Brief History of Oil Development in Dewitt Canyon

This topo map shows all the known well sites in Dewitt and Wickham Canyon. It also shows Pico (or Mentryville) on the top left. In the lower left hand part of the map is the well site of Odeen #1, located at the end of the Pico Canyon road. In the center right just above "Dewitt" is a red arrow marking the furthest extent of the Southern Oaks housing tract. The three wells to the upper right of the arrow are covered by the housing tract.

John Moore first filed a claim in Dewitt Canyon in 1864 or 65. Stephen Peckham visited the Moore claim in 1866 and wrote that there was a 30 foot tunnel in the west canyon (tributary) and three spring-pole wells in the east canyon (tributary). The wells were 50, 50, and 42 feet deep with two of them reaching petroleum.

By 1879, the Moore claim (as well as Moore) was gone and there was a Camulos and Arcadia placer mining claim. In 1880, these claims were bought by Charles N. Felton, the president of Pacific Coast Oil Company (PCO), thus becaming the property of PCO. Hardison & Stewart drilled two wells on the Camulos claim (leased from PCO) in 1882 and 1883. Well number 1 produced only one barrel of oil per day. Well number 2 was abandoned at a depth of 200 feet. They were also reported to have drilled a third well in 1887 on the Arcadia claim, but there are no records of this well.

A.B. Perkins writes ("The Story of Our Valley") that "Lyman Stewart was an intensely religious man, sometimes reproving his drillers for profanity. It took no time at all for their sublease in Dewitt Canyon, just east of Pico Canyon, to become known as "Christian Hill." However, this is the same story that was used for the hill in Pico Canyon where Hardison & Stewart drilled their three "Hill" wells, so it's hard to know which hill, if any, was really called "Christian Hill."

The records of the US Land Office in Los Angeles show that both these claims were patented on October 8, 1890, to the Occidental Asphalt Company. If you remember from the Pico Canyon oil history, this company was owned by Charles Felton (the president of Pacific Coast Oil Company) and Lloyd Tevis (one of PCO's co-founders). Now PCO owned the outright title to the land.

Not until 1921 was another well drilled in the canyon. Like all the earlier wells, it was unsuccessful. The last wells drilled in the 1940's and 1954 were also unsuccessful.

Apparently, oil was never produced commercially in Dewitt Canyon.

Table of the wells drilled in Dewitt Canyon

(From Walling, 1934, and DOGGR records)
Last Owner Well # Year 1st Drilled Total depth(ft) Initial Prod. (bpd) Remarks
Hardison & Stewart Oil Co. 1 1882 1000 1 No commercial production
Hardison & Stewart Oil Co. 2 1883 700 ? No production
Hardison & Stewart Oil Co. 3 1883 1600 ? Little production
Chevron USA Moore 1 1896 or 97 1320 8 Plugged in 1991.
Chevron USA Moore 2 1897 925 0 No production. Plugged in 1991.
Chevron USA Moore 3 1897 1360 0 Hole caving badly and well abandoned. Plugged in 1991.
Chevron USA Moore 4 1897? ? ? No records. May not exist.
Half Moon Oil Co. 1 1921 ? ? Only "intent to drill" record exists. May have never been drilled.
Monterey Resources Inc. Sanborn 1 1941 8171 0 Drilled by Aztec Oil Co. Deepened in 1942 and 1945. No production.
Mutual Development Corp. Sanborn 1 1947 6471 0 No production. Plugged in 1998.
Mutual Development Corp. Sanborn 2 1948 6301 0 No production

John Moore claim (middle left side) on a section of undated claim map at the Huntington Library titled "Rancho San Francisco: parcels beyond southern boundary in sec. 4-11, 14-17, T.3N. R.16W. S.B.M." which can be seen here.

This map is from Walling, 1934, and shows two claims - Arcadia and Camulos

This is the old road to the Half Moon Oil Company well of 1921

The only thing I could find at the Half Moon Oil well site was this piece of wood in the slope above the site

Oil seep up the east fork

The oil seep appears to be about all dried out. Maybe some water is still seeping out.

The source of the seep is just above the creek bed

This old nut and cut nail is from map is from Hardison & Stewart Oil Company well number 1 from 1892. The evidence for this well site only consists of some hardened petroleum in the creek bed. There is also some wood embedded in the petroleum. This type of petroleum flow is common beneath old wells. There has been so much erosion and debris flowing down the creek that the well site is mostly buried.

There is also this pipe sticking out of the ground nearby

In the west fork is this pipe beneath the probable site of Moore 1, spudded in 1896 or 1897. There is another pipe nearby.

Also at the Moore 1 site is the section of smokestack from a steam boiler

Here is another section of probably the same smokestack close by

Here is the site of Moore 1 from higher up on the other site of the creek. It's basically just a brush cover flat area. In 1934, Walling reported that only a few traces remained of the old wells so it's not surprising that I found very few artifacts in both forks.