Newhall Mountain Oil Company Well No. 1

Due to the difficulty getting to the site, this well gets its own page. The story of the Newhall Mountain Oil Company well No. 1 must be very interesting, but, unfortunately, I can't tell most of it. The well is located deep in Rice Canyon up the western tributary (see map at bottom of page). There is no road to the site. The Rice road ends about a mile from the parking area. After that, only the creek bed is available for transportation. It took me 5 1/2 hours for the roundtrip to the well and back and it is only a little over two miles from the parking area. This was the most difficult hike to a well site in all of the canyons I have visited. I was cramping in the legs as I reached the well site, so the hike back was certainly not easy. The creek bed is filled with downed trees and bushes and poison oak. I ended up having numerous cuts and bruises on my arms and had my shirt torn. I had to hike through poison oak many times, but fortunately did not get infected with it. In the end, though, I think it was worth the effort considering what I found at the site (however, I never plan to go back). All photos were taken on 11/19/2009, when I did the hike.

In the First Annual Report of the State Oil and Gas Supervisor of California for the fiscal year 1915-16 in the Directory of Oil Companies the Newhall Mountain Oil Company is listed. It was incorporated on October 19, 1901 with $50,000 of capital stock. It was located at 402 Copp Bldg., Los Angeles, California. L. D. Swartwout was the president and S. L. Wallis was the secretary. In the Second Annual report, they had moved to 210 S. Hudson Ave., Pasadena, CA.

The first mention of this well that I can find was in Eldridge and Arnold, 1907, The Santa Clara Valley, Puente Hills and Los Angeles Oil Districts, Southern California, USGS Bulletin No. 309. The well was probably drilled in 1906 and for sure not after 1907. From Eldridge and Arnold:
Farther up Rice Canyon, one-half mile above the sharp turn from east to north, is the Newhall well, 1500 feet deep, but without oil. The strike of the beds is here N. 65 deg. W. and the dip 60 deg. S. The well is only about 100 feet north of the axis of the Pico syncline, which lies parallel with the anticline at a distance of half a mile. The strata penetrated by this well are sandstone, with some shale. The horizon is considerably higher than that of the Rice wells.
From Prutzman, 1913, Petroleum in Southern California, California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin 63:
The well of this company, on the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section 21, was drilled to a depth of 1800 feet without finding any indications of oil. The Newhall well was far to the south of the fault line, and on south dipping formation.
From Geology and OIl Resources of a part of in Los Angeles & Ventura Counties, California (Kew, 1924):
Another well was drilled by the Newhall Mountain Oil Co. in the NW. 1/4 NE. 1/4 sec. 21, to a depth of 1800 feet. This well is practically on the axis of the syncline the syncline that parallels the Pico anticline to the south, and it found no trace of oil.
Oddly, Walling (1934, Summary of Operations, California Oil Fields, Newhall Oil Field) does not mention the well at all. On 12/13/1906, Newhall Mountain Oil Co. was issued a placer mining claim patent for 160 acres around this wellsite. They became the owners of the land.

In "California Oil Fields: Summary of Operations" of the State Oil & Gas Supervisor, Volume 13, No. 2, August 1927, is the last mention of the Newhall Mountain Oil Company. In the Directory of California Oil Operators section, the company is listed. Also stated is that the charter lapses in 1927. Sure enough, in the 1928 Summary of Operations directory, the Newhall Mountain Oil Company is no longer listed. Thus, the lifespan of the company was from 1901 to 1927.

This is a scan of an original stock certificate of the Newhall Mountain Oil Company. 500 shares were purchased for $1.00 a share by the Mallory brothers on December 11, 1909. The Mallory brothers were the grandfather and his brother of the lady that I purchased this stock certificate from.

Water from the creek was pumped up to the boiler

At the well looking to the west

Looking northwest

Looking east at the capped well head. I did not expect the well to be capped, my first surprise, My second surprise is in the shadows below the tree on the right - a boiler. The boiler was totally unexpected and made the whole trip worthwhile.

This is a firebox boiler, the firebox being the squarish part on this end. The dome is on top of the firebox. Steam escaped out a pipe in the top of the dome where it was piped to the engine. The smokestack is at the far end. The boiler is partially buried and is in the shade of tree. The total length of the boiler is 13-14 feet long. It was a bright day so the contrast between the shade and the sunlight made it difficult to get good photos. The following photos are the best.

This firebox boiler is different than the boilers in Elsmere and East Canyons. Those are tubular boilers where the fire is provided under the raised tube, external to the actual boiler. With a firebox boiler, the fire is obviously inside the firebox.

Closer view of squarish firebox. It is a little over 6 feet long. The dome is on top of it. On top of the dome is an opening where a pipe was attached where the steam escaped. The steam travelled through the the pipe to a nearby engine, which powered the drilling rig.

See the boiler page of Samuel Pees' Oil History website for more information on boilers. Another interesting site is the Anatomy of an antique traction engine boiler.

Inside the firebox - now occasionally used as an animal den. The fire was in here and the hot smoke and gases escaped out the pipes (or flues).

Maker nameplate is still on the boiler. You also get a close up of the rivets that hold the boiler together. The nameplate is confusing. Why is the word electric on it? There was an old Bradford & Salamanca electric railroad, but why would this be on a boiler. There appears to be a modern B & S Boiler Company, but is this what the B & S on the boiler means? I don't know.

This page and the next is from the Oil Well Supply Company Well-Drilling Machinery and Tools, No. 21, 1907, about the same date the Newhall Mountain well was drilled. Based on the dimensions, I think that the boiler at the site is a 20 horse power boiler, making the weight about 5800 pounds. This is not the same boiler maker, but the boilers were probably very similar in size and dimensions.

The boiler must have been transported on wheels like this. It must have been an extremely difficult job to roll this down the creek bed. No wonder they just left it there when they were done with the well. They were discouraged when they found no oil and just wanted to leave. In this catalog, the price of a boiler and wheels for a 20 hp boiler is $585.

Snowball fire bricks. Snowball bricks were imported from the Derwenthaugh Fire Brick Works of brothers James and George H. Snowball. They were located in Swalwell, County Durham, England and operated from 1854 to 1935. (Source: California Bricks webpage.)

A few artifacts are still laying around, but most were removed

Steel cable

This exposure of dipping beds (looking east) in the creek bed shows that the well was drilled in the south flank of the Pico anticline

The road in Rice Canyon ends at just before the start of the western tributary up which this well is located. After that I had to use the creek bed almost all the way to the well. There were a couple of exceptions where I was able to get above the creek and follow animal trails (where I had to watch out for ticks), but I always was forced back into the creek bed.

From above the well site (which islocated on the north side of the creek bed) I took this photo looking east down the western tributary of Rice Canyon that I had just traversed and still had to return by. There are no roads to the well site - only the creek bed. It was quite a feat to get the well equipment here. It was probably so hard to get the boiler here that they decided to just leave it when they left.

Rice Canyon wells. Newhall Mountain No. 1 is located on the far left (nm1). The cr1-3 wells are Chevron Rice. The ri1-7 are the Ricano wells. jmq is the JM Queen well. sm is the San Marino well (just below the oak off of the East Canyon road).