The above document by Pio Pico, dated March 9, 1886, granted to Juan Luco all of Pico's rights from "said agreement", the deed of May 21, 1877, from Robert S. Baker.


Juan M. Luco vs. Robert S. Baker

Case No. 19531-3 (San Francisco)/Case No. 6831 (Los Angeles)

For a little background to this case, we first need a brief history of the ownership of the Pico Oil Springs.

In January of 1865, Jesus Hernandez and Ramon Perea discovered an oil springs deep in a canyon that would be later called Pico. On May 22, 1865, they sold their Pico claim to Robert S. Baker for $300. They recorded their original claim and the sale to Baker in the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office both on the same May 22 date. It was also recorded in the books of the Los Angeles Asphaltum and Petroleum Mining District on that date. Baker then sold half to Edward F. Beale. Baker hired Sanford Lyon to take possession and work the property.

On August 8, 1865, a mining claim for the Pico claim was filed in the San Fernando Petroleum Mining District (which did not exist in May of 1865) by Pio Pico, Robert S. Baker, Edward F. Beale, Sanford Lyon, Juan Forster, and Francisco P. Forster. They stated that since no work was done on the May 22 claim, they could re-locate it. However, Baker, Beale, and Lyon did not sign this claim for themselves, and Baker apparently only found out about it in the 1870's. Testimony in court would later prove that Lyon worked for Baker and Beale and did no work for the August 8th claim.

On June 23, 1876, Juan and Francisco Forster their rights to the August 8th claim to Romulo Pico for $1000. On July 28, 1876, Romulo Pico sold the rights to F.B. Taylor for $6000. On October 28, 1976, Sanford Lyon and Christopher Leaming (Lyon had sold part of his rights to Leaming) sold their rights to F.B. Taylor for $2000. F.B. Taylor would eventually be an employee of the California Star Oil Company, which was, at this time, operating in Pico Canyon under a lease by Baker and Beale.

On May 21, 1877, Pio Pico executed deed of conveyance to Robert S. Baker for his rights to the Pico oil claim. On the same day, Baker gave Pico an instrument stating that in consideration of the rights Pico was giving him; Baker would give Pico his proportionate share of any net proceeds of the oil springs.

On June 14, 1877, Pio Pico executed another deed to Baker granting Baker of all his (Pico's) interest in the oil springs.

On June 28, 1879, Baker and Beale along with F.B. Taylor agreed to convey all their rights to the Pico oil springs to the California Star Oil Works Company for shares of the company and some cash. On September 14, 1880, Baker and Beale received a patent to their claim from the U.S. Government. It wasn't until August 15, 1882, that Baker and Beale actually handed over a deed of grant to CSOW.

On March 9, 1886, Pio Pico executed a document assigning all his rights of the May 21, 1877, document to Juan Luco.

Based on this document from Pico, on July 19, 1886, Luco brought suit against Baker for the Pio Pico's proportionate share of the sale and subsequent dividends from the California Star Oil Works Company, which were substantial. The court would ultimately conclude that Pio Pico's deed of June 14, 1877, left Pico with no rights to the oil springs and ruled for the defendant Baker. The court did not rule whether or not Pio Pico actually had any rights to the oil springs, but that, if he did have rights, they went to Baker. Baker did make the claim that since the August 8, 1865 claim was fraudulent, Pico had no rights, but the court did not rule on that point.


The case itself has an interesting history. Luco originally filed it in the Federal District Court in San Francisco against Robert S. Baker, Arcadia Baker (Robert's wife), and the California Star Oil Works Company. Then, for unknown reasons, he withdrew from the federal court and refiled in the Superior Court of San Francisco on January 25, 1887 (Case No. 19531-3).

Baker's lawyers moved to have the case transferred to Los Angeles, where they had nearly 70 witnesses available. Luco's lawyers claimed that Baker just wanted to be on more favorable ground and fought the transfer. On March 23, 1887, the San Francisco Superior Court denied the tranfer request. However, after a rehearing, the transfer was approved on August 11, 1887. Luco appealed to the California Supreme Court, but was ignored. The case was tranferred to the Los Angeles Superior Court (Case No. 6831) and went to trial on October 31, 1888, before Judge William P. Gardiner.

Before the case was heard in Los Angeles, Baker's wife Arcadia was dismissed as a defendant by order of the court on August 8, 1887. On October 25, 1888, with the consent of Luco, the California Star Oil Works Company was also dropped as a defendant.

On November 26, 1888, Judge William P. Gardiner ruled in favor of the defendant, Robert S. Baker.



The following is from the Los Angeles Times of November 28, 1888:



Selected Case Documents:

Complaint - Filed January 25, 1887
Motion for change of place of trial - Baker - Filed March 9, 1887 (PDF -5MB)
Motion for change of place of trial - Scofield for CSOW - Filed March 9, 1887 (PDF - 11.4MB)
Baker Answer to Amended Complaint - Filed June 30, 1887
CSOW Answer to Amended Complaint - Filed August 3, 1887 (PDF - 23.8MB)
John Forster deposition - Filed on August 8, 1887
Marcus Forster deposition - Filed on August 8, 1887
Deposition of D. G. Scofield - June 19, 1888 (PDF - 24.1MB)
Second Amended Complaint - Filed October 24, 1888
Baker Demurrer to Second Amended Complaint - Filed October 27, 1888
Baker Answer to Second Amended Complaint - Filed October 27, 1888
Plantiff's Attorney argument (date unknown) (PDF - 12.6MB)
Findings of Court - Filed November 26, 1888
Alternate Findings of Court - November, 1888
Judgement - Filed November 26, 1888
Luco Appeal turned down - August 27, 1889


Case Exhibits:

Plaintiff Exhibit A - August 8, 1865 Claim
Plaintiff Exhibit B - May 21, 1877 Pico to Baker
Plaintiff Exhibit C - May 21, 1877 Baker to Pico
Plaintiff Exhibit D - June 14, 1877, Pico to Baker


Other Documents:

Jesus Hernandez/Ramon Perea Claim - May 22, 1865
Jesus Hernandez/Ramon Perea to Robert S. Baker - May 22, 1865
Rueben Denton/CSOW lease with Robert S. Baker - April 12, 1876 (PDF - 2.6MB)
Baker conveying half interest of Pico claim to Beale - February 4, 1879
Beale/Baker Agreement with CSOW - June 28, 1879
Statement of LA Petroleum MD recorder - March 17, 1879
Statement of San Fernando Petroleum MD recorder - March 20, 1879
Baker/Beale Patent - September 14, 1880 (PDF - 3.9MB)
Baker/Beale to CSOW - August 15, 1882 (PDF - 2.7MB)




Daily Alta California November 9, 1886