31 March 2011

Blackstone Subdivision Models Now Open

The newly-opened models for the Amber community within the Blackstone project
at Tonner Hills west of Carbon Canyon in Brea.

As of last weekend, four sets of model homes for the new Blackstone master planned subdivison in the Tonner Hills area of the old Olinda Oil Field, just west of Carbon Canyon, opened.  Notably, just in today's Los Angeles Times, it is reported that housing prices have declined to levels comparable to 2009 (see article here).  So, it will certainly be interesting to see whether Blackstone can avert the downward trend.

A wayfinding sign showing newly-opened communities
and future amenities within the Blackstone project.


A quick drive this morning through the eastern division of the community (there is a segment on the west side of the 57 Freeway between just north of the Lambert Road exit and south of the Tonner Canyon offramp) revealed an ambitious project.  There are models for three separate offerings from homes under 2,000 square feet and under $500,000 to executive style residences well in excess of 3,000 square feet and pushing into the $900,000s.  A future community park, a recreation area and other amenities are laid out, as are future communities pushing further north into the hills separating Brea from Tonner Canyon and amidst a few dwindling operating oil wells.

A sign marked "FUTURE COMMUNITIES" shows what will
extend northward toward Tonner Canyon at the Blackstone subdivision.

The main arterial roadway is Santa Fe Avenue, extending from Olinda Ranch across Valencia Avenue and winding westward until it turns south to meet up with Kraemer Boulevard at the Sommerset development and Brea's fire station #3.  This is symbolically important, perhaps, because the majority of Blackstone sits upon abandoned oil property.


Producing oil wells at the edge of the Blackstone development.

A future post on this blog will discuss Olinda Ranch and, particularly, the very detailed and technologically interesting work conducted there to mitigate any potential hazards from methane that might be present under the surface from nearly a century of oil extraction.  This is a big change from earlier housing projects on abandoned fields, in which, as in cases recently profiled at Carson, health issues have emerged from exposure to cancer-causing materials.  It would certainly be interesting to know what has been done at Blackstone that is similar (or, for that matter, contrasting) to what was done at Olinda Ranch.


This future park site is just east of newly opened model homes at Blackstone and directly north of new subsidized apartments within the community.  In the distance is Olinda Ranch and part of the Olinda Alpha landfill.

A question posted on the blog yesterday concerned seepage and leaking of any potentially dangerous material from the Olinda Alpha landfill, which is just north and slightly east of Blackstone (and directly above Olinda Ranch.)  Indeed, methane is a by-product of landfill operations and there is a certain amount of energy being produced at Olinda Alpha (and on a much larger scale, by way of illustration, at Puente Hills, an enormous landfill adjoining Whittier and Hacienda Heights) by tapping the methane that is generated from the buried refuse.  If there have been any demonstrated and verified problems from Olinda Alpha, it would be interesting to know, though nothing has been located to that effect by this blogger.


Looking north from Blackstone towards the hills dividing it from Tonner Canyon.

At any rate, this is an interesting time to be introducing a new housing project on the scale that is planned for at Blackstone.  Indeed, this Los Angeles Times article from February (see here) indicates that rising prices for construction materials lead some experts to advise buyers to get in to something now before those increases take effect. 

An executive-size model by Shea Homes at Blackstone.
Of course, interest rates still remain very low, though certain to go up in the near future and provided that prospective buyers still have either equity, a substantial down payment and the ability to qualify for a loan, there could conceivably be demand for Blackstone's homes.  But, this community will be several years in development, so whether the economic uncertainty continues and dampens demand and affordability will be fascinating to observe at a place like this subdivision.

A common recreation area within the Blackstone development.
After all, as still another Times article from just last week (see here) shows, new home sales are very anemic and the long-term picture, according to some, is bleak indeed.  Obviously, if the labor market continues to be stagnant and wages remain flat, even plummeting home prices and rock-bottom interest rates can't seal a deal for enough Americans. 

Love the motto.
Still, it is good to know that, amidst all the uncertainty, there is someone who cares.

23 March 2011

The Carbon Canyon and Tonner Canyon Connection, Part 6

Another connection tying together Carbon and Tonner canyons is literal.  The barest of references was made in a 15 April 2009 post on the blog about the Diemer water treatment facility that sits atop a hill overlooking the south side of Carbon Canyon in Yorba Linda and the fact that a feeder line comes down to the plant from the a Metropolitan Water District water line to the north.  Now is the time for a little more detail on that feeder.

First, in following up from part 5 of this series, it bears noting that little had changed in Tonner Canyon and the Tres Hermanos Ranch area from the 1930s onward.  The area continued to be a gentleman's ranch for the surviving member of the "three brothers," Harry Chandler and the son of another, William Keith Scott.  At some point, it appears that the interest of the final "sibling," William R. Rowland was sold to one or both of the other partners and heirs.  Eventually, the ranch was put under the direct ownership of Chandis (Chandler/Otis) Securities Company, the real estate holding company of the Chandler family's many properties.  Even as the post-World War II era brought suburbia further east into the San Gabriel Valley, following older railroad lines and newer freeway construction, especially Interstate 10 in the 1950s and the California Route 60 in the later 1960s, Tonner Canyon remained in its fundamentally bucolic state.  At some point, yet to be located, the Los Angeles district of the Boy Scouts of America purchased a few thousand acres in lower Tonner Canyon for an extensive recreational facility for their organization and below that, close to Brea, oil operations that began in the late 19th and early 20th century continued.

The value of Tonner Canyon and Tres Hermanos Ranch, however, changed dramatically with the planning of the California Aqueduct project.  Planning from around 1960 called for the construction of a half-billion dollar Foothill Feeder on the aqueduct's east branch, which had a capacity of some two million acre-feet [an acre of area to a depth of one foot] and that would bring water from the Delta through tunnels, pipelines and siphons to the southern California area via the Tehachapi Mountains at the south end of the Central Valley and then eastward along the extreme edge of northern and eastern Los Angeles County and into San Bernardino Copunty terminating at a dam at Silverwood Lake above San Bernardino in the national forest.  From there, about 1965, the decision was made to run a pipeline to tap into the feeder and carry it west to near La Verne and then south into Tonner Canyon via Tres Hermanos Ranch. 

The pipeline to Diemer is a eye-opening 10-foot wide pipe that handles about 600 cubic feet of water every second and the Metropolitan Water District paid Chandis Securities handsomely for the right-of-way and easement rights.  The California Aqueduct project was started in 1966 and took some six years to build with the deal for the Yorba Linda pipeline being consummated in 1966 and construction starting in 1972.  Notably, negotiations between the MWD and Chandis continued during the construction period with a final settlement occuring in 1976.

Once the project became a reality, interest in acquiring Tonner Canyon land became intensified.   Indeed, by 1970, the first serious effort was being mounted by the Pomona Valley Municipal Water District, a member of the MWD's governing body.  In 1972, the agency put together a feasilbity report on a "Tonner Canyon Water Project" in anticipation of serving future development within its service area, including around the general Chino Hills region.  The report mentioned the possibility of placing a dam in the canyon and constructing a reservoir with a capacity of 4,500 acre-feet from the MWD's line to Diemer.  In 1975, the water district put the matter of acquiring the ranch to voters on a $35 million bond issue, but the measure was defeated.  Chastened, the agency watered down the proposal and resubmitted it to the electorate two years later, but, again, the measure failed to garner enough support.

This September 1925 snapshot shows a young female guest languidly reclining on a hammock on the porch of the ranch house at Tres Hermanos Ranch.  The house stood on a plateau about a mile or so south of what is now Grand Avenue and appears to have been razed.  Courtesy of Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum.



Chandis actually looked to solidify its water rights on the ranch, using the 1918 reservoir built by Chandler, Scott and Rowland and known in later years as the Arnold Reservoir as a sort of grandfathered holding that would allow for a bypassing of environmental review.  In fact, Keith Scott, even had the idea of using the water value of the ranch as a means for future planned development, evidently meaning residential home construction within the ranch.  Meanwhile, Harold Arnold, whose father leased some or all of the Tres Hermanos Ranch from the 1940s until his death in the mid-1960s, and who assumed the lease, then sublet the property to the mayor of City of Industry.  It appears that it was through this connection that negotiations opened between Industry and Chandis.

In its planning, Industry laid out ideas for a city-run utility that would expand existing reservoir uses that collected runoff from rain and reclaimed sewage water from the county's sanitation district.  In addition, Industry agreed to pursue Keith Scott's request for Chandis to get its fast-tracked water rights application approved.  As the city prepared its offer of a little over $10 million, using its redevelopment agency as the mechanism for providing the necessary cash, other suitors appeared.

These Bill Bright, president of the Campus Crusade for Christ, who made a $12.1 million oral offer and Howard Goldstein of Watt Industries who called in an offer of $11.8 million.  With these late-comers into the game, Industry decisively moved to top the highest offer.  Its mayor and his son, also on the council, had to abstain from voting, but approval was quick and, in 1978, Tres Hermanos became a City of Industry landholding through its Urban Development Agency.

One of the more controversial issues regarding the city's acquisition of Tres Hermanos was that the land was not contiguous, a point confronted by its city attorney who observed that the City of Los Angeles had done the same in its project to bring water from the Owens Valley earlier in the century.  Another was that the property did not, to critics, appear to look anything like the "blighted" landscape that was the means for creating redevelopment areas, although it has been commonplace for municipalities throughout California to broadly expand the meaning of that concept--an issue that has come up within the last few months as the state's governor, Jerry Brown, has raised the idea of redefining redevelopment. 

Next is more on the connection between the canyons with respect to regional planning from the 1970s and 1980s.  Much of the material covered in this post comes from a recent book by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor, Victor Valle, on Industry.

21 March 2011

Canyon Market Open Again (After All)

Canyon Market in Sleepy Hollow is open after all; at least on Saturday when driving by, it was noticed that the lights were on.  So, after stopping in and finding the owner Joe still there and inquiring about being closed, it was learned, at least according to him, that he hadn't been closed at all. 

Perhaps the change in ownership notification mentioned in the mid-February post was for a proposed transfer that didn't take place and the previous owners reassumed management of the business.  At any rate, the store is there and open for business. 

Meantime, the Circle K just east at the northeast corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road is moving closer to completion and opening.  The exterior is essentially complete, the parking lot is paved and striped, outdoor lighting is installed and it appears that interior work is advancing.  It certainly cannot be long now.

16 March 2011

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #6629a-?

It has actually been a quiet year so far in Carbon Canyon concerning accidents.  There have been a couple of road closures due to collisions, both evidently taking place just east of Sleepy Hollow, but they appear to have been relatively minor. 



On the S-curve on the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon Road, some of the usual susceptible spots have been the scene of wayward cars, specifically guardrail locations that have been further disturbed from their original locations.  On one such there is a hubcap, piece of a fender and broken class to indicate a vehicle that, going eastbound, crossed the opposing line to leave its debris.



Another vulnerable place is on the Brea side, where a utility box covered by a pseudo-rock, which had already been tapped a few times, leaving it looking like a lonely snail, was completely upended and unceremoniously left in a crushed state--this just happening within the last few days.  In this case, too, the car, a westbound traveler, zipped over the eastbound lane in order to pulverize the unsuspecting box.



I also had the distinct pleasure, not long back, to witness not one, but two cars passing others on the eastbound side of the highway as it climbs away from Olinda Ranch up to Olinda Village.  One passed me because I had the audacity to go only five miles over the speed limit--though it is true that a large number of cars find anything below 55 or 60 in that 45 zone to be unacceptable.  Not to be outdone by passing me where there actually was something of a center median, it passed two cars in one move once the road narrows and starts to curve on its ascent toward the Village.  Emboldened by the display, another car followed the first by passing a car not long beyond and came very, very close to colliding with a westbound truck coming downhill.

So, these are but a few examples of recent behavior observed and detected and, yet, no fatalities have occurred (at least not known to YHB) for quite some time.  Therefore, no need to be overly concerned, even if cars continue to regularly cross over lanes to see (or feel) what is on the other side or to pass fellow drivers who just won't go as fast as they would want them to.  Until a life is lost, there is no reason, it seems, to bat an eye and the lack of such a loss justifies the absence of any effort to patrol the road.

15 March 2011

arUNDOING

As has been noted several times in this blog, the removal of arundo donax from Carbon [Canyon] Creek, which began not long after the November 2008 fire that ravaged the Brea side of Carbon Canyon, has been a lengthy and intensive project.


A section of removed arundo donax looking east along Carbon [Canyon] Creek
on the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property in Brea, 15 March 2011
After spraying treatments were conducted to allow herbicides to penetrate the strong root system of this pernicious plant, recent work has focused on removal of the dead above-ground shoots.  This has been very recently done on the historic La Vida Mineral Springs site, where crews have cleared a section along the creek that is about 100 feet long or so.

This westward-looking view shows some removed arundo
with some of it still standing in this distance. Note the flow
of the creek at right along the rocky bottom at the base of the hill.
Indeed, it is amazing to be able to walk up to the edge of the creek there and peer done at the water rushing along a rocky bed relatively unfettered as it makes its way west toward Carbon Canyon Regional Park and the dam there.  As the removal work continues, the path will only become clearer.

Here is a detail of some of the removed arundo,
leaving only small stumps at ground level
Meantime, at recent meetings of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, it has been reported that efforts are underway to remove a few stands of arundo on the Chino Hills side, as well as a general cleanup of plant material in the creek that is actually contributing to erosion of Carbon Canyon Road.

We can look forward, then, to more of the work depicted in the accompanying photos, which were snapped this morning.  As the Canyon still bears many of the scars and burn marks of the fire, there is also some important work being done with the arundo removal that proves to be one of the very few positives to emerge from that conflagration.

UPDATE, 18 April 2011.  The following was provided at the April meeting of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council courtesy of Claire Schlotterbeck, Executive Director of Hills for Everyone, who has been crucial in the arundo removal project, and is from the head of the Santa Ana Watershed Association, managing agency in the effort.

We have received additional funding from the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority for biomass removal in Carbon Canyon through Proposition 50 funding [Prop 50 was passed by California voters in 2002 to provide over $3 billion for water quality projects].  We toured the State Department of Water Resources through the project area from Hata [the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property now owned by Japanese businessman Tadayao Hata] through the State Park to show them where we will be working.  We will continue to remove biomass that has already been sprayed and are continuing spraying operations in areas that have regrowth and in areas that are under control.  We will be working on a bid package for the Arundo and other invasives that are past the church [Samsung in Olinda Village and down through the State Park.  Work will begin there and in the fall.  We are also working on secondary funding opportunities for removing other invasives, such as palms and ivy, in and adjacent to Sleepy Hollow [this involving the cleanup of Carbon (Canyon) Creek]

08 March 2011

The Tonner Canyon and Carbon Canyon Connection, Part 5

Tres Hermanos Ranch, the 2,500-acre parcel in Tonner Canyon purchased by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, former Los Angeles County Sheriff and oilman William R. Rowland, and oil executive William B. Scott, was generally a gentleman's ranch for the three.  Initially, there were some publicity afforded to the ranch when the "three brothers" were owners.

For example, in the 8 June 1919 edition of the Times, there was a rotogravure page of seven photos with very brief captions detailing "The Spring Rodeo on the Tres Hermanos Rancho."  The top image showed hundreds of cattle gathered during the roundup, others showed some of the vaqueros or cowboys who assisted in the proceedings, which were depicuted in the remainder of the images showing separation of animals and the lassoing and branding of calves.

A few months later, a short article in the same paper, headlined "Ranch Owners Entertain," appeared.  The 12 October piece noted that "a six-course dinner was served to a congenial group of guests . . . at Tres Hermanos Ranch," which it was observed, "is owned by William Rowland, W. B. Scott, and Harry Chandler, and located in the beautiful Puente hills near Walnut."  Two young ladies, Leola and Anita Weigle of Pomona, provided the entertainment with voice and piano.  Dozens of guests were listed, including Chandler and Scott, members of their family, friends, and business associates such as Moses Sherman, William Astley and F. X. Pfaffinger, who were directors of the Columbia Oil Company.  The hosts were denoted as Thomas Green and wife.

With Scott's death in 1920 and Rowland's six years later, the ranch was largely managed by Chandler, although Scott's son, Keith, was active, as well, and was involved with the Chandler family's real estate holding company, Chandis Securities, which held legal title to the ranch.  Mention in the Times was rarer as years went on, though there were occasional interesting references.

Josephine Scott Crocker, daughter of Tres Hermanos Ranch co-owner, William Benjamin Scott, next to what is probably Tonner Canyon Road looking north toward the hill where Grand Avenue now runs behind, 16 September 1925.  Courtesy of Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.


For example, in late 1931, an article was devoted to William Banning, whose father, Phineas, was the first important promoter of the area that became the Port of Los Angeles.  After the elder Banning died in 1885, William became the driving force in the family's business empire, which included ownership of Santa Catalina Island, a wide array of real estate interests, and other elements.  The article, however, was not about capitalism and commerce, but about Banning devotion to an antiquated skill his father had passed down: the art of driving a stagecoach.  The lengthly piece articulated in great detail Banning's passion for his 1875 Concord coach, which he still drove for parades, events and his own personal pleasure, and which was kept at his ranch in Walnut.  In fact, the article began by putting the reader in the driver's seat: 

You're out somewhere between Walnut and Chino, about you a Los Angeles countryside of such beauty as runs throguh dreams, and then . . .

Shades of the Pioneers!  There, beyond the wire fence, rounding a shoulder of an undulating hillside dirt road, come six beautiful dashing horses drawing a glistening, swaying Concord coach such as was the proud boast of the early West.

The piece went on to note that as the automobile age ensued and the dirt roads trod upon by horse-drawn vehicles were paved, Banning decided to practice his pastime of coach riding at the furthest eastern reaches of Los Angeles County.  Specifically, "out to his friend T. J. Green's delightful farm near Walnut, twenty-five miles or so east of Los Angeles."  Recall that the 1919 entertainment detailed above was hosted by Green and his wife, so it seems that Green may have been a manager at Tres Hermanos before acquiring his own spread closer to Walnut. 

That escape meant that Banning had "specially built coach houses . . . blacksmith shop . . . like a small village now and is a place to delight the delver into pioneer California history—a really fascinating museum recalling a colorful phase of pioneerdom."  Indeed, it wasn't just the Abbott-Downing Concord coach that was housed there, but also a four-horse hack coach, two tourist stagecoaches from Catalina Island (sold by the Bannings to Chicago chewing-gum titan William Wrigley in 1919), a mail wagon, and other historical relics.

But, rather than have a museum that featured antique items only on display, Banning wanted to keep his skills intact, so he and Green arranged for "a coach road from the home place to Chino.  It would have to go through the Thatcher, Currier, Diamond Bar, Tres Hermanos and the English ranches and so on to the old Chino ranch.  The route a winding, dipping, climbing delight of hill and dale scenery.  The ranch owners said a hearty O.K., some of them helped put in the road, and friend Green, expert road builder, supervised the construction.  Banning, in all his antiquated glory, the article concluded, even painted on the side of his beloved Concord, "Overland Stage Coach Club," even though he was its only member.

Interestingly, the road that is described in the above paragraph would almost certainly have started at or near Valley Boulevard and gone east.  The Thatcher and Currier families were connected through marriage with Alvin T. Currier, a native of Maine, coming to the region in 1869 and acquiring 2,500 acres of the Rancho Los Nogales (which means "walnut" in Spanish).  Currier was married to El Monte native Susan Glenn Rubottom.  Susan's sister, Ruth, had a second husband, former Los Angeles County supervisor and El Monte farmer, Michael F. Quinn.  One of their daughters, Inez, who was raised with her aunt and uncle on the Currier ranch, married Hugh Thatcher, an Iowa native who lived in Topeka, Kansas before coming to Pomona in 1889.  He was a druggist in Los Angeles before purchasing an orange grove near Walnut.  Today, the Thatcher/Currier landholdings would be in the general area between the 60 Freeway and Brea Canyon Road on the south, the 57 Freeway on the east, somewhere around Valley Boulevard on the west and up to Lanterman Developmental Center to the north.  Much of this land falls within the extreme northeast sections of the City of Industry, which, in developing its Grand Crossing industrial subdivision in the 2000s, moved the 1907 Currier House from its original location between Valley Boulevard and the 60/57 interchange to the Phillips Mansion historic site a few miles away in Pomona (the building is gradually being restored by the Historical Society of Pomona Valley.)

To the east is the Diamond Bar Ranch, which, in the 1870s, was mainly in the holdings of two men named Butler and Beach.  Much later, as was recently noted in this series, Pittsburgh doctor, Walter F. Fundenberg acquired a sizable portion of this land and then sold off two large parcels--one to Frederick Lewis in 1918 that became the Diamond Bar Ranch and the other, about 1914, which became the Tres Hermanos.

Finally, there is mention of the "English ranches."  This refers to a family that included Wharton English (1835-1914), a native of Carrollton, Illinois, who died in Chino and his son, Revel Lindsay English (1878-1953) who was born in Kane, Illinois and ran the Sierra Vista Stock Farm in what is now the city of Chino Hills.  Today, there is English Springs Park and English Road, which were part of the family holdings.  Revel English was a breeder of thoroughbred horses and swine and it is notable that much of the area around English Road is still horse ranch property now.

Immediately due east of English Road, leapfrogging over Ayala High School, is Boys Republic, the young men's institution that is the historic location of the headquarters of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  When one puts all of this parcels together, from Walnut to Chino and spanning through the Currier/Thatcher, Diamond Bar, Tres Hermanos, and English properties, it seems pretty likely that the "stage road' used by William Banning in his nostalgic rumblings on his 1875 Concord is actually Grand Avenue, today the main arterial roadway running from the Chino Spectrum shopping complex on the east through Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, and Walnut before heading north and terminating in Glendora and Azusa.

Another interesting historical association with Tres Hermanos Ranch (and neighboring areas) came in the Great Depression years.  In June 1935, the Times reported on a "brand mix-up," in which Chino local judge Edwin Rhodes (author of The Break of Day in Chino, an early history of the area) heard a case involving counterfeit cattle brands.  These involved "a score of cattle owners from San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties [who] were rounded up [he he!] to straighten out the brands worn by several hundred head of cattle on the range at the Tres Hermanos ranch during the winter and spring."  The crime was that these brands were not properly registered with the state and, it was reported, the annual roundup "held in the hills" south of Chino took place, some stock owners noticed fewer of their animals were present than should have been.

Of particular interest is this passage:  "Tres Hermanos ranch, now known as the Stewart ranch [italics added for emphasis], consists of 12,000 acres in the rolling hills at the western edge of San Bernardino county."

Two days later, the paper reported that eleven Chino-area ranchers were "charged with applying unrecorded brands to cattle" and that these owners were "rounded up on the Tres Hermanos ranch" before being taken before Judge Rhodes.  The jurist then issued fines of $40 to those who pled guilty, but allowed that $30 of the amount be suspended for reasons not specified.  The $10 net fine must have ruffled the feathers of one rancher, Robert Knittel, who chose to stand on principle and pled not guilty so he could face a trial.

More to come soon on some later history involving Tres Hermanos Ranch and the life-giving water that has created the southern California in which we live.

01 March 2011

The Tonner Canyon and Carbon Canyon Connection, Part 4

The último de los trés hermanos (or last of the "three brothers") of Tres Hermanos Ranch, a 2500-acre spread in upper Tonner Canyon purchased in 1914 from Walter F. Fundenberg, has been vaguely identified in some histories as "oil wildcatter Tom Scott."  As mentioned previously in this blog, an attempt to find a "Tom Scott" who was in the oil industry (a wildcatter being someone trying to successfully drill for oil in geologically-unproven areas) proved fruitless.  This was because there was no "Tom Scott."  Instead the third brother was William Benjamin (or Ben) Scott, who was also not a wildcatter, but someone who dealt extensively with proven and highly profitable oil ventures throughout southern California.

Scott was born 15 November 1868 in Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri, southeast of Kansas City, to William T. Scott and Virginia Carpenter.  Scott's father was a farmer there, but the family pulled up stakes and migrated to California, settling in Santa Paula, Ventura County, in 1875.  By age sixteen, Scott was working as a carpenter and found work building rigs for the Union Oil Company of California, an enterprise which started in Santa Paula and became a powerhouse in the state's oil industry.  Working in local fields, he developed a thorough knowledge of "dressing" tools for drilling wells, mechanical repair and operations, and other technical components, but also exhibited a managerial skill that served him well later.

In 1896, Scott married Luna Hardison, a native of Caribou, Maine, whose father, Ai (yes, A and I!) was an oil operator in Pennsylvania, where America's oil industry was born at the end of the 1850s.  The Hardisons then moved to Santa Paula, where Luna's brother, Wallace, joined forces with another Pennsylvania oil veteran, Lyman Stewart, and with Thomas Bard in creating the Union Oil Company--indeed, Hardison and Stewart first met at Titusville, where the 1859 discovery occurred, and then again at Santa Paula, where they formed their first oil firm in 1883.  Another sibling, Eliza, married yet another Quaker State oil producer, William Loftus.  Notably, there was another Pennsylvania oilman at Santa Paula in those years, as well--S. C. "Cam" Graham.  Loftus and Graham had been recruited to California by Lyman Stewart's brother, Milton, to assist in the Hardison, Stewart and Company business that morphed into Union.

In June 1894, Ben Scott moved to Los Angeles, which had just had its first oil field opened on a shoestring operation by Charles Canfield and Edward Doheny, and went to work building rigs on a contractual basis for a number of companies.  This was soon followed by his taking over drilling operations for many of these clients.  Then, Scott and his brother-in-law, "Billy" Loftus formed a partrnership to do their own independent drilling as well as contract work.  Meantime, Edward Doheny bought land from the Olinda Land and Water Company and drilled Orange County's first oil well, which was "put on the pump" in 1897 and still is drilling and producing today (see the recent post on the Olinda Oil Museum and trail for a photo.)  At the end of 1896, Union Oil Company came to Olinda and secured the acquisition of 1,200 acres at the heart of the field.

The following year, 1898, Scott joined forces with his brother-in-law and Union president, Wallace Hardison, to create a new company that leased 100 acres from Hardison's Union firm.  Meantime, Scott's other brother-in-law, Loftus, formed a partnership, also in 1898, with Cam Graham, Thomas Bard and two others and the Graham-Loftus Company became a big player at Olinda when it bought land for $10,000 from famed San Francisco capitalist James Flood's Petrolia Oil and Asphalt Company holdings there.  As for the Scott-Hardison enterprise, the new company was called the Columbia Oil Company and Hardison was its first president with Scott serving as vice-president.  Two years later, in May 1900, the company reorganized under a new name: Columbia Oil Producing Company with $1,000,000 in capital and controlling some 1,050 acres of purchased land, 3,600 acres of mineral rights and about 200 leased acres at Brea Canyon, Olinda and the Puente Hills.  In addition to Hardison and Scott, directors included Hardison's brother, Guy, F. X. Pfaffinger and Harry Chandler.  In October 1903, Columbia entered into a merger with Puente Oil Company, which was headed by William R. Rowland, and a $2,000,000 enterprise was born.  Now, we see the direct connection amongst the tres hermanos of Tres Hermanos Ranch: they were all partners in the consolidated Columbia and Puente oil companies.  Notably, Wallace Hardison wasted his fortune trying to publish the Los Angeles Herald newspaper from 1900 to 1904 and was seeking to rebuild his portfolio in oil when he was killed while driving a newfangled "horseless carriage" (read: automobile) across a railroad track (traffic lights, stop signs--natch.)

This merger gave Columbia access to Puente Oil's pipeline and refinery operation at Chino and Puente's existing sales and marketing business.  By 1907, Scott had purchased additional stock in the new company and ascended to its presidency.  That year, he joined other businessmen in forming the Orange Oil Company, which had 56 acres in Brea Canyon and Scott also was president of that firm, which experienced great success with its wells.  Finally, with as four hundred acre purchase in Brea Canyon, the Pico Oil Company was formed in 1909 by Scott, Chandler, Moses Sherman (a Chandler real estate associate from the San Fernando Valley for whom Sherman Oaks is named) and others.


William Benjamin "Ben" Scott (1868-1920), oil producer at Olinda and Brea Canyon and
one of the "three brothers" of Tres Hermanos Ranch of upper Tonner Canyon.

In 1912, Columbia consolidated with Orange and Pico, so that a larger company with $3,500,000 in stock was formed and which held some 5,000 acres of oil lands in ownership, leases and mineral rights in Orange and Los Angeles counties and which operated about over a  hundred wells, forty-nine in Los Angeles Couty and fifty-nine in Orange County.  By the late teens, Columbia's one hundred plus producing wells were bringing in about 75,000-85,000 barrels of crude oil per day.  According to a 1921 history of Los Angeles, "the substantial credit for this progressive accmulation of oil properties and the business organization is due to the foresight and genius of Mr. Scott, who became president of the reorganized company."  For seven years, Scott guided the enlarged oil company, until in August 1919 another even larger consolidation occurred.  Columbia, along with Union Oil, was absorbed by a new corporation called the Union Oil Company of Delaware, which had nearly $12,000,000 in capital.  At the start of the new year in 1920, the merger was finalized.  Two years later, Union Oil of Delaware merged with the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, otherwise known as Shell.  The 100-acre Columbia lease, obtained by Scott and Hardison in 1898, became a Shell property after 1922.

Columbia Oil also had some wells (known as "Scott-Arnold") in the Montebello Oil Field, which was brought into production on land owned by the daughters of famed 19th-century mining and real estate magnate, Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin, and by Walter P. Temple, whose father, F. P. F. Temple, had owned the Montebello field lands prior to the failure of his bank in 1876.  Among the landmarks found on the property that Scott and Columbia held at Montebello was an adobe house, built in 1844 by Casilda Soto de Lobo, the original grantee of the Mexican-era land grant of Rancho La Merced.  When Mrs. Lobo defaulted on a $2,000 loan from Rancho La Puente rancher William Workman, Workman foreclosed and distributed the La Merced ranch to his son-in-law, F. P. F. Temple, and to his La Puente foreman, Juan Matias Sanchez.  The latter occupied to Soto adobe and lived there for some thirty years.  When the aforementioned bank, owned by William Workman and F. P. F. Temple, suspended business due to a bad economy, poor loans, unsecured mortgages and subpar accounting practices (hmmmm, does any of this sound familiar?!), a loan was taken out from "Lucky" Baldwin.  Baldwin foreclosed, taking most of La Merced, although the Sanchez family was allowed to maintain the Soto adobe and 200 acres for some years afterward.  Fast forward to the late 1910s and Ben Scott not only obtained oil property at Montebello, but he also bought the Soto-Sanchez Adobe.

On 27 April 1920, however, just a few months after Columbia Oil was absorbed by Union Oil of Delaware, of which Scott had a seat on the board, the 51-year old suddenly succumbed to a heart attack at his palatial home west of downtown Los Angeles and was buried at Inglewood Memorial Cemetery in the city of that name.  The 1921 Los Angeles history referred to above poured praise upon the late oilman, quoting a friend who claimed that Scott "used the golden rule as a yardstick for the measure of his conduct" and another gushed (!) that Scott "was brave, kind, good, true.  His every thought was pure and honest and his every act a living expression of his noble thought."  Interestingly, this glowing account was sure to note that "no one could ever tempt him to join in the frequent 'wildcatting' practices that prevailed here as elsewhere."  It was noted that, when Columbia was sold to Union Oil of Delaware, Scott arranged for a special bonus to all company employees equalling 10% of their cumulative pay with the firm, a total of $110,000 in all.  Scott was also a director of the Citizens National Bank and the Los Angeles Chamber of Oil and Mines and was a committee member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Scott's widow, Luna Hardison, probably with her family's assistance, created the W.B. Scott Investment Company in 1924 to manage the estate, but, within a few years, Mrs. Scott passed away, leaving her two children, William Keith and Josephine, as wealthy heirs to a fortune.  Josephine, who attended Stanford University, married Roy P. Crocker, who was president of Lincoln Savings and Loan from 1921 to 1969.  The elder Crocker turned over the business to his son, Donald, who manned the institution for another fifteen years, until he sold the business to Charles Keating in 1984.  With the Reagan-era deregulation of the savings and loan industry, free to enter "exotic" investment opportunities (hmmmm, does any of this sound familiar?!), Keating took Lincoln Savings and Loan to new heights of speculation and became one of the most famous/infamous names in the 1987 crash of Wall Street that led to bankruptcy, a notorious criminal trial, prison and the specter of the "Keating Five" group of politicians supported by Keating, including a future candidate for President of the United States, Senator John McCain. 

Meantime, Josephine Scott Crocker, whose brother Keith had remodeled the Soto-Sanchez Adobe, used it as a second residence for decades, and, as the oil production at Montebello declined and the post-World War II housing boom came to pass, sold off all but six lots by 1957 for residential development.  Finally, in 1972, she gave the landmark adobe house to the City of Montebello in 1972.  Today, the structure is run by the Montebello Historical Society.  Tangentially, there are Crocker family endowments to several universities, including the Crocker Business Library and a plaza at USC; a professorship in American politics at Claremont McKenna College; a professorship in lasw at USC; and professorships in law and in law and economics at Stanford.

Keith Scott, then, became the family's representative in the Tres Hermanos ranch enterprise, which was controlled through Chandis Securities Corporation, an entity created by Harry Chandler (get it, Chandler-Otis=Chandis?) to manage the family's massive portfolio of real estate properties.  Several years after his sister deeded the Soto-Sanchez Adobe, Keith Scott decided to join Chandis in disposing of Tres Hermanos Ranch, which was sold in 1978 to the City of Industry.