Simi Valley, CA

Exploring Simi Valley history: the giant cross on Mt. McCoy

Tracy Carbone
Mt. McCoy in Simi Valley, and its legendary 12 foot crossPhoto byTracy Carbone

If you’ve ever driven through Simi Valley, California, you’ve likely noticed Mt. McCoy (formerly Mt. Verde). Per Wikipedia, it’s a “1,325-foot-high peak in Simi Valley, California known for its characteristic 12 foot white cross on the top.” The cross sits in a 200 acre nature area operated by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District but the immediate surroundings are owned by the Simi Valley Historical Society.”

Why is most of it owned by the park district, but the cross owned by the Historical society? Read on to learn about the history and all the different crosses that have sat proudly on the peak.

Per the Simi Valley Rotary site, “In the early 1800s, travelers looked for a wooden cross on a hill to know they weren't far from El Rancho Simi.” Spanish priests erected the cross to direct travelers between the Ventura and San Fernando missions to the El Rancho Simi Adobe.
Shepherd in fieldPhoto byBiegun WschodnionUnsplash

Almost a hundred years later, so the story goes, a shepherd replaced the wooden cross with a stone one. In 1898 the mountain was named after C.B. McCoy, “a salesman for the Simi Land & Water Co., who settled on 5,000 acres in the area.”

The stone cross may have lasted hundreds of years, but in 1921, Simi Valley Sunday school teacher, R. E. Harrington set out to replace the stone cross with a wooden one, to honor the handwritten surveyor’s maps from the 1850s. With permission from Mrs. McCoy, the new wooden cross was added that year and hence started a tradition of holding Easter sunrise services on the mountaintop.

In 1941, the cross was swapped out again as the 1921 cross rotted. Members of the Simi Valley-Moorpark Lions Club and ranch workers replaced the wooden cross with a concrete one.
outdoor church servicePhoto bySamantha GadesonUnsplash

Easter services were held at the site of the cross from 1921 until 1968. Hundreds of worshipers made the trek, but due to difficult access it was moved to local churches. “Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the Rotary Club of Simi Valley illuminates the cross each night. Members often bring their children and families to spend the night on the mountaintop, keeping watch over the generator used to light the cross.”

In 1986, the cross was designated a Ventura County landmark. See this Simi history site for old photos and articles about this and other town history.

All was well for many years until in 2004, as noted in the L.A. Times. In 2001, “Stuart Bechman, president of the Ventura County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, first raised questions…about whether the cross owned by the park district violates federal and state constitutional guarantees of the separation of church and state. Though he never pursued legal action against the park district, he suggested it could be vulnerable.” To avoid any legal problems, in 2004 the town sold the cross and two-thirds of an acre to the historical society for $1,980.

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I'm a writer, blogger, painter, and animal lover who wants to share local and international feel-good animal and human stories, and articles to inspire and engage my readers.

Simi Valley, CA

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