In 1910: The Oily Dreams Died at Tunitas

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])


Hi June,
   I was initially thwarted in my research into finding some sort of resolution of the accusations of flimflammery-scammery involving the High Gravity United oil company’s “oil field” at Tunitas in 1910. The main problem was just that, the present digitization of newspapers on the Library of Congress site is only from 1880 to 1910. A search of the San Francisco newspapers revealed no more stories about these accusations. By luck, as usual, I stumbled on an Imperial Valley Press (El Centro) issue from July 1910, that had good coverage of the matter. Probably because oil was becoming big business in the Southland as one rich strike after another was made.
   Tunitas, the End of the Line, for Dreams, Careers, and Grand Enterprises Enjoy. John
State   Mining   Bureau   Commences   War
On   Promoteers   of   Swindles.
The   investigation   which   was   com-
menced   a   short   time   ago   by   the   Cali-
fornia   State   Mining   Bureau   in   regard
‘to   fake   oil   companies   operating   in
this   state   has   been   partly   concluded,
and   the   evidence   of   the   illegitimate
nature   of   their   operations   has   been
placed   in   the   hands   of   State   Mineral – 
ogist   Lewis   E.   Aubury   by   special   Field
Assistant   appointed   by   him.
*In   order   to   protect   the   public   from
these   sharks,   the   Mining   Bureau   will
from   time   to   time   furnish   a   plain
.statement   of   facts   which   have   been
-collected   regarding   their   operations.
State   Mineralogist   Aubury.has   taken
a   firm   stand   regarding   this   class   of
operators,   and   is   receiving   the   united
support   of   the legitimate   oil   opera – 
tors.   Concerning   this   matter,   he   says,
“We   are   determined   that   Investors   in
California   mines   and   oil   wells   shall
   “be   protected   from   the   parasites   which
attach   themselves   to   the   Industry.
With   this   end   in   view,   we   propose   to
give   the   “fakers”   all   the   publicity
possible,   and   to   co-operate   with   per – 
sons   who   have   purchased   stock   in
these   companies,   and   to   punish   the
Mr.   Aubury   wishes   to   remind   the
purchaser   of   stock   in   these   fake   corn-
panies   that   he   will   not   permit   the
‘State   ‘Mining   Bureau   to   be   made   a
collection   agency—after   they   become
aware   that   they   have   been   “fleeced.”
The   average,   person   who   has   been
duped   is   interested   In   only   one   phase
of   the   question—the   return   of   his
money—not   in   criminal   prosecution   of
the   faker.
“There   Is   not   one   chance   in   a   mil – 
lion,”   said   Aubury,  “of   recovering   a
cent   from   these   fakers,   and   there   Is
only   the   satisfaction   of   placing   them
behind   the   bars,   but   this   course   re – 
main’s   for;   the   person   who   has   been
swindled,   and   is   one   which   Is   hardly
ever   adopted.”
Among   the   first   of   these   operators
to   whom   attention   is   called   by   the
Mining   Bureau   Is   J.   E.   Kerr,   of   the
Monadonock   Building,   San   Francisco.
Kerr   has   associated   with   him   H.   H.
Davis,   an   attorney.   Among   other   as – 
sociates   are   M.   M.   Davis,   H.   M.   Davis,
T.   C.   Trldel   and   A.   M.   Trldel.
The   first   of   the   Kerr   promotions
were   the   Illinois   Oil   Bond   Co.,   Chica – 
go,   capital   two   millions,   the   Paxton
Gold   Bond   Oil   Co.,   Paxton,   Illinois,
capital   half   a   million,   and   the   Wiscon – 
sin   Gold   Bond   Oil   Co.,   capital   one   mil – 
lion.   These   were   Arizona   corpora – 
tions,   and   advertised   as   non-assessa – 
ble,   though   It   Is   well   known   that   in
California   any   corporation,   foreign   or
domestic,   may   be   assessed,   and   as   a
matter   of   fact   those,   as   well   as   the
later   corporations,   were   assessed
out   of   existence.   The   Gold   Bond
part   of   the   name   refers   to   3   per   cent,
thirty   year   guarantee   bonds   which
were   offered   to   stockholders,   but
wheteher   any   of   these   bonds   were
called   for,   and   if   so   what   has   become
of   them,   cannot   be   determined.   One
of   the   companies   supposed   to   issue
these   bonds   cannot   now   be   located,
the   other   refuses   any   information.
In   addition   to   the   oil   companies,
Kerr   has   at   various   times   floated   sev – 
eral   mining   companies,   operating   in
Oregon,   Nevada   and   California,   as
well   as   a   couple   of   colonization
schemes.   He   is   now   actively   promo – 
ting   the   High   Gravity   United   Oil   Co.,
with   a   capital   of   two   millions,   and   a
lease   of   600   acres   in   San   Mateo
County,   not   far   from   the   site   of   the
old   operations.   The   old   lease   has
been   stripped   and   the portable   prop – 
erty   of   the   old   companies   taken   over
to   the   new   lease,   where   a   hole   has
been   sunk   almost   400   feet   in   the   last
eight   months.   This   new   company   is
advertising   royalties   from   four   pro – 
ducing   wells,   which   the   mining   bureau
has   found   to   be   humbugs.   Full   in – 
formation   of   Kerr’s   operations   may   be
obtained   from   the   bureau.   .
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