When a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald came north to check out the rumors of oil, he came through Beale's Cut; the Southern Pacific hadn't yet reached the SCV; and Alex Mentry wasn't yet here to bring in paying quantities of petroleum. Henry Newhall, who isn't mentioned in the story, bought most of the area under discussion two months earlier.
Items of particular interest: We see why the railroad tunnel lined up so accurately when it was completed a year later: It wasn't just worked end-to-end, but also from three points in between; and we see that a Kraszynski, apparently the brother of station agent Andrew Kraszynski, owned the local oil claims, in whole or part.
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Two Days in and around Lyon's Station — The Railroad Tunnel — A Herculean Project — The Oil Region — A Greasy Subject — but it May Prove a Rich One — Reliable Information About the Much Mystefied [sic] Section.
We had the pleasure of a two day's pasear at and around Lyon's Station last week, and while in the section now becoming so full of interest improved the opportunity to dot down a few items for the benefit of our readers. In making the trip from San Fernando, the present terminus of the railroad, to the Station some nine miles further North, we occupied a snug berth on the top of one of the Telegraph Line's stages, and never have we enjoyed the ride better. Talk about the
"POETRY OF MOTION,"
As found in the mazy circle or on the light fantastic toe! It is not a comparison to riding outside a swaying stage-coach as it goes dashing along with its six fresh horses on a jolly round trot. The night air was cool and exhilarating and well to be appreciated under good heavy wrappings; the moon and stars, out in full brilliancy, rendered every object along the line almost as distinctly visible as by daylight. No wonder that we fell into a poetical humor and saw scenery where otherwise it would have been simply mountains and moonshine. Up the rugged and serpentine road to the "summit," through the deep cut at the top of the mountain and down the other side to the valley, and we were at
Though unpretentious in itself, it is an inviting place for the weary denizen of the city, where he can play the recluse if he wish, breathe the invigorating mountain air and banish all thought of care and responsibility. The station proper is a well constructed frame building about 30x60 feet in dimensions and answering at once the purposes of a store, Postoffice, telegraph office, depot and tavern, being, altogether, the head centre of the adjacent valley. Besides this there is a large stable, and, back towards the foot-hills on the West, a little cottage half hid by a heavy growth of mountain oak. This makes up the sum total of Lyon's Station.
Upon our arrival we found our old friend Captain Kraszynski in charge, who was doing the honors of mine host in the absence of his brother, the proprietor of the establishment. The Captain is one of those whole-souled men who never does things by halves in the matter of hospitality, and we have to thank him for the thousand kindly attentions which we experienced while under his roof-tree and which made our stay so pleasant.
THE RAILROAD TUNNEL.
In going up the Southern slope of the mountains we passed two camps of railroad graders, whose white tents gave a picturesque setting to the little cañons and benches where they nestled. Other parties are scattered about at convenient points, and all making preparations for the grand work ahead. The entire force now numbers some 330 men, under the supervision of Mr. Harris, Superintendent of Construction for the Southern Pacific Road. Since the commencement of operations the working parties have been chiefly engaged in making roads, grading approaches and altogether getting a good ready. The line as surveyed runs almost due north from San Fernando, taking up the cañon a little to the West of the Telegraph road. The work of tunneling the mountain is
A STUPENDOUS UNDERTAKING,
Which can scarcely be appreciated until one sees the immense walls of rock and contemplates the solid base which must be worked through by drill, blast and pick, meeting and conquering the fastness of Nature inch by inch. The length of this tunnel will be about 7,000 feet. Last Monday the Southern face was opened and the real undertaking in hand commenced. It is the intention of the engineers to prosecute the work simultaneously on both sides of the mountain and at three intermediate points. At equal distance from the extremities, inclined shafts will be sunk from above to the projected level of tunnel. In each of these shafts two forces will be employed, pushing their way in opposite directions. This will give eight faces, upon which as many parties will work, and, by the nicety of engineering skill, all will at last merge into the completed tunnel. Long and stubborn toil will be required to accomplish this, and if at the end of eighteen months a ray of light flashes through the mountain, the most sanguine expectations will meet a realization.
THE OIL WELLS.
Much has been said and written about the San Fernando oil region, and, as hearsay usually makes it, many unreliable reports have gained circulation. The thorough investigation of this matter was one of the main objects of our visit to the district, and we shall endeavor to report fairly and fully what we saw. There can be no doubt that oil exists — perhaps in large volume — beneath the mountains and vally lying North of Lyons Station. The many
Which may be seen in the vicinity would convince the most skeptical on this point. But a grave doubt has been suggested that, as the region shows unmistakable signs of volcanic upheaval, perhaps the oil basin has been shattered in like manner as the surface. The springs or pools found along the cañons may be, in this event, only the natural seepage through the rocks without indicating any considerable volume. Be this as it may, the question can only be settled by experiment, and a hundred wells might be bored without striking the oil basin, even did it exist.
THE TEMPLE WELL
Is the most extensive development that has yet been made in the district. It is about seven miles Northwest of Lyons Station, at the head of a deep cañon. We visited it in company with three others, one of whom was Mr. Chas. Kane, a practical oil well borer, who was on his way up to assist in operating the machinery. Entering a gorge in the mountain some two miles below the well, we wended our way up a newly constructed wagon road, which was none of the smoothest, and wound about in a continuous zig-zag conforming with the natural defile. The cañon grew narrower as we ascended and at last merged into a pass barely wide enough to admit the passage of a wagon. Here, on either side, were almost perpendicular walls of rock rising to the height of eighty or ninety feet. Through this a small stream of water found its course, upon the surface of which we could readily see
THE SHIMMER OF OIL
With its changeable tints of yellow, green and blue. In places where a sort of dam was formed by the boulders, were to be seen thick coatings of the real petroleum upon the surface, resembling pools of melted tar, the liquid being too thick to trickle through the obstructions and pass off with the stream. Upon emerging from this narrow defile, we saw a little to our right and in a small ravine in the mountain side the object of our search.
THE BORING APPARATUS
Of the Temple well comprises a derrick about fifty feet high, a little portable engine, covered by a shed, and a small shanty for the operatives. Everything about the place has a sort of mourning aspect, the drills, tackles, machinery and structures being bespattered and coated with the black, oily petroleum. As it was Sunday, the men were not at work, and we found only the cook of the party at home. He knew about as much of the work in hand as a kangaroo does of Christianity, and our most persistent quizzing only evolved a few grave possibilities concerning it. We learned afterward, however, that the well had been sunk to a depth of 200 feet. On the preceding Sunday the workmen had struck oil and set to work pumping it out. This procedure only lasted about 24 hours, however, and resulted in securing
35 BARRELS OF PETROLEUM,
When the sand through which the well was bored caved in, and put a quietus upon further proceedings. The operatives are now engaged in taking out this obstruction and sinking pipes to prevent similar accidents hereafter. The most sanguine hopes are entertained that oil will be eventually found in good paying quantities at this point, and the developments thus far made seem to give good grounds for the belief.
OTHER OIL CLAIMS.
A few rods down the cañon from the Temple well, is another flowing well or spring of petroleum, belonging to a Mr. Wiley, from which, we are assured, over a thousand barrels have been taken and shipped to San Francisco. As the market is unfavorable at present, no effort is made at further developments, or even to secure a natural flow.
In another cañon three or four miles to the West, is the Pico oil spring, which is said to produce a superior quality of petroleum; but, without development, it is of small quantity.
On the opposite side of the valley, and about three miles East of Lyons' Station, excellent oil indications are also found. They are in a deep cañon and situated similar to the others which we have mentioned.
Is the original locator of these claims — eight in number — and still retains a controlling interest in them. At several places along this cañon we saw pools where the petroleum rose to the surface and flowed slowly away. One of these, high up on the mountain side, is dubbed, "The Chimney," and shows remarkably good indications. Another, called "The Danbury," shows a surface of petroleum about six feet in circumference and is continually bubbling with the gas which rises through it.
We conclude that there is an oil-bearing stratum at least 15 miles in length running Northwest and Southeast and underlying all of the springs and oil claims which we have described. In this there may be an immense basin or chain of basins, which need only to be tapped by the drill to pour forth their endless wealth upon the fortunate possessors of the claims and make a second Venango county of the region. But this event lies as yet in the undeveloped future, and we can but patiently await the results of the investigation.
1. A walk or excursion; think "paseo."
2. March 22, 1875. (This conforms with other sources; or rather, other sources conform with this account.)
3. The Temple claim was in Towsley Canyon.
4. Venango County is the historic oil region of Pennsylvania.
Courtesy of Lauren Parker and Dr. Alan Pollack.