Pico Canyon Historic Well Photos


There has been many changes in the more than 130 years since the oldest of these photos were taken. The road has been expanded and re-aligned in some places. The river bed has naturally changed its course or has been forcibly changed by man. Cameras have changed. Therefore, it has sometimes been difficult to exactly reproduce the old photos. Luckily, we know the exact position of CSO 4, which enables us to identify that well from any photo. We also have a survey plat map from 1877 that shows the position of Pico 1, 2, 3, 4, and the Sanford Lyon well. (See the Pico Canyon Surveys webpage.)

We are very fortunate that in June of 1877 Carleton Watkins journeyed into Pico Canyon and took some of the following photos. These must have been the very first taken here. Check out the Stereoviews of Carleton Watkins website for more information on him. Using the following plat map, all the wells in Watkins' photographs can be easily identified.


This almost unknown 1877 photo (view toward the north) by Carleton Watkins shows (from right to left) Pico 2, Pico 3, Pico 1, Pico 4, and the short Sanford Lyon well on the far left. It is probably the only photo that shows Pico 3, which is a spring-pole well. Pico 3 was never upgraded to a steam engine driven well with a full sized derrick because it was too close to Pico 1 and 2. It would be abandoned in a few years. Although all of Watkins' photos are important, I consider this photo the most important historic photo of Pico Canyon because it shows the first five wells ever drilled in the canyon. To get a sense of sizes, note the man on top of the Pico 1 derrick in the middle of the photo, the man standing on the building on the right next to the rig with his arm on the walking beam and the people sitting on the hill behind the rig.


5/10/2014. It was impossible to completely reproduce the previous photo because of changes at the hairpin curve, which obviously did not exist at that time. The hill behind me (now just about a cliff) has also been greatly changed so I couldn't get up high enough.


Another 1877 photo by Carleton Watkins showing CSO 4 on the right and CSO 1 on the left. A small spring-pole derrick is just behind CSO 4. This is the Sanford Lyon well. At one time it was believed that CSO 4 and the Lyon well were the same well, but that is not true. CSO 2 and 3 are out of view to the left of CSO 1.

In 1877, so that the wells could be drilled deeper with steam engines, the derricks for CSO 1 and 2 (which is out of view to the left of CSO 1) were replaced with taller, standard derricks. The drilling stem for a steam engine is longer and heavier then for a spring pole rig. CSO 4 was drilled with a steam engine in 1876, so that derrick was built before the others. The unusual "pinched" shape of CSO 4 makes it easy to recognize in old photos.

This image is NOT in the public domain and is used by permission of The Society of California Pioneers. All rights are reserved by the Society of California Pioneers. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


4/19/2008


Similar to the first photo, this photo by Carleton Watkins has smoke coming from a steam boiler smoke stack


4/22/2008


Another 1877 Carleton Watkins photo with a narrower view then the above photos shows the distinctive early shape of CSO 4 on the right with the smaller Lyon spring poled well behind it. CSO 1 is on the left

This image is NOT in the public domain and is used by permission of www.carletonwatkins.org. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


4/22/2008


Another Carleton Watkins photo showing CSO 4 with the Lyon well in the background

This image is NOT in the public domain and is used by permission of The Society of California Pioneers. All rights are reserved by the Society of California Pioneers. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


4/19/2008


Another Carleton Watkins photo


4/19/2008


Close-up of CSO 4 by Carleton Watkins

This image is NOT in the public domain and is used by permission of The Society of California Pioneers. All rights are reserved by the Society of California Pioneers. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


4/19/2008. The differences in the brush between 1877 and 2008 is amazing. It looks like it was so much drier in 1877.


Here is yet another great 1877 photo taken by Carleton Watkins. I have to thank Daniel Wolf, Inc., for allowing me to show this rare image. The derrick in the foreground is CSO 1. The derrick in the right background is the famous CSO 4. The one in the left background is the Sanford Lyon well. In 1877, obviously before Mr. Watkins' visit, the smaller spring-pole derricks of 1 and 2 were replaced by taller derricks to accomodate cable-tool drilling with steam power. A steam engine was always used for CSO 4, spudded in 1876, so that derrick is older than the others and looks different. The spring-pole derrick for CSO 3 (and the Lyon well) would never be replaced. CSO 3 (and the Lyon well) would be abandoned in a couple of years. CSO 3 was located between CSO 1 and CSO 2 to the right of the view in this photo.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.

CARLETON WATKINS:
"California Star Oil Works, Los Angeles County"
June 26, 1877
Photo courtesy: Daniel Wolf, Inc., New York


4/15/2012. This photo was taken at the hairpin curve facing north.


This image was scanned from "Oil and Gas Yielding Formations of California", by W. L. Watts, 1900, Cal. State Mining Bureau, Bulletin No. 19. That is CSO Hill to the right with the derricks on it. Not only does the image show at least 10 derricks, but also a few buildings. The actual photo in the bulletin was 3.5 x 4.5 inches in size so this scan is not as detailed as I would have liked. The derrick in the middle of the picture is CSO 24, spudded in 1896. That places the date of the photo between late 1896 and 1900 (the date of the publication).

Note that you can see the so-called "Long Bridge" in the middle left of the photo. The bridge was reportedly destroyed, and never rebuilt, during the Pico earthquake of 1893. Based on reports at the time (see the 1893 earthquake page) and this photo, the bridge was not destroyed by the earthquake. Just past the far end of the Long Bridge at about the same level is CSO 5.

The building in the lower left hand corner is the Walton Young home. The main building there would be widened to create a boarding house (see next historic photo). Young became the superintendent after Mentry died in 1900 and remained the superintendent until 1922. According to Darryl Manzer (who lived in the canyon from 1960-66 and benefitted from many old-timers who returned to the canyon and told their stories), the two-story building opposite the Young home is a boarding house. After sleeping there, the single men would walk across the road for their meals in the Young house. The two-story building only lasted about four years.


4/27/2008. With a couple of hikers on the road


Here is the boarding house that was on the Walton Young property. Both ends of the original structure were added on to to create a structure about twice as wide.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Barbara Sitzman Cook Collection.


Here is closer image of CSO Hill from the road looking west. It shows (from bottom to top) CSO 5 (spudded in 1880), Star 1 (spudded in 1884), CSO 21 (spudded in 1893), and CSO 15 (spudded in 1888). It does not show CSO 24, shown in the previous historic photo, spudded in 1896. The photo title is "P.C.O. Hill Pico Canon. 1893".

The "Long Bridge" was built in 1884 for access to Star 1. It was 105 feet long and 45 feet high. The bridge" was reportedly destroyed, and never rebuilt, during the Pico earthquake of 1893, but, as I have previously stated, this could not be true.

Image from The Barry Lawrence Ruderman Collection courtesy Stanford University Libraries


3/9/2008


This is a slightly different view of CSO Hill taken on the road going up PCO Hill. At the top is well CSO 15 (1888). Below that is CSO 21 (1893) and below that is CSO 24 (1896). In the right center background is Star 1 (1884). The well closest to the camera is probably CSO 22 (spudded in 1892). CSO 32 (1903) should be in the photo, but isn't, so I believe the photo was taken between 1896 and 1903.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Image courtesy of the Robert B. and William R. Moran papers. Mss 282, Department of Special Collections, University Libraries, University of California, Santa Barbara.


1/17/2014. The original road went about straight down to the main road from here and did not curve to the left and run down to today's hairpin curve, like this photo (taken in January 2014) shows.


The rig in the middle of the image is Star 1 (spudded in 1884). CSO 15 (spuddded in 1888) is in the upper left. The actual date of the photo is unknown, but it was taken no earlier than 1888.

Star 1 was on land leased from PCO (the owners of CSO) by Hardison and Stewart on CSO hill. At 1620 feet they hit oil. After drilling another 30 feet they pulled out the equipment and put the well on the pump. It produced 75 barrels per day. They continued to receive profits from this well until 2/1/1889 when well show when they sold out to CSOW.


5/3/2008. This picture was taken slightly farther away then the older one because the creek has eroded away much of the older road plus there are a lot of trees and bushes in the way.


This image shows (from front to back) CSO 5, 4, and 1. It also shows the machine shop between 4 and 1. Title: First wells in California, Pico Oil Works, Pico Canyon, Newhall, 1885

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Courtesy of Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library


4/22/2008


Here is a 1918 image of the first steam engine in Pico Canyon. It was originally used at CSO 4. (From the Standard Oil Bulletin of August 1918)


CSO 4 around 1918. Note that the derrick is not "pinched" at the top anymore. This is a different derrick then the 1877 one. Those are jackline supports on the hill in the background.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Historical Society of Southern California Collection - Charles C. Puck Collection. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Used by permission.



1924 photograph of CSO Hill facing west. The diagonal layer of rocks is very distinctive. The closest well in the lower left is CSO 5 (1880). Based on a DOGGR map of the well sites, the next well up on the left is CSO 24 (1896). On the far right is Star 1 (1884-85). Higher up on the left is CSO 21 (1892) and the top well is CSO 15 (1888). Image from an old postcard.


About the same view on 2/9/2016


Words at the bottom of this photo say 'Pico "In Action" 3/9/24'. I can't positively identify the oil well in the background, but I think that it is Pico 4 viewed close up looking toward the southwest. This was about as far as a car could be driven in those days. Image from an old postcard.


Here is a photo similar to the above on 2/28/2016. It was hard to recreate the 1924 photo because the ground level has been raised.


Photograph of a half-tone image depicting an automobile in front of California's first producing oil well, June 1, 1928.
California Historical Society, University of Southern California Libraries


4/27/2008


From the Scientific American magazine of July, 1928.


This image again shows CSO 4 with the machine shop area in the background. The road on the right still exists but is covered with brush. To the right of the top of the derrick you can see the bottom of another derrick. This is CSO 29, spudded in 1898. The photo is dated March 11, 1931, but it is older then that. I saw it in the Standard Oil Bulletin of September 1930. That white building just to the left of CSO 4 is the same building in both of the following machine shop photos. The actual machine shop is behind the derrick.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Used by permission of the Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.


4/19/2008. The flat area for CSO 29 is hidden by the tree.


One of the earliest photos of the machine shop area. This is just at the hairpin curve. CSO Hill is on the right and PCO Hill is on the left. CSO 4 is on the right and CSO 1 is on the left. Behind CSO 1 is the top of probably CSO 10. The first road ascending CSO Hill is on the right behind CSO 4. (ca. 1890-1892)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, Ca. Used by permission.


12/17/2013


Machine shop area. CSO 4 is just out of the photo to the right of the white building in the right part of the photo. The machine shop was built in 1879. You can see the bottom of CSO 29 at the top of the picture. It was spudded in 1898 so this date of this photo can't be any earlier then that.


4/19/2008. There has been a lot of changes here so this was the best I could do.


Here is a closer view of the machine shop

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


This view shows that things have changed since the 1880's. Note the No Smoking sign on the left. CSO 4 is just out of the photo on the right to the right of the white building in the right part of the photo. This is from the September 1930 issue of the Standard Oil Bulletin magazine.


Looking north down at the site of CSO 29 showing the machine shop area, CSO 4 on the left with CSO 5 just above it to the right. CSO 1 is in the lower right. CSO Hill is on the left and PCO Hill is on the right. In the Pioneer Oil Refinery dedication ceremony program dedication document, this photo is shown with a date of November of 1910.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


4/22/2008. Note the difference in the road ascending PCO Hill to the right.


1904 photo showing CSO 2 in the background and CSO 1 in the foreground. There are also some wells visible on top of PCO Hill. The machine shop area is behind the photographer. This image was scanned from "Petroleum and Use of Petroleum in California" by Paul Prutzman, California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin No. 32, 1904.


8/21/2013. Right at the hairpin curve.


The photo title is "Oil Wells Near Newhall" (ca 1890s). This is looking east at PCO Hill. At the middle bottom is Pico 2 and the well at the bottom left is Pico 1. Note the two men standing on top of the Pico 1 derrick. Similar to previous but taken from higher up on CSO Hill.

Image from The Barry Lawrence Ruderman Collection courtesy Stanford University Libraries


5/26/2013


1905 photo by Ralph Arnold showing CSO 2. Note the little white sign on the derrick near the top. It says "CSO 2". You can see the same sign in the previous historic photo. This photo is from "The Santa Clara Valley, Puente Hills and Los Angeles Oil Districts, Southern California", by Eldridge and Arnold, United States Geological Survey Bulletin No. 309, 1907.


4/22/2008. Besides showing where CSO 2 used to be, this photo also shows the "break" (see geology page).


Pre-1916 photo of CSO 2. You can just make out the CSO 2 sign near the top of the derrick.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Image courtesy of the Robert B. and William R. Moran papers. Mss 282, Department of Special Collections, University Libraries, University of California, Santa Barbara.


CSO (Pico) 1 looking north. CSO 4 is on the left distance. Maybe PCO 32 is on the upper right making this photo no earlier then 1903.
Image from "The History of the San Fernando Valley with Special Emphasis on the City of San Fernando", 1930, unpublished master thesis by Clifford M. Smith, University of Southern California, p. 117 (photo credit not given).


This poor-quality photo was scanned from "Sixth-Three Years in the Oilfield" by W. E. Youle. The derrick in the foreground is probably CSO 19, spudded in 1889 so the photo is from no earlier than 1889.


5/18/2008. The historic photo was tough to duplicate, but this is pretty close. This shot is to the northeast from CSO Hill with PCO hill in the background


This photo is from "Production and Use of Petroleum in California", California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin No. 32, by Paul Prutzman, 1904. The view is about east looking at PCO Hill. Based on positions, the four nearest derricks are (from lower right to upper left) CSO 32 (lower right), CSO 22, PCO 4, and PCO 23 (upper left).


5/30/2008. The small hill on the left has been cut back for the new alignment of the road.


This 1910 photo of the is from "The Turbulent Romance of Oil" by W.C. Jenkins in the National Magazine of Aug - Sept 1910. This is a view of PCO Hill toward the east. The hairpin curve is in the lower right. The original photo in the magazine was very small so the quality here is poor. If the quality was better, you could see the three derricks by the road, but you can only really see the one on the lower road (probably CSO 32 drilled in 1903). Note that the machine shop area at the hairpin curve is not as built up as it was in the earlier photo shown a few photos above. By 1910, Pico Canyon was dying down.


5/28/2010. Not an easy photo to duplicate. Here is an approximate view. The road position was obviously moved down.


Pre-1916 photo of PCO Hill taken from CSO Hill just above the CSO Hill jack plant.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Image courtesy of the Robert B. and William R. Moran papers. Mss 282, Department of Special Collections, University Libraries, University of California, Santa Barbara.


1/17/2014


Circa 1880's photo of "Christian Hill". This is a view looking northeast from PCO Hill. The derrick in the far distance on Christian Hill must be Hill 1, drilled in 1882-83 and shut down in December of 1883 after no commerical deposits of oil were found. This was the first well drilled in Pico Canyon by Hardison and Stewart. The well near the lower, right, middle of the photo close to the photographer may be Hill 3. That is about the correct location for it. I can't really identify the other wells. There were too many wells drilled in this area of PCO Hill, where the photo was taken. This photo was probably taken in 1883 or 1884.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.


3/21/2012. I needed a panorama shot to get everything. Lots of changes since the original photo was taken.


Stereoview of unknown well in Pico Canyon (ca. 1890-1892)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, Ca. Used by permission.


This is CSO 5 spudded in 1880. Star 1 is the well in the upper right of the photo. View toward the west. Date of this, and the following four photos of CSO 5 is unknown, but is probably past 1910 based on how mature the field looks in the following images.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Eugene Swarzwald "Pictorial California and the Pacific" Collection of Photographs. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Used by permission.


6/16/2012. This photo was taken from the road just before you get to CSO 4. CSO 5 was the next well north of CSO 4 and was located in the creek bed. The amount of plant growth today makes it difficult to recreate the previous photo, but the diagonal rock layers are pretty distinctive.


Another view of CSO 5 this time toward the southeast.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Eugene Swarzwald "Pictorial California and the Pacific" Collection of Photographs. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Used by permission.


CSO 5. View toward the south. CSO 4 is in the right background and CSO 29 is in the far background higher up.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Eugene Swarzwald "Pictorial California and the Pacific" Collection of Photographs. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Used by permission.


CSO 5. View toward the east looking up at PCO Hill.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Eugene Swarzwald "Pictorial California and the Pacific" Collection of Photographs. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Used by permission.


Close up of CSO 5. You can make out the pump jack inside of the derrick. It would have been powered by a nearby jack plant. The engine would only be used to pull the sucker rods out of or lower them into the well hole.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Eugene Swarzwald "Pictorial California and the Pacific" Collection of Photographs. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Used by permission.


Bottom of CSO Hill on the south side (date unknown)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


1/21/2014: The roads on this side of the PCO Hill have been greatly altered since the previous photo was taken.


Looks like the top of CSO Hill toward the northwest. This is the same historic photo as the next one and is from the Pacific Oil Reporter of March 30, 1900, Vol. 1 No. 21. The date is between 1892-1900.


Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


CSO Hill has changed greatly since the previous photo was taken. New roads have been built and old roads have been improved or abandoned. I believe that this is a current view (2/28/2016) of the last image. I'm also guessing (based on DOGGR oil records) that, in the previous photo, the well in the lower right is CSO 19 (drilled in 1889-90). The next well above that is CSO 6 (1880), then CSO 21 (1892), and on the top of the hill, CSO 15 (1888).


From the PCO Hill road looking northwest. Using DOGGR records, the derrick is for well PCO 9. Photo taken by Barbara Sitzman around 1958.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Barbara Sitzman Cook Collection.


About the same view on 5/12/2013.


The remains of PCO 23. Photo taken by Barbara Sitzman around 1958.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Barbara Sitzman Cook Collection.


Standard Oil field office at the base of CSO Hill near CSO 4. Photo taken by Barbara Sitzman around 1958.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Barbara Sitzman Cook Collection.


Another view of the field office in 1961 or 62. Darryl Manzer is looking out of the window. Photo from the SCVHistory.com website.


About the same view on 1/17/2017. The big rock in front of the building (red arrow) is all that is left.


Photograph caption dated October 26, 1957 reads, "California's first rig - Situated in almost inaccessible country is the state's first oil producer, Old Pico No. 4, located in Pico Canyon, six miles West of Newhall. Although several other wells drilled in Pico Canyon yielded small amounts of oil, Pico No. 4 is recognized as first commercial rig in state and still produces today." From the Valley Times Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


This is CSO 4 in 1961, way past its prime. It was taken by the National Park Service during a survey of historic sites and buildings they were conducting. This small pump looks like the same pump laying on the ground in Johnson Park.


CSO 4 from an 1985 DOGGR video. The part with CSO 4 (and the Pioneer Refinery) is shown here.


Photo from the 76th Annual Report of the State Oil & Gas Supervisor for 1990, California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil & Gas, Publication No. PR06, Sacramento, 1991, p. 18. From the publication: "CSO 4 was plugged and abandoned in February 1990. The well had produced faithfully for 113 years and holds the record for the longest continuous production of oil in the state." I tried to get the original photo from the DOGGR, but, unfortunately, they could not find it.



View of Pico 4 site on 5/26/2012