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Pioneer Oil Refinery
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Pioneer Oil Refinery

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2004 - 2006.

In a forgotten industrial corner of Newhhall, California is what is believed to be the world's oldest remaining oil refinery. Established in 1876, The pioneer Oil Refinery produced Kerosene, Benzine, and lubricants for a dozen years.

Oil was discovered in the Pico Canyon town of Mentryville in 1875 and soon after, the first commercially productive oil well in the western United States began operation there.

Originally a refinery was established in 1874 at Lyon's Station, a stagecoach stop near present day Eternal Valley Cemetery. My research shows the establishment of the refinery a year before the discovery of oil, which I can't yet explain. Old maps show the refinery to be in the now forgotten town of Elayon. This new refinery, the first commercially successful oil refinery in California and the west, wasn't at first successful. There was insufficient water and the refinery was not producing the desired smoke-free kerosene. New railroad tracks were laid in 1876, adjacent to Andrew's Station, another stage stop run by Andrew Kazinski, and some distance from the refinery at Lyon's Station. The refinery packed up its stills and moved in 1876 to its present location at the former Andrew's Station. John A. Scoll, an experienced refiner from Pennsylvania, supervised the move and construction and the refinery was immediately successful when it opened in August 1876.

Within a few years, oil was being produced along much of the California Coast. A large refinery began operation in Alameda, a short distance across the bay from the major market of San Francisco. Despite early success, the small refinery in Newhall was too remote to be profitable and ceased operations in 1888.

Pacific Oil Company became Standard Oil of California which became part of Chevron. In 1988, Chevron gave the four and one half acre refinery to the City of Santa Clarita. The site had been restored in 1930 and 1976, but suffered sever damage in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and further damage occurred from near-by development. Efforts are now underway to restore the site and make it accessible to the public.

Pioneer Oil Refinery is located on the east side of Pine Street, a quarter mile south of San Fernando Road in the City of Newhall, about three miles west of Highway 14. The refinery is a few hundred feet east of Pine along an undeveloped dirt driveway in an industrial area. There is no parking. The site is fenced and not open to the public. It can be viewed any time, but is best on the weekend when the surrounding industries are not as busy.

The historic marker is on the southeast corner of Lyons and I-5 Freeway, about three miles west of the site.

The sign is hard to read. It is in shadows behind an inner chain link fence, about 30 feet from the outer chain link fence. The sign reads
This pumping equipment provided water for oil producing operations during the early 1900's. It was located here because of a supply of spring water.

The emgine is a 12 horsepower, one cylinder Farbanks Morse "hit and miss" type N built in 1908. It used natural gas as fuel. Through the leather belt it powered the vertical triplex pump sending water miles to pico canyon, about 225 feet above this elevation.

As the pumphouse post dates the end of operations for the refinery, I am theorizing that the pump was in connection to the still active oil wells a few miles north.

Photo date: 6-25-06.

Photo date: 6-25-06.

Photo date: 6-25-06.

Photo date: 6-25-06.
The historic marker is about three miles west of the site at the southeast corner of the intersection of Lyons and I-5. Photo date: 6-25-06.
The Pioneer Oil Refinery lies in the middle of an industrial park. This artificial Matterhorn towers a hundred feet north.
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This page last updated: Saturday, 06-Jul-2013 19:06:02 EDT

Note:This is not the official site for any of the places shown in Places Earth. Places Earth is not responsible for accuracy of the information. Hours of operations, prices, exhibits, and sometimes locations are subject to change without notice.

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