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Coming Home: Man's Idea for Paying Tribute to His Ancestors is Re-erecting Monument Atop the Mountain
Mission Peak Native Returns

by Dennis Rockstroh, SJ Mercury News staff writer

Published: Monday, May 5, 1997

McClure Ranch at the top of Mission Peak, photo by WSR

McClure Ranch in winter. Photo by Wolfgang S. Rupprecht

Listen to Roan McClure talk about the Peak Meadow Ranch buildings (8.9 MB, 8:18) and the Mission Peak summit monument (3.9MB, 3:34).

DRIVE SOUTH on Mission Boulevard through Fremont and you will see what everyone talks about.

Looming ahead, sometimes in a cloud, often in a mist and, by midafternoon, usually standing radiantly clear, is Mission Peak in all its glory.

It stands 2,517 feet tall.

But before World War II, Mission Peak measured 2,535 feet, counting the monument that once stood there.

I know this because I have just returned from an expedition up the fabled peak.

My guide was Roan McClure, 47, a historian who grew up at Fremont's loftiest address, the old McClure ranch, 1,750 feet up, in front of the 750-foot cliff face of Mission Peak. All you can see of the property from Fremont's flatlands is a row of trees just below the tip of the peak.

Roan, who now lives in Cave Junction, Ore., was on a mission to recover part of the 18-foot monument dedicated to the members of the family who had passed on.

The McClure family, which includes the Moores and the Starrs, at one time owned Mission Peak and about 5,000 acres between the peak and Sunol.

The last McClure to live at the ranch, called Peak Meadow Ranch, was Roan McClure's grandmother, Margaret Moore McClure. She sold the ranch to the East Bay Regional Park District in 1978 but was permitted to live on the land until her death in 1982.

Roan McClure never actually saw the monument, but he heard about it from his family and saw pictures. It stood, cone-like, on top of the peak from just before World War I to World War II, when it was removed for security reasons.

McClure found a remnant of the monument by accident in 1978 when he was rescuing goats stranded on the cliff.

''I started falling off the cliff, and my fingers were digging into the dirt when my hand caught on a stone with a flat edge,'' he said. ''It was a piece of the monument.''

The piece of granite slab weighed about 400 pounds. McClure dug it out and rolled it down the hill.

Almost two decades later, he is back at the ranch, whose old buildings are used for a park ranger residence and storage. He is arranging to have the monument remnant moved to the back side of Mission Peak, where he will erect a new monument to the McClure family.

The homecoming trip up the mountain by four-wheel-drive was an emotional one for McClure.

The ranch house, barn, cabins, swimming pool and rock walls of his youth are all still there, in the middle of a vast, secret, boulder-strewed meadow filled with yellow, purple and pink wildflowers and scattered groves of bay and oak trees. The 750-foot cliff face of Mission Peak is the magnificently awesome background.

Below is San Francisco Bay, from Marin to San Jose.

''I know it was a privilege to live here,'' said McClure.

A flood of memories swept over him as he showed where he played, where he slept, where his youthful misadventures took place.

He said he decided to build a new monument to foster ''a sense of heritage and family in the next generation.

''We are living our children's history, and if we don't record it, all they'll know is what they read in books.''

The first McClure here, in 1855, was his great-great-grandfather, Richard Alexander McClure.

Roan McClure is planning a family reunion in June at the ranch. He expects about 40 people, who will be driven in for the occasion. For most of us without special ties to this land, the only access is by trail and a strenuous hike.

While McClure showed off his boyhood home, we chatted and he told me that he was a Vietnam War veteran. He had gone to war from Peak Meadow Ranch and had returned there before leaving for good in 1982.

It was a perfect moment because, as a Vietnam vet myself, I have made it a habit to welcome home my comrades.

''Welcome home,'' I said as we shook hands.

He told me later he almost cried.

More info about the history of the McClure/Moore family on Mission Peak.

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