Richard W. "Dick" Sherman's discovery well in restaurateur (later Judge) C.M. MacDougall's backyard on Wayman Street, then called Hill Street, just south of Lyons Avenue (this section then called the Pico Road).
This is the well that started the frenzy in late 1948, but it was not to last.
Despite successes at Pico and Towsley on the west and Placerita and Elsmere on the east, oil wasn't found on The Newhall Land and Farming Co.'s property until about 1930, and even then, with the exception of the Potrero lease (near Pico), it came in at a mere trickle. But that didn't stop people from looking. Most famously, what started out as a swindle in the 1930s got real in the late 1940s. The new Placerita oil field at Highway 6 (Sierra Highway) in Newhall eventually outperformed both Pico and the earlier, more easterly Placerita wells by miles, and it's still producing today.
Area map (2014) | Click image to enlarge.
Meanwhile, a wildcatter named Richard W. "Dick" Sherman had punched a well in restaurateur (later Judge) C.M. MacDougall's property on Wayman Street, then called Hill Street. On Nov. 18, 1948, the well blew in at 500 barrels. Everybody got into the game. Perkins writes about the "raving insanity that prevailed for a few days. Within five days, 25-foot townsite lots hit a lease bonus price of $200. Isolated maniacs paid from $10,000 to $15,000 for an acre's worth of town lots, contiguous. Most of those spectacular offers ended as offers. Owners would not lease or sell. In short, two fools met."
The race was on. By mid-January a half-dozen different operators were punching wells all over the Arcadia and Wayman (Hill) street area south of Lyons Avenue (then called the Pico Road). Sherman even tried his luck several blocks away, leasing 11 acres at Newhall Elementary School (same place it is today, 11th and Walnut) at $2,000 an acre.
But just as quickly as it came on, the boom went bust. The wells were dusters. On Feb. 17, 1949, the Arcadia Street operators gave up and set their sights on Happy Valley, but it was all over on March 17 when drilling on the Newhall townsite leases was suspended. It was clear by now that the new Placerita field was the real deal.
According to Susan Davy (1-26-2017), daughter of Newhall pharmacist Ralph Williams, the oil well was located behind her parents' home at 1005 Arcadia St. (later renumbered 24445), on pasture land owned by Judge C.M. MacDougall, who lived at 929 Arcadia (renumbered 24335). Wayman Street did not yet go through from 8th Street to Lyons Avenue. It was after the fact, Davy writes, that her parents found out "oil wells were not to be drilled within 200 feet of a property line, and it was closer than that to our back fence. They also learned that Sherman used the "whipstock" method [aka "slant drilling"], meaning the drilling was going on under part of [our] family property.
"The day the well gushered, the gas was turned off in area houses. Unfortunately, after several drilling attempts, Sherman could not get the salt water out of the oil, and he abandoned the drilling, leaving a sump hole in its place. There was such hysteria over possible oil being discovered, my mother couldn't keep strangers, carrying folding chairs, from walking onto the family property to sit and watch the drilling being done. She got so mad one day that she turned the garden hose on them."