Real photo postcard showing the signal tree, aka marker tree, at today's 24940 Pico Canyon Road, Stevenson Ranch, postmarked Newhall, June 10, 1936. The view is roughly
to the east.
Postcard mailed by a "Mrs. C.O.J." to Mentryville resident Barbara Sitzman, who may have been staying with relatives in Celina, Ohio. Barbara's father, Charles Sitzman, the superintendent
of the Pico Oil Field from 1927-1937, hailed from Ohio. The message reads:
Newhall, Cal. / Dear Barbara — I was glad to get the card  so I'm sending some of
Newhall. Have a good time. Sincerely, Mrs. C.O.J.
The printed inscription on the photo reads:
"Ripley Oak. Believe it or Not / Drawing Made July-18-1930. Newhall-Saugus — Calif."
While "Ripley's" called it "An oak tree with 4 trunks / Newhall, Cal" in a feature published July 28, 1930, it didn't actually have four trunks.
It probably had one trunk that split when two top branches were affixed to the ground by local indigenous people centuries earlier, when the tree was young, as a
directional marker — probably pointing the way to the Pico Springs, a source of asphaltum. (Over time, one of the two earthbound branches, apparently the one on the right in this photograph, fell away.)
The only time we see the tree having two (or four) distinct trunks is in the artist's conceptual drawing in "Ripley's."
When it was built in 2000, the Extended Stay America hotel was required to preserve the marker tree and another nearby heritage oak tree and work around them — which is why the hotel has
the has a footprint that accommodates a small oak grove.
Click image to enlarge.
SZ3601: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph. Also catalogued as 097-ms-0015-17.jpg. Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection.