Hovatter Homestead is an abandoned residence deep within the remote Little Horn Mountains in southwestern Arizona. The homestead itself sits just within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge boundaries about 25 miles south of I-10.
The namesake for the Homestead comes from Ray Hovatter and his family. Ray was a World War II veteran who served in North Africa under General Patton. It is unclear why he and his family chose this remote part of Arizona to live, but it possible that Ray first saw the area during his training.
Regardless, Ray and his wife Barbra had three girls, Sandra, Lindsay, and Jeanette, and built a simple home in which they dwelled from 1951 to 1974. The family owned and operated several mining claims in the vicinity. They helped to build a road into the area and worked the claims alongside Mexican laborers. Although the claims were for gold and silver, Ray mined mostly manganese, a metallic mineral. Ore was milled on site, at least partially, and sent to nearby Wendon.
The family made a simple living. “Camp”, what they called their home, consisted of two trailers attached together and several sheds. There was no running water and water had to be pumped and hauled from a nearby well. They had both a rock and cactus garden that Barbra took care of. Barbra was an avid botanist and also did scientific illustrations for the University of Arizona. She is known to have kept jars of scorpions and spiders in the kitchen. It was Barbra who transplanted the saguaros in a line along the driveway and made numerous stacks of rocks, all of which were labeled, around the driveway and gardens. The kids had several pets, including burros, and were known to carry around axes looking for rattlesnakes to kill.
Tragedy struck on May 18th, 1968. Ray and one of his daughters were working on a new propane cylinder one night. Another daughter approached the two with a lit lantern, which caused an explosion. The three of them were burned in the explosion. Lindsay and Sandra received the brunt of it. The family traveled to Phoenix for medical care but it wasn’t enough. Lindsay died six weeks later from her burns. She is buried on a small hill behind the homestead site.
Barbra moved to Phoenix to be with Sandra while Ray returned home. Not much of the homestead remained intact after the explosion destroyed much of their property. Ray died of pneumonia in a trailer on site in 1974 and was buried next to Lindsay. The daughters moved on and Barbra’s ashes were eventually scattered over Ray and Lindsay’s graves when she died in the 90s.
After the family had left the site, it was reclaimed by Kofa N.W.R. in 1976. All the remaining structures were razed and most of the remnants were removed from the site. Today, all that remains is the iconic row of saguaros along the driveway, the rock borders of Barbra’s garden, and the two gravesites on a small hill to the south of the homestead. Access to the site requires traversing the entire Hovatter Homestead Trail (about 25 miles total) and will require high-clearance and 4-wheel drive.
Anderson, Eric J. "On the Hovatter Road: A Kofa Wilderness Odyssey." AZ Imagined. N.p., 16 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Dec. 2016. <http://azimagined.blogspot.com/2010/03/on-hovatter-road-kofa-wilderness.html>.
Block, Kathy. "HOVATTER GRAVES." HOVATTER GRAVES. Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project, 25 June 2010. Web. 19 Dec. 2016. <http://www.apcrp.org/BLOCK_KATHY/HOVATTER_GRAVES/Hovatter_Graves_042610.htm>.