamber bench which was used to terminate the lives of two brothers who were serving time.

Hangmen’s Nooses that were actually used to hang prisoners are also on display in wooden cabinets as actual mugshots stare out at visitors from picture frames.

On the lighter side, an entire living room set made by R.O. Perry from Saguaro cactus is a popular curiosity.

The museum was founded in 1958. It is the oldest historical organization in Pinal County. The exhibitions help preserve the history of the region in conjunction with its educational programming. The archives hold a bevy of information including details about the Hohokam tribe native to the area.
Display at the Pinal County Historical MuseumCourtesy of The Pinal County Historical Museum

Visitors will also find out about the generations of families who have lived and worked in Pinal County. The museum features curated displays, taxidermy of native animals, and hands-on learning activities for the young ones.
Taxidermy display at the Pinal County Historical MuseumCourtesy of The Pinal County Historical Museum

The next major museum event is on October 15 the second annual Día de Los Muertos celebration.

Zarco Guerrero will return for Día de Los Muertos storytelling along with mariachi music and folklorico dancers. they will have family-friendly activities like candle wrappers, pottery puzzles, and mask-making. Traditional Mexican craft sessions will return throughout September and October.

For June and July, the museum and gift shop will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or by appointment.

The museum will be closed during the month of August but will reopen on September 1.

For more information visit the museum website.

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Timothy Rawles has been a journalist for over 20 years. He has written for global publications in San Francisco, San Diego, and Phoenix. His favorite stories are features, interviews, entertainment news, and local stories.

San Tan Valley, AZ

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