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There Is a 200-Year Old Mesquite Tree Known as the ‘Jail Tree’ in Wickenburg That Was Feared by Bad Guys




Going on a trip to a historic mining town can be really fun. You’ll get a glimpse of the life of miners, see how the place thrived back in the days, and for some, how it became a total ghost town. If you are visiting Wickenburg, you should at least visit the Jail Tree with a life-sized sculpture of a morose prisoner tethered to it by a heavy rusty chain. What is the story behind this? Keep reading if you want to find out.

The 200-Year Old Mesquite Tree Is Actually a Jail Tree for Prisoners

Jail Tree Wickenburg az

Source: Instagram

Bad guys, beware! According to legend, this mesquite tree served as the “hoosegow” between 1863 until 1890. That is until the town finally constructed its own and real jailhouse. Wickenburg was once a booming gold mine, and they supposedly had everything except a church and a jail. The bad guys who are captured and apprehended are all chained to the Jail Tree until a sheriff from Phoenix could get to Wickenburg to collect them. Imagine getting sentenced to the tree for two to five days. If you don’t want that, you better keep yourself busy with things other than committing crimes.

Are jail trees really a thing? History seems to agree. A jail tree is any tree used to incarcerate a person. Just like with this mesquite tree in Wickenburg, it is usually done by chaining the prisoner up to the tree. These are popular on the American frontier, in the Territory of Arizona, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, there are some jail trees that are still standing up to this day.

Some Residents This Tree Is Not a Legitimate Jail Tree

Jail Tree az

Source: Instagram

This Jail Tree in Wickenburg was said to be feared by bad guys. But is that really the case? Opinions differ as to whether this tree was actually used as a Wild West jail.

There is one woman who claimed to have been a Wickenburg resident since the early 1930s. She said that the Jail Tree is just a story told to kids by their parents to scare and discipline them. According to her, it wasn’t really the town’s makeshift jail. The “scary story” of tying you on the tree is probably followed by “If you don’t start doing what you’re told, you are to walk right over to that tree and stay there for hours.” She also added that the shackles (as you can see in the photo) were introduced in the recent years just to legitimize it as a tourist attraction.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the town from capitalizing on it. The mesquite tree has been on the same spot for hundreds of years, and there is also a sign near it that explains its significance to the community. It is also noted that there have been no escapees from this Jail Tree. This is surely this town’s oddball jail attraction.

What Happened to the Guys Who Were Tied to the Jail Tree?

Stories say that the convicts who were sentenced to the tree stayed there until they died from exposure. Can you imagine the intense Arizona heat? On the other hand, the other “lucky” criminals are those who completed their stretch. But there are also accounts that they only stay there until a Phoenix lawman arrives, and it takes somewhere between 3 to 5 days. It’s not just the criminals who are sentenced to this Jail Tree. Some say even the drunks can be shackled here.

This Is Now One of the Most Interesting Tourist Attractions in This Historic Mining Town

Mesquite Tree Wickenburg

Source: Instagram

Many say Wickenburg’s early years were rough. Imagine, they had run-ins with gold-mad miners, angry Indians, and even the Wild West outlaws. How come a lawless town that definitely needed a jail, didn’t have one until 1890? Well, we’re not calling this story bluff, but we think it’s just weird.

Everybody is just intrigued by the backstory of The Jail Tree. The town received a 14×17 cast bronze plaque with the necessary information and placed it near the tree. It can now be easily viewed by the public. If you come here, you will see the bronze character sculpture sitting at the base of the tree. There is also an antique chest, but it’s probably just for aesthetic purposes.

Prisoner tied to a tree

Source: Instagram

The prisoner and the tree are located on a pleasant walkway in town. It is definitely eye-catching. The man looks like he regrets all the sins and crimes he has committed! He definitely looks bothered. Come closer and you can just press a button if you want to hear the narrated story about the tree being used as the town’s first jail. The interactive feature is what really excites the visitors. The recording is probably just a 2-minute story about the town’s jail, so it won’t really take too much of your time.

About the Tree

This tree was named one of Arizona’s Centennial Witness Trees in 2012. The recognition means that the tree witnessed Arizona’s statehood on February 14th, 1912. It was also selected as one of Arizona’s “Magnificent 7” Heritage Trees in 2016. If you are wondering what the heritage trees award is all about, let’s just say it represents the best of the best throughout Arizona. It makes you think of the beautiful Rose Tree in Tombstone, huh?

Many tourists suggest that this is the place to start if you want to learn about how things were in the Old West. Since it can be pretty hot here, you should just pick up a cold drink or perhaps a quick snack from Circle K before dropping by here. You can just play the audio recording of the Jail Tree while relaxing in the shade. Don’t forget to snap photos to capture your visit.

Don’t leave this town without first visiting this historic spot! The Jail Tree is the town’s much-advertised spot. It is a 200-year-old mesquite, near the corner of Tegner Street (US-93) and Wickenburg Way (US-60).

Before you go, you should check out this protected area in the Sonoran Desert that features magnificent organ pipe cactus.

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