Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Crude Oil Sample, Pico No. 4

Pico Canyon, California

Crude oil sample from Alex Mentry's famous Pico No. 4 oil well in Pico Canyon, bottled by Standard Oil Company of California shortly before the 100th anniversary celebration of Mentryville on Sunday, September 26, 1976, and distributed to the approx. 300 attendees.

Unrefined petroleum in glass bottle, 3.5 inches (height) x 1.5 inches (diameter). Label reads:


Crude oil from Pico No. 4 — Completed September 26, 1876

A memento of 100 years of production in Pico Canyon

Mentryville, California — September 26, 1976

[Chevron logo] Standard Oil Company of California, Western Operations, Inc.

Standard would rebrand itself as Chevron USA in 1977. The Pico No. 4 well shut down in 1990.

Donated by Cynthia Neal-Harris to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, October 3, 2019.

Click to enlarge.

Still Pumping

Birthday for An Oil Well.

Old Pico Number 4 isn't much to look at.

It looks like any other oil well. Far up Pico Canyon it slowly pumps away day after day.

It pumps so slowly, in fact, that it now produces only a single barrel of oil each day. Of course, with the price of oil today, it is still making money for Standard Oil Company of California.

And that is what is special about Pico Number 4. It has been pumping oil and making money virtually every day since September 26, 1876.

Standard Oil threw a Centennial Party for "the first commercial oil well west of Pennsylvania" on the nearby site of Mentryville Sunday. Over three hundred local people attended, and they left with a small part of the historic well.

Alex Mentry, after whom Mentryville was named, drilled four wells in Pico Canyon 100 years ago. The first three were dry. Number 4 hit oil. As it was deepened it produced first six, then 30, then hundreds of barrels of oil daily.

The petroleum discovery made Mentryville an oil boom town and led to the building of the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Railroad Canyon the same year.

"As far as we're concerned, the Standard Oil Company began right here 100 years ago today," Newhall Woman's Club President Betty Pember told Standard executives and the rest of the crowd Sunday. (Standard did not actually become a company until 1906.)

"That's good light-green oil," said T. Dudley Cramer, head of Standard's production department, as he watched Pico Number 4 work Sunday afternoon. He indicated that the old well might no longer be operating if the oil prices of the 1960s were still in force. Inflation in petroleum prices, however, has made Number 4's barrel-a-day production worth the trouble.

But, as Standard Vice President Bob Clarke noted Sunday, the company recently lost part of a day's production out of Number 4. Everyone at the Centennial celebration received a sample bottle of Number 4 crude oil.

Also speaking at the celebration were Art Evans, president, and Gerald Reynolds, vice president and curator, of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. The Newhall Woman's Club, the Historical Society and Standard Oil are cooperating in an effort to have Mentryville recognized as an historical landmark.

Reynolds presented the Standard executives with samples of "white oil," a clear liquid found by other oil companies in Placerita Canyon.

Returning to the rebuilt town for the celebration were some people who lived in Mentryville in its more lively days.

Paul Cochems, who worked as a drilling foreman in Pico Canyon in 1915, returned with his brother, Tony, who attended the Felton School in Mentryville. (The school was named for Senator Charles Felton of California, a legislative supporter of oil development.)

After the ceremonies, Tony Cochem entered the recently rebuilt schoolhouse and got reacquainted with his former teacher, Mrs. Carl Burson.

Mrs. Burson, just out of school herself, came to teach in Mentryville 61 years ago, she said. Rosetta Flory, who was Rosetta Emmons when she sat in one of the tiny school desks, was another former student who talked over old lessons with Mrs. Burson Sunday.

After the ceremony at Mentryville the crowd adjourned to a picnic ground near Number 4 where Standard Oil shared some of the wealth that has come out of Pico Canyon in the last century.

Thick steaks, roasted corn, ranch-style beans, beer and more was served by a crew led by Frenchy Lagasse, who with his wife, Carol, restored and now lives in the Mentry House in Pico Canyon.

As a jazz combo filled the canyon with banjo music, guests in 19th century costume ate and talked under a grove of oak trees. A group of antique cars were the only vehicles to be seen. Up the road a piece, Pico Number 4 was pumping.

From a distance, it looked as if another age had returned and Mentryville was booming with oil once again.

CN7601: Download original images here. Digital images by Leon Worden. Artifact in SCV Historical Society collection.
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