Street Smarts

Street Smarts: Meet the man who brought orange groves to Tucson

2014-06-03T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:11:57Z Street Smarts: Meet the man who brought orange groves to TucsonBy David Leighton For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Maurice L. Reid, the man who brought citrus groves to Tucson, was born to Richard E. and Eliza (Hunt) Reid, on May 9, 1882, in Indiana.

He attended school there and, on June 15, 1909, he married Beulah Cadwell in Portland, Oregon. Shortly after his marriage, he started a business related to the manufacture, sale, import and export of medical supplies and equipment. The business eventually grew to have branches in Seattle, Los Angeles and several eastern cities, with the main office in the San Francisco area.

By 1910, the couple was living in Seattle. Their son Gene C. Reid — for whom Tucson’s Reid Park would later be named — was born on Dec. 2, 1912. By 1915, the family was living in Oakland, Calif., where son Robert L. Reid was born on Nov. 8, 1915.

After contracting tuberculosis, Reid came to Tucson in 1923 or 1924 as a patient at the Barfield Sanatorium. He spent a year there recovering and, rather than return home, he sent for his family.

In Tucson, he decided to try his hobby of amateur horticulture as a business. It was commonly thought, at the time, that citrus fruit wouldn’t grow well here and that the few orange trees that did exist were small and sour. But Reid believed it could be done.

In the mid-1920s, the family lived in town and frequently took trips into the desert on horseback. On one winter journey to what is now the Casas Adobes area, Reid noticed the vegetation in one area had suffered far less frost damage than the land around it.

He had discovered the thermal belt that existed north of Tucson, in an area where cold air currents were diverted by the mountains and accumulated in river beds and washes, leaving the land warmer and often frost free in the winter.

Reid purchased 450 acres at $3 an acre to be paid off over 20 years. The family then moved onto the property, living in a tent.

Reid hired a well driller who struck clear liquid in ample supply at 160 feet. Despite having no training in horticulture, Reid ordered seeds from mail order catalogs and started experimenting, with son Gene doing most of the actual planting.

The area was first called “Reid’s Farm,” then “Reid’s Ranch,” and finally, “Rancho Palos Verdes.”

During the Depression, to augment their income, Maurice and Beulah got involved in land and real estate development through M.L. Reid Real Estate.

In 1932, they recorded the Rancho Palos Verdes Extension subdivision with four streets: Corona Road, Pomona Road, Montebella Road and Altadena Road (now part of La Canada Drive) with Pima County. The streets are believed to be named after cities in Los Angeles County with “Montebello” misspelled as “Montebella.”

By 1935, Reid had transformed 26 acres of sunbaked land, formerly covered with mesquite trees, prickly pear and cholla cactus, into a virtual Garden of Eden producing oranges, lemons, figs, tangerines, grapefruit, mangoes papayas, pineapples, olives and dates, along with tropical flowers.

That year, Reid shipped Christmas boxes of Arizona fruit to every state in the U.S. and the Territory of Alaska.

His dream would later encompass more than 200 acres of date palms and citrus trees and his overall land holding included 1,500 acres of land bounded by North Oracle Road to the east, North La Cholla Boulevard to the west, West Ina Road to the north and West Orange Grove Road to the south.

In 1947, Reid sold the retail, mail order, processing, and manufacturing business to H. W. “Bill” Taylor of the adjoining fruit ranch, called Desert Treasures (the namesake for Treasure Drive, off of Orange Grove Road).

Reid lived on the ranch until the 1950s before selling the land and moving back to town.

He continued working in real estate and had two offices on North Oracle Road. He died in 1963 at the age of 80.

In 1927, Reid and others signed a petition to get Pima County to establish a road in their area, but it wasn’t until June 3, 1929 that the county did so. Documents show the road was to be called Sunset Road, but when the official road map was drawn on June 26, 1929, the name had been changed to Palos Verdes Road in honor of the Rancho Palos Verdes. In 1936, Reid petitioned the county to change the name to Orange Grove Road, because there was already another street called Via Palos Verdes in the midtown Colonia Solana subdivision.

Sources

Special thanks to Eileen Grade of Evergreen Cemetery for research assistance on several articles. Interview with Greg Reid on Dec. 14, 2013 (grandson of Maurice Reid and family genealogist).

Emails from Pamela Reid Whitehead (granddaughter of Maurice Reid).

Alice Beulah Cadwell birth certificate (Reid family archives).

Robert Lee Reid, “Reid Family: Jeremiah Reid of Timber Ridge, Hampshire County, Virginia and some Descendants and Affiliations,” Private Pub., Unknown Year (Reid family archives).

1910 U.S. Census (Seattle Ward, King County, Washington).

1918 World War I Registration Card (Maurice Lawton Reid).

Bonnie Henry, “Another Tucson,” The Arizona Daily Star, 1992.

E.D. Jewett, “Across the Dry Rillito II,” Territorial Pub., 1986.

Ernest Douglas, “Rancho Palos Verdes: Desert Miracle,” Arizona Highways Magazine, April, 1941.

J.F. Weadock, “Maurice L. Reid Dies At Age 80,” Arizona Daily Star, April 20, 1963.

“Maurice Reid, Citrus, Date Developer, Succumbs At 80,” Tucson Daily Citizen, April 19, 1963.

“Tucsonian Transforms Desert Into Tropical Fruit Jungle,” Tucson Daily Citizen, Jan. 16, 1935.

“Reids’ Retail, Mail Order Business Sold To Desert Treasures,” Arizona Daily Star, Oct. 21, 1947.

“Reid’s Ranch Retail Business Is Sold,” Tucson Daily Citizen, Oct. 20, 1947.

“M.L. Reid’s Experiments Widened Garden Horizons,” Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 3, 1972.

Pima County plat map MP06034.

PCDOT Files

Ed Smith File.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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