Somerton, in the fertile Yuma Valley in southwestern

Yuma County, is about 12 miles south of Yuma and 180 miles

east of San Diego, at an elevation of 103 feet. It is equidistant

from the California and Mexican borders. Somerton was established

in 1898 and incorporated in 1918.

 

Somerton is on land once claimed for the fraudulent Rancho El

Paso de los Algodones (land) Grant. Land along the Colorado

River was attractive to speculators. One of them, a citizen of the

Mexican city of Hermosillo, petitioned authorities in Sonora,

Mexico, for 21,692 acres between the Gila River on the north

and Algodones Pass on the south and was granted the land in

1838. Arizona historian Jay J. Wagoner said rights to the alleged

grant passed to the Colorado Commercial and Land Company

in 1873, and the U.S. government withdrew the land from public

entry in 1875.

 

An investigation revealed that the grant's original title papers

had been forged. Despite this, the U.S. Court of Private Land

Claims confirmed the Algodones grant in 1893. Immediately,

Wagoner said, “the alleged owners...began selling deeds...for

tracts of 40 acres or less.” The government appealed, and the

U.S. Supreme Court reversed the land court in 1898. After the

reversal, the U.S. Congress passed a law allowing settlers who

were on the land before May 25, 1898, to buy up to 40 acres

for $1.25 per acre.

 

Though Somerton's economy depends primarily upon agriculture,

light industry is becoming important. Many residents are

employed in citrus and vegetable growing and processing. The

area has become attractive to industry because of the large

labor force available in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico,

which is approximately 12 miles south of Somerton. Somerton

also has a small commercial service sector with ample room for

further growth.

 

San Luis Rio Colorado is reputed to be Mexico's fastest growing

city with a population of approximately 200,000. It has curio

shops, nightclubs and other tourist attractions. Some 75 miles

south of San Luis is the small fishing village of El Golfo de Santa

Clara, Sonora. This area has clean, sandy beaches, boat fishing,

clam digging, swimming, and a mild sunny climate. For visits of

72 hours or less in Mexico, no fees or tourist cards are necessary.

A portion of the Cocopah Indian Reservation is along the

Colorado River where Indian artifacts are sold. Train tours operate

on the west reservation.

 

Yuma County has many other nearby attractions. These include

the Old Territorial Prison, Fort Yuma, and 16th century St.

Thomas Mission; Laguna, Imperial, and Morelos Dams, and the

California dunes. Fishing, water skiing and swimming at lakes

along the Colorado River are attractive sports to both residents

and tourists.