Pearl Oil Company Stock Certificate issued to Henry Clay Needham and signed by Henry Clay Needham as President, November 29, 1901.
From "Notes on My Grandfather, H. Clay Needham" by Marjorie L. (Segerstrom) Coffill, November 2000:
H. Clay became an outstanding member of the Newhall community. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church, helped build the Good Templar Hall, and owned the Newhall Water Co. Later he also owned a restaurant and one of the earliest gas stations in the area. He was also active in oil development on his own and adjoining lands, and organized the Pearl Oil Co. and the Neil Oil Co., named for two of his children. At one time during the Depression he constructed a free picnic area and campground on his property for use by the traveling public.
From the "what
was he thinking"
file ... Henry Clay
with his family in
Newhall in early
1888. Newhall at
the time was a two
block long wild west
town with 4 saloons
and few churches.
Into this picture came Needham, a rabid
prohibitionist, who came to town with
the intention of setting up an alcohol-free
colony in the middle of Newhall.
Needham was born near Percival Mills,
Hardin County, Kentucky in June, 1851. He
received his education at Hamilton College
in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He eventually
migrated to Illinois and Girard, Kansas,
where he got work as a schoolteacher. In
Kansas in 1878, he married Lillie F. Taylor of Warren County, Kentucky. They eventually
had 5 children, Nellie May, Blanche Pearle,
Russell, Neal, and Henry Parke. After
getting married, he tried a variety of jobs
in Kansas including running a general store,
real estate agent, notary public, and farmer.
Then he developed an intense interest in
the alcohol prohibition movement and
became the Mayor of Arcadia, Kansas. He
joined a temperance organization, the
International Lodge of Good Templars,
and was responsible at one of their state
conventions for writing "dry laws" that
were eventually adopted by the Kansas
Needham was friends with Kansas
Governor John St. John and became a
prolific speech maker, eloquently extolling
the virtues of prohibition. In 1887, former
Governor St. John, along with George B.
Katzenstein of Sacramento and James Yarnell
of Los Angeles hatched a wild idea to purchase 10000 acres of land in the young town of Newhall,
California, from the Newhall Land and Farming Company
with the intention of establishing a "dry" alcohol-free
colony. They sent Needham out to California in
1888 to supervise the new St. John Subdivision.
The land extended from the present day
intersection of Lyons Avenue and Main Street
(formerly San Fernando Road) up to Soledad
Canyon. As further "enticement" to potential
settlers, they wrote a provision into the grant
deeds of any property sales which subjected
the property to foreclosure in the event
that any alcohol was found on the premises.
What they failed to anticipate was the lack of
teetotalers in Newhall in those days...there
were few if any people interested in joining the
new colony. Needham was eventually forced to
give up this grand scheme, but that did not stop
him from his crusade against alcohol.
Henry Clay Needham continued on his bully
pulpit throughout the 1890ís. A skilled orator, he built in
1890 a meeting place for the International Lodge of Good
Templars on Pine Street. In 1893, after all hope was lost
in the venture, this building was moved to the corner
of Market and Walnut Streets (the current site of the
Veteranís Memorial) where it became the home of oilman,
constable, and livery stable owner Ed Pardee. Over the
years this building went through several incarnations as a
"Mixville" for actor Tom Mix, a telephone exchange for the
Pacific Telephone Company in 1946, the Santa Clarita Valley
Boys Club from 1969 to 1977, and the Newhall-Saugus
Chamber of Commerce from 1977-1987. This building can
now be seen at Heritage Junction where it was moved in
A prominent member of Newhall society, Needham
financed the rebuilding of the first Newhall Schoolhouse
when it burned down in 1890. After the collapse of the
St. John Subdivision he supported his family by opening a
lumber yard and hardware store. He also made a living as
a rancher and oil industrialist. In 1891 he helped found the
First Presbyterian Church on Newhall Avenue. He and M.
W. Atwood of Pasadena were the original developers of the
Happy Valley neighborhood in Newhall in the early 1900ís.
He also ran the Newhall Water Company and one of the
first gas stations in the valley.
Although he maintained a residence in Los Angeles, Needham
also established a ranch on 770 acres extending to the
south from the current Eternal Valley Cemetery on the land
between Sierra Highway and Interstate 5. His
ranch house and cabin, unfortunately burned
down in the devastating fires of 1962 along with
Gene Autryís Melody Ranch.
Needham, to his last days, never gave up on his
prohibitionist dreams. He became active in local
politics, serving on the Los Angeles County
Board of Supervisors and becoming chairman
of the California Prohibition Party. To keep the
Prohibition cause alive, he ran for every state
office that he could, including U.S. Senator. In
1931 he went to the Prohibitionist National
Convention in Cincinnati as a possible nominee
for President of the United States under
the Prohibition Party ticket. Hopes for the
presidency faded when he developed phlebitis
and was unable to accept the nomination.
Called "Daddy Mo" by his family and a prohibitionist to the
end, Henry Clay Needham died in 1936 at the age of 84.
An obituary on the front page of the Los Angeles Times,
February 22, 1936 stated "Uncompromising in his views,
he insisted on complete abstinence and would not join the
light wines and beer movement."