How Did Elsmere Canyon Get Its Name?


The first obvious reference to Elsmere Canyon that I have found is from the Eighth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the year ending 1888. Here it is:
"In a canyon on the northern slope of the range of mountains northeast of the San Fernando Railroad tunnel, and five or size miles southeast of Newhall, there are a number of localities of asphaltum, with more or less seepage of petroleum, in two different gulches; and in the eastern gulch, some four hundred or five hundred feet above the valley, a large accumulation of asphaltum extends for something like a quarter of a mile along the bed of the gulch. The seeping oil is black and heavy. The prevailing dip of the rocks here is northwesterly, though some of them dip south or southwest. They occasionally contain pectens and other shells. The bed of the gulch is strewn with granite bowlders from the mountains further east. On the south side of this range, and a short distance southeast of the railroad tunnel, a small canyon, called Grapevine Canyon, runs southerly to the San Fernando Valley. At a point in this canyon well up towards the head of it, a well was drilled by Mr. Mentry in 1875 to a depth of four hundred and seventeen feet."
The first actual use of "Elsmere" that I have found is from the Ninth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the Year Ending December 1, 1889. Here is the quote:
"They [California Star Oil Company] find that their productive ground extends a good deal further east than they had expected, and they have just erected the plant to sink a well on this new ground, which will be designated as Elsmere No. 1."
Later in that publication, it talks about the features in the canyon but doesn't actually call it Elsmere Canyon. Here is that quote:
"The eastern part of the California Star Oil Company's ground, where they are now starting the Elsmere Well No. 1, can be very thoroughly examined through a small canyon that enters near the San Fernando road about two miles south of Newhall, and which continues to the divide of the San Fernando Range, not far from where Grapevine Canyon heads, on the south side of the range. In the debris of this canyon we meet with granites, argillaceous shales, oil sandstone, bituminous and fossiliferous sandstones, bituminous shales, and asphalts and porphyries. The sandstone bluffs that mostly form the walls of the canyon, are in part heavy-bedded, striking to the north and south and dipping about 58 degrees to the west. In these sandstones, toward the lower strata more especially, we find the remains of helix, ostraea, spirifer, and other shells. This sandstone seems to overlie the argillaceous shale, which is traversed by bands of bituminous shale, from which, in numerous places, the bitumen exudes and gathers in pools on the bottom of the canyon."
If certainly would have been easy to say Elsmere Canyon somewhere in that paragraph. Grapevine Canyon is mentioned. This leads me to wonder if the canyon was named for the well instead of the well named for the canyon.

The first use of "Elsmere Canyon" that I could find was in an 1896 publication (Oil and Gas Yielding Formations of Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties - Bulletin No. 11 of the California State Mining Bureau).
"Pico oil-wells. These are situated in what is commonly known as the Pico Canyon oil-field, which is about 7 miles from Newhall. There are about thirty-five wells in Pico Canyon, one in Elsmere Canyon, and one in Wylie Canyon."
The following is a condensed and somewhat clarified version of an article written by Jerry Reynolds for the Daily Signal newspaper on August 29, 1993. Reynolds was at that time the curator of the Santa Clarita Historical Society. (With thanks to Pat Saletore of the Santa Clarita Historical Society for providing me with this newspaper article and other information about Elsmere Canyon.)



Henry Clay Needham
Henry Clay Needham
In 1887 John St. John, the governor of Kansas, contracted with Jesse Yarnell of Los Angeles and George B. Katzenstein of Sacramento to purchase a tract of land for a proposed "dry colony." St. John was a nationally known leader of the Prohibition Party who had drafted, along with Henry Clay Needham, the Kansas Dry Laws. At the time, Newhall Land and Farming Co. was going through one of its periodic cash flow problems, so it agreed to sell 10,000 acres to the Prohibitionists. This became know as the St. John Subdivision. On October 12, 1887, Henry Clay Needham and his wife arrived in Newhall acting as the personal emissaries of Governor St. John. They stayed at the old Lyon Station complex (now Eternal Valley Cemetery). Sales at the St. John Subdivision were slow, partly due to a depression, but probably more so because of a clause in the deed reading "... no wines or alcoholic liquors shall be sold, offered for sale, or kept on the devised premises."

One person who could live with that was Ed Lingwood. In 1889 he, his wife Mary Booth, and his daughter Ollie, settled the upper reaches of what was to become Elsmere Canyon. He worked as a section foreman for Southern Pacific Railroad. Lingwood was born in Port Ellesmere, England, on January 4, 1857, immigrating to Kansas with his family at the age of 12. There, he married an Ohio girl in 1879, became associated with the Prohibitionists and was more than likely enticed to the Newhall area by Needham.

Lingwood called his property Ellesmere Ranch, probably naming it for the founder of his hometown, Sir Thomas Egerton, First Viscount Brackley, Baron Ellesmere, who lived from 1540 to 1617. Ellesmere Island in Canada and Lake Ellesmere, New Zealand, were also named in honor of the Viscount. It is also suggested that Lingwood had Sir Edward Inglefield, First Earl Ellesmere in mind. More than likely Elsmere Canyon is named for Viscount Brackley.



I cannot confirm this story because Reynolds did not provide any sources. In another article, Reynolds writes that "it is said that the wide branching oaks and park-like setting ...reminded Ed Lingwood of his birthplace, so he named his ranch Ellesmere, which gradually became Elsmere." That makes two conflicting accounts of the naming of Elsmere by Reynolds. Both of them do not have a source, although I suspect that he got his information from A. B. Perkins (or made it up).

However, I find it hard to believe Reynold's story. First (see the below genealogy), Lingwood apparently wasn't born in Ellesmere Port (the correct name - not Port Ellesmere). Second, and more damaging to the story, Lingwood had a homestead claim patented in Placerita Canyon filed at the end of 1903.

Therefore, I still do not know how Elsmere Canyon got its name.


While researching for Whitney Canyon I noticed on the following map that Edward Lingwood had land in Placerita Canyon (Map from Prutzman, P.W., 1913, Petroleum in Southern California: California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin 63). The map must be from between 1906 and 1910 because Pacific Coast Oil Co. was renamed Standard Oil Co. in 1906 and Lingwood was in Kern County by 1910.


Checking out the claim, I found exactly where it was. The following is a plat map showing section 31 of township 4N and range 15W. Section 31 is enclosed in red and Lingwood's patented homestead claim is enclosed in yellow (see the GeoCommunicator page for plat maps). A patent gives the patentee (Lingwood) full ownership of the land.


Below is a topo map of section 31 showing Lingwoods land enclosed in yellow. This is in PLacerita Canyon, nowhere near Elsmere Canyon. Lingwood was issued a homestead patent on December 31, 1903. Since before you could receive a homestead patent, you had to have lived on the land for a minimum of 5 years, Lingwood had to have been living there since at least 1898. Although I cannot prove it, I doubt that he lived in Elsmere Canyon first and then moved up to Placerita Canyon. It was not easy getting around in those days.



As a final piece of documentation, here is the summary of Lingwood's patent (from the BLM/GLO land patent search page). I found no homestead patents for anywhere in Elsmere Canyon. There was only a placer mining patent issued to Pacific Coast Oil Co. on 2/17/1899 for about 470 acres containing their wellsites. As with a homestead patent, PCO received full ownership of the land.



Partial Genealogy of Ed Lingwood and family - courtesy of John Alderson

John spent multiple sessions at the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center in West Los Angeles, CA. His findings confirm the existence of Ed Lingwood. However, the 1861 census says he was born in Gaywood, Norfolk County, England (assuming we have the right Ed Lingwood - there were a lot of Ed Lingwoods). Norfolk County is on the east coast of England and Ellesmere Port is on the west coast. It is possible the family migrated west to Ellesmere Port soon after he was born and then migrated to the United States in 1869. Between 1903 and 1910, the family moved to Kern County, California. Ed Lingwood apparently died between 1910 and 1930 since Mary was a widow in 1930. No death record could be found. There are no census records for Ed or Mary in 1920. Widow Mary was on the 1930 census living with her daughter Maude in California. Thanks John.



--1861 England Census:
Edward Lingwood, 4, grandson of Edward Lingwood, 72, born in Gaywood, Norfolk, England; mother: Elizabeth

--1875 Kansas Census, Valley, Kansas:
Lingwood, Ed, 41, b. England, farmer (came from Ohio to Kansas)
Lingwood, Elizabeth, 40
Lingwood, Robert, 20
Lingwood, Edward Jr., 16
Lingwood, Harriet, 16
Lingwood, John, 6
Lingwood, Eva, 4
Lingwood, Mary, 3
Lingwood, Ursula, 1

--1880 Census, Neosho, Kansas (6/22/1880):
Lingwood, Edward, 21, occupation: farm laborer, Place of birth: England
Lingwood, Mary, 19, wife, occupation: keeping house, Place of birth: Ohio, Maiden Name: Booth

--1900 Census, Soledad township, part of Newhall precinct, Los Angeles County, Ca (6/14/1900):
Lingwood, Ed, 43, b. Jan, 1857, England, R.R. section foreman
Lingwood, Mary J., 36, b. Oct. 1863, Ohio
Lingwood, L. Maud, 12, b. May 1888, Kansas
Lingwood, Wm E., 7, b. May 1893, Calif.
Lingwood, Daniel E., 4, Jan. 1896, Calif.

--1910 Census, Township 3, Kern County, CA (4/30/1910):
Lingwood, Edward, 53, b. Jan 1857, England, R.R. section foreman; immig. 1869
Lingwood, Mary J., wife, 46, b. Oct./1863, Ohio
Lingwood, William E., son, 17
Lingwood, Daniel E., son, 14
Lingwood, James M., son, 9

--1917(6/2/1917)
Lingwood, William Edward, b. 5/2/1893, Registered for the World War I draft in Kern County, Ca. Employed as an oil worker 6 for the Associated Oil Co. at the Oil Center, Kern, Ca.

--1920 Census, Kittrick, Kern Co., CA (1/9/1920):
Lingwood, William Edward, 26, b. CA; father b. England, mother b. Kansas [actually Ohio]
Lingwood, Mary, 22, b. CA
Lingwood, Jack, 1

--1920 Census, Oilfields, Kern County, CA (3/14/1920):
Lingwood, Daniel E., 24, f.b. Eng., m.b. Ohio: truck driver, Associated Oil Co.
Lingwood, Elizabeth (wife)

--1920 Census, Bakersfield, Kern County, CA (1/2/1920):
Bruce, James L., 45, born in Canada, immigrated in 1901, occupation: auto dealer
Bruce, Maude L., born in Missouri [actually Kansas], wife, 31
Bruce, Velma, 13, daughter
Bruce, Sylvia, 12, daughter
Bruce, Elaine, 2, daughter

--1930 Census, Bakersfield, Kern County, CA (4/8/1930):
Lingwood, Mary J., 63, Widowed
Bruce, Maude L., occupation: sales lady, 41
Bruce, Elaine M., 12

--1930 Census, Compton, Los Angeles County, CA (4/10/1930):
Lingwood, James M., 29, born: Calif., Occupation: Oil fields truck driver
Lingwood, Dorothy, wife, 29, born: England


--From public records:
Mary Jane Lingwood: b. 10/10/1863 d. 5/22/1944, Kern Co., CA

William E. Lingwood: b. 5/2/1893 d. 7/16/1971, Bakersfield, Kern County, CA

Daniel E. Lingwood: b. 1/17/1896 d. 4/2/1971, Marin Co., CA

James M. Lingwood: b. 3/20/1901 d. 2/18/1991, Los Angeles, CA
Dorothy Lingwood: b: 2/24/1901 d. 5/12/1992, Los Angeles, CA

Jack E. Lingwood: b. 10/27/1918 d. 5/5/2006, Bakersfield, CA