Legend of Hacksaw Tom
Many stories have been told, re-told and written about the Apache Trail, a wonder of engineering that winds its way around the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. The Trail begins in Apache Junction makes a long loop past three lakes (Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt). The 135-miles drive takes one to the historic city of Globe and winds up where one started, in Apache Junction. The trip takes between 5 to 8 hours depending on how many times you stop to enjoy endless, changing vistas of desert and canyon country. Just beyond a little town named Tortilla Flat (with a population of 6 and some say, the best hamburgers and coldest beer in Arizona) the road turns to gravel and dirt for 24 miles to Roosevelt Dam.
One of the most persistent tales told in the early days about the wonders of the Trail was the one told about “Hacksaw Tom”, a highwayman of sorts who made his mark on the folklore of the Superstitions. From his hideout somewhere near the bottom of Fish Creek Hill (one of the most beautiful places along the entire drive) he preyed on travelers en route to the dam, and beyond. He was also alleged to have robbed several teamsters, hauling freight to the dam from Mesa, where the Trail originally began and which was the jumping-off place for those who had business on the route, especially during the construction of Roosevelt Dam at the turn of the 20th Century.
In any case, Hacksaw Tom would emerge from his hideout somewhere in the boulders and canyons of some of the roughest country in world and, with his trusty sawed-off shotgun would relieve the passengers of their valuables. He wore a mask made of a flour sack, rough clothing and went about his business, subsequently disappearing into the convoluted canyon. He fled on foot, a horse
being almost useless in that terrain. By the time word would get to the sheriff and the sheriff got to the scene, Hacksaw Tom was long gone.
His made travel on the Apache Trail, between about l905 and l915 interesting, to be sure, but no one was every physically harmed by him, no shots were ever fired during the encounters, He was called Hacksaw Tom by the sheriff who believed he might have been an escaped prisoner from Globe who had used a hacksaw to aid him in making his getaway. Hacksaw Tom subsequently disappeared and was never identified nor seen or heard from again.
In l958 a cave was found just off the Apache Trail, near where wagons, stages and the like, were reduced to a crawl and while no documentation exists to substantiate these events, a number of people who reportedly did not know each other, related uncanny similar details throughout the years.
The cave contained an old military wagon. Over the years it slowly disappeared as it was removed bit by bit by souvenir hunters. Twenty years later, the original discovers returned to the cave
and noticed a depression in the ground where the wagon had been. Digging into the depression, resulted in finding an old, decaying carpet bag about a foot below the surface. The contents of the bag contained the following:
• A mask made from a flour sack labeled “Mesa Cooperative Mill-Mesa”, Arizona Territory.
• Two luggage tie-down straps from a stagecoach.
• A sawed-off shotgun
• An Edison light bulb
• Several cartridges
• A box of caps for brass cartridges
• A match box with matches
• A kerosene lamp chimney
• A large jar half full of beans
• A bottle of horse liniment
• Two horse bridle rosettes
• A small monkey wrench
• Several locks, keys and appears to be a home-made lock pick
• A host of other items apparently taken from victims.
Evidently Hacksaw Tom, like “The Dutchman” Jacob Waltz, really did exist!
Story by George Johnston…
These items are all on display at the Superstition Mountain Museum, located on the Apache Trail in Apache Junction, AZ.