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.
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Somerton is on land once claimed for the fraudulent Rancho El
Paso de Los Algodones (land) Grant. Land along the Colorado
The 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
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