[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
67°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 17
1969 - Construction begins on Magic Mountain amusement park [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieI was going through some photographs of Mentryville and Pico Canyon and realized how few people know about the old oil boom town. I write about it a lot, but it seems even the folks who read this commentary often seem to miss when I write of Pico.

We learn more and more of the history of Mentryville just about every day. On the tours, I stated that I didn’t know of anyone who had died or was killed in the old town. Well, that has changed. We know at least one worker died when a huge tank was being constructed, and there is also the sad story of Alec Mentry’s father going into Newhall and never returning. His body was found in the canyon years later.

I’m sure others were killed in industrial accidents and health-related issues of the day. If you look at many of the photographs, you realize they moved heavy equipment up and down the hills of the canyon in many places without a real road. It looks as if they became adept at dragging stuff up the hillsides.

Those hills are steep, too. Way steep. Imagine a 10-ton steam engine being placed to drill a well 200 feet up the sides of CSO Hill.

There were two “hills” in the Pico Canyon oil field. They were named after the company that drilled them. The first wells were on CSO Hill. CSO is the California Star Oil Co. It is on the north side of the canyon above CSO No. 4, the first commercially producing well west of the Mississippi.

The hill to the south is called PCO Hill, and wells on it were drilled by the Pacific Coast Oil Co. The two companies were combined and became Standard Oil of California.

Seen from the back of the canyon, CSO Hill is at left (north) and PCO Hill is at right. Click image for more.

Seen from the back of the canyon, CSO Hill is at left (north) and PCO Hill is at right. Click image for more.

When I give a tour of the canyon today, it takes a while. From the large, 13-room mansion to the wells, it is almost two miles. That mansion is called Pico Cottage. Some folks call it the “Big House,” but those of us who lived in it like to call it by the name that was on the rental papers from the oil company, “Pico Cottage.”

Thanks to many movies that were filmed there, we can see what the town looked like in the 1920s and on with buildings and fences long lost and forgotten. We also know almost exactly where a lot of the homes were built because of a map that was located at the Huntington Library. It doesn’t show Pico Cottage in place in 1891, so we tend to think the house was built just after that.

Felton School, among the first school buildings in the SCV, originally was situated parallel to the road and was turned so that the entrance faces the road when the coat room, library and front porch were added. We don’t yet know what year that took place. The Felton School District started in 1885 and continued with classes until 1932. We do think the school building dates from 1885.

We know some really great things like the recipe that Mr. Cochems used to make macaroon cookies at the Mentryville bakery. We know the canyon that is at the bakery is called Minnie-Lotta after two girls who lived in Mentryville.

The fences at the barn are new. Well, new in the sense that the original ones were wood. What is there now are old pipes and sucker rod from the wells. For those of you who don’t know, sucker rod is a solid steel rod that screws together in sections to be connected to the pump at the bottom of the well. The walking beam and grasshopper-head-looking fixture on the end of the beam pump the well as it is moved up and down. It isn’t “sucking” anything but in reality pushes the oil up the casing of the well and out to pipes that take it to tanks.

Today we call oil field workers by many names. Roustabout, pumper and drill foreman are examples, but in the early days in Pico Canyon they were called “miners.” They guys who ran the drilling operation were called “Drillers.” Alec Mentry was a driller.

We went for years telling the story that Mentry died of “kissing bug” bites on his lip that got infected. Well, not quite right. We know now he died of typhoid. Pretty common in those days.

It was quite a town. Upwards of 100 families lived there at the height of drilling operations. Once the field was mostly tapped out, many drillers moved off to new fields and took their houses with them. Some Pico houses were moved to the fields around Taft.

But a lot of the old town remains in the stories and lore of the place. Like the “Shepherd’s Grave” on top of Mustard Hill (the hill behind the school house). It is a geological marker for surveys, but sure enough, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times in 1961 started the “graveyard stories.”

Now that the heat of summer is nearly over, a walk up the canyon is darned refreshing. Pack a lunch and plenty of water. Stroll up to the well and back.

Oh, it takes only a group of 10 or more to convince me to give a tour. Send a comment and I will reply.

With or without a tour, you can visit our very own SCV ghost town, Mentryville. Just head west on Lyons Avenue over Interstate 5 where it becomes Pico Canyon Road. Keep driving until you see the signs for Mentryville. Follow the signs for parking, and don’t forget to pay the $5 fee.

I’m ready when all y’all are. I love to show off my real “home town.” You see, for a time in the 1960s, I was the only kid in Mentryville.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

9 Comments

  1. Maybe if you gave exact location ppl would want to go check it out, is their a trail to get to it ECT it’s hard to find if you don’t know where to look Pico ??? Trail ???

    • By Josh Premako, SCVNews.com says:

      He gives the location at the end of the column: “Just head west on Lyons Avenue over Interstate 5 where it becomes Pico Canyon Road. Keep driving until you see the signs for Mentryville. Follow the signs for parking, and don’t forget to pay the $5 fee.” Trust me, it’s really hard to miss.

  2. Russ Batt Russ Batt says:

    That would be cool to see

  3. Amanda Clark Amanda Clark says:

    Mentryville is not like it used to be…

  4. It’s an awesome little place to visit, especially when you know the history! We had an SCV history class in school, and we visited many locations of notable history here in the valley. Mentryville was fun to walk through and imagine what life was like for those that had been there.

  5. Do any of these buildings exist today

  6. Yes. Ive been there before . Its very nice . But theres 2 roads that lead to separate ways. There is a path on the right but u dont take that one. U go straight . And u will see the mansion

  7. Brian Durand Brian Durand says:

    Pico Canyon was so much nicer without Stevenson Ranch

  8. Going with cub scouts tonight to tour! Yay

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
Most people with Medicare will pay the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B, which will be $135.50 next year, an increase of $1.50 over 2018. Your Part B premium is based on your income. People whose tax returns show income equal to or higher than $85,000 pay higher premiums. These income-adjusted premiums apply to about 5 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries.
Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
It makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.
Thursday, Oct 4, 2018
Local entrepreneurs, industry leaders and business owners are looking for employees who can communicate clearly, whether writing or speaking; effectively collaborate on teams; and quickly make decisions that benefit both the company and its customers.
Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018
Canyon Country is known as a major residential area in our City, as well as a popular commercial and retail spot.
Monday, Oct 1, 2018
In her message for October 2018, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste invites the community to the annual State of the City Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018
Not being able to record and document what Knight and Hill stated during the debate makes it difficult for our community to hold both of them accountable to what they say.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1969 - Construction begins on Magic Mountain amusement park [story]
Democratic challenger Christy Smith's lead has widened to 3,099 votes over Republican incumbent Dante Acosta in the race for California's 38th District, according to the updated ballot count released Friday afternoon by the Los Angeles County and Ventura County registrars of voters.
Smith Widens Lead in 38th Assembly District Tally
Retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Alex Villanueva has pulled ahead of incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell by 57,810 votes in the Nov. 6 general election
Sheriff’s Race: Villanueva Widens Lead Over McDonnell by Nearly 58K Votes
A new three-year collective bargaining agreement between Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions is now in effect through Sept. 30, 2021.
Kaiser Permanente, Health Care Unions Ratify New National Deal
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Nov. 20, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Nov. 20: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area suffered significant damage from the Woolsey Fire, including the destruction of the Western Town at Paramount Ranch and a building housing priceless archives, the National Park Service reported Friday.
Woolsey Fire Destroys Western Town, Museum, Archives at Paramount Ranch
A multitude of important disaster recovery resources from government, non-profit, and private agencies are now available online at www.lacounty.gov/woolseyfire to help support residents, business owners, and others impacted by the Woolsey Fire.
County Launches Recovery, Damage Reporting Webpage for Woolsey Fire Victims
Red Rock Canyon State Park officials have set their schedule of interpretive events for the second half of November.
Red Rock Canyon State Park Sets November Walks, Talks, Slide Show
Registration is underway for the College of the Canyons winter semester, and registration for the spring 2019 semester will begin Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Register Now for COC Winter Semester; Spring Registration to Open Jan. 2
The California State Auditor rebuked the agency in charge of implementing the state’s high-speed rail project Thursday, finding lack of planning and poor oversight has led to cost overruns plaguing the Golden State’s efforts.
Cost Overruns, Poor Oversight Plague California Bullet Train
The U.S. Small Business Administration has issued a disaster declaration for Los Angeles County that will make low-interest federal disaster loans available to businesses and residents impacted by the Woolsey Fire.
Feds Offer Low-Interest Loans to LA County Wildfire Victims
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a man on Friday suspected of vandalizing a Newhall business over the Veterans Day holiday weekend.
SCV Deputies Arrest Newhall Vandalism Suspect
The city of Santa Clarita, in partnership with Parkway Motorcars, will once again hold a Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Newhall Community Center, located at 22421 Market Street in Newhall.
Nov. 19: City’s Annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner
Valencia native, Celine Chen, 14, will compete as a Division Finalist in the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Southwest Division Junior Piano.
West Ranch Freshman Heads to Southwest Division Piano Competition
1941 - Rose (stagecoach) Station at bottom of Grapevine dedicated as California Historical Landmark [story]
Princess Cruises has been recognized by SHAPE magazine as a winner in its fourth annual Healthy Travel Awards, recognizing the cruise line’s state-of-the-art Lotus Spa and Fitness Centers onboard its 17 cruise ships.
SHAPE Magazine Recognizes Princess Cruises with Healthy Travel Award
Most people with Medicare will pay the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B, which will be $135.50 next year, an increase of $1.50 over 2018. Your Part B premium is based on your income. People whose tax returns show income equal to or higher than $85,000 pay higher premiums. These income-adjusted premiums apply to about 5 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries.
Your Medicare Costs in 2019 | Commentary by Greg Dill
The Michael Hoefflin Foundation for children’s cancer is getting ready to celebrate the 2018 Holiday Season.
Michael Hoefflin Foundation Seeking Donations for Holiday Baskets
Chili cook-off entries and craft boutique applications are now being accepted for the Antelope Valley Indian Museum’s eighth-annual “Holidays on the Homestead,” to be held on Saturday Dec. 1, from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Dec. 1: Annual ‘Holidays on the Homestead’ at AV Indian Museum
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce Nancy Starczyk as the 2019 Chair of the Board of Directors.
Realtor Nancy Starczyk Named 2019 SCV Chamber Board Chair
The Brittany Foundation will be at Bark Avenue Dog Grooming on Saturday Dec. 8, from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., for pet pictures with Santa.
Dec. 8: Pet Pictures with Santa at Bark Avenue Dog Grooming
The Silvertone Singers, in an effort to raise funding for the new Senior Center set to open in Spring 2019, presents a concert focusing on the theme of "Money."
Nov. 29: Concert, Art Exhibit Benefiting SCV Senior Center
SACRAMENTO - Every year, as the percentage of drivers age 65 and older increases, many look to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to help them maintain their ability to drive safely.
CHP Implements ‘Age Well, Drive Smart’ for Senior Drivers
Smart & Final Stores, Inc., the value-oriented food and everyday staples retailer, reported Wednesday financial results for the fiscal third quarter ended Oct. 7, 2018.
Smart & Final Overall Sales Increased 2.8% Over Last Year
No. 1 College of the Canyons will host No. 4 Ventura College in a California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California Regional Playoff first round matchup at Cougar Stadium on Saturday Nov. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
No. 1 Canyons Faces Off Against No. 4 Ventura in First Round Matchup
Grab your broom, don your ruby red slippers and travel to the wonderful land of Oz – long before Dorothy and her friends burst onto the scene.
City Offering ‘Wicked’ Excursion to Pantages Theatre
Fire officials raised the Fire Danger Level from “Very High” to “Extreme” in the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Officials Raise Fire Danger Levels in Angeles National Forest to ‘Extreme’
1978 - Southern Pacific Saugus depot closes; later moved & used as SCV Historical Society museum [story]
Republican incumbent Dante Acosta conceded Wednesday to Democratic challenger Christy Smith in the tight race for California's 38th Assembly District seat in the Nov. 6 general election.
Acosta Concedes to Smith in Assembly Race as Ballot Tally Continues
There's a temptation inherent to a free-flowing and high scoring game.
TMU Men’s Hoopsters Show Selflessness in Win Over Bethesda
TMU's women's volleyball team will fly to Sioux City, Iowa, to begin pool play on Nov. 27 to Nov. 29.
TMU Women’s Volleyball Earns Bye to NAIA Final Site in Iowa
Before Saturday night's GSAC title game, the PA announcer indulged himself in a bit of low-hanging humor.
TMU Women’s Volleyball Wins GSAC Tourney Title, Earns NAIA Bid
Master's women's volleyball team scored a 3-0 semifinal win over Menlo College on the way to the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament at Hope International in Fullerton.
TMU Women’s Volleyball Team Advances to GSAC Title Game
The Mustangs trailed almost all the way through three quarters, rallied in the fourth, and held on to down No. 7 Carroll 61-56 in Helena, Montana Friday.
TMU Women’s Hoopsters Close Trip with Win Over No. 7 Carroll