Brief History of Oil Development in Rice Canyon

This topo map shows all the well sites in Rice Canyon. All the sites to the right of the creek are on private property.
cr=Chevron Rice,ri=Ricano,jmq=JM Queen,nm=Newhall Mtn,sm=San Marino(below the oak off of the East Canyon road)

Rice Canyon lies about one mile southeast of Wiley Canyon along the Pico Anticline. The actual oil production area consists of only about 25 acres. All the wells were drilled in and around the axis area of the Pico Anticline in the shales and sandstones of the Modelo Formation, the same formation that the wells of Wiley and Towsley Canyon were drilled in.

Rice filed the claim about 1865 at the same time as the other claims in the other canyons were being filed. Stephen Peckham reports that in 1866 there was a 60-foot spring-pole well on the Rice Claim. It was idle due to a lost bit. In 1873-74, Dr. Vincent Gelcich, a one-time Army surgeon, purchased all the claims in Rice Canyon after receiving claims of "big oil" from driller James Renaud and checking it out himself. The Los Angeles Herald of 7/25/1874 reports: "The Rice claim, owned by Dr. Gelcich, is overflowing with oil, the tunnels being all filled. It is now running to waste - there being nothing to save it in."

In 1880, the Gelcich claim in Rice Canyon was purchased by Charles Felton. In 1879, Felton had incorporated the Pacific Coast Oil Company and the Rice claim became another PCO property. PCO would soon become Standard Oil Company of California.

According to Will Mayhue (in A.B. Perkins - The Story of Our Valley, 1954), in 1898 Will Mayhue and George Carmine opened the road into Rice Canyon for PCO by order of Alex Mentry.

PCO then drilled three wells in the bottom and west side of the canyon in 1899 and 1900.

After the first well came in, W.P. Rice, an Eastern capitalist, bought 50 acres east of the PCO land from Steve Lopez (Perkins). He does not appear to be the original Rice who staked out the first claim in the canyon.

From the LA Herald of 2/9/1900: "The Rice Canyon Oil Company has incorporated, with a capital stock of $200,000, divided into 2,000 shares, of which amount $150,200 has been subscribed. The directors are; Wilbur P. Rice, H. C. Beville, F. A. Bradshaw, W. G. Bradshaw, A. D. Elwell, all of Los Angeles." WP Rice is obviously Wilbur P. Rice.

WP Rice then drilled seven wells between 1900 and 1902. The Los Angeles Herald of 8/1/1900 reported that the WP Rice well no 1 produced 12 barrels of oil per day. The LA Herald of 10/3/1900 reported that the WP Rice well is dropping off some in production and it is not thought it will make any better than 10 barrels a day.

The LA Herald of 11/6/1900 says of the Rice canyon wells - they are a productive little group, where WP Rice, the Rice Canyon Oil Co, and a number of others are striking oil.

The LA Herald of 5/24/1901 reports that "WP Rice in Rice Canyon has brought in No. 3, which is a fair producer. Rigs are up for Nos. 4 and 5. Clark and Sherman are bringing in No. 2, which shows for a good producer."

From the LA Herald of 1/8/1902: "The WP Rice Oil Company was incorporated yesterday with a capital stock of $500,000, divided into 500,000 shares of par value of $1 each. Of this amount $250,040 has been subscribed. The directors are: Wilbur P. Rice, Austin D. Elwell, Charles E. Price, H.C. Beville and Louis W. Meyers, all of Los Angeles." A new company without the Bradshaws.

In Perkins' somewhat confusing account, he also states that Rice died in 1900, but this contradicts the above incorporation in 1902.

Newhall Mountain Oil Company drilled an dry well deep in the canyon in around 1906. It has its own website.

In 1929, J. M. Queen drilled his one unsuccessful well on the property of the Rice Canyon Oil Company.

DOGGR records state that in 1934 the Rice Canyon Oil Company wells were transferred to H. G. Teale and then to Ernest E. McCartney. Again in 1934, the wells were transferred to Inspiration Oil Company, a fictitious name used by McCartney.

Inspiration Oil Company cleaned out and redrilled some of the wells with limited success. Doggr records then show that in 1937, the Ricano Oil Company took over the wells of the Inspiration Oil Company.

The last well was drilled by the San Marino Oil Company in July of 1964. It was abandoned that same month after finding no oil. It is located just below the large lone oak near the top off, and just off of, the East Canyon trail (used by hikers to rest under).

The best year for Rice Canyon was 1935 when production was 622 barrels of oil.

Note: Most of the land between the creek bed and the East Canyon road is on private property. All the Ricano wells are located here.

Table of the wells drilled in Rice Canyon

(From Walling, 1934, and DOGGR records)
Last Well No. Last owner Drilled by Original well No Year drilled Depth Remarks
Rice 1 Standard Oil Co. Pacific Coast Oil Co. Rice 1 1899 550 3 bpd 1900. Plugged in 1972.
Rice 2 Standard Oil Co. Pacific Coast Oil Co. Rice 2 1899-1900 800 Water broke in - abandoned in 1900. PLugged in 1972.
Rice 3 Standard Oil Co. Pacific Coast Oil Co. 1 1900 705 Placed on production 1900 - no records. Abandoned in 1908. Plugged in 1972.
Ricano 5 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 5 1902? 1000+- Abandoned by Rice/Inspiration got 4.8bpd
Ricano 6 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 6 1902? 1580 Abandoned by Rice/Inspiration. Got 4.8bpd
Ricano 1 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 1 1900? 700 3 bpd. Redrilled in 1935.
Ricano 2 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 2 1901-02? 933 Redrilled in 1935. Abandoned
Ricano 3 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 3 1900? 300+- Abandoned
Ricano 4 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 4 1901? 800 4 bpd - no records
Ricano 7 Ricano Oil Co (from Inspiration Oil Co) Rice Canyon Oil Co. 7 1902? ? No records
1 Newhall Mountain Oil Co Newhall Mountain Oil Co 1 1906 1800 No indications of oil
1 J.M. Queen     1929 195 No oil - Abandoned
1 Rice-Hunter-Jackson San Marino Oil Co 1 1964 2573 Drilled & Abandoned in 1964

This is the road on the east side of the creek that goes to Rice 1. The well site (and there is nothing there) is just past the small tree in the middle of the photo.

Here we are looking down (northeast) to the flat area where the Rice Canyon trail ends at the large fallen dead oak on the right of the photo. If they still existed, Rice 2 would be on the left and Rice 3 would be further away to the right in the middle of the photo. When you are standing at the end of the trail and looking north down the canyon, there is a flat area below you. This is the site of Rice 3. If you turn to the left (west you will be looking at the site of Rice 2. There is some dried up petroleum, a few bricks, and some other junk at the two well sites.

Ricano 1 (Rice Canyon Oil Company 1). It was originally drilled as an offset to Pacific Coast Oil Company's Rice 1.

Ricano 2. Note the riveted casing.

Ricano 3

Looking down Ricano 3 hole

Ricano 4. If you listen into this well it sounds like a gas flame is burning - kind of like listening to your water heater.

Ricano 5. This well is the only one leaking some oil. The pipe coming out of the ground is caked with dried oil.

Looking at the top of the pipe you see oil slowly bubbling out.

Ricano 5 site looking west up the west tributary of Rice Canyon

Probable site of Ricano 7. There is a road coming down from the left shadows to the flat area where my hard-to-see backpack is laying.

The JM Queen well is located to the right of the tank where the pipe comes out of the ground. The tank is 8 feet tall and about 10 feet in diameter.

Here is the actual well. The casing has been cut off at the surface, making it kind of dangerous.

Looking down the well you see a cable extending down. The hole is filled with water not too far down. The light at the bottom is the reflection of my flash off the water.

This is the overgrown road to the well sites

1934 map from Walling. W.P. Rice is named here as W.P. Price, an error. All other documentation I have seen shows Rice not Price.

The gravesite of Newhall pioneer Will Mayhue and his wife Pallie located in the Garden of Pioneers in Eternal Valley Memorial Park.


William 1894 - 1954

Pallie 1862 - 1939

Arrived in Newhall in 1893. Worked in this Needham Ranch,
the site of Eternal Valley Memorial Park, in the late 1890's.
Worked in Rice Canyon Oil Field and operated a boarding house.
Farmed on the Newhall Ranch the present site of the town of
Valencia. Owned and operated a general stored in Newhall at
the northwest corner of Railroad and Market Streets.