Mentryville: Remnants of Valley History

Mentryville: Remnants of Valley History

Deep in the heart of the Valley, along a lonely road in Newhall, lies a ghost town that was once home to one of the world's longest-running oil wells. On September 26, 1876, Charles Alexander Mentry punched into a well tucked away in Pico Canyon, striking oil at the 617-foot mark. The subsequent geyser attracted a multitude of transient oil workers and their families, who would come to occupy the area effectively named Mentryville. As the community grew, structures were built to support the population, with Mentry (as founder) occupying a 13-room mansion with his family at the base of the canyon.

mentryville1881

Here we see an early survey map of Mentryville, circa 1880.

 

Pico No. 4

By the time he reached Newhall, Mentry had already proven himself a veteran in his field. At only thirty years old, he'd drilled 42 successful oil wells in Pennsylvania. After landing a job digging wells in Grapevine Canyon, he purchased a claim in nearby Pico Canyon, which had been explored in the late 1860s by Newhall entrepreneurs Sanford Lyon, Henry Clay Wiley, and Los Angeles lawman William Jenkins. With his advanced skills and equipment (a steam-powered oil rig), Mentry punched four new wells, aptly named Pico No. 1-4. A man by the name of Demetrius Scofield caught wind of Mentry's work and quickly moved to get California's latest driller under his employ. This action would prove itself wise as, on that day in 1876, Pico No. 4 struck and Scofield became a truly rich man.

Mentryville thrived as a community until its founder's passing in October of 1900. Charles Mentry had been suffering from kidney disease, and was hospitalized when he contracted typhoid fever. The strain was to much and he eventually succumbed to his illness, leaving behind a wife and four children. In the years following his death, field workers would begin to abandon Mentryville. His mansion was occupied by superintendents and foremen who stayed to manage the oil well even after its richest deposits had been depleted. By 1938, they were the town's sole inhabitants. After 114 years of operation, Pico No. 4 finally ceased in 1990, leaving behind nothing but dust.

Mentryville Today

These days, Mentryville is a ghost town. It serves as one of the Valley's more interesting hiking trails. Local residents often travel through to take a look at what once was the area's premiere oiling community. A few of the town's previous inhabitants still visit on occasion, and if you happen to come upon them you may be treated to an in-depth tour full of amazing stories of how the town used to be. Some of the buildings have been damaged over the years, such as the 1994 Northridge earthquake that ruined Mentry's old mansion, but plans have been made to maintain restoration. So if you happen to be in the area or just looking to explore a piece of history, Pico Canyon is great star on the map.

 

 

Further Reading:

The Story of Mentryville - SCV History Website

Elsmere Canyon - Brief History and Modern-Day Images

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