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Century-old slur erased from Santa Monica Mountains maps

February 20, 2010 |  4:17 pm


A century-old slur was erased Saturday as authorities ceremoniously renamed a Santa Monica Mountains peak to commemorate a black pioneer who established a homestead at its base in 1880.

What had long been designated on "Negrohead Mountain" on official maps is now "Ballard Mountain" in honor of John Ballard, who worked as a blacksmith and firewood vendor from his 160 acres in the Seminole Springs area.

About 25 of Ballard’s descendants were among a crowd of 90 who watched as a plaque bearing the settler’s name was unveiled near the site of his onetime homestead. It will be permanently placed next to Kanan Road’s north tunnel near the top of the 2,031-foot volcanic peak.

Reggie Ballard, the 85-year-old great-grandson of the pioneer, said he was pleased to see the old name wiped away.

Ballard "I don’t know what it means to Los Angeles as a whole but it means a lot to me," said the retired Los Angeles Fire Department captain who now lives in Banning.

"It’s not often you get a chance to right an historical wrong," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who helped nearby residents win approval of the name change with the U.S. Geological Survey. Marcia McNutt, the survey’s director, traveled from Washington to attend the ceremony.

Descendant Christopher Ballard, 19, of Long Beach said he and six others climbed Ballard Mountain, climbing over rocks and carving their own trail through brush. When he reached its peak, he said, it felt like he was on top of the world.

-- Bob Pool

Photos: (Top) Ballard Mountain as seen from a bluff above Kanan Road in Agoura. It was named for John Ballard (left), a former Kentucky slave who arrived in Los Angeles in 1859 and later moved his family to the Seminole Springs area. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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