History of Elisha Reavis

Elisha Reavis was a famous hermit/miner who was one of the first permanent residents of the Superstition Mountain area. Below is a story by Ash Montagu.

Elisha Marcus Reavis was the son of James A. and Mary (Harlan) Reavis. After the death of his parents he and his siblings were raised by an aunt and uncle. Elisha attended college before going to California during the Gold Rush. He taught school briefly at El Monti and searched for gold along the San Gabriel River.

He married Mary Y. Sexton at San Gabriel in 1867 and had one child who survived the following year. Her name was Louisa Maria Reavis.

Elisha went with other gold seekers to the Bradshaw Mountains in Arizona in 1863 but had little success. He returned to California but his wife refused to move to the rugged country in Arizona and preferred to live near her parents. After her death, their daughter went to St. Louis to live with Reavis relatives.

Elisha returned to Arizona with his uncle who was appointed a judge on the territorial state supreme court by President Grant. Elisha worked as a US Marshall before starting a small ranch near Ft. Dowell, There he broke horses and mules, packed for the army during Indian campaigns before moving to a remote valley in 1874. It was on Iron Mountain and was high enough to be cool and beautiful in what became known as the Superstition Mountains.

Here he farmed and over the years raised farm animals, planted an apple orchard and raised vegetables and fruit. He would take these by pack mules to nearby towns for sale.

ELISHA REAVIS (1827-1896)
The Original Reavis Ranch

On April 9, 1896 a friend dropped by and Elisha said he was about to leave for Mesa to buy seed potatoes. On May 6, 1896, James Delabaugh stopped at Jack Fraser’s ranch and discovered Reavis had never passed by.

Alarmed, they backtracked and found his remains four miles south of his ranch on the trail. His mules were tied nearby and half starved. Reavis’s remains were scattered by wild animals. He was buried at a nearby Indian ruins where the soil was softer under a cairn of rocks. His grave was marked with a stone marker.

Many stories are told of him, how he was a crack shot with a Winchester causing the Apaches to give him a wide berth after a fight in which he killed three of them, how he faced a bear with a rifle that misfired, etc. He was a well read man who had the first library of books in the Superstition Mountains.

Jack Fraser took over the property by paying a six hundred dollar claim against the estate but never homesteaded it because he was a Canadian. He later sold the property to the Cleamons Cattle Company but Cleamons was also not a citizen. The land was finally patented by Cleamons’ wife in 1919 who was from West Virginia and a US citizen.

There were efforts to build a resort on the land but it was too remote to be successful. Today the homestead is mostly visited by hikers. The Reavis Ranch and his grave today are threatened by the Woodbury Fire.

William G. “Billy” Knight who was a cowboy and later foreman for Jack Fraser and the Cleamons family knew Elisha Reaves and recorded many memories of him and named many landmarks for him. He had been concerned about the old man’s health and urged him to see a doctor but Elisha refused. This has lead some people with vivid imaginations to interpret this as a warning and that Fraser had Reavis killed for his property which he wanted… this is rubbish.