Santiago Peak

Early Tustin residents were awakened each morning by the sun rising over Old Saddleback, the peak that loomed above the entire Santa Ana Valley. Named by the early settlers for its saddle shape, Old Saddleback is really two peaks almost a mile apart in the Santa Ana Mountain range. Although the north peak is some 200 feet lower than the south peak which measures 5,691 feet, it is closer to the valley, creating the illusion that both are the same height.

Prior to being visited by a government survey team in the late 1800s, and officially named Santiago Peak, both the south peak and the chain of mountains had several names, according to Terry E. Stephenson’s book In the Shadows of Old Saddleback. The north peak remained nameless.

An 1801 map drawn by Don Pablo Grijalva identified the northern portion of the mountain range as Sierra de Santiago and the southern portion as Sierra del Trabuco, leading to speculation that the peak was called Trabuco. A map used by Don Teodosio Yorba in the early 1850s when he applied for ratification of his grant for Rancho Lomas de Santiago labeled the southern range Sierra de Santiago, suggesting the peak was called Santiago at that time.

Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) on the J. E. Pleasant ranch referred to the mountain range as Sierra de Santa Ana, possibly because of its relationship to the Santa Ana River. An 1861 geological survey named the 35 miles of mountains from the Santa Ana River on the north to San Diego County on the south, the Santa Ana range. The peak with its magnificent view of the entire Santa Ana Valley, distant mountain ranges, the Pacific Ocean and off shore islands, challenged early adventurers. In 1850 Major Horace Bell with a company of California state rangers and Mormon deputies from San Bernardino climbed it in search of a band of horse thieves. In 1861 state geologist Josiah Dwight Whitney and William H. Brewer made the ascent. Both parties referred to the south peak as Santiago. But when H. Clay Kellogg climbed in 1875, the peak was known as Temescal, a name still popular with residents living on the back side of the mountains near Lake Elsinore. Settlers in the San Juan Capistrano area and Trabuco canyon referred to it as Trabuco peak.

After the death of actress Madame Helena Modjeska in 1909, her friend Mrs. James S. Rice of Tustin campaigned to rename Santiago Peak in her honor. This was not possible, but the north peak was officially designated as Modjeska Peak. Although clouds, fog and air pollution frequently hide it from view, Old Saddleback is always there standing guard over Tustin.