History of Rodeo, California
From: The History of Contra Costa County, California
Edited by: F. J. Hulaniski
The Elms Publishing Co., Inc.
Berkeley, California 1917


WITH the best of water-front facilities, and with factory sites held at a very reasonable figure, the outlook for Rodeo, situated on San Pablo Bay, is very promising.

The virile quality of Rodeo's citizenship shone forth brilliantly following a devastating fire of July, 1915. Although the main business district was completely wiped out, in less than six months the heap of ruins was replaced by handsome brick buildings. These building activities have afforded unusual opportunities for bricklayers, carpenters, and artisans of all kinds, who have prospects of being steadily employed for an indefinite time to come. Other fields of employment are the plant of the Union Oil Company, about two miles distant, the local plant of the Western Oil Company, the Union Oil Company at Oleum, adjoining the town-site of Rodeo, the powder factories of Giant and Hercules, and the near-by lubricating plant of the Shell Oil Company. Having no unemployed class, Rodeo may be considered to be well along on the road to prosperity.

Of historical interest is the fact that Rodeo derived its name from the "rodeos," or roundups, held by the cattle kings in the days of the old Spanish grandees.

Some time ago, a sanitary district was formed in Rodeo, and a bond issue was decided upon to supply the sum of $17,000 needed for the construction of a sewer system.

Rodeo is one of the smallest towns in the State to have its own sewer system. The undertaking has been a very large one, and the fact that it has been carried to success reflects considerable credit upon those who are leaders in the town's affairs.

The prospects for a brilliant future for Rodeo are very alluring. A splendid water-front is to be found there, and splendid factory sites can be secured at a very reasonable figure. The town is now situated near enough to several large industries to be assured of steady progress.

The Union Oil Company of California is the outgrowth of an amalgamation of a number of the smaller oil companies established in the early days of the California oil industry. It has always been independent of other and larger corporations, having no connections of any kind to enforce upon it a policy of subservience to special interests. Its present strong position is the result of twenty five years of able management as the Union Oil Company of California, following several years of pioneering in the Ventura fields on the part of Lyman Stewart, now chairman of the board, and his associates. Mr. Stewart, having first satisfied himself as to the oil prospects of the surrounding territory, located at Santa Paula in Ventura County, and gathered about him a number of his former associates in the Pennsylvania fields. Amongst these were W. L. Hardison and John Irwin. In 1883 as the Hardison-Stewart Oil Company, with John Irwin as field superintendent, operations were begun in Pico Canon, near Newhall, on land leased from the Pacific Coast Oil Company, which had a small group of wells there and a small refinery in Alameda. That company and the Rowland & Lacy Company operating at Puente, near Whittier, alone occupied the field at that time. Leases were also taken in Adams Canon, on the old Rancho ex-Mission de San Buenaventura, and in Santa Paula Canon.

Operations began with a field force of thirty-five oil men recruited from the East. Six wells were drilled and about $135,000 spent before striking a paying well. In these days of large expenditures in oil development this sum looks small, but, considering the times, and that these men were operating in a country several thousand miles away from the nearest commercially proven oil field, and in one where at the same time proper facilities and markets were yet to be developed, it will be appreciated that no little faith and courage were required. To add to their difficulties disputes arose over land titles, but eventually these obstacles as well as those of a physical character were overcome. Operations were extended and additional land acquired by purchase. More wells were drilled—one of these, No. 16, on the Rancho ex-Mission, was brought in with an initial production of one thousand barrels of oil a day. Other successes followed, and, encouraged by results obtained, two other companies were organized, in both of which Hardison and Stewart were interested — the Sespe Oil Company and the Torrey Canon Oil Company. In 1890 the three companies, together with the Los Angeles Oil Co., Rainbow Oil Company, Mission Transfer Company and others, were merged into one, as the Union Oil Company, with a capitalization of $5,000,000; later this was increased to $10,000,000 and then to $50,000,000, at which figure it stands with the opening of 1915. At the beginning of 1915, somewhat over $31,000,000 of this had been issued. The operations of the company have now been enormously extended in all directions. Its landholdings comprise over 226,000 acres, not including those of companies controlled by it. Its oil lands, rights, and leases are conservatively valued at approximately $23,000,000, while its wells, of which more than three hundred are producing and forty six drilling, represent $7,000,000 more. Pipe-lines and storage systems serve all the important fields, and its water-transportation facilities are represented by a fleet of twenty-six steamers and barges, of which but six are chartered, the whole fleet having a carrying capacity of 800,- 000 barrels. Investments in transportation and storage facilities now amount to nearly t000,000.

Early in its career the company undertook refining operations on a small scale at Santa Paula. This plant was destroyed by fire in 1896, but later was replaced. The success experienced demonstrated that more extensive facilities were required, and in 1895 a site was purchased at Oleum on San Pablo Bay near San Francisco, at which point its principal refinery is now located. In addition to these two refineries, three others are now operating at strategical points — Bakersfield, Stewart, near Los Angeles, and Avila, on the coast near San Luis Obispo. The company is also engaged in the extraction of gasoline from the large amount of natural gas produced on some of its leases. One of these plants is probably the largest yet installed anywhere. When the construction work now under way is completed the company will have invested over $3,000,000 in its refineries.

An extensive system of distributing and marketing stations has been developed all over the Pacific Coast, ranging from Alaska to South America. Unusually complete stations have been erected in all of the principal cities, with less elaborate ones in the smaller communities, at a cost of nearly $4,000,000. These are being continually increased in number.

The company now produces, transports, refines, and distributes all products derivable from California petroleum, having last year marketed over $20,000,000 worth of products. Its ships carry fuel oil to all the principal ports of the Pacific Coast in both American continents, and reach westward to Hawaii. Its refined oils are delivered by the shipload not only to domestic ports but to Europe and Asia. Asphalt is shipped to Atlantic ports by steamer and sail, and by rail to the Middle West, and in normal times to Europe. In fact, the Union Oil Company now has practically the entire world for its market, and competes successfully everywhere.

FUEL OIL. — First, in point of mere bulk, ranks fuel oil. On the face of it no particular interest would appear to attach to the fuel-oil business. It would seem that all that might be necessary would be to produce the oil from the ground and hand it over to the consumers to be burnt without special preparation. However, the actual facts are unfortunately somewhat more complicated and the users of oil fuel have manifold requirements; each particular industry using fuel has its own, and nearly every customer has special needs—either actual or fancied. In any case all of these conditions must be met, and while many consumers are properly served with carefully selected and cleaned crude oil, a very large class requires specially prepared fuel to meet highly specialized conditions, with the result that no little care and skill are demanded in the manufacture of a suitable material having the desired characteristics. In metallurgical operations and the manufacture of gas, for example, requirements are different than for use on board ship. The different navies, again, have different specifications; Diesel engines and semi-Diesel engines differ from each other in the kind of fuel needed, and so on in almost infinite variety. All of these manifold service conditions the Union Oil Company of California has provided for, and supplies for each instance the particular fuel best adapted to it, so that whether it be for the United States or foreign navies, for the manufacturers of ordinary illuminating gas or Pintsch gas, or to meet the specifications of marine classification societies, or for Diesel engines, household use, smudge oil for orchards, for steel works and smelters, for briquetting coal, or for hatching eggs, proper fuels have been prepared. Each industry demands certain flash or burning points, specific gravity, viscosity, heat value, freedom from sulphur, and other technical characteristics of no particular interest to the layman, but involving proper selection of raw material and subsequent treatment to produce.

ASPHALT. — In the refining of California oils the final or end product of the distillation process may be either a fuel oil, usually known as residuum, or asphalt, best known to the public in the form of asphalt pavements. The best refining oils, however, are not necessarily the best for the manufacture of asphalt, so the Union Oil Company of California does not manufacture asphalt as a by-product of the refinery, but selects for the specific purpose of making asphalt only such oils as have the proper physical and chemical characteristics; as a result of this procedure and the careful attention given every stage of the operation to control the quality of the product, the company believes that it has perfected the manufacture of asphalt to the highest degree yet attained. A special booklet has been prepared, copies of which may be had on request, covering the application of this material to paving. Many other uses are made of it, however, and special types are prepared for each service.

REFINED OIL AND LUBRICANTS. — The products derived from petroleum and manufactured by the company cover the entire range from the lightest volatile substances which boil actively at the temperature of the hand to the heaviest of lubricants. The company has been perhaps fortunate in that as it is comparatively young it has not inherited an outworn assortment of refining conventions. It has not hesitated therefore to depart from methods established by tradition and has developed processes and apparatus of its own, peculiarly fitted to California conditions, and capable of manufacturing economically products of the highest quality. Continuous investigations are conducted to improve its facilities and the character and variety of its products. That this policy is effective is best evidenced by the fact that in the face of increased cornpetition, backed by powerful financial interests, its sales of refined goods have uniformly increased in volume more rapidly than can be accounted for by the increase in the consuming population of its tributary territory, and this without any attempt being made to undersell competitors.

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