29 August 2011

Olinda Oil Field History: Origins of Olinda, Part 8

As the Olinda oil field grew in importance in the waning years of the 19th-century, Olinda Ranch founder William Hervey Bailey continued to work to improve his position within the field.  Having already sold or leased large portions of the ranch he established a decade prior during the fabled Boom of the Eighties, Bailey formed the Olinda Oil Company and the Richfield Oil Company.

In early October 1899, however, he moved to expand his reach, as announced by the Los Angeles Times in an article on the 3rd, which announced that "there seems no longer to be any doubt as to the important position Orange county [sic] is to occupy in the development of oil on this Coast."  Referring to important sales of oil land in the area, the paper offered that "yet the general public has but little conception of the real extent to which the development of this industry is destined to go."  In truth, the paper had little idea either, given the oil production had not seen the advent, in any major way, of the emerging automobile industry and the Wright brothers and their airplane were still a few years off.

Interestingly, the Times indicated that, while oil was found in Olinda only within the previous few years, "it was believed to be in very small quantities—scarcely enough top justify development."  After, however, "several men with capital were attracted to this locality," lands deemed only usable for sheep grazing became highly prized for the petroleum potential.

This led to the news that "today four deeds were filed here transferring over eight thousand acres of oil land to the Consolidated Olinda Oil Company, the aggregate consideration being $340,000."  The paper went on to state that "this land was formerly owned by W. S. Bailey, Jr.," though they certainly meant William H. Bailey, Sr., not his 26-year old son.  The next sentence has a little syntax and grammar problem: "The Olinda Oil Company, the Richfield Oil Company, and the Olinda Ranch Company, the Consolidated Olinda Oil Company, has secured control of the oil interests of the other companies above mentioned."  What this seems to mean is that the new consolidated firm absorbed all the interest in the former Olinda Ranch of the ranch company, as well as those of the Olinda and Richfield entities.  The article closed by noting that "this company will make extensive developments in the oil district in this county during the next few months."

Just two days later, though, the Times reported "that the big oil deal a few days ago, by which the Consolidated Olinda Oil Company became the owner of more than 8000 acres of oil-bearing land in this county, and for which they paid $340,000, was made in the interest of the Union Oil Company."  In addition, a Union Oil representative appeared before the Board of Supervisors in Santa Ana "to present a petition for permission to pay an oil pipe line from the oil wells back of Fullerton along certain county roads to the Alamitos beet-sugar factory."  Moreover, it was observed that Union first proposed securing a right-of-way to Newport Beach, but "that the use of the wharf at Newport could not be procured."  Further, the company intended to build the line from Los Alamitos (near where the San Gabriel River empties into the Pacific at the border of Seal Beach and Long Beach [and, therefore, at the junction of Orange and Los Angeles counties]) and over to the harbor at San Pedro, recently the subject of massive federal appropriations for creating a man-made port facility that led to the modern day Port of Los Angeles.

The following day, on 6 October, the Times noted that the Consolidated Olinda Oil Company filed its articles of incorporation at Santa Ana and that $500,000 of stock was to be issued, divided into 50,000 shares at a par value of $10 each.  At the time, though, only $1,220 was subscribed among those stockholders who constituted the Board of Directors.  These were William Hervey Bailey and T. V. Bakewell of Oakland, Ralph Jones and a Mr. Donzel of San Francisco and Bailey's brother-in-law, Warren Olney, Jr., also of Oakland.  Notably, Bailey held $1,000 of the initial subscription amount, while Olney and Donzel took $100 and Bakewell and Jones but one share of $10 apiece. 

A little sidenote of interest:  Olney was married to Bailey's sister.  His namesake father was from frontier Iowa and was a teacher (one of his students was the legendary Texas judge, Wyatt Earp) before serving in the Union Army in Missouri during the Civil War.  Warren, Sr. earned a law degree from the University of Michigan and then migrated to San Francisco in 1868.  Although a sucessful attorney and mayor of Oakland from 1903 to 1905, the senior Olney is perhaps best known as a founder with John Muir of the Sierra Club and wrote its first charter, as well as serving as vice-president.  As to Olney, Jr., he also had a distinguished legal career as an attorney and served on the California Supreme Court from 1919 to 1921.  The younger Olney's son, Warren III, continued the family tradition of law and was Assistant Attorney General under President Eisenhower in the 1950s and oversaw the criminal division of the Department of Justice.  More well-known than them all, though, is Warren Olney IV, a longtime news reporter, anchorman, and radio personality in Los Angeles.

Back to Olinda.  Readers of posts on Tonner Canyon will recall that the Union Oil Company, founded in Santa Paula by Pennsylvania veterans of the oil industry like Lyman Stewart, Thomas Bard and Wallace Hardison, will recall that Hardison's sister married William Benjamin Scott, one of the "three brothers" of Tres Hermanos Ranch in upper Tonner Canyon in Diamond Bar/Chino Hills, and founder of the Columbia Oil Company, which had a significant presence in Olinda.  William Hervey Bailey's Consolidated Olinda Oil Company as a front of sorts for Union was further expounded upon by the Times in an editorial on 8 October 1899, when it referred to the recent deal with Consolidated as a transfer "from the Olinda Oil Company to the Union Oil Company."  Because, "the latter is known to have very heavy capital," it was fully expected that Union was going to get its product from the field via pipelines to ports for transfer.  This presaged a great boom for Olinda and, indeed, this was the case.

Yet, it is interesting to note that, on 13 October 1899, the Times reported that Consolidated Olinda filed a lawsuit against Columbia Oil, William Benjamin Scott, Wallace Hardison and others to take possession of 320 acres of land which it claimed it owned and which was said to be oil-bearing, as well as seeking $500 in damages.  The outcome of that case has not been found by this blogger.

Meantime, in early November, the Southern California Railway petitioned Orange County's Board of Supervisors for a right-of-way across public roads because "it is the intention of the railroad to construct a branch from the Santa Ana Cañon to the location of the company's oil wells [the Santa Fe lease] in the vicinity of Olinda."  This spur line will be the subject of a future post and reflected another example of important infrastructure to get crude oil from Olinda to shipping points.  While Union Oil was looking at a lengthy pipeline system to San Pedro Harbor, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe via the Southern California Railway was relying on a shorter, simpler transport by rail.

Another sidenote in the same 8 November 1899 Times column from above:  Burdette Chandler, a principal in the Puente Oil Company operating a few miles west and north of Olinda in modern Rowland Heights, also owned some oil lands in the vicinity of the junction of Tonner and Brea canyons and just consummated a deal to sell 200 acres to the new Brea Cañon Oil Company.

As 1900 dawned, the action was increasing with greater force and speed.  More to come next entry.

No comments: