03 August 2011

Olinda Oil Field History: Origins of Olinda, Part 4

From its creation during an immense southern California real estate boom in 1887-88, William Hervey Bailey's Olinda Ranch was intended as an agricultural subdivision, promoting "fertile farms" and "beautiful villa sites."  Early ads, as noted in a previous entry here, promoted the raising of fruit, grain, alfalfa and other products with an "ample supply of water for irrigation and domestic use."  In addition, promotional materials trumpeted the "now building" Anaheim, Olinda and Pomona Railroad, which, evidently, was going to go north and south through Brea Canyon between the established towns of the former and latter.  Notably, there was mention of a $50,000 plant to develop "immense deposits of asphaltum" found on the northern portion of the tract.

The great boom went bust, however, by the end of the Eighties and the 1890s proved to be a long, dreary decade of drought and depression.  As noted in other posts here about Richard Gird's struggles to develop his new town on the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, the real estate marked remained moribund for that period.  But, like Gird, Bailey made efforts to promote his subdivision despite prevailing conditions.

In late Summer 1891, for example, a small article appeared in the Los Angeles Times about Olinda Ranch, subtitled "Where Orange Land May be Had at a Reasonable Price."  The piece noted that, while oranges could not be raised everywhere in the region, it could be done at Olinda for under $200 an acre in 5, 10 and 40 acre parcels.  Described as "beautifully located on gentle, sloping ground, commanding a magnificent view of the surrounding country," the ranch was noted as being "on the Santa Fe line," meaning the railroad line of the Southern California Railway, a subsidiary of the massive Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway then engaged in a storied battle with the Southern Pacific Railroad for control of western America's burgeoning railroad system.  Actually, Olinda Ranch wasn't exactly "on the line," though a spur line was constructed from Atwood (now a neighborhood in Placentia) northwestward to the ranch.

The article also claimed that the parcel was "just far enough from the ocean—about 13 miles—to escape fogs and yet insure [ensure] a temperate climate all year round."   This also tinkered a bit with the truth.  The distance to the Pacific from Olinda is more like 20 miles and while dense fogs may be very rare now, a certain blogger who lived in Placentia thirty years back can well remember heavy blankets of fog in the area.  Still, the temperate climate part is basically the case.  Another example of toying with accuracy was the statement that Olinda "adjoins the celebrated Chino beet sugar ranch," although, of course, a few miles of the Chino Hills and Carbon Canyon separate the two.  While noting that there was an existing "orchard of bearing orange and other trees," the piece went on to say that the tract's land was "adapted to vegetables, grain and stock."

In fact, regarding the last item, there was an attempt to graze cattle on the ranch during this period, but it proved unsuccessful or, at least, not profitable, as the Olinda Ranch Company advertised in the Times in August 1892 for the sale of registered Gallaway cattle, bulls, cows and calves "at a bargain" through an Anaheim office. 

This detail from a 1924 California State Mining Bureau map shows the Olinda area, including the abandoned Carlton townsite, the Santa Fe Railroad spur line from Placentia and parcels still held by the successor to the Olinda Ranch Company, the Olinda Land Company, headed by William H. Bailey, Jr., son of the founder of the ranch.  Courtesy of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

The following year, the Company tried trumpeting some success with a field crop, as the Times noted in a June 1893 issue that "a field of red Texas oats on the Olinda ranch, near Fullerton, has yielded this season the large crop of five tons of hay to the acre, which sells readily at $12 per ton."

Two years later, in December 1895, the Times published an article about castor bean growing, citing The American Cultivator's discussion about the difficulties in raising the crop, used as a "purgative" or laxative, because of the need for very rich soil and "peculiar" and costly machinery to hull the bean from the pod.  Although the Cultivator noted that some farmers in Kansas and Missouri were raising the bean for a St. Louis market, the further expense in pressing the oil from the bean was also viewed as an issue.  Consequently, the journal opined that the bean was better raised in small home gardens for local use rather than on a larger farm-based scale.  Undeterred, the Times offered the rebuttal that "in this region the harvesting of the bean does not entail any such trouble."  It went on to say that, "Mr. Bailey, who owns the Olinda ranch in Orange county, informs The Times that he obtained 2 1/2 cents per pound in San Francisco for the hulled beans which he raised."  The paper reported that Bailey, who offered that growing castor beans was basically like raising corn, simply had the pods spread upon the ground in the hot sun, which effectively hulled the beans without machinery.  Moreover, the Times observed that "Mr. Bailey finds that his castor beans pay about $30 to $40 an acre" and concluded that "this is enough to warrant the farmers in Southern California to pay some attention to a crop which can be easily marketed."

This did not prove to be the case and the difficulties of promoting and selling the land, even as Bailey did so in his native Hawaii, advertising Olinda in the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper, for example, during 1896, led him, in Spring 1897, to transfer the main office of the Olinda Ranch Company from Los Angeles, where it had been for almost a decade, to San Francisco, across the Bay from his home in Oakland.

Still, by Spring 1898, the agricultural and ranching possibilities of Olinda were being touted, as the Times, in early April reported that, due to the efforts of San Francisco real estate firm Easton, Eldridge and Company, sales of two tracts totaling some 90 acres brought in $12,500.  Notably, the connection to Chino comes to the fore here, as Richard Gird hired the same firm to market and sell his ranch during the same period.  Moreover, the buyers of the two Olinda parcels were "cattle men from Arizona, one of whom is feeding cattle on the adjoining [!] Chino ranch, with pulp from the sugar factory."  Gird, as blog readers might remember, bought the Chino ranch with money made at the Tombstone, Arizona mines he helped found and develop and these ranchers were associates of his from that territory.

Whatever may have transpired with this stock-raising activity, the 1898 piece hearkened back to something touched upon, but not heavily emphasized, in earlier promotional efforts about Olinda.  Namely, the piece observed, "in the hill section of the ranch are oil deposits, which are reserved.  Several wells have been sunk here by the Southern California Railway Company" and it concluded by reporting that "another sale of several thousand acres of this ranch is pending." 

Indeed, Olinda was on the verge of a transformation from a stagnated subdivision intended for farming and cattle ranching to a new enterprise that would make it far more famed than William Hervey Bailey or anyone else, for that matter, could have foreseen a decade before.

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