Case No. 4437

This case was one of three filed by Robert S. Baker and Edward F. Beale (and minority co-owners Sanford Lyon and Christopher Leaming) in an attempt to drive the California Star Oil Works Company (CSOW) from the Pico Oil Springs claim, taking over the wells in the process.

CSOW was there because of a three year lease that Reuben Denton had signed on April 12, 1876, with Robert S. Baker, the majority owner of the claim. Denton had taken over the Star Oil Works (SOW) from Denton C. Scott and John G. Baker after they had gotten into a financial bind. Newly arrived to Los Angeles from Pennsylvania in 1875, Scott and Baker had leased the Lyon's Station refinery in March 1875 and, in April, got verbal permission from Robert S. Baker to drill on Pico Springs. They then started the Star Oil Works. In the summer, they got needed financial aide from Nathaniel J. Clark in return for an interest in the business. They were then able to hire Charles A. Mentry, an acquaintance of Scott from Pennsylvania, to manage the drilling. Mentry spring-poled three wells by the end of 1875. After more financial problems, Clarke dropped out. Reuben Denton, a San Franciscan interested in oil, then became a financial backer. In March of 1876, he became the owner. Not liking the existing verbal permission, he obtained a written 3-year lease from Baker on April 12. Soon Denton also had money problems but was able to get R.C. Page (a San Francisco stockbroker) for a half interest in SOW. Page then obtained A.J. Bryant (mayor of San Francisco), M.L. McDonald, and C. Jones as partners. In May 1876, the five men incorporated the Star Oil Works Company. In June, probably because of the problems between Denton and Clark (soon to be case 3375), they reincorporated as the California Star Oil Works Company (CSOW).

In the lease with R.S. Baker gave Denton the right to drill four wells with 1/8 of the oil going to Baker. The wells had to be operated in a workmanlike manner. When the lease expired, the ownership of the land and wells would pass back to the lessors (Baker, Beale, Lyon, and Leaming). The lease also excluded the area around the existing well of Sanford Lyon.

For two years Baker and Beale basically left Pico Springs alone. They did not ask for an accounting of the production of oil. But in June of 1877, after the success of the re-drilling of Pico 1 by Mentry, not to mention the earlier and on-going success of Pico 4, they apparently became worried about the Pico claim. They appeared at the office of CSOW (now with F.B. Taylor a 30% owner and D.G. Scofield his advisor) in San Francisco and demanded a statement of accounting and an acknowledgement that the premises were leased by CSOW but owned by Baker and Beale. CSOW refused. However, CSOW did try to compromise by offering Baker and Beale stock in the company and rights to select 3 of the 5 directors if everyone deeded over their rights to CSOW. Baker and Beale refused.

Heavy rains in early 1877 seemed to give Baker and Beale a way to have the lease legally broken. The rains had totally disrupted operations and washed out roads. Rail service to San Francisco was cut off. Oil could not be delivered to the refinery and, at times, had to be dumped into the creek. This made it seem like the wells were being worked in an unworkmanlike manner, which violated the terms of the lease. Baker and Beale wanted the court to declare the lease forfeited and to require CSOW to vacate the premises.

However, CSOW believed that there was a defect Beale and Baker's claim to Pico Springs. The cases were not resolved even when the lease expired on April 12, 1879. At that time, CSOW obtained an order appointed a receiver to operate the property until the dispute was settled. Also, larger powers (Charles Felton of Pacific Coast Oil Company) were becoming more interested and influential. Felton wanted the Pico lease and was probably the majority owner of CSOW by June.

Beale and Baker finally saw the light and decided to compromise in June of 1879. All parties conveyed to CSOW their rights to the Pico claim and the property on it. Beale and Baker received 3/7 interest in CSOW.

This is a very simplified version of the complete story. The ownership issue was a big deal. The best account is in "Formative Years in the Far West - A History of Standard Oil Company of California and Predecessors Through 1919" by Gerald T. White (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1962).

The three cases filed by Baker and Beale were:

Civil case no. 4394 (for damages) filed March 22, 1878.
R.S. Baker, E.F. Beale, et al. vs. Reuben Denton and the California Star Oil Company.

...4439 was dismissed without prejudice on April 4, 1878 (Ventura Free Press, April 6, 1878)

Civil case no. 4437 (for an accounting) filed April 22, 1878.
R.S. Baker and E.F. Beale vs. California Star Oil Works, Sanford Lyon, C. Leaming, and F.B. Taylor

...There was no court ruling on case 4437

Civil case no. 4438 (for ejectment) filed April 22, 1878
R.S. Baker vs. California Star Oil Works Company, D.G. Scofield and F.B. Taylor

...There was no court ruling on case 4438

The cases were very similar and had much the same wording and documents. Case 4437 has the most documents still available. (All these cases are stored at The Huntington in San Marino).

Case 4437 Documents:

Complaint - Filed April 22nd, 1878

Demand Notice - Filed April 12th, 1878

Summons - Filed May 16th, 1878

Defendants Answer - Filed June 17th, 1878

Demurrer - F.B. Taylor - Filed June 17th, 1878

Demurrer - Defendant - Filed June 17th, 1878

Notice of Defense motion to strike part of complaint - Filed June 17th, 1878

Affidavits of Plaintiffs

Affidavits of Defendants