29 November 2008

Olinda Oil Field History: California Mining Bureau report of 1913

In 1913, the California State Mining Bureau issued Bulletin 63, Petroleum in Southern California, compiled by Paul Prutzman. This comprehensive summary of oil producing operations included descriptions of fields and wells from Ventura County to Orange County and included a chapter on the "Fullerton Oil Field."

It was noted, though, that "the title Fullerton is ordinarily applied to the entire group of wells lying along the lower reaches of Brea Cañon, and on the hills to the east . . . [which] are known as the Olinda wells" it was stated that, because the terrain was no different in Olinda and Brea Canyon to that extending out to the Sansinena field, in what is now La Habra and La Habra Heights, all of the area between Olinda and Sansinena should be considered one field, called Fullerton.

At any rate, it is interesting to note that the Bulletin referred to "the town of Olinda", a distinction some people took issue with [see my earlier posts from oral histories of Olinda residents.] It is also noteworthy that, in the discussion of Brea Canyon oil activity, the discussion of the work of the Birch Oil Company (formerly the Menges Oil Company) included a description of eight wells, five producing and three in process. As was mentioned in my previous post about the strange life of A. Otis Birch, namesake of Birch Street in Brea, it was well 5, which came into production in 1911, that made his fortune. In June 1912, when the report in Bulletin 63 was issued, wells 6-8 were drilling.

In Olinda, there are discussions of the activities of several oil companies. These included:

Delaware Union Oil Company (formerly Graham Loftus Oil Company before 1911) having 37 wells of which 26 were producing, five abandoned and six drilling;

Syndicate Petroleum Company, although it was stated that their one barren well was on the west side of Brea Canyon;

Union Oil Company (Sansinena and Stearns tracts--these being the areas actually between Olinda and what is now La Habra and La Habra Heights), consisting of 53 wells, 36 of which were producers, ten abandoned, and severn drilling;

Puente Crude Oil Company, in the northern reaches of Brea Canyon toward modern Diamond Bar and Walnut with two wells drilled in 1895;.

Columbia Oil Producing Company, in Olinda proper, with 22 wells, including 19 producers and three drilling;

Industrial Oil Company (before 1910 being the Fullerton Consolidated Oil Company) with a unverified report that in July 1912 the land was sold to West Coast Oil Company and with 29 oil wells but an unknown status as to producing, abandoned, or drilling wells;

Petroleum Development Company, owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, and which had 65 wells, including 8 drilling, 3 abandoned, and 54 producing;

Fullerton Oil Company, with twelve wells, all producers;

Puente Oil Company, with 43 wells, including 25 producers, 15 abandoned, and 3 drilling, although it was noted that the first 16 wells were drilled on a lease basis by Columbia Oil Producing Company before 1903;

Continental Oil Company, with one abandoned well full of "sulfur water";

Soquel Canyon Oil Company, with an abandoned well drilled in 1900;

Rob Roy Oil Company, with a dry hole drilled in 1904 at the forks of the Carbon and Soquel canyons near present Hollydale Mobile Home Estates;

Iowa Oil Company with two abandoned wells; and

Olinda Land Company, formerly the Olinda Crude Oil Company, with about ten wells, two of which were producers, five abandoned, and three others apparently drilling.

After this reporting were several pages of analysis of the qualities of selected wells in the general Fullerton field.

The photographs above are sections of a large fold-out panorama photograph by the West Coast Art Company in the frontispiece of the book and, although the image is simply captioned Fullerton Oil Field it is almost certainly the Olinda portion of the field given the topography, particularly the hills in the background where the Olinda Alpha landfill and those above Olinda Ranch are located.

Source: Petroleum in Southern California, Paul W. Prutzman, comp. (Sacramento: Friend Wm. Richardson, Superintendent of State Printing,) 1913. Courtesy of the Homestead Museum.

1 comment:

Corey said...

Hi Paul,

Interesting to hear your history on the Olinda field/Fullerton field. I never realized that they were considered one field until reading this. i don't think it was till the mid 20's when the Fullerton field was divided into two fields, Olinda and Coyote. Have you ever explored the hills to the left of Brea canyon road? There i a gate that leads to them at the end of Site drive. It is pretty interesting place, I need to make a posting on the nike missile site which lies on the ridge of the hill.