The rush for “black gold” took off in 1886, after William Rowland and partner William Lacy completed several producing oil wells at Rancho La Puente. Their company, Rowland & Lacy (later called the Puente Oil Company), revealed the Puente oilfield. News spread, launching a drilling boom.
By 1912, a host of inexperienced exploration companies were drilling more than 100 wells drilled in the Fullerton area alone. According to reports, two of the inevitable dry hole holes that resulted were drilled by a new venture, the Puente Crude Oil Company.
Puente Crude Oil Company was one of many small ventures that hoped to find oil in southern California’s prolific oil fields near Brea Canyon and Fullerton at the turn of the century.
Puente Crude Oil Company was capitalized at only $500,000 and offered stock to the public at 10 cents a share in 1900, but its two unsuccessful wells in the Puente field’s eastern extension brought the company to a quick financial crisis. One well was lost to a “crooked hole” and the other found only traces of oil and natural gas.
Enthusiastic advertisements solicited investment. Some ads referred to the better known Sunset oil field, discovered in 1892 in Kern County to the north. By May 1901 company stock was offered at two cents per share to relieve indebtedness and enable further drilling on the company’s 870 acres in Rodeo Canyon.
One year later, San Bernardino newspapers reported the company in trouble.
“This history of misadventure has not been pleasing to the stockholders of the Puente Crude Oil Company,” noted one article. “An auditing committee was appointed for the purpose of examining the books and accounts of the company,” it added
It was further reported in 1902 that company has issued no statements, “financial or otherwise,” for a year. Puente Crude Oil Company is absent from records thereafter.
South of Los Angeles, in Orange County, the Brea Museum and Heritage Center tells the story of the Olinda Oil Well No. 1 well of 1898 – one of many important California petroleum discoveries. Visit the Olinda Oil Museum and Trail at 4025 Santa Fe Road in Brea.
The stories of exploration and production (E&P) companies joining U.S. petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?
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