02 January 2012

The 1920 Federal Census and Olinda

As a companion of sorts to the series of recent posts concerning the 1924 map of the Olinda oil field and surrounding areas, this entry examines the 1920 federal census for the oil field area, specific to the somewhat arbitrary definition this blog takes of Carbon Canyon.  Namely, the discussion here covers the areas mainly east of Valencia Avenue, also the historic dividing line between the Rancho Cajon San Juan de Santa Ana to the west and public lands to the east.  There are a couple of examples, however, where oil lease properties existed on both sides of the subjectively defined boundary--these being the Columbia and General Petroleum leases.

The tallying of twenty-one sheets on the census for the Brea township yields some interesting (and, possibly, useful) information on the nearly 1,000 people who occupied the heart of the Olinda oil field a little over ninety years ago.  The research done deals with gender, age, race and ethnicity, and home ownership and is also broken down into population for the several existing leases.  On this latter point, here's what was revealed:

Graham and Loftus [excluding company lands west of Valencia]:  29 persons
General Petroleum Company: 43 persons
Fullerton Oil Company:  65 persons
Olinda Land and Oil Company: 97 persons
Columbia Oil:  121 persons
Petroleum Development Company: Santa Fe Railroad lease: 275 persons
West Coast Oil:  316 persons

There were also a grand total of 14 persons counted in Carbon Canyon, east of Olinda and up to the San Bernardino County line (a future post will cover that county's portion of the Canyon).

There was an expectation that, because of the male-dominated nature of the oil industry, the gender imbalance would be significant, but, by 1920, there was certainly a difference in who lived in oil field communities compared to in previous years.  Much of this was likely attributable to the availability of the automobile to more working and middle-class families.  So, at Olinda, males amounted to 54% of residents with females, obviously, being 46%. 

With more families residing at Olinda than were likely found earlier, the comparison of adults to children worked out to about 61% of persons above 21 years of age and, of course, 39% under 21.

What was not surprising was the segregated nature of the Olinda community.  Simply put, ethnic and racial minorities were not welcomed at these work sites.  98% of all residents in the Olinda area were American, Canadian or European--94% of them being natives of the United States.  Also to be expected were the large proportion of people who came from oil-producing states in the east, specifically, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas and the like.

There were only 17 persons of Latino or other ethnic groups.  Of these, six were from a Mexican farm laborer family on the Graham-Loftus lease, who were not affiliated with oil production; and five were from a Mexican family that consisted of laborers who worked on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad spur line that came into Olinda from Atwood in Placentia.   In fact, the only people of color who worked on oil properties was a Japanese boilerman on the West Coast lease named Fujimoto (who resided with his wife and two daughters--the children being California natives) and a Hawaiian named Richard Kahalulio, who worked on the Olinda Oil Company property as a teamster.  Kahalulio, however, had a personal connection with Olinda's founder, William Hervey Bailey--he was from the Maui community where the Bailey families were Congregationalist missionaries.

As to residential status, there were about 240 separate households in the covered area.  Of these, only 14 owned their homes with the remainder renting their dwellings, almost certainly, in most cases, from the oil companies.  There were 5 persons whose status was listed as "unknown," though what this might have meant will have to go unexplained.  It should also be pointed out the 50 single men resided in bunkhouses on four different leases (West Coast [17], Petroleum Development/Santa Fe [17], Columbia [9] and Fullerton [7].)  It would seem probable that more single men in bunkhouses would have been found in earlier days.

It was also interesting noting the various listed occupations for oil workers on these leases.  Standard job types would include pumpers, drillers, boilermakers/boilermen, tool dressers, well pullers, machinists, electricians, carpenters, engineers, truck drivers/teamsters, rotary helpers, rodmen, and roustabouts.

Some of these terms needed definition, so here they are.  A roustabout was a general unskilled laborer, doing whatever odd jobs were needed, and were usually more temporary than the skilled employees.  A rotary helper would assist with the use of the rotary drill, a recent innovation in drilling technology.  The tool dresser helped the driller by sharpening the drill bits.  A well puller cleaned and serviced wells and their equipment.  A rodman was a surveyor working on siting potential or chosen well locations.

A couple of men had the intriguing vocation of "gang pusher."  Creative modern thinking aside, these were the guys who supervised the roustabouts and were, basically, foremen for unskilled general labor. 

Above them all, of course, were the field superintendents or foremen, who often had assistants.  In some cases, there were clerks, watchmen [security officers], painters, car loaders, and other field-related workers.  Perhaps the most notable of the first-named was William J. Graham, brother of Smauel C. Graham, founder of the Graham-Loftus Oil Company, one of the oldest at Olinda.  William Graham, a 60-year old veteran of the Pennsylvania oil fields, earliest in America, listed himself as an "oil overseer," meaning, evidently, that was superintending his brother's enterprise at Olinda.  Though not listed on this research, because the fields were further west than the area covered here, was L. A. Hardison, the brother of one of the Union Oil Company's three founders, Wallace Hardison (the others being Lyman Stewart and Thomas Bard.)  Hardison, a 66-year old Maine native, was merely listed as a "laborer."  Samuel Graham's wife, Mamie, was the daughter of Ida Hardison, sister of Wallace and L.A.  There were also a couple of stores on two leases (Santa Fe and West Coast) and a boarding house on the West Coast lease that had a keeper, cook and two waitresses--these being a widow and her son and two daughters.  The Columbia lease also had a boarding house keeper and assistant, both women.

Then, there were those residents whose jobs were outside of the field.  On the Olinda Land and Oil Company lease was the Olinda School and its two teachers were listed as Maud Crane, a 28-year old from Minnesota and Myrtle Harris, 23, from Wyoming.  Also at Olinda was an apiarist, or bee-keeper.  At the Columbia lease, there was a partner in a transfer (trucking) company and his wife, a music teacher.  Their two daughters were an orange house packer (there were a few packing house workers in Olinda) and a house servant.  At the West Coast lease, straddling Valencia Avenue, was a Baptist church, presided over by a minister, Wilfred Kent, who lived at the house of worship with his wife and two children.  There was also a noteworthy listing, the son of a West Coast blacksmith, 23-year old John Woods, was attending law school.  The West Coast also had a worker's son who worked as a bank bookkeeper and two hotel waitresses.

Finally, there were the few folks who resided in Carbon Canyon east of the Olinda oil field settlements.  Two of these have already been discussed in a post related to the 1924 map, these being farmer Edward F. Gaines and his wife, who owned and lived on land encompassed now by the Olinda Village subdivision and the Hollydale Mobile Home Estates on the south side of the village.  There were two others, however, who will be covered in a future post.

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