Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Chormicle-Jenkins Land Feud Goes to Court.

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Webmaster's note: Less than three months earlier, two of (defendant) Bill Jenkins' men, Dolores Cook and George Walton, were slain by (plaintiff) William Chormicle and William Gardner.

The case of W.C. Chormicle vs. W.W. Jenkins came up before Judge Van Dyke yesterday. The matter was brought into court through a dispute over land in the Castaic cañon. It is allege that defendant attempted to obtain possession of some land owned by Mrs. Chormicle, alleging that it is mineral land. It is charged that Mr. Jenkins employed some men to enter upon the land, which is planted in wheat. The men cut a ditch in the land, and a suit was brought to restrain the defendants from further trespass. A number of affidavits were filed going to show that the land is not mineral land. In one of them John Hall says "that he is familiar with the land in question; that three years and a half ago he was induced by Albert G. Ruxton, and through the representations made by Jenkins, to pay a certain sum of money down in the purchase of some 5,000 acres, which was said to be suitable for placer mining and agricultural purposes. Jenkins said that Chormicle was the squatter on this certain section of land and that he (Jenkins) wanted that special piece of land, some 70 acres, for his own use. He said that although Chormicle was squatting on the land, he could not hold it, but would allow him to remain there until he had built a house, and then he would take the house and land away from him. He said it was fine agricultural land, in fact it was fit for growing all kinds of fruits, and vines which produced wine of a superior flavor; he said that he was preparing a ditch for mining; that no mining had ever been done, but that really it was for the purpose of irrigating his own land on section 24, and the lands near Turner's place; he had taken levels around there, and the water would irrigate the whole of the land above and below him on sections 24 and 25. The defendant, Jenkins, desired me to purchase half the interest of Ruxton in section 13, and that he (Jenkins) was well acquainted with the land laws of the United States, and while, as a matter of fact, the land was only valuable for agricultural purposes, still, that by claiming it as mineral that they could hold and use the land as long as they liked, until they got able to pay for it, from the government as mining land, and that the intent was not to mine upon it, and that the land of Mr. Chormicle would be used for agricultural purposes and not for mining."

The affidavit goes on to state that Hall bought a half interest. After working and spending considerable money they discovered not gold enough to cover the tip of his finger.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.

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Hard Name Is Applied.

The investigation before Register Crookshank and Receiver Kinney of the United States land office to determine whether the lands of the Castaic valley are mineral or agricultural had another tumultuous day of it yesterday, when additional sensational testimony was introduced concerning the business methods of W.W. Jenkins and his associates in land and mining operations in the Castaic.

The most important testimony of the day was given by L.W. Robinson, secretary of the now dormant Santa Clara Oil and Gold company and the Crown Hill Oil company. The witness was connected in a business way with Jenkins, J.F. Conroy and others now interested in the mineral application for the land in question, and gave a great deal of testimony concerning those business relations.

Calls Harsh Names

The spiciest part of Robinson's testimony came on cross examination by Mr. Conroy. Robinson had accused Jenkins of fraudulent transactions.

"You entertain and unfriendly feeling against Mr. Jenkins now, do you not?" asked Conroy.

"I do not entertain an unfriendly feeling for him," answered Robinson, his face pale with suppressed emotion and his eyes blazing, "but knowing the man's character now, I want to have nothing to do with him. I pity him—"

"Oh, well, you needn't go into that," said Conroy.

"Yes, but I insist, since you opened up the subject. I look upon Jenkins," and here Jenkins and Robinson glared at each other across a table, "As a degenerate — a moral idiot — a person half fool, half knave and all corrupt."

The hearing ended for the day at this point and the factions made their way to the sidewalk, but not by the same elevator car.

Francis Olme Cook, widow of Dolores Cook, seen here in 1886 (when both were alive). Click image to enlarge.

Robinson's direct testimony was in brief to the effect that he has known the Castaic lands for eight or ten years. The Santa Clara Oil and Gold company was organized in 1891 with a capital stock of $100,000 by Jenkins, H.T. Gordon and others. The witness succeeded J.F. Conroy as secretary of the company in 1894. Witness said he is also the secretary of the Crown Hill Oil company, also organized in 1891, succeeding Conroy. The books of both corporations show that Jenkins was a stockholder.

The witness continued that the books pretended to show that the Watson and thirty-three other claims, constituting mineral location No. 62, were sold by Jenkins to the Santa Clara company for $100,000, and that the money was paid over to Jenkins. This, he testified, was untrue. Continuing, the witness said that the companies abandoned all their placer claims in the district, amounting jointly to more than 2,000 acres, in 1895, for the reason that they considered their title to the land not good, and also that the lands were worthless for oil and mining purposes.

The witness said that, in 1896, he and four other persons were induced by representations made by Jenkins to lease from Jenkins' wife a part of section 18 for oil purposes. Two wells were sunk, one 900 and the other 1,700 feet. No oil was found in the first and only a trace in the second. Both wells are now full of water and abandoned. The Castaic Oil company sunk a well 800 feet on section 12, range 17, with no results. There are no producing wells, witness said, in the country nearer than twelve miles, and witness declared the country good for farming purposes only.

Mrs. Cook's Salted Well

Mrs. Dolores Cook, widow of one of the men shot to death in 1890 over the Castaic land feud, was another witness. Notwithstanding her husband was killed while espousing Jenkins' end of the land fight, Mrs. Cook yesterday testified in behalf of the agricultural claimants, the principal of whom, W.C. Chormicle, shot her husband.

Mrs. Cook said she had lived in the Castaic since 1882. She lived on a quarter section of section 19, which she had taken upon a railroad contract on Jenkins' advice. After her husband's death, she said, Jenkins came to her and remarked that Cook owed him some money, but he was going to overlook that; and that he advised her to take up this quarter section. Later, she said, Jenkins represented to her that he could get $250 for her land; that it was oil land, and she had better take it, for an oil company had made claim to the land as mineral land, and would take it away from her anyway. Upon these representations, Mrs. Cook said she parted with her quarter section for $250, which Jenkins paid her.

An amusing part of Mrs. Cook's testimony gave an inkling of how oil wells were produced when the Castaic boom was on. Mrs. Cook had a water well. One morning she found she couldn't use the water; there were beads of crude oil floating around in the bucket. She declared yesterday that her well had been "salted," and when asked how she knew, she said [s]he found oil on the curbing, where the "salter" had spilled a little.

Jenkins Was Thrifty

Jenkins is stated to have referred to the Crown Oil company, of which he was a stockholder when he induced Mrs. Cook to sell out for $250. The testimony of Secretary Robinson showed that Jenkins represented to his company that the claim cost him $450, and the company paid him that sum.

Victor Ponet, Belgian vice consul for Los Angeles, testified that he was president of the Santa Clara company in 1891. He said he relied on the representations of Jenkins and Conroy explicitly, and bought in with his eyes shut. The land was no good for gold or oil, and he lost about $10,000.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.


• Bill Jenkins & Lazy Z

••• SERIES •••
Chormicle, Gardener Tried for Murder of Cook, Walton

• Pollack Story 2014
• Reynolds Story
• C. Rasmussen Story


Story of Bill Jenkins
Kreider 1952


W.C. Chormicle


Chormicle Allies Start a School, 1889/90


Land Feud Goes to Court 1890


Chormicle's Son Arrested 1890


Dolores Cook Land Patent 1891


Suen Murders Aceda 1895


Chormicle Sued for Slander 1910

SEE ALSO: Lazy Z (Jenkins Ranch) Graves Unearthed 1998

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