History of Oil Development in Elsmere Area


The Elsmere area comprises about 60 acres in, and just south of, Elsmere Canyon. It is part of the Newhall oil field, which also includes Pico Canyon, DeWitt Canyon, Towsley Canyon, Wiley Canyon, Rice Canyon, East Canyon, the Tunnel area (an area east and north of the old Newhall auto tunnel), and Whitney Canyon. Placerita Canyon was originally part of the field, but was made its own field in 1949. The other areas, including Elsmere Canyon, have been abandoned. Oil was apparently found in the Pico formation, the Towsley formation, and the Eocene formation (see the Geology webpage). Oil seeps are still found in these formations today.

The first white men probably started inspecting Elsmere Canyon when the claims were first being filed in the other canyons starting in 1865. The first information that I believe was about Elsmere was from the Los Angeles Herald of August 2, 1874: "A few days ago Mr. M. Kraszynski, who lives near Lyons Station, while passing up an arroyo in that locality, discovered thirty-two flowing oil springs within a short distance of each other." The only canyon close to Lyon's Station (which was located at the opening to Eternal Valley Memorial Park) that had, and still has, lots of oils seeps is Elsmere Canyon.

From the Los Angeles Herald of August 22, 1874, comes this story:

Again, the only canyon that fits this description is Elsmere Canyon.

From the Titusville Morning Herald of 10-8-1874:

"We next day looked at the Great Eastern, Santa Clara, Dunkirk, and Mountain View claims just east of the hotel [Lyon's Station]. Of those, the first two present the most advantages, having plenty of wood, good water, and lie just off the stage road. There are numerous springs of thick, black oil, which oozing out has formed large beds of brea, similar to those around the pico and Wyle springs. No digging has been done here, and no green petroleum is seen on the surface. At several places where the oil and gas bubbles up, the oil is greenish and other colors are seen. Caption M. Kraszynski and A.J. Kraszynski, who keep the hotel and are most largely interested in these claims, inform me that there are over a hundred of these springs in the canon. We saw a great many but had neither time nor inclination to visit all."

The Los Angeles Herald of October 21, 1874 had another article including this information pertaining to Elsmere:

And finally, the Los Angeles Herald of March 28, 1875:

Captain Maurice Kraszynski apparently had eight claims (the Clara and the Danbury were mentioned) in the canyon and I believe that one of his claims was named Elsmere. However, there is no indication that there was any attempt to drill in Elsmere Canyon in the 1860's or 1870's. Information for wells drilled before 1915 is very scant and often times non-existant. Well owners and drillers basically did what they wanted to and had to report to nobody. On August 9, 1915, that changed. A law setting up the first state-wide agency - the Department of Petroleum and Gas - was passed unanimously by the state legislature. Unfortunately for us, most of the wells in the Elsmere area were drilled before 1915, so information on these wells is incomplete. In 1961, the Department of Petroleum and Gas was re-named the Division of Oil and Gas (DOG). In 1992 the name was changed to the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).

Pacific Coast Oil Company was incorporated in 1879 and became majority owner of the California Star Oil Works, which included the Newhall Refinery and oil properties in Pico Canyon (location of California's first comercial oil well - Pico No. 4 - drilled in 1876). The first real work in Elsmere Canyon was done by Pacific Coast in 1889 with the drilling of Elsmere 1. Elsmere 1 through 4 were drilled between 1889 and 1891. Elsmere 5 thru Elsmere 20 were drilled between 1898 and 1900. What happened between 1891 and 1898 that caused PCO not to drill any wells? There was a depression called the Panic of 1893. The economy didn't start getting better until 1896.

On February 17, 1899, Pacific Coast Oil Company received a patent from the federal government for much of Elsmere Canyon. They now owned the canyon outright.

In December of 1900, Pacific Coast Oil was acquired by John D. Rockefellerís Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), but was allowed to retain its name. By that time Pacific Coast had laid about 30 miles of 2-inch pipe from Elsmere Canyon to the refinery at Andrew's Junction near the Southern Pacific Railroad station in Railroad Canyon. On July 23, 1906, after a company reorganization, PCO's name was changed to Standard Oil (California). In May of 1911, Standard Oil of New Jersey lost a long-running antitrust suit and was ordered by the Supreme Court to break-up. In December of 1911, Standard Oil of California became a separate company. In 1977 Standard became the Chevron Oil Company. In 2001, they became ChevronTexaco. In 2005, they dropped the Texaco and became Chevron again.

The highest recorded initial production in the Elsmere field was from Elsmere 2, which produced a daily average of 57 barrels (1 barrel = 42 gallons) of oil during the first four days. However, within the first 60 days, production dropped down to about 8 bpd and by 1894 down to 6 bpd. It was still producing 1-4 bpd of oil in 1929 when the well was shut in. It produced for 38 years making it the longest running of the 24 Elsmere wells.

By 1903, only 11 Elsmere wells were still producing. By 1929, only 9 were still producing. On April 20, 1929, the wells in Elsmere Canyon were "shut in" meaning they weren't abandoned, but they were taken off production. The 9 remaining wells were producing a daily average of 2.3 barrels per day, not enough to justify continued production. Between 1891 and 1929 the Elsmere area had produced an estimated 285,000 barrels of oil (Walling, 1934).

Alpine Oil Company drilled wells 1 through 3 in 1900 and 1901 along the west line of Section 12 as offsets to the Elsmere property of Pacific Coast Oil Company.

Santa Ana Oil Company drilled wells 1 through 3 between 1901 and 1903 along the east line of the SE 1/4 of Section 12. Eldridge and Arnold (USGS Bull. 309, 1907) reported the wells high up the north point of Elsmere Ridge.

Prutzman (1913) reports that there were also two other wells drilled in 1900 east of all the Elsmere wells. They were drilled by the California Oil Company and the Graves Oil Company. Eldridge and Arnold (1907) also show the California Oil Company well in the same location as Prutzman. However, Walling (1934) only shows the Graves site but reports it as a California Oil Company well. Both wells were located on east trending ridges above the first main fork in Elsmere Canyon. The California Oil Company well was about 1200 feet deep and barren. The Graves or California Oil well was about 1500 feet deep and also barren. I have found both sites, so there were two wells.

W. L. Watts (Oil and Gas Yielding Formations of California, 1900) reports that in 1900 the Good Luck Oil Company had a short-lived well with traces of oil at 675 feet on a hillside above the Elsmere wells (in the S.E. Corner of Sec. 7) but its location is too vague to pinpoint.

In 1907 (from DOG records and Walling, 1934), E. A. and D. L. Clampitt (see the Clampitt webpage) acquired the properties of Alpine and Santa Ana Oil Companies. They changed the well numbers of Alpine 1, 2, and 3 to Clampitt 5, 6, and 7, and the numbers of the three Santa Ana wells to Clampitt 8, 9, and 10. They re-worked those six wells and were somewhat successfull. They also drilled Clampitt 11, 12, and 13 between 1916 and 1920. In 1943, the wells were leased to Stough & Hutchingson. In 1944, they were leased to the York Oil Company. By 1946, the wells were back in Clampitt hands (Sewell and Jones) and renamed Sewell and Jones 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. The last owners of these wells was the partnership of Leah C. Sewell & Barbara C. Jones, E. A. Clampitt's daughters (and heirs since he died in 1919).

Republic Petroleum Company, Ltd., wells Fink 3 and Fink 4 were drilled as offsets to the north line of the E. A. & D. L. Clampitt property during 1920 and 1921. These were on the low ridge between Elsmere and Whitney Canyon just above (west of) today's road into Elsmere Canyon.

Walling (1934) reports that by the end of 1934, only 7 wells of E.A. & D.L. Clampitt were still active, producing an average of 2.1 barrels of oil per day. According to Ford (in his unpublished 1940 UCLA M.A. thesis), in 1940, 7 wells were operating on jacks. Oakeshott (1958, California Division of Mines, Bulletin 172) reported 6 wells still operating in 1942 yielding about 2 barrels per day each. Winterer and Durham (1962, U.S.G.S. Professional Paper 334-H) reported that in 1949, 6 wells were still pumping. Apparently the Sewell & Jones (the last owners) shut down their last wells in 1950 since there was no oil production reported from them after 1949.

On 3/27/1953, Mike Barkett spudded a well on the north side of Elsmere Canyon on the same low ridge line that the Fink wells were drilled some 30 years before. It was plugged and abandoned on 8/25/1957.

Elsmere 23 was spudded by Standard on 12/12/1953 and abandoned on 1/8/1954. It was a "deeper pool" well. This is a well drilled with the intent of finding a new productive zone beneath an old productive zone. Maybe with the Mike Barkett well nearby they believed there was still some oil in the area, but that was evidently not the case. Elsmere 24 was spudded on 4/30/1959 by Standard and abandoned on 8/15/1959. It was drilled as an "outpost" exploratory well. An outpost well is located on a producing structure but beyond the proven limits, with the intent to extend an old producing zone or discover a new pool. Elsmere 24 was not really in Elsmere Canyon, but on the high mesa south of it with a view of the San Fernando Valley.

By 1975, Standard Oil was given a lease by Sewell and Jones on a substantial portion of their property. Margaret Bath 1 was spudded on 11/21/1979 and abandoned on 11/7/1985 with no production. It was located on a large pad above (and east of) the Alpine wells on possibly the land leased from Sewell and Jones. There is a power line pole at the southwest edge of this pad (which was illegally cut down in 2008). The well most certainly used electrical power. And also, Los Pinetos Road ends at the pad, which made for easy access to the well.

The best year for Elsmere Canyon was 1954 when production was 992 barrels of oil.



Table of the wells drilled in the Elsmere area

(From Walling, 1934, Oakshott, 1958, and DOGGR records)
First Drilled By (Last Owner) Well No. Year Drilling Started Original/max depth(ft) Production Remarks
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 1 1889 1376 Showings of oil & gas. No production. Caving in and water problems. Abandoned 1890. Plugged in 1990.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 2 1890 600/1226 12 bpd Apr. 1891; 6 bpd 1894 Still producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 3 1891 555 Small showing of oil with water Abandoned-could not shut off water. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 4 1891 705 Small showing of oil and gas Abandoned. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 5 1898 555 Init. prod. 23 bpd. Producing in 1954 Last prod. 2 bpd oil and 3 bpd water in 1929. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 6 1898 395/1020 40 bpd Nov. 1898. 21 bpd 1913. 1-3 bpd in 1929 Deepened in 1913. Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 7 1898 435/1140 20 bpd in 1899. 8 bpd in 1913. 1.5 bpd in 1929. Deepened in 1913. Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 8 1899 500 Several showings oil and gas. No prod. Abandoned - unable to shut off water. Plugged 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 9 1899 600 Init. prod. 23 bpd 1899. 1 bpd in 1929. Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 10 1899 930/997 No record of initial prod. 2 bpd in 1929. Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 11 1899 700 Several showings oil & gas. No prod. Abandoned - unable to shut off water. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 12 1900 1225 Several showings oil & gas. No prod. Abandoned - unable to shut off water. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 13 1899 645/1895 Produced. No record of initial prod. Abandoned in 1912. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 14 1900 490 Produced very little Abandoned 1900. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 15 1900 995 Produced. No record of initial prod. Abandoned 1913. Plugged 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 16 1900 551 Produced. No record of initial prod. 3-4 bpd oil in 1929 Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 17 1900(?) ?   No records for this well
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 18 1900 675 Produced. No record of init. prod. 2 bpd in 1929 Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 19 1900 848 No record of init. prod. Abandoned 1901 - unable to shut off water. Plugged in 1991.
Pacific Coast Oil Co (Chevron) Elsmere 20 1900-01 1013 Produced. No record of init. prod. 4 bpd in 1929 Producing in 1954. Plugged in 1977.
Standard Oil Co. of Calif. (Chevron) Elsmere 21 1916-17 783/1611 Init. prod. 25 bpd oil and 13 bpd water. 3 bpd oil 200 bpd water in 1925 While trying to abandon well in 1917, jarred casing at 783 ft producing 20-30 bpd, so well was kept active and deepened to 1611 ft. Abandoned 1927.
Standard Oil Co. of Calif. (Chevron) Elsmere 22 1917 619 6 bpd oil and 45 bpd water Abandoned 1918 - would not produce commercial qty of oil. Plugged in 1991.
Standard Oil Co. of Calif. (Chevron) Elsmere 23 1953 2821 0 Prospect well, abandoned in 1954
Standard Oil Co. of Calif. (Chevron) Elsmere 24 1959 1625 0 Prospect well abandoned in 1959
Chevron USA Inc. Margaret Bath 1 1979 1500 1 bpd in 1982 Plugged and abandoned in 1985
California Oil Co.   1900 1200 Barren Abandoned
Graves or Calif. Oil Company   1900 1500 Barren Abandoned
Good Luck Oil Company   1900 675 Traces of oil Abandoned when drilled. On hillside above Elsmere wells
Alpine Oil Co. (Sewell & Jones) Alpine 1 (Clampitt 5) 1900 760 Flooded with water Junked casing. Made into water well until abandoned
Alpine Oil Co. (Sewell & Jones) Alpine 2 (Clampitt 6) 1901 850/950 Produced Bought by Clampitt in 1907 and deepened to 950ft. Plugged and abandoned by Chevron in 1980.
Alpine Oil Co. (Sewell & Jones) Alpine 3 (Clampitt 7) 1901 850/960 Producing in 1934. Bought by Clampitt and deepened to 960 ft. Plugged and abandoned by Chevron in 1980
Santa Ana Oil Co. (Sewell & Jones) Santa Ana 1 (Clampitt 8) 1901-02 1009 Producing in 1934 Abandoned before 1950. Plugged 12/29/2012.
Santa Ana Oil Co. (Sewell & Jones) Santa Ana 2 (Clampitt 9) 1902 986 Producing in 1934 Abandoned before 1950. Never plugged.
Santa Ana Oil Co. (Sewell & Jones) Santa Ana 3 (Clampitt 10) 1902-03 875 Producing in 1934 Abandoned before 1950. Never plugged.
Safe Oil Company   1901 <1000 Small amount of heavy oil West of Santa Ana wells. Abandoned
E.A & D.L. Clampitt (Sewell & Jones) Clampitt 11 1917 660 30 days after completion 15 bpd. Producing in 1934. Abandoned before 1950. Plugged 1/9/2012.
E.A & D.L. Clampitt (Sewell & Jones) Clampitt 12 1918 1040 30 days after completion 20 bpd. Producing in 1934. Abandoned before 1950. Plugged 12/29/2011.
E.A & D.L. Clampitt (Sewell & Jones) Clampitt 13 1920 690 Bottom filled with heavy oil - could not be pumped In 1938, filled with cement to up to 148 ft. Capped at surface for future use as water well, if needed.
Republic Petroleum Co., Ltd Fink 3 1920 1250 25 bpd oil, 2.5 bpd water Rig blown over and well idle in 1934. Plugged in 1938 (with concrete cap at surface).
Republic Petroleum Co., Ltd Fink 4 1921 1383 Little oil found. Work suspended after completion Rig blown over and well idle in 1934. In 1937, plugged from 119-97ft with cement (surface material already below 119ft), 97-5ft with surface material, and 5ft-surface with cement.
Republic Petroleum Co. Amet 1 1921 215 0 Named after landowner Edward H. Amet. Abandoned after not finding oil sands. Plugged in 1968.
Shallow Field Oil Co. 1 1921 1140 0 Abandoned. Plugged in 1938.
Mike Barkett Barkett 1 1953 1582 Init. prod. 16bpd - after 30 days 8-10bpd. Stopped pumping in Oct. 1953. Plugged in 1957 after legal battle between Barkett and the landowners (which included the Clampitt Company) over Barkett not performing a water cutoff like he was supposed to.



Original Elsmere oil claim (in yellow). Map date unknown, but the most recent date marked on the map is 1897. See complete map from the Huntington Digital Library here.


PCO 1899 patent (see the BLM/GLO land patent search page). A patent gave PCO complete ownership of the land.


E.A. Clampitt 1916 patent just below PCO's land.


On the plat map I have enclosed the PCO land in yellow and the Clampitt land in green (see the GeoCommunicator page for plat maps)


On a topo map, I have also enclosed the land owned by PCO and Clampitt. Note that on the left, the little road off of Sierra Highway is called Clampitt (misspelled as Campitt) Road. This topo map is the 1952 Oat Mountain Quad, so sometime after 1952 the road was split into Remson Road to the north of the freeway underpass (which is, of course, not on this map) and Clampitt Road to the south.