History of the San Francisco Peaks

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)

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.