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History of the San Francisco Peaks and how they got their names

Peaks ThumbnailIn the 1500s, the Spanish Conquistadors explored the area searching for gold and came upon the peaks and named them “Sierra Sinagua”  meaning Mountains Without Water.  The name didn’t stick, because they left the area quickly in search of the Grand Canyon and other gold.  In 1629, Franciscan Friars who were conducting missionary work with Natives of the area named the mountain “San Francisco Peak” in honor of Patron Saint Francis of Assisi.  In 1853 a man by the name of Amiel Whipple, who was leading expeditions in the area to find possible routes for a railroad across the continent dubbed the mountain range “San Francisco Cone,” but that name was never official and early maps still had the mountain printed as “San Francisco Peak.”  On many maps today, the official name is printed as “San Francisco Mountain,” but many people either call it “The Peaks” or “San Francisco Peaks.”

The Navajo Tribe refers to the San Francisco Peaks as "Dook'o'oosłííd," which means "the summit which never melts" or "the mountain which peak never thaws."  The following names refer to the San Francisco Peaks according to each respective Tribe:

  • Tsii Bina — Aa'ku —(Acoma)
  • Dził Tso — Dilzhe’e— (Apache)
  • Hvehasahpatch or Huassapatch — Havasu 'Baaja — (Havasupai)
  • Nuva'tukya'ovi — (Hopi)
  • Wik'hanbaja—Hwal`bay — (Hualapai)
  • 'Amat 'Iikwe Nyava — Hamakhav — (Mojave)
  • Dook'o'oosłííd — Diné (Navajo)
  • Nuvaxatuh — Nuwuvi — (Southern Paiute)
  • Sierra sin Agua — (Spanish)
  • Wi:mun Kwa — (Yavapai)
  • Sunha K'hbchu Yalanne — A:shiwi (Zuni)

Abineau Peak was named for Julius Aubineau (1852-1903) who was a prominent person in the early years of Flagstaff’s development.  He was a native of France who was trained as an engineer and served as a lieutenant in the Franco-Prussian War.  He came to Flagstaff in 1891 and received his citizenship in 1894.  He actually was the mayor of Flagstaff in 1898, but resigned that same year over a disagreement allowing houses of prostitution in the main town area.  His connection with the Peaks involved his ownership of Aubineau Spring and his role in the development of the Inner Basin water system.  He engineered the route for the Inner Basin waterline and Waterline Road in 1898, built the first sewage system to serve the town businesses in 1899, and filed for water rights on the Inner Basin Springs and Schultz Pass in 1900.

Agassiz Peak was named in 1867 after the famous Swiss zoologist of Harvard University, Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807-1873), who made a fossil study during the Pacific Railroad survey through the area.  It was named by Gen. W. J. Palmer during the survey as he crossed the area directly south of the mountain.  He decided to change the name to Mt. Agassiz “for distinction” purposes. This became Agassiz Peak.

Doyle Peak, and Doyle Saddle, which connects Agassiz and Fremont Peaks, were named in 1933 by Dr. Harold S. Colton, founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona, for Allen Doyle (1850-1920), a cattleman and guide.  Doyle went to Prescott as a miner and drove cattle from there to Flagstaff in 1881.  He stayed in the Flagstaff area to become famous as a guide for many notables, including Zane Grey, the famous author of many western novels.

Fremont Peak was named after John Charles Fremont (1813-1890), the “Pathfinder of the West,” who began searching for an overland route to the Pacific in 1842. He was also a general in the Mexican War and the Civil War, as well as served as the territorial governor of Arizona from 1878-1882

Humphrey’s Peak was named by G. K. Gilbert in 1873 after his superior officer Brig. Gen. Andrew Atkinson Humphreys.  Humphreys had been a captain with the Ives Expedition in 1851 and evaluated the survey data of several expeditions that attempted to find routes for wagon roads and a railroad through the region.  He later became Chief of the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers.

Rees Peak was named for B.C. Rees (1866-1936).  He came to Flagstaff in 1905 as a “health seeker” and became a rancher who had his summer range at the southwest base of the Peaks.  He was the clerk of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors for four years and in 1918 was elected as the clerk of the Superior Court—an office he held until his death. There is one report that the peak was actually named after an early settler of the area named L. R. Reese who was born in Ohio in 1850, but official records still have B. C. Rees as who it was named after.

Schultz Peak, and Schultz Pass, which separates the Peaks from Mt. Elden, was named for Charles H. Schulz (the original spelling), a sheep man who lived in the pass. Schulz was one of the earliest settlers in Flagstaff, arriving in 1880 with a herd of sheep from Texas.  His herd gradually increased in size until he was considered the largest sheep owner in Arizona. He served four years in the 1890s as a member of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and retired in 1911, moving to Phoenix where he died in 1934.

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