31 August 2011

Olinda Oil Field History: Origins of Olinda, Part 9

With the end of the nineteenth-century, the hurried activity at the Olinda Oil Field, Orange County's first such center of petroleum prospecting, continued unabated.  For Olinda Ranch founder William Hervey Bailey, this meant further manueverings to protect and maximize his interests.  As noted previously, Bailey created the Olinda Oil Company and then assisted in the organization of the Richfield Oil Company.  But, by late 1899, he engineered the formation of the Consolidated Olinda Oil Company, which appeared to be a front for the powerful Union Oil Company.  Still, the legal issues continued.

In the 22 July 1900 issue of the Los Angeles Times, it was noted that "disputed ownership of territory in the Fullerton [really Olinda] field promises to result within a short  time in the opening of litigation involving the property of nearly every company in the district."  In this instance, this had to do with discrepancies in surveys affecting the boundary of land controlled by two entities: the Fullerton Oil Company and the Fullerton Consolidated Oil Company, the latter controlled by Charles Victor Hall, who was profiled here a while back.

As to Bailey's own consolidated firm, the issue had a short notice that "The Olinda Consolidated is moving a rig to the old Carlton township," indicating an interest in developing its operations further south and perhaps east of its main concentration in the area in and around today's Carbon Canyon Regional Park. 

There was other interesting local news.  For example, the new Soquel Canyon Oil Company (a stock certificate of which was highlighted in this blog some time back), sunk its first well, but found trouble in drilling, so pulled the rig and started a second one nearby.  This company, while working in the area where Soquel and Carbon canyons meet, near Olinda Village and the Hollydale Mobile Home Park, believed it had oil prospects because of successful wells on the same geological "strike" as that of the Columbia and Fullerton companies.  By 1902, however, the Soquel Canyon firm went belly-up as its wells turned up dry.

Meanwhile, further east and south, it was announced that "a large corps of surveyors has been at work on Chino ranch land in Telegraph Cañon . . . good oil conditions exist there."  Telegraph Canyon is the main east-west canyon that runs along the north portion of Chino Hills State Park and some interesting history there will someday be added to this blog. 
A little more than a mohth later, on 31 August 1900, the Times announced further news concerning W. H. Bailey's Olinda activities.  Some 4,400 acres of land was purchased by Bailey and partners for yet another oil firm, the Olinda Crude Oil Company.  This company's capitalization was much higher than Bailey's earlier endeavors, totaling $2 million, and featured a larger pool of investors.  These included prominent Los Angeles businessmen like Abraham Haas, Herman Baruch, H. H. Kerckhoff, M. A. Hamburger, S. H. Mott,  F. W. Braun (men involved in wholesale grocery, furniture, and pharmaceutical enterprises) and Times publisher Harry Chandler.  Its directors also featured banker Herman W. Hellman, lumberman William H. Perry, Braun, Baruch and, of course, Bailey.

Some of the new concern's lands were oil producing under lease to the Columbia and Fullerton companies and 10% of the 4,400 acres were under lease and new wells were being drilled on those, while the remaining company-owned land was to be thoroughly investigated for new wells paid for by the Olinda Crude entity.  By early January 1901, in fact, the Times reported that its first well struck oil at 740 feet.

This was Bailey's last oil company on the ranch he founded in 1887.  His oil-prospecting enterprise seems to have had some success over the years, although it was again reconstituted, using the name Olinda Land Company.  State oil reports in 1918 and 1921 noted that the firm had ten, then eleven, wells and was under the leadership of Bailey's son, William, Jr.  Meantime, in October 1906, remaining land at the Olinda Ranch was sold by Bailey to Jacob Stern, the highly successful German-born Jewish merchant, born in Saxony in 1859, who came to America in 1884 and went first to New York, then Cleveland, where he spent five years in the clothing business.

Stern arrived at Fullerton in 1889 and opened the Stern and Goodman mercantile house on Spadra Avenue, now Harbor Boulevard, building an impressive business building there.  Stern and Goodman had branch stores at Anaheim, Placentia and Olinda and eventually controlled fully 75% of all the hay and grain business in the area.  While Goodman attended to the store, Stern branched out into hay and grain dealing and real estate through a Los Angeles office.  He emerged as a particularly successful and under-recognized real estate investor, having stakes in Yorba Linda (much of the town was founded on his holdings); Placentia; Whittier; Corona; Pomona; Santa Ana; Sunset Beach (just now absorbed into Huntington Beach); one-half of the famed Rancho Cucamonga, which he leased to Charles Victor Hall of Olinda renown; other lands in Los Angeles, Kern, Imperial, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Fresno counties; and, finally, in Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas!  At one time, he owned some 20,000 acres.

In 1918, Stern and Goodman liquidated their store, while keeping the valuable Fullerton building.  Stern also had oil lands in Placentia (the old Richfield townsite) which he leased to General Petroleum Corporation.  After living in Fullerton until 1904, Stern moved to a palatial residence on five acres in what was then a rural outpost west of Los Angeles called Hollywood.  In fact, his property was at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street!  As to his Olinda land, Stern paid $140,000 and planned to subdivide it into fivce, ten and twenty acre tracts.

William Hervey Bailey lived a few years beyond the Stern sale and retained presidency of the Olinda Crude Oil Company until his death at age 64 on New Year's Day 1910 at the Lamanda Park Hospital in Pasadena after a year's battle with pneumonia.  In a Times obituary, it was pointed out that "a little more than twenty years ago . . . he bought a large piece of land in the Fullerton district and organized the towns of Olinda and Richfield.  At that time it was thought the land was most valuable because of the agricultural possibilities, and it was not for many years thereafter that its true worth was discovered through the striking of oil."  Bailey's full-time residence remained in Oakland, but he had a room at the Hotel Melrose in Los Angeles.  After he contracted pneumonia, it was decided to bring him back to Pasadena for the warmer winter climate than what was to be found in the Bay Area.  Bailey was, however, interred with his parents and brother Edward at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

Bailey's son, William, Jr., as noted above, took the reins of the company, which continued to operate some wells as well as receive lease income from other oil firms with producing wells.  It doesn't appear that Olinda Land expanded during the son's tenure, but it maintained its operations, with some occasional indications of new success, such as a 1921 well, its twnety-third, "in an undeveloped section of Olinda and Chino Canyon," this latter seeming to mean either Carbon, Soquel or Telegraph canyon.  But, in early 1938, Olinda Land Company voted to issue a liquidating dividend on its capital stock based upon "the sale of the company's real holdings in Orange county to the Shell Oil Company for $500,000."  Other assets of the firm, basically in marketable securities, were also liquidated and distributed to the company's stockholders.  After just over a half-century, the Bailey family's direct involvement at Olinda was concluded.  Two years later, in July 1940, William H. Bailey, Jr., manager of the Olinda Land Company for almost three decades, died at age 66 at his West Los Angeles home and was buried at nearby Rosedale Cemetery.

With this entry, this series of Olinda Oil Field history comes to a close, although there will be much more to add about the field in later entries focusing of different subjects.

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