Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

42. The Pioneer

The directors of the Star Oil Company — Edward F. Beale, Robert S. Baker and others — had thought the best place for a refinery would be at Lyon's Station, which sat on the north-south freight and stage routes and was a probable location for a future railroad depot.

In April of 1874 they set up an operation at Lyon's Station to refine the oil that was flowing from Wiley, Rice, Towsley, Placerita and Pico Canyons (see Chapter 31). It was not profitable, however, and by the beginning of 1876 the original investors had sold out.

During 1875 a man named Andrew Kazinski [sic: Kraszynski] established a rival stage stop in Railroad Canyon, about a mile north of Lyon's Station — which at first glance seemed like an out-of-the-way place to do business. Before long, however, the railroad was laying tracks right through the front yard of Andrew's Station, as it was called, and oil men from the east were swarming all over the valley intent on building a newer, larger refinery.

Robert C. McPherson, a promoter for Star Oil — soon to be reorganized as the California Star Oil Company (CSO) — went back to Pennsylvania and recruited an experienced but small-time refiner named John A. Scott to take charge of the operation at Lyon's Station. Scott accepted the job in January, 1876 and a few months later added a second still, twenty barrels in capacity, to the original refinery site.

Up in Pico Canyon, meanwhile, driller Alex Mentry had run a pipe a mile and a half down from his wells — the first oil pipeline in California. From the end of this pipe the oil was ferried by wagon the rest of the seven-mile distance to Lyon's Station. Mentry originally intended to run the pipeline all the way to Lyon's, but by the summer of 1876 it was apparent that the railroad would bypass Lyon's and run through Andrew's.

John A. Scott, with the help of a driller named W.E. Youle and another man named Wood, moved the two stills from Lyon's to Andrew's Station. By the end of July they were producing twenty-four to forty barrels of refined product per day. It was the first practical refinery in the state.

Demetrius Scofield, chief adviser to company general manager Frederick B. Taylor — and who would soon have Taylor's job — was so impressed that he headed east in January, 1877 and returned with a big, 120-barrel "cheesebox" still. A fourth still with a capacity of 150 barrels was added late in 1879.

On March 1, 1877, the following advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Evening Express:

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 a first-class package and will not leak, and it 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.

Apparently CSO was trying to correct a little marketing problem!

When the town of Newhall moved south to its present location, CSO built a cottage (in March, 1878) on present-day Pine Street. It was attended by a Chinese servant and accommodated visiting dignitaries. A second cottage stood on the hill behind the refinery.

Oil was processed at Andrew's Station until 1888*, although production slowed after 1880 when construction began on a huge refinery at Alameda Point, directly across the bay from San Francisco and much closer than Andrew's to the rich, new oil fields outside San Jose.

The Newhall Refinery was left to disintegrate until it was restored in the 1930s as the "Pioneer." California's first successful refinery, today it is the oldest existing refinery in the world.

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