The Superstition Wilderness Area and Superstition Mountain in particular have been an attraction to human kind for more than a millennium. First came the Native Americans who found the region conducive to their way of living and lifestyle. They were primarily hunters and gatherers. Primitive agriculture had not been developed in the beginning. The introduction of growing wild plants and corn didn’t occur for another thousand years or so. Still, hunting and gathering prevailed for another millennium or more. Once their nomadic way of life began to diminish, primitive forms of agriculture were developed with various wild plants. The introduction of beans, squash and corn from Meso-America helped to stabilize the Native American population in the region. The region offered numerous caves for shelter. Their ruins, such as pit houses, cliff dwellings and temporary shelters were a mute testimony to their early occupancy of this rugged mountain region in Central Arizona.
Death was no stranger to these early inhabitants of this mountain wilderness. Many lost their lives to accidents, attacks from animals and other warring groups that mounted raids against their mountain homeland. Of course, these deaths were pre-historical, without documentation. The excavation of a couple of sites adjacent to the wilderness area suggests some of these early Native Americans died from wounds caused by an adversary. An Apache Junction resident was excavating for a pool in his yard when he came across a burial site on his property. The skull that was found in a grave had severe damage from blunt force trauma. The ulna and radius bones of the arm and the clavicle bone of the shoulder had sharp knife marks indicating an attack that was defended with the individual’s arm. These injuries were probably the results of a battle with a raiding party member or members that ended in the demise of this individual several thousand years ago. This Native American was probably one of the earliest people to die in this vast mountain wilderness we call the Superstitions today.
|The western facade of Superstition |
Mountain discouraged pursuers who
tried to find Apache-Yavapai.
Major John Brown led the 5th and 10th United States Cavalry units on a campaign against the Apache-Yavapai in the Superstition Mountain region and the Pinal Mountains between 1872-1874. Many of the skirmishes were fought around the Reavis Valley. One battle was fought from March 8-17, 1874, with men of the 10th U.S. Cavalry and the Apaches. Many Native Americans died during these campaigns of annihilation.
These were the first deaths in the Superstition Mountain area that was accurately documented and recorded by the United States Army.
Sadly, deaths still occur today, but in a very different way. Earlier deaths were part of a campaign of destruction and annihilation by the United States Army and the Pima Scouts.
The other side of the coin was that the Apache Yavapai preyed on the Pimas for hundreds of years. When the Pima finally allied with the United States Army, the Yavapai were totally defeated ending their predations and hiding in what we call the Superstition Wilderness today.
|Above is an 1864 sketch map of the Superstition Mountain region that I have marked with today’s place names.|
The wilderness has historical meaning to everyone who has ever experienced it in any way.