Arthur Charles Mentry's blacksmith forge, patented 1901 by Champion Blower & Forge Co. of Lancaster, Penn.
Arthur Charles was the eldest son of pioneer oil driller Charles Alexander Mentry, who built a machine shop in 1879 in the back of Pico Canyon near the famous Pico No. 4 oil well that he developed into California's first major producer in 1876. The machine shop was full of tools that were used to fabricate and repair equipment on site.
Born in 1880 or 1881 (depending on the source), Arthur Charles grew up in "Mentryville," as it was called in the 1880s. The 1900 Census, enumerated in June, shows Arthur Charles living in Pico Canyon with his parents, older sister, two younger brothers and a maid. The 1900 Census lists no occupation for 19-year-old Arthur Charles — so he was either hanging around the house doing nothing, or Dad was putting him to work. Which would be your guess? No occupation is shown for his sister, either; their brothers, ages 10 and 7, were "in school," which was literally next door to the family's company-owned, 13-room mansion. The boys' teacher was 25-year-old Mildred Emboddy.
Arthur Charles became the man of the house four months later. His father, already suffering from chronic kidney disease, contracted typhoid fever and died in a Los Angeles hospital Oct. 4, 1900.
Succeeding Charles A. Mentry as superintendent of the Pico oil field was Walton Young, who had arrived in 1889 to work in the machine shop as a blacksmith's helper. He worked his way up to foreman. When Young became superintendent in 1900 he was put in charge of bigger region that included Elsmere Canyon because Pico's oil boom was over. The field was tapping out. Workers would soon pack up and leave for greener (or blacker) pastures. When Young retired in 1927, only a skeleton crew remained.
Exactly when Charles A. Mentry's heirs vacated the superintendent's mansion is unknown. There would have been no rush. Walton Young and his family already owned their own home right down the road. A 1905 photograph appears to show them on their own homestead. They leased their home to another family from 1906-1915, so maybe 1906 was the move-out year.
In any event, the entire Mentry family had relocated to 3120 South Main Street in Los Angeles, a few blocks east of Exposition Park (then called Agricultural Park), before the next U.S. Census was taken in 1910. It identifies the widow May Mentry (former Miss Flora May Lake) as head of household, and by this time, Arthur Charles, 30, is as married to Hattie H., 29, and they have a newborn son, James A.
Importantly, for the purpose of verifying the source of this forge, the 1910 Census lists Arthur Charles' occupation as "miner" (oil work was considered mining then), and it further declares that Arthur Charles "has charge of machinery."
Cooked into one side of the forge after decades of use is the hand-painted name, "A.C. Mentry."
How it ended up in Acton isn't recorded, but it doesn't require much speculation.
Hart Park, 4/22/2018: Brian Jones of Calico slaves over a hot forge (a different forge) during the 25th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. Click to enlarge.
Dial up the clock about 110 years. The scene: William S. Hart Park. The city of Santa Clarita is staging its 25th annual Cowboy Festival. A group of men and women are demonstrating old-time blacksmithing. They're engraving patrons' names on horseshoes that they fire in a forge and hammer on an anvil. One of the craftsmen is Brian Jones, a blacksmith from Calico who has just fabricated commemorative branding irons bearing William S. Hart's monogram at the direction of Laurene Weste, who doubles as Santa Clarita's mayor for 2018 and president of the Friends of Hart Park.
Enter Paulette Tcherkassky. She's excited about something Jones has in the back of his truck, and she thinks we'll be excited, too. She's right.
Just two days earlier, on Friday, April 20, 2018, Jones had obtained the "A.C. Mentry" forge from Tcherkassky's good friend and neighbor, Elizabeth Blum Billet of the Blum Ranch in Aliso Canyon, Acton. Elizabeth discovered the name on the side of the forge that very day while she was liquidating some old ranch equipment. She hadn't known. She remembers her father using it on the ranch — George J. Blum, born in 1889.
Elizabeth's grandfather, also named George Blum, was a Swiss stonemason. Born in 1861, he came to the United States in 1880 and homesteaded the Aliso Canyon property in 1891. He raised his family there, cut stones for a rock house and other structures, dug wells, grew fruit trees and wine grapes, combed honey, raised chickens and hogs and more. Along the way he amassed quite the assortment of tools he needed to do all of those things.
One of the tools was this blacksmith forge.
Across the valley in the early 1900s, while the elder George Blum was setting up shop and George J. was a young whippersnapper, the Pico Canyon oil works were winding down. No new oil wells were being spudded. The machine shop was dismantled. The tools went somewhere. Now we know one place they went.
We always like to have good provenance for any item — a clear, unbroken chain of title that proves what something is. We don't always get it. We don't usually get it. This is one of those instances where all of the pieces simply fit. Ask yourself: Why would George Blum write A.C. Mentry's name on the side of his forge? You're right. He wouldn't.
Now all we need to do is turn Mentryville into a living museum or create a replica blacksmith shop at Heritage Junction-Hart Park. There is a storied forge that's ready to go in it. It's in good working condition, too.
LW3267: Download original images here
. Forge purchased 2018 by Leon Worden and Laurene Weste. In storage.