John Vonderlin: Part 2: Pescadero’s Oil Potential

Part II

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,
   This is Leon Harnett’s second installment in his evaluation of the potential ol wealth of the Coastside. It was published in “The Daily Alta” on December 2nd, 1865. He sounds like a fascinating person, though his predictions of Pescadero being the largest city on the Coastside and the amount of oil available in the region was vastly overstated. I’m looking for the letter he mentions at the end of this one, that was going to detail the efforts that were planned or had commenced to harvest the expected bonanza of black gold. Enjoy. John
 Editor Alta :— I have not hurried my account of the oil lands of these counties as much as many residents therein desired, for reasons which appeared to myself satisfactory. After an examination of this region, extending through eight months, I hold these lands, from their extent, richness, and proximity to this city, so important to tbe State, that I was naturally anxious to have my account supported, either by the evidence of further developments, or of disintererted parties, who, since my communication in July, have been out to examine for themselves. If, therefore, this letter, like the former, should be considered exagerrated, I am fortunate in having the testimony of your correspondent from San Gregorio, the northern extent of tbe region in question, the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and several men of wealth and character in San Francisco, who, at my instigation, after a personal examination, have recently made extensive locations on 
 I have, now. therefore, the advantage of writing under endorsement in every particular. It is true, I spoke of Pescadero Creek in high terms, because, apart from its marvellous indication of oil in abundance, it has advantages of a local nature no other section in the State possess; and, those advantages, even if its prospects were less flattering and reliable than those of more distant regions, would justify all I said of its claims upon the attention of capitalists. Tbe subject, taken in connection with tbe depressed state of our mining interests at the present time, is suggestive and it may be neither uninteresting nor unprofitable to pursue to the end. I live under a settled conviction, from a thorough knowledge of those counties, and some knowledge of petroleum, that if we have oil in this country, Pescadero will ultimately equal Oil Creek and Pithole, in the East. Two years ago, I was laughed at by the public as a visionary dreamer, for saying our supply of copper In 1866 would exceed tbat of Great Britain, with her foreign and colonial produce added, by 120,000 tons per annum, if our mines already developed, with those on the point of being developed, were worked with prudence to their utmost capacity of yield. At the close of 1865, tbe public find my prediction verified within a fraction, and now give me credit for its boldness. My calculations about oil are made from as safe a basis as those I made about copper, and I have equal confidence in their proving true eventually.
 The Localities of Pescadero, San Gregorio, Lexington, Etc..
 Possess advantages for economical operations which no others possess that I have seen in the entire distance from Del Norte to San Luis Obispo. In oil, in gold, copper, or any other branch of mining, while limply presumptive, or partially proved, I think the safest way (xxxx?)  our own lands, and the speediest way to attain outside capital is to open satisfactorily, the nearest and most accessible locations first, leaving the more distant and consequently more expensive, even if superior in other respects, to abide the results. By concentrating our energies and funds to develop thoroughly any given locality requiring but small expenditure, we prove to the world at once that we really possess the resources that we claim, avoid injuring the reputation of the State by long delays, and  escape expenses no people can sustain in legitimate undertakings. If successful near home, no dfficulty would be found in obtaining capital for distant regions…………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
A New Era Dawning
   There can be no doubt a new era is opening upon us, the importance and benefits of whioh we cannot at present estimate, if welfare only true to ourselves. To-day a private letter was received from New Yo»k. by a friend of mine, in which it says that,  “we cannot estimate, even with California hyperbole, the amount of capital tbat will be ready to be poured into your oil regions next season,  nor will it be necessary, to secure this capital, tbat you have flowing wells-a good pumping well, or good, satisfactory indications will be sufficient.” Let us, then, buildup the reputation ot tbe State legitimately, and rise individually with tbat reputation. We have had enough of stock-jobbing in mining, let us now, like  other nations, be satisfied with reasonable profits. Those profits tbe oil regions contiguous to San Francisco offer with a very small expenditure : and there is no reason that I see, why we should refuse to spend a few hundreds sensibly because we have squandered many thousands foolishly. Prudence in oil may redeem the losses of imprudence in gold, silver, and copper. Of tbe existence of oil. in abundance throughout tbe Coast Range, there is now no doubt. but we must not expect to get it at a lesser depth than other people. Had anyone, two years ago, told them England  would get oil by boring, the probability is the person would have been locked up immediately in a lunatic asylum; yet to-day they have good pumping wells there.
   For these reasons, and others I have yet to adduce, I maintain the preeminence of Pescadero amongst our California oil regions; eight months of continued exploration I think ought to render me capable of judging its merits. For a period of nearly tbree years I have endeavored to be a true exponent of tbe mineral wealth of this State. So far from indulging in exaggeration, I honestly believe my calculations of tbe importance cf our oil products, like those of our copper products, are rather under than over the reality. In the future, as in the past, I shall be careful not to be caugbt making a false statement of the facts coming professionally within my personal knowledge and observation. I do not intend, if possible to be deceived myself or to deceive others. When, therefore, men, who positively know nothing of the region in question, travel around town and state that the country from San Mateo to Santo Cruz, especially Pescadero, is not to be compared with the Humboldt, not that I abate one tittle of the intrinsic value of tbe latter, it would be more modest, certainly it would sound much better, if they added. ” at Ieast such is our opinion.” The public then, would know better wbat importance to attach to their  statememts.
   In my next letter I shall give an accurate account of all the operations commenced, and about to be commenced, with their prospects and results, in these counties during tbe past season, with other details and experiments, which, I think, will be interesting to those desiring of promoting tbe welfare of our State. Leon Harnett  San Francisco. November 25th, 1865.
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