The Hermit of the Superstition Mountains

I have the really good fortune of living not too far from the Superstition Mountains – a range of about 160,000 acres east of Phoenix and north of Mesa and Apache Junction. I mentioned in a previous blog that my next Love Inspired Suspense Mountain Rescue book will be set there. When I first planned this blog, I thought to write about the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, something which the Superstitions are perhaps most known for. Instead, I decided to tell you a little about another famous legend, that of Elisha Reavis, and one I have much more experience with.

He was known as the hermit of the Supersitions, though, by some newspaper accounts, he was actually quite social and likeable when he came to town to sell his produce. Social, and a little touched in the head as they said in those days. He was born to a well-off family in Illinois and came to Arizona in 1869, abandoning his wife and child. Why exactly no one is sure, but he established a ranch in the heart of the Superstitions at the only location with enough natural water to grow fruits and vegetables. Mind you, he didn’t buy the land, he simply settled there and began to farm it.

Constructing a house and out buildings, digging wells, and bringing in equipment was no small task, considering the remote location of his new home. Not to mention transporting his produce to town for sale. It takes a special person with an incredible amount of determination. There are plenty of wild stories about Elisha, which may or may not be true. He supposedly fought off a band of local Apaches who weren’t happy about him settling on their hunting ground by taking off his clothes and running around naked with a butcher knife. Some thought he had supernatural powers. It’s been said the house contained an impressive library. What is know for sure, he died on the trail, and a small monument now marks the spot.

The legend of Elisha Reavis lives on today in the form of apples. He planted a large orchard that produces an impressive harvest still to this day — depending on weather conditions, of course. I’ve visited Reavis Ranch, as it’s called, many time, riding in on horseback (though you can also hike in if you’re up to it). We used to make several trips each year, always one in the fall to collect bushels of apples. We’d carry out the apples on a packhorse and later turn them into apple sauce, apple pie, and fried apples. One year, we even spent the night in the old abandoned ranch house. I’m glad to have had the chance because, sadly, the house was burned down by vandals some years ago. Only the foundation remains.

There are some incredible views to be had on the Superstition trails to Reavis Ranch that will quite literally take your breath away. Weaver’s Needle is easily recognized by its distinctive shape (check out the first picture at the top of the blog). And if you know where to look, you can also visit ancient Indian ruins and natural springs that create an oasis in the middle of desert mountains. I’ve been to both. But, as often as I’ve ridden the mountains, I’ve never found the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. That’ll be a blog for another day!

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Cathy McDavid has been penning Westerns for Harlequin since 2005. With over 55 titles in print and 1.6 million-plus books sold, Cathy is also a member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. This “almost” Arizona native and mother of grown twins is married to her own real-life sweetheart. After leaving the corporate world seven years ago, she now spends her days penning stories about good looking cowboys riding the range, busting broncs, and sweeping gals off their feet — oops, no. Make that winning the hearts of feisty, independent women who give the cowboys a run for their money. It a tough job, but she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

38 thoughts on “The Hermit of the Superstition Mountains”

  1. Wow, what an Intriguing story. I’ve always wanted to see this area of the USA, You certainly have made me want to go there. Thank you for sharing.

  2. What an interesting place. It’s hard for me to believe that apples grow in the desert and that the apple trees still exist! Loved this blog.

    • I can’t believe the apple trees have lived more than 150 years! Though, the orchard is wild and untended. Some of the trees may be offspring of the original ones 🙂

  3. We lived in Mesa for 32 years. One of our favorite things to do was hiking the Superstitions. My favorite trail was First Water Trailhead. The first time I hiked it, I had a sense of deja vu; I described what was going to be around the next bend in the trail, and was correct! It was like an old familiar friend. So beautiful in early springtime!

  4. What a fascinating story about the Superstition Mountains. Learning about people whose bravery and determination led them to seek what Elisha did is very interesting and historical as well. thank you very much.

  5. Oh, wow, Cathy! I’m with Stephanie about the apples. What an experience to carry a bushel of them on a pack horse!!! So unique.

    Thanks for sharing a great story with us!

  6. I’d have loved to meet the man and see what he was all about! So sad that so many historical things are ruined today by kids and vandals. I wish that stuff was protected more. Thanks for sharing!

  7. What an interesting and colorful character, Cathy. He would make a great addition to a book someday. 🙂 I love that the apples are still flourishing and that people like you are putting them to good use. My dad planted a small apple orchard on the property where I grew up (about 7 acres), but he passed away before the trees reached their maturity. My mom sold the property a year later, and I never knew what became of those trees. My grandpa dug up at least one and transplanted it into his backyard as a remembrance, so I know at least one was tended lovingly. I hope the others are alive and well and providing fruit to neighbors and friends. That was about 35 years ago.

  8. How interesting! I love reading posts like this. It’s so cool that you were able to visit the ranch and harvest apples and even stay in the house! How sad, though, that vandals burned the house down. I wish more people valued and respected our history and places like this.

  9. It is pretty country. When we moved from the Northeast to Colorado, the change in terrain and flora was something I really hadn’t thought much about. I grew up in the mountains but mountains thick with both evergreens and climax forests of hardwoods. I appreciate the wonderful diversity and it is all beautiful in its own special way. We are headed that way next month to visit friends in Tucson but don’t know if we will get up toward the Superstition area. Our friend is in her 80’s and our hiking is limited to easy hikes now. It would be a nice day trip. Thank you for some interesting local color.

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