Saddleback Canyons of Orange County
by Amy Richards
A miraculous thing happened to me when I was 18 months
old, my parents, Frank and Lucille Fitzpatrick, moved
to Silverado Canyon, which could have also been named
"Kid Heaven" or "A Lizard Chasers Paradise." The Canyons
were located at one of the most remote spots in Orange
County and people thought that anyone who wanted to
live way out there must be addled!
Boy, I wanted to live out there. I'd visited my Aunt
Patty who'd lived there most of her married life and
she was raising my five cousins there. The creek ran
all year and it was loaded with native trout. I wasn't
too interested in the trout, I could never catch any
big ones with my little hands, but the frogs, pollywogs
and salamanders were fair game. We had a dam in the
creek and it was deep enough to float a fair sized galvanized
laundry tub with me in it along with my faithful kitten
"Pinkey Baby Blue Eyes."
spent my childhood wading or playing in the creek, climbing
up into the branches of the huge live oaks trees that
dotted our property, riding our burro and hiking the
hill behind our house. Many times I hiked all the way
over into Williams Canyon. There was a spring there
that my dad had deemed safe to drink and we'd carry
a little collapsible tin cup with us and rest in the
shade and drink that cool spring water. There were a
couple of white horses that had escaped from someone
and they were great fuel for my imagination! Sometimes
I'd get lucky and catch a glimpse of them, 'Wild Horses'
and I'd dream of capturing them and how I would ride!
granddad, John Henry Fitzpatrick, was raised here too
and he would share his memories with me of his youth
in these beautiful canyons. His mother was married to
one of the Bohimes who owned a ranch in Modjeska Canyon.
My granddad walked from Modjeska to Silverado to attend
school, most of the years, occasionally the school came
over to Modjeska. The school was one room, built on
skids, and they dragged it to which ever canyon had
the most children, the others would walk over from wherever
they lived. My granddad told me that most years he was
the only boy, and the youngest child attending the school.
For many years there was just he and six sisters, of
the Ohlsbach family that attended. One hot spring day
the kids found a deep hole of water in the creek,along
their way home, and they started skinny dipping in that
pool. My granddad said it was great fun until someone
spotted them and, "Nosed it all over the canyons that
I was swimming naked with the girls! That was the end
mother told me a few years back that for seventy consecutive
years there had been a blood relative of mine either
attending or working at the Silverado school. That ended
when our daughter, Molly had the audacity to live outside
the Canyons and not send her daughter Becky to the school!
Oh well! My Mother will be ninety-five in two weeks.
having been able to catch the '"wild horses', I always
told everyone that when I grew up, I was going to marry
a blond haired, blue eyed, six foot tall cowboy and
raise horses! When I grew up - I did! I had the good
sense to marry a young cowboy who had been raised in
Modjeska Canyon. His parents, Ann and Isaac Richards
had a home in Long Beach and a home in Modjeska. Rusty
Richards is his name and he loves the canyons just as
I do. When he was a little boy he loved to visit the
Howells, they had a great park -like property on Modjeska
Canyon Road, they called it "My Old Kentucky Home."
The Howells had an open door policy and anyone venturing
into the Canyon was made welcome. They had a small menagerie
of animals, they sold sodas and candy and had lots of
company. The first time Rusty ever heard a live guitar
being played was in their living room, Malley Roundtree
was playing and singing and he told Rusty that he thought
he would make a fine singer and he would teach him to
play if his folks would get him a guitar. Well they
did,and he did and Rusty grew up to join "The Sons of
the Pioneers," he was a member of that famous group
for a period of time spanning 21 years. Rusty is a terrific
songwriter as well, and he loves to raise and train
horses. You can check out his web page at www.rustyrichards.com.
We raised our children in Modjeska on The Modjeska Ranch,
and they swam in the creek, climbed the trees and hiked
the hills, only they rode horses instead of a burro.
They also learned to love music and all are gifted singers.
Three of them sing and play professionally, our daughter,
Jenny Richards Woodward sings at Tannin's (Formerly
Tre Vigne ) on Wed. evenings and Cedar Creek on Saturday
evenings, both on Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano.
Jenny teaches voice, guitar and piano, writes beautiful
songs and hosts "Cabin Concerts" held in her living
room in Modjeska Canyon, the very same room at the Howells
where the music all began. Our son, Jason Richards and
his band, "Silverado" were nominated for best non-touring
band by the Academy of Country Music, and Jason performs
with and without his band at private parties. He also
writes many original songs and lives in Modjeska Canyon.
His daughter, Amanda is professionally on her way in
music, and all of his other children. Annie, April and
Logan are into music too. Our daughter, Amy Jo Ellis
is also a prolific writer of songs and performs at the
Orange County Fair, private parties and many seminars
and churches. Amy and her family live in Silverado Canyon.
All of Amy's children sing, write and or play. Autumn
Ellis is a gifted singer and is attending college in
Newport Beach, Melody is in Culinary Arts school in
San Francisco. Tenor helps on Amy's recordings. Our
daughter, Molly Babb and her husband Dale live in Rancho
Santa Margarita and are raising another singer,songwriter
Becky Sanders. Dale too, is in Real Estate.
brings us back to me, my name is Amy Richards, I am
a real estate broker, and I do specialize in the Canyons.
I will celebrate 30 years in Real Estate next March,
2004. All that Halloween tricker-treating as a kid paid
off as I got to know all the canyon houses and hidden
are streets here that have just one home on them and
other homes that are addressed on a street that in all
reality doesn't even exist! Oh, well, that's the canyons!
of history here, Silverado was a boom town in the late
1800's, a silver mining shooting star! Brief but flashy
for a time! There were five stage coaches that came
to Silverado Canyon each day, three out of Los Angeles
and two out of Anaheim. There were several hotels, cafes,
numerous bars and I think the brothels outnumbered everything
else. Some of the little cabins in Silverado started
life as a miner's shack. After the Silver petered out
there was a brief renewed interest in the area for possible
coal mining, but that too was disappointing. Carbondale
got its name, but not much else happened. Silverado
Canyon also had a hey-day as a spa with Hollywood Celebrities
frequenting the area, that too dried up. Commercial
use now is two markets, The Shadybrook Market and Canyon
Market and two cafes, The Silverado Café, and the new
Silver Creek Inn all are enjoyable places to get a cold
drink and a bite to eat.
I was a child we knew the different sections of Silverado
Canyon as: Carbondale, Hough Tract, Cabin Land, Shady
Brook, and Mine Tract. All the homes had names, like
Pair-O-dice, Dew-Drop-Inn, Hummingbird Cabin, Honeymoon
Cottage, Simpatico, etc. That tradition has pretty much
died out, but I found it charming. The Aloha House in
Modjeska and Hodge Podge Lodge in Silverado still continue
Modjeska Canyon was always a sleepy little place,
and it still is, although it did sport a hotel at one
time and a restaurant called "The Sweden Inn." Most
famous for its Modjeska Home, called Arden Forest by
the famous Shakespearean actress Madam Helena Modjeska,
the home was recently featured on California's Gold,
by Hewell Howser. Guided Tours can be arranged, but
are by appointment only with a waiting list, I am told.
However, it is worth the wait! The only commercial business
now is the Modjeska Market, a great place to get a cold
drink and a sandwich.
Canyon was named for a lost musket by one of Portola's
men. Trabuco benefits by one of the County's nicest
Regional parks, Donated by the O'Neil family and appropriately
named O'Neil Park. There
hiking, biking and horseback riding down the
beautiful and shady Arroyo. The area also features a
great steak house, The Oaks on Trabuco Oaks, and Mexican
food at Senior Licos in Rose Canyon. Also a Trabuco Country
Store for lotto and drinks and snacks, and of course,
everybody's favorite, the infamous biker bar at Cook's
Corner. (Rusty remembers when Mr. Cook stood behind
that bar and a huge rattlesnake skin decorated the wall.)
of the Canyons are nestled into the National Forest
and we truly are in the Shadows of Saddleback Mountain.
It has been my great pleasure to share the area with
many new people as they have found their way into the
Canyons. Helping them to purchase land ranches and homes,
as they moved here with their families. The canyons
are not only a great place to live, they're also a great
place to learn. We have two wonderful elementary schools
in our area. Silverado School has received the distinguished
School Award and Trabuco Elementary is a 'Toured' school.
All of the Canyons have old fashioned Community Spirit
and neighborliness that has disappeared from many places
- but is its alive and well here! Although we are country
living, we are no longer remote, now we are 10-15 minutes
from the 241 Toll-way. Please visit my website: www.amyrichards.com
© Copyright 2002 Amy Richards. No unauthorized
duplication without written consent.