07 April 2010

Olinda Oil Field History: Carbon Canyon Oil Company Founders

As noted in earlier posts, the founders of the Carbon Canyon Oil Company, incorporated in 1900 and which owned 160 acres at the junction of Carbon and Soquel canyons at today's Olinda Village, were W. F. West, E. G. Judson, J. R. Greer, C. E. Price, F. W. Gregg, G. M. Hawley, and J. R. Westbrook.  A little poking around came up with some interesting information about most of these men.

William F. West, the president of the company, was born in February 1865 in Pennsylvania, which happens to be the birthplace of the oil industry in the United States.  In 1900, West lived in what is now known as the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, southwest of downtown in the general vicinity of U. S. C. and Exposition Park.  In that year's census, his occupation was listed as oil developer.  A decade later, he was in South Pasadena, followed by a move by 1920 to Pasadena and his occupation was oil company president.  Indeed, he was president of at least two.  By 1921, he was the head of the Continental Oil Company of Los Angeles, also founded in 1899 and which had forty acres of oil property at Los Angeles, 160 in Ventura, and 40 in Fullerton.  West died in Los Angeles County in 1940.

The vice-president was Edward G. Judson, a Connecticut native born in 1848.  He remained in his hometown of Bridgeport until relocating by his early twenties to Brooklyn, New York, then its own city.  There he was an office clerk in a brokerage firm, before becoming a stock broker.  In 1877, Judson relocated to San Bernardino, where he was a farmer for a time.  In 1881, he joined a syndicate of developers who created a new town at a place generally known as Lugonia (Lugo being the name of the original owners of the Rancho San Bernardino in the Mexican era of California.)  When the developers were thinking of names for their project, Judson came up with one that had to do with the soil color in the area: Redlands.  Judson, a realtor in 1900, later relocated to Los Angeles and lived in the same West Adams district as West.

The company's secretary was Charles E. Price, who lived three houses down from William West in the 1900 census.  Price was born in 1867 or 1868 in Canada and emigrated to the United States at the age of twenty.  In 1910, Price was listed as on oil business merchant and, subsequently, was a manufacturer of pumps, presumably for the industry and continued to live in the West Adams District through the 1920s.  He was also an officer with Conservative Development Company, another oil company and was secretary of the Continental Oil Company in the early 1920s.  He passed away in 1951.

Frederick W. Gregg was born in 1856 in Northfield, Vermont and remained in his hometown through his studies at Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1878 and Columbia Law School.  He was admitted to the bar in the East, but moved, after 1880, to the Territory of Arizona, specifically Tucson, where he became a district commissioner (somewhat like a county supervisor) in 1882 and then, three years, was elected County Judge.  In the great southern California land boom of 1887, Gregg relocated to San Bernardino and practiced law with partner William Harris and then with the San Bernardino Gas and Electric Company.  In the 1900 census, he boarded at a hotel in downtown, but ten years later, a widower, Gregg resided in a boarding house or hotel on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles and was "living on his own income," as retired people were usually referred to.

It was hard to find, in a limited time, information on who J. R. Greer might have been. There was a Jacob R. Greer, Jr. who worked in the hardware trade in Pasadena in 1900 and it possible that this might have been the same man. Perhaps other research will determine this or someone out there somewhere might know.  As to G. M. Hawley, he may have been a San Diego real estate investor, but there is little to go on otherwise.  Even less is known to date about J. R. Westbrook.  There was a John Westbrook who, in 1900, lived on 35th Street in the West Adams District and who was in the hardware business.  This same man lived, by 1920, in Riverside, but it is not known if this is the same Westbrook from the Carbon Canyon Oil Company.

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