12 August 2011

Olinda Oil Field History: Origins of Olinda, Part 6

After the first oil well at Olinda was brought into production in April 1897 by Edward Doheny in association with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad's Southern California Railway subsidiary, matters moved rapidly toward the development of the area, which was called the Fullerton field.

In June 1898, the Los Angeles Times did a brief profile on the Olinda Ranch, noting that the 4500-acre parcel was subdivided during the great Boom of the Eighties a decade before "with a townsite in the middle of the tract, named Carlton."  It referenced founder W. H. Bailey and his transfer of the ranch to the Olinda Ranch Company.  Yet, as the paper pointed out, "few sales were made, and most of the townsite has now been transformed into acreage," meaning larger lots of probably the 5, 10 and 40 acre ones promoted for the ranch outside the Carlton townsite.

Of note, however, was the fact that a new entity was entering the field at Olinda (fortunately, the name "Oil Center" proposed in April 1897 went nowhere!)  As reported by the Times, this was the "Richfield Oil Company," which, the paper continued, "has secured extensive rights of development, pipe-line privileges, etc., from the Olinda Ranch Company, and proposed operating not only directly, but by subleasing lands for oil development . . ."  Observing that "the Olinda Ranch lies south and west of the Santa Fe wells," which was not technically the case, as the "Santa Fe wells" were within the original Olinda Ranch property, the paper noted that W. L. Watts of the California Mining Bureau had visited the ranch to assess its oil-bearing potential.  Because of Watts' favorable report, the Richfield Oil Company, later the Atlantic Richfield Company now known as ARCO, was formed to work the field.

Also of interest is the fact that Richfield was then composed of "San Francisco and local capitalists" and that oil men in the Orange County and surrounding areas would have the opportunity to sublease from Richfield.  Readers of this blog's posts about the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino will recall that, during the 1890s, a San Francisco-based real estate firm, Easton, Eldridge and Company, were hired to market and sell sections of that ranch.    When the incorporation papers for the Richfield Oil Company were filed, this was done by Easton, Eldridge and Company, thus providing another tangible link between Olinda and Chino.

On 3 July, the Times reported that the Mining Bureau's Watts as back in the area reviewing oil properties from Puente Hills to Olinda and further east and south along what is now known as the Chino Hills, but then considered part of the Puente chain, to the Santa Ana River.  Watts, however, believed that there was no indication of oil bearing lands anywhere east of Olinda, which has proven to be the case.  As a sidenote, some attention was paid in the article to Watts' investigations in a canyon near the Southern California Railway's Gypsum side track (this, of course, being Gypsum Canyon) and that a favorable indication of coal was located where existing efforts to mine the material had already been made.  Coal Canyon, naturally, is where Watts was conducting his investigation.  In 1900, Watts completed a report, including a series of maps, that were the first comprehensive effort to examine and interpret the oil lands of southern California generally, including the new Olinda segment of the Fullerton field.

As to Richfield Oil Company's efforts, an article in the same paper from two weeks later, noted that "work on the first of a series of wells to be put down on the Olinda ranch commenced this week."  Commenting that oil experts were favorably impressed with the potential at Olinda, the Times reported that "if expectations are realized, plans made for an extensive pipe-line sustem will be put in effect at once."  This system was projected to run "from the ranch to Richfield station on the Santa Fe [Southern California Railway]."  This refers to the station at what became Atwood, along today's Richfield Avenue in Placentia, where the railroad track still runs parallel to Orangethorpe Avenue.  From that point, the article continued, "from Richfield, over an easy route, the line will be run to this city [Los Angeles], coming in at the west-end depot of the Southern Pacific.  From there it will be run to Los Alamitos, where, it is said, the sugar factory will be supplied with oil for fuel," a contract apparently being imminent.  By sugar factory, this was a sugar beet facility like the one Richard Gird established at Chino, though, eventually, sugar beets as a source of sugar dissipated in favor of protected tariffs for production from Louisiana and Hawaii's sugar cane fields.

As to the wells owned by the Santa Fe Railroad, an August 1898 feature in the Times noted that 8000 barrels of crude were extracted and shipped from Olinda by the company in July and that expectations were for a larger proportion in August.  Well #1 continued to be the best producer, at 125 barrels per day, but an unspecified number (probably a few) were also in production.  Of course, Well #1 is still in operation today and is a feature of the Olinda Oil Museum within the Olinda Ranch housing subdivision on the old Santa Fe property.  Another tangential tidbit:  the article referred to two officials from the Santa Fe being at Olinda looking over the situation, one of these men being Chief Engineer for the company, Fred Perris.  He, of course, is the namesake for the Riverside County city of Perris, a station stop on a company-owned line (once on the California Southern Railway) from San Bernardino to San Diego.

More on early Olinda oil fields next time!

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