Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Newhall Oil Field Notes.
Including Pico, Needham Ranch, Elsmere, Placerita Canyon.

Webmaster's notes.

1) Yes, the Dr. Stephen Bowers mentioned here as the mine examiner who certified an oil well location near Placerita Canyon in 1900 is the same Methodist minister who collected thousands of Native American cultural materials and human remains (specifically skulls) for the Smithsonian and other museums in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1884 he purchased the famous horde of Tataviam Indian basketry and ceremonial items found in a cache cave at Castaic Junction that would ultimately bear his name — Bowers Cave. By that time he was living in Santa Paula and publishing the Ventura Free Press. In 1899, our own Gov. Henry T. Gage, owner of the Acton gold mines, appointed Bowers, then about 67, to the post of State Mine Examiner. All the while, Bowers delivered two sermons weekly until his death in 1907.

2) Henry Clay Needham indeed recovered from his 1901 oil field injury. He died on his Newhall ranch at age 84 on Feb. 21, 1936.

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Newhall Notes.

Newhall, Dec. 4. — (Special Correspondence.) In mentioning the growing oil fields of the state Newhall must not be omitted form the reckoning.

There is much activity in this still promising field. The old Pico wells are yet in evidence. The oldest well in this group has been active for twenty-five or twenty-six years, and is said to yield about forty barrels daily at this time. It has yielded several fortunes and has more than paid for all that has been expended on this and the other wells in the Pico group, it is learned. A full history of this well would be of interest to the oil world.

About two miles east of Newhall the Yankee Doodle and the Kellernan and the Nettleton oil companies are operating. A little south of them, in Elsmore [sic; s/b Elsmere] canyon, the Pacific Coast Oil company has a cluster of wells. They are just now at work finishing up No. 15. These wells are said to produce from twenty to one hundred barrels of oil daily. Immediately west of this company's wells are the Alpine and the Santa Ana companies. The former is now well down on No. 3, and the latter is hard at work on No. 1.

A little west of the last described wells in the Lyons station canyon is the Zenith company, which has leased the H. Clay Needham homestead of eighty-six acres, and is down 550 feet on No. 1. They have had considerable trouble with their casing, but the well is now cleared and the indications are that they will have a fine well. They are also preparing to drill another well near by. In this same canyon, about a half mile south, are the Commercial company's and the Eureka company's locations. The Commercial company is putting in a rig for No. 2, while the Eureka is pumping No. 1, and is said to have contracted for the drilling of Nos. 2 and 3.

A few hundred feet south of the Eureka is the Pearl Oil company. This is on another 80-acre tract owned by Mr. Needham. The company has a derrick erected to drill Pearl No. 1, and expects to be at work soon. Many things point to this canyon as a fine oil field, and it is likely to be heard from in the near future.

The Portland Oil company's location is about three miles northwest of Newhall. Well No. 1 is down 420 feet and has encountered some oil with good prospects of striking it rich. A well was drilled on this property a few years ago with good results, it is said, but from litigation or from some other cause the well was shut down. Near the latter well are accumulations of brea, which are seepages of petroleum. Well No. 2 is to be drilled soon.

In an intersecting canyon coming from the south in to Placerita canyon are located the New Century oil wells, which produce the famous "white oil." There are four wells here, two of which flow about nine barrels a day, it is said, but would pump probably forty barrels if pumped. At a depth of 782 feet oil was struck in considerable quantity, but the proprietors desiring to go deeper, the oil was shut off and the well was continued to a depth of 1,030 feet, when difficulty was encountered with the casing. No. 4 is drilling and is now down over 700 feet with good prospects.

Three miles east of Newhall, adjoining Placerita canyon, is the Heil tract of 146 acres. Several responsible gentlemen have formed a company known as the Heil Oil company, for developing this promising field. The incorporators are Mr. Heil of Santa Ana and his son Charles, H. Clay Needham of Los Angeles and Mr. Lorbeer of Pomona. They are preparing to begin work immediately. Dr. Stephen Bowers, state mine examiner, was employed to examine the land last week, and after a careful exploitation reports upon it favorably. He selected a spot for putting down the first well and steps will be taken to begin the work soon. Altogether the outlook for the oil interests about Newhall is believed by your reporter to be most favorable.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.

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Newhall Field.

Newhall, Sept. 17. — The Pacific Coast Oil company has recently started two crews in the Pico field, and it is expected that larger operations are to follow.

The Dividend company is actively drilling its No. 1 on the Brophy ranch.

The Santa Ana has recently put No. 2 on the pump, and it is said to be doing better than 100 barrels a day.

H. Clay Needham, well known in the Newhall field, met with a serious accident Saturday while assisting in starting up the Zenith company's No. 2 well. The flooring was not complete, and while spooling the cable he missed his footing and fell several feet, striking the corner of a heavy sill directly over the right kidney. It was feared at the time that the spine was injured or partially dislocated. He went to the city on the evening train accompanied by V. Harshburger, the superintendent of the Alpine company, and is now at home at 1343 Temple street, under the care of Dr. Lewis, and it is thought that, while very painful, no permanent injury has been done, and that within a week or two he will be out again. He has long been identified with the Newhall oil fields, is president of the Pearl company, vice president of both the John Thomas and the Hill [sic; s/b Heil] companies, and largely interested in the Zenith company.

The New Century is preparing for more thoroughly exploiting the white oil field.

The Pearl company is down 720 feet and in shale; the oil sand is presumed to be not far away.

While Newhall does not experience the phenomenal booms known to some localities, yet it is not only one of the best managed oil fields in the state, but is also considered one of the safest for the conservative operator.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.

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Activity Maintained in the Newhall Field.

Newhall, Oct. 16. — Though there is no undue stimulation noticeable in the work being carried on throughout this oil field quite a considerable amount of work is being planned for the new future, and in the meantime active work is being carried on in the various subdivisions of the field. The Enterprise Crude Oil company of Boston has heretofore confined its operations to drilling up toward Ellsmeere [sic; Elsmere] canyon, but having obtained about 800 acres in Pico canyon, is about to begin work there. G.W. Haines, president of the company, came from the east a short time ago and has assumed the general superintendency of the company's affairs. There are two rigs at work, and No. 1, after being sunk to a distance of 700 feet, lost a tool and at present fishing is causing a temporary suspension in drilling. No. 2 is down 600 feet, with good indications showing.

The Pacific Coast company's last well in Ellsmere canyon is No. 20, but all of these are not producers, there having been a number of dry holes. In all the company is credited with having about 200 barrels of fuel oil running 15 gravity.

The Alpine company of Los Angeles expects to bring in No. 3 very soon now, and a rig is being got ready to begin work on No. 4. The first hold of this company was spoiled by water, but No. 2 was a 35-barrel well that caved and the cleaning out has just been completed. The Santa Ana company has two steady producers, Nos. 1 and 2 jointly producing about 80 barrels. The Safe Oil Company had the drill into the sand in the first well and then shut down. The territory in which the company has its well is recognized as good, and just why the work was shut down has not been made apparent. The ostensible reason was the low price being offered for oil.

The Zenith company has met with difficulty in no. 2 and has abandoned it, and the tools have been taken to the upper end of the company's ground, where drilling is about to (begin) on No. 3. Work on No. 1 is going on all right, and the drill is now down about 800 feet.

The Pearl Oil company, operating in the east part of the field, in Devil's canyon, has its first well down 600 feet, and has a rig ready to start upon on No. 2.

In Rice canyon the Pacific Coast company has two wells, neither of which are [sic] big producers, the average being about ten barrels. W.P. Rice has the drill dropping in No. 5. Nos. 1 and 3 are each producing about fifteen barrels of very light illuminating oil; and Nos. 2 and 4 are dusty holes.

In Wylie [sic; Wiley] canyon the Pacific Coast has eight wells and is drilling on No. 2.

In Tousley [sic; Towsley] are the holdings of Clark & Sherman, the first well sunk producing fairly well, and the second being now in the sand. There are some other wells in the canyon, but they are old and supply barely enough oil to suffice for fuel.

In Pico canyon the Pacific Coast company has some forty wells scattered at various points, but as the company has its own pipe line to tidewater, the daily production of the company's wells in this and other canyons included in this oil field can only be a matter of approximate guesswork. Taking the wells in Pico, the two in Rice, the five in Tousley, and the ten in Ellsmere belonging to this company at an average output of twenty-five barrels, and according to the opinion of the local oil men a fair estimate of the daily product of the company's wells will be reached. Some of the wells are old, but new ones are being brought in with reasonable regularity. Drilling started on two new ones within the past month and one of these is down 600 feet and the other nearly 800 feet. While the various wells owned by the Pacific Coast company have here been referred to in a group it may be well to mention that the wells in Pico canyon are distinguishable from the others by reason of the light oil produced, and which is of a much greater market value than the fuel oil general throughout the district.

The Tousley Canyon Oil company has shut down its well, after sinking to a depth of 1,000 feet. The company became involved in litigation, and until the legal difficulties are straightened out there will be no resumption of work. The Sulphur Springs company, too, has played in hard luck and has abandoned the well that it was drilling. Some differences of opinion regarding the conduct of the work being carried on arose between the stockholders and the board of directors, and now drilling has been suspended.

Apart from the work being done by the New Century company, there is no work going on in the Placeritas canyon. The Century is drilling No. 3, the previous well, No. 2, having been a dry hole, and No. 1, the first gusher of the early days, was never cleaned out after the cave-in.

The old California Star company's refinery, that has been one of the landmarks of the canyon leading up toward the divide, is reported as sold to the Pacific Coast company, but whether it is to be modernized in its equipment and a general refining business carried on is as yet a moot proposition.

Away out in the Tapo canyon Frank Goode has two producing wells or ground leased from the Union company. No. 1 is yielding thirty-five barrels, and No. 2 about twenty-five, but two dry holes were sunk before these producing wells gave the present flow. These wells are properly within the Piru field, as is also Torrey canyon, where the Eureka Oil company recently closed down after getting well into the oil sand.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.


• Needham Ranch


Wild Turkey Story by Needham ~1900


Pearl Oil Co. Stock 1901


Oil Field Notes 1900/1901


Needham & Family (3) ~1930

Times Obituary

Signal Obituary


Granddaughter's Story 2000


Needham Piano & Organ Donated 2001

Worden Story 2006

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