Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

The San Fernando (Newhall) Pass.
15. 1876-1910: Development of the New Oilfields.
By VERNETTE SNYDER RIPLEY
The Quarterly, Historical Society of Southern California, June 1948.
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1876, September.
    In the Fall, the Southern Pacific tunnel through the hitherto almost impassable San Fernando Mountains was finished. On September 5th, with great rejoicing, the two branches of the road from the north and the south, were joined one-half mile east of the small railroad station of Lang, which lay some thirteen miles northeast of the little Newhall settlement.1 It was a day of incredible wonder to the Californians. But the miracle was the tunnel itself, "... 6,967 feet in length, timbered all the way."2
    "The view from the rear end of the car while passing through the tunnel is quite an interesting one. The light, on entering the great bore, is large and bright, the smooth rails glisten like burnished silver in the sun's rays. Gradually the light lessens in brilliancy; the rails become two long ribbons of silver, sparkling through the impenetrable darkness; gradually these lessen, the light fades and fades, and fades the entrance is apparently not larger than a pin's head, and then all light is gone and darkness reigns supreme and still we are not through. It is the history of many a life: the bright hopes of youth expire with age."3
    It was not until the Fall of 18764 that W.E. Youle, the young driller from Oil Creek, Pennsylvania, could settle his affairs and leave for California. With him was J.A. Scott who had returned to Titusville, taking some of the Pico canyon oil to exhibit at the Centennial in Philadelphia. Just then he too was pulling up stakes for the new oil field in California.
    Like Scofield, Scott, on his former trip out in January of that year, must have come down from San Francisco by water, then taken the little puffing train from Los Angeles to the mouth of the tunnel beyond San Fernando. From there, it was the rocking, bumping stage in a cloud of dust up the stiff grade of the San Fernando Pass. This time, Scott with Youle, would land in San Francisco from the Central Pacific, then jump aboard the new through Southern Pacific train for the south, getting off at the station called Newhall. It lay on the north side of the recently completed railroad tunnel. There was no steep San Fernando Pass to groan about this time.
    From Newhall the two Pennsylvanians, J.A. Scott, the successful refiner, and W.E. Youle, the expert driller, would make their way through the oak-shaded little valley and on up the steep, rugged slopes of Pico Canyon. There they would find C.A. Mentry also from Pennsylvania. He was busy at work for the California Star Oil Works Company.5
    This was written by Mr. Youle in later years:
    "To Alex Mentry credit should be given for drilling the first producing oil well in California, the well drilled in Pico Canyon near Newhall in 1876-1877. The strike was important as it proved an oil-sand and a fine grade of parafine oil. The well was some 300 ft. deep, of small capacity."6
    W.E. Youle would join Mentry in developing this new field7 of which D.G. Scofield was manager. J.A. Scott would remain to be the superintendent.8

1876, Fall.
    Mr. Youle said, "I arrived in California late in 1876. I reached the coast together with J.A. Scott, a refiner of Titusville, Pennsylvania. ... Scott at once busied himself putting up a small still at Newhall9 to refine the oil. At this time this was the only real production in California."10

1877, January 16. Los Angeles Evening Express.
    "The oil refinery of San Buena-ventura belongs to the California Star Oil Works Company. ... J.A. Scott having successfully treated the Ventura oil, Mr. Scofield has gone east to purchase, it is stated, a 250 barrel still for Ventura and a complete outfit for San Fernando."
    About a mile up the road from Lyon Station, towards Newhall, was a more recent stage station run by Andrew Kazinski. It was called Andrew's Station11 and for the comparatively short time it was in existence seems to have been in competition with the older Lyon Station. When the railroad came through, Andrew's Station proved to be conveniently near the tracks where they stopped paralleling the wagon road along the creek and made the curve up Railroad canyon towards the tunnel.
    "At Andrew's Station, two hours out of Los Angeles, wooden tanks have been erected for storing oil."12 This was the beginning of shipping the Pico oil by railroad.

1877, March 1. Los Angeles Evening Express.
    Advertisement: "Why consumers should use kerosene oil manufactured by the California Star Oil Works Company: First, it is to patronize home manufacturers; second, it has no equal as an illuminating oil; third, it is entirely safe and will not explode. It is put in first class packages and will not leak — and gives a light equal to gas. Hereafter, there will be no delay in filling orders promptly. All orders should be addressed 'California Star Oil Works Co., Andrew's Station, Los Angeles County' and will receive prompt attention."

1878. "Rancho San Francisco. ... The Southern Pacific Railroad passed through it, and a little south of where the village (Newhall) now stands, a short side track extended."13 This was the spur to the nearby refinery put up by J.A. Scott for the California Star Oil Works Company in late 1876-77. The remains of an old spur railroad track are just being removed (May, 1948) but there are still to be seen worn timbers saturated with oil that were evidently foundations for oil tanks. There is also a cement foundation for a pump or engine but no signs of a loading rack except for the heavily oil-soaked ground a short distance along the spur track.
    Through the years following their incorporation, it appears to have been a struggle not only for Scofield's California Star Oil Works Company to survive, but for McPherson's San Francisco Petroleum Company as well. Other companies in Pico Canyon seem to have fallen by the wayside. "Up to this time, none of the oil found had been used for fuel, ... it was refined into by-products, illuminating gasoline and lubricants."14
    There was another oilfield however, opening up at Moody Gulch, a wild ravine that lay on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz mountains four hundred miles to the north. It was west of the little town of San Jose, near the present Los Gatos.15 Mr. Scofield asked Youle to go north with him and look over the new field.
    At the time it seemed to have as good possibilities as the Pico field. Scofield then asked Youle to interview the capitalist, Charles N. Felton,16 in his spacious home in Menlo Park. If he could help persuade him to realize the great value of the Pico oil territory, and also bring it to the attention of Lloyd Tevis, a heavy investor, and other men of wealth, a new company might be formed. With the added capital both fields could be developed.17

1879. That is what happened, and in 1879 the Pacific Coast Oil Company was incorporated with a capitalization of $1,000,000. Its directors were Charles N. Felton, his brother-in-law, George Lomis, L.D. Fisk, George M. Hedges and James Lawler, a judge. Mr. Felton and most of these San Francisco capitalists, had made their money in the California gold mines. Mr. Felton had also been interested in the Moody Gulch oil field.18
    The Pacific Coast Oil Company "took in the Santa Clara Oil Company (operating in Moody Gulch) the California Star, the San Francisco and other small companies operating near Newhall."19
    Mr. Youle said, in later years, "Scofield's efforts and success in getting such men as Felton and Tevis interested, should be praised it showed the confidence they had in him and in fact all of us. ... To Mentry and myself as field men, credit should be given for locating and drilling the first wells that looked like a success."19
    Mr. Felton, the president of the new company of which D.G. Scofield was auditor,18 and the northern capitalists in with him, preferred the development of Moody Gulch first. The main reason was the fact the Pico field was too far away from the San Francisco market and San Francisco was the only distributing market in the state. Felton said "he and his associates were in the oil business to stay until a success or a failure developed."20
    W. E. Youle remained in the north to help bring in the field. The Pico field was left in charge of Alex Mentry, who, Youle said, was "running one string of tools. I think he was putting #4 deeper. He succeeded in more than doubling the production which at this time was about 60 barrels per day.... Subsequently he deepened the Pico No. 4 and the production was brought up to 150 barrels per day at about 600 feet."2l

1879. "The first pipe line for transporting oil was laid in 1879 from the Pico field to the second refinery22 built near Newhall on the Southern Pacific road. The pipe line was 2-inches in diameter and five miles in length. The oil flowed by gravity."23
    That same year in which the Pacific Coast Oil Company was incorporated, "the first steam engine was brought into Pico canyon ... and installed at the old springpole well which was drilled to greater depth." This "well, known as California Oil Works #4 ... is the first and oldest well in the state."24
    A.W. Lyon, son of Sanford Lyon, says, "Although known as #4 the well in reality is the first well drilled.25 The California Star Oil Works Company ... drilled by springpole, three wells, #1, #2, #3, so named as these were the first wells drilled by this company, the Lyon well being already drilled. Then in 1879 a steam engine was brought in by the Pacific Coast Oil Company and used to deepen the Lyon well26 which was then called #4, or better known as California Oil Works Company Well #4 ... since this was the fourth drilling operation."27
    "While hundreds of wells since drilled, haven't even a derrick left to mark their one time location, 'No. 4' is still alive,28 still produces; it is a working monument commemorating the beginning of things petroleum in California."29
    The extraordinary showing the first wells made in Moody Gulch raised high hopes. It was a shock when, after sinking nine wells and a lot of money, the bottom fell out of the Moody Gulch development and the rapid decline in production made it necessary to pull out for a time.30

1882-83. But there were still the Pico field and the California Star Oil Works Company to which the Pacific Coast Oil Company could turn. "The two companies operated under the same management, C.A. Mentry field superintendent, D.G. Scofield Vice President and general manager."31 Sometime in 1882 or three, it was "decided to move the greater part of the Moody Gulch equipment to Newhall."32 The headquarters of the California Star Oil Works Company were there near Andrew's Station on the railroad tracks. In the shade of some spreading oaks close to the hillside were the "two refineries ... which furnished for shipment about one carload per day."33 These were without doubt, the first still moved over from Lyon Station34 and the later one put up by J.A. Scott.35

1876-1883. The old turn-pike road on the San Fernando Pass these six or seven years since the completion of the long railroad tunnel through the high ridge of hills, still went sturdily, if more roughly, over them. There was very little traffic of importance to rumble through the deep cut. Even the stage lines had deserted the old road and they certainly had reason to.
    H.M. Newhall Esq. of San Francisco, in the seventies, had bought some 50,000 acres of the San Francisco Rancho on the north side of the Pass, down into the Santa Clara Valley. On these vast ranges grazed thousands of his cattle and sheep. He was watching too, with pride, the growth of his little town Newhall, laid out on the Southern Pacific tracks.33
    In the late seventies he had started to build a large hotel, the Southern, with a cupola and fancy railing topping its 150 rooms. It had a spacious porch around it that faced "a beautiful park" for its guests to stroll in33 with a fountain in the middle.36 About it was a newly "planted grove of trees." The large stables were evidently for the harboring of the horses and stage coaches that used Newhall as their starting point.
    The Southern Pacific railroad shot off up Soledad canyon, across the Mojave desert, to climb over the high mountains on the Tehachapi Pass, on its way to San Francisco. That left the coast towns still without railroad communication. They had to depend, as they always had, on the same kind of swaying, bumping, pioneer stages that but a short time before had struggled over the San Fernando Pass. Now, beside the oil men who got of the train to make their way up Pico canyon, the stage passengers, leaving the train or making it, were comfortably housed in the grand, big hotel at Newhall.

1882. Newhall. "Stages leave this station daily for Ventura, 50 miles; Santa Barbara, 80 miles; San Louis Obispo, 190 miles; Paso Robles Hot Springs, 220 and Soledad,37 300 miles, at the end of the Southern Pacific railroad, in Salinas Valley. ... These stages carry passengers, mails and express."33

1883. With new life brought to this Pico canyon oil field by the moving in of most of the Moody Gulch equipment from the north, two other Pennsylvania operators dropped off the train to try their luck. They were Lyman Stewart and W.L. Hardison. The Pacific Coast Oil Company leased them land near the Pico wells. They "drilled four wells on Christian Hill just east of Pico Canyon. These wells were all 'dry holes.' A fifth well which was a good producer was drilled to the west of Pico Canyon.
    "This well was sold to the Pacific Coast Company for enough money to reimburse Messrs. Stewart and Hardison for their previous drilling losses on Christian Hill."38 Because "the Pacific Coast Oil Company did not care to lease any more of their proven lands, this caused Hardison and Stewart to seek other territory. They located in Ventura County."39

1885. Mr. Youle said, "Up to 1885 Pico Canyon was the only production in California that proved a success. The extent of this field was only some 300 acres located in Pico Canyon and hills; we brought the production up to about 600 barrels. I drilled some 10 or 12 wells in this field up to the year 1885. ... The sands were thick and close grained, and wells were not big producers; they were, however, lasting, and have produced millions of barrels of oil. They are pumping wells there today that I drilled about 45 years ago."39

1883. The franchise to put a turnpike road across San Fernando Mountain that General Beale had taken over from the original investors, Charles H. Brinley, Andres Pico and James R. Vineyard back in 1862 was to run 20 years from the date of the completion of the work. The finished road was accepted by the Board of Supervisors in March, 1864. 1884, then, would be the year those holding the franchise would, without doubt rather willingly, turn the deteriorating old road over to the county.
    It may be, that the holders of the franchise in 188340 were not adverse to ridding themselves of their investment a year earlier. The road must have been bringing in very little toll returns those seven years since the railroad came through, compared to the early fair-weather years when it had been the only outlet from Los Angeles into the country to the north.
    By 1883 then, the San Fernando Pass over the mountain went out of existence as a turnpike road. It became the property of the citizens of Los Angeles county whose duty it was from then on to keep passable and whose concern it was alone, to take at their own risk.
    This would seem the logical time then, to conclude the study of the second San Fernando Pass. It was the coming of oil wells into what was no longer the Tulare Valley but the great San Joaquin Valley and the advent of the automobile that stirred into life again the old dusty road, twisting its way up the steep canyons and through the sheer, high cut.

1883-1900. "When the demand for fuel oil and gasoline came, there was a boom in the oil business.... Up to 1885 no fuel oil was consumed in the United States. Railroad and power plants used coal; coke and coal prices were almost prohibitive on the Pacific Coast."41
    In the eighties and nineties, the Pico Canyon oil properties were developing well. At the entrance to the canyon was the busy oil camp called Mentryville after "C.A. Mentry, Superintendent of the Star Oil Works Company and the Pacific Coast Oil Company." He had "charge of one of the largest industries in southern California."42
    Other fields were being discovered nearby, south of the Tehachapi and Coast ranges. W.E. Youle had helped bring in the Puente field in 1885. In 1890 Stewart and Hardison's early venture in Ventura County had materialized into the Union Oil Company. E.L. Doheny's Los Angeles oil field came in, in 1892 followed a few years later, by the nearby Salt Lake, and his Olinda field in 1895. In 1906 the wells and refinery of the Pacific Coast Oil Company were sold to the Standard Oil43 ... "after the success of the business was realized, and D.G. Scofield in 1911 became the first president of the Standard Oil in California."44
    Over the San Fernando Pass through the Santa Susanas, to the north of the Santa Clara Valley, the Tehachapi and Coast range of mountains were the southern boundary of what used to be called the Tulare Valley. It was now known as the San Joaquin Valley and on its great, desolate sweep of land, here and there, since the seventies, oil wells had been put down among the brea [asphaltum] outcroppings. By 1887 there was the small McKittrick field, and Jewett and Blodgett, close to that time, were developing wells at Sunset, with W.E. Youle drilling for them. But up to 1889 there had been "no producing oil wells in the San Joaquin Valley."45

1898-1899. The years 1898-99 saw the tide of the oil industry begin its spectacular entrance into the great valley. The Coalinga field in the west-central San Joaquin came in with its famous gusher the Blue Goose, roaring skyward. It was followed by the less spectacular but equally astounding discovery of oil on the Kern river, just to the east of Bakersfield, an oilfield "that was at one time one of the largest in the world and is still one of the most important in California." (1929)46

1901. In 1901 a group of men who had invested in the Kern river field, with foresight banded together and organized the Associated Oil Company. In 1901 the Midway-Maricopa field came in,47 with Chanselor and Canfield spotting their few lonely wells on a bleak stretch of land near the foothills in the North Midway Valley.

1904-1909. The Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific, looking for reservoirs of oil for their great mountain climbing locomotives, had land they were drilling on in the Kern River Field. In 1904 the Santa Fe took over the Chanselor-Canfield interests in the Midway Valley. In 1909 on the Chanselor, Canfield Midway Oil property, among the lonely, sage-brush covered hills and gulches, a 2000 barrel gusher came roaring in.48 "This was the famous well 'No. 2-6' the first gusher in the Midway Field and the well that started one of the greatest oil booms California has ever experienced."49

1911, February 18. Bakersfield Morning Echo.
    "The Santa Fe gusher on Section 6, 32-33, was one of the first to draw special attention to the North Midway Field. For a long time it held the rank of the best producer in the whole westside and before its glory began to wane, other celebrities in the gusher line began to crowd the North Midway stage."
    This was a far cry from the little Pico Canyon field, spectacular in its time, with a flowing well on the Pico claim "shooting into the air twenty-five feet high."50 These were big wells blowing in, their black spray spuming [sic] into the sky like the distant spouting of huge whales. Their very bigness fitted in with the wide, desolate plains of a great valley.


NOTES.

1. Crofutts New Overland Tourist. 1882. p. 219.
2. Ibid. p. 220.
3. Crofutts New Overland Tourist and Pacific Coast Guide. 1882. p. 219.
4. "I arrived in California late in 1876 ... with J.A. Scott." Sixty-three years in the Oilfields. W.E. Youle. p. 23.
5. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields. 1926,—p. 23.
6. Ibid. p. 52.
7. Ibid.
8. Evening Express. Dec. 29, 1876.
9. This is one of the stills the July 31, 1876 issue of the Los Angeles Evening Express meant when it announced the Star Oil Works Company was about "to construct larger ones at the town of Newhall on the line of the Southern Pacific Railroad." It is evidently, one of the three stills of the old refinery restored in 1930 by the Standard Oil Company of California as a tribute to D.G. Scofield and his associates.
10. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields. 1926. p. 23.
11. A.W. Lyon. Newhall.
12. Los Angeles in the Sunny Seventies. Ludwig L. Salvator, p. 94. Late Fall 1876. The Southern Pacific Railroad was in.
13. History of Los Angeles County. 1880. Thompson and West. p. 104.
14. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 39.
15. Ibid., p. 24.
16. Elected to United States Senate to fill vacancy caused by death of George Hearst. March 19, 1891—March 3, 1893. The San Francisco Bay Region, Bailey Millard. 1924.
17. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 30.
18. "The Story of the Standard Oil of California," p. 7. Douglas G. McPhee, 1937. Reprint from California Oil World.
19. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 31.
20. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 30.
21. Ibid., pp. 30-31.
22. Built by J.A. Scott, 1876-77. Ibid., p. 23.
23. W.W. Orcutt. Petroleum Reporter Souvenir Number. Section Two—p. 8. There are several old 2-inch pipe lines near the refinery today, one of which may be the original.
24. The Sanford Lyon well. Standard Oil Bulletin, August, 1918.
25. By Sanford Lyon on the first Pico oil claim, in 1869 for the original Star Oil Company.
26. C.A. (Alex) Mentry and associates, leased from the original Star Oil Co. the first Pico oil claim on which was Sanford Lyon's first well. The California Star Oil Works Co. leased adjoining land then purchased the interests of Mentry and associates. Their #4 wdl was Sanford Lyon's well deepened by Alex Mentry by the use of the first Standard drilling equipment.
27. "Information checked with Clay Reynolds, now deceased who came here in the eighties and worked all his life here with the oil companies in the Pico and Elsmere districts." A.W. Lyon.
28. 1870-1918, after forty-eight years, producing three barrels of oil per day. This well, still producing a small quantity, was shut in on May 1st, 1940. Standard Oil Co. [It was reopened and finally ceased production for all time in 1990.]
29. Standard Oil Bulletin, August, 1918.
    The data concerning these early wells is very scarce. "The Pacific Coast Oil Co. ... its accounts and its letters have vanished — perhaps making one red flame in the fire that destroyed many of the Standard Oil's most precious files in 1906." (The San Francisco earthquake.) The Story of the Standard Oil Company of California, p. 7. Reprint from California Oil World. Douglas McPhee, 1937. "California oil history — prior to 1900 and back to the year 1876, a very few records of fact can be found." W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 60.
30. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 34.
31. The Standard Oil Bulletin. August, 1918.
32. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three Years in the Oilfields, p. 34.
33. Crofutts' New Overland Tourist and Pacific Coast Guide. 1882, p. 219-220.
34. Los Angeles Evening Express, July 31, 1876.
35. "The Pacific Coast Oil Company's efforts ... made a success of refining ... the first to do so in California." W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 34.
36. Picture in History of Los Angeles County. Thompson and West. 1880.
37. Some twenty miles below Salinas, to the southeast of Monterey.
38. W.W. Orcutt. Petroleum Reporter. Souvenir Number 1926. "The characteristic perseverance and faith of these two oil pioneers, which led them to drill a fifth well after four failures, later laid the foundations of the great corporation, the Union Oil of California."
39. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three Years in the Oilfields, p. 35.
40. Date given by Mrs. Luisa Dunne McAlonan. Charles J. Prudhomme MSS. 1926.
41. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, pp. 53-59. 1926.
42. Illustrated History of Los Angeles County. Lewis Publishing Co. Chicago, 1889.
43. Standard Oil Bulletin. "The Story of Standard Oil Company in California." Douglas McFee.
44. W.E. Youle. Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, p. 34.
45. W.E. Youle. Among the fields in which Mr. Youle drilled important wells were the Pico, Moody Gulch, Puente and Sunset. W.E. Youle, Sixty-three years in the Oilfields, pp. 40 and 54.
    Mr. Youle. "He is honored as the dean of oil men in California." Press Reference Library. Notables of the South West. Published by the Los Angeles Examiner, 1912.
46. History of Kern County. Miller.
47. Chart of V.H. Wilhelm. 1942.
48. Located by F.C. Ripley, at the time, Assistant Manager of the Santa Fe Oil properties. At that early day geologists were not employed by the oil companies to locate wells. American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Bulletin No. 8.
49. A.J. Olmsted. Article written in 1933.
50. Los Angeles Evening Express, July 31, 1876.

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