Newhall By Any Other Name ... is Elayon
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004
Long gone are several little whistle-stop communities on the east side of the valley like Ravenna and Lang, which were plowed back into the dust when the Southern Pacific Railroad removed their train depots.
The most famous of our abandoned towns is Mentryville. The Southern Pacific never ran that way, which may have been a blessing. Several old buildings still stand to provide us with clues to its former significance as California's first oil town, and several former residents have passed down their memories and memorabilia through the generations to breathe life into the dry historical record.
Earlier this month one of those former residents, Barbara Sitzman Cook, left a treasure trove of information to the SCV Historical Society by way of her son, Merle E. Cook.
Hundreds of faces in hundreds of photographs, many never before seen by historians, add a human touch to the events in the history books. And some of those photographs will force the history books to be modified.
One in particular was an attention-grabber. It was a photograph of the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall.
It's not as if we haven't seen photographs of the first productive refinery in the American West, which still stands against a hillock off of Pine Street near the ranch of the late actor William S. Hart.
Yes, some of Barbara Sitzman's refinery photos are new to the Historical Society. But the curious part wasn't what the photos showed. It's what a caption said. It identified the refinery as being "at Elayon."
Yes, it's the same refinery, and yes, it's at Pine Street. The implication is that the Pine Street area in Railroad Canyon was once known by a name other than Newhall.
Crazy? Maybe not. The refinery was built at Pine Street in 1876, where an entrepreneur named Andrew Kazinski ran a stagecoach stop. The refinery had initially been set up in 1874 at Lyon's Station, another stagecoach stop about a mile to the south, where Eternal Valley Cemetery is today. When the train tracks were laid in 1876, Andrew's Station was in the right place and Lyon's Station wasn't, so the refinery moved.
But the area wasn't called Newhall. Newhall was three miles north.
In 1876, when Newhall was originally erected, it was just north of today's intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway and San Fernando Road about where Kmart now sits. The Southern Pacific set up a train station, George Campton built a general store and a couple saloons went in.
There was a problem or two. Most records indicate the townspeople had trouble getting water out of the river in that location. Other stories say the trains had trouble stopping on the grade.
Andrew's Station was not only near the train tracks, but it also sat atop a natural artesian spring.
In 1878, two years after Newhall started and two years after the refinery was erected at Andrew's Station the whole town of Newhall picked up, lock, stock and barrel, train station and all, and moved south down Railroad Avenue to 7th (Market), 8th and 9th streets.
So for two years, the Pioneer Oil Refinery stood in what community? Not Newhall. According to this photo caption, the area was "Elayon."
I have no idea where the name comes from or what it means. I have found only two other historical references to it.
One comes from the valley's original historian, A.B. Perkins. In 1954-55 he wrote:
"In 1879, a two-inch pipeline conveying oil to the refinery at Elayon Railroad Canyon or Pine Street was laid..."
The pipeline ran from the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville, which was operated by California Star Oil Works and its successor, Pacific Coast Oil Co. precursors of the Standard Oil Co. of California. In 1977 Standard renamed its domestic operations "Chevron USA Inc.," whose company history contains this reference:
"Coast Oil ... constructed a pipeline that linked Pico Canyon with the Southern Pacific's train station at Elayon in Southern California, and undertook an extensive, largely successful drilling program."
So there you go. Evidently the Pine Street-Railroad Canyon area was once called Elayon.
When you think about it, whoever lived there wouldn't recognize the place from a map showing names like Canyon Country or Valencia and who in Mentryville could have predicted Stevenson Ranch?
Leon Worden is the Signal's city editor.
©2004 LEON WORDEN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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