Archive for the ‘Oil Prospects’ Category

Let’s wrap up this Chippewa and Sioux scrip business today.
(Reminder, though–if you haven’t seen the original article in the Mattole Valley Historical Society’s Issue #44 of Now… and Then, please comment below or email mattolehistory@frontiernet.net and i can send you a digital copy.)

First, some of my sources you may enjoy looking into further if this matter interests you deeply–most of you might want to scroll past:

Franks, Kenny A., and Lambert, Paul F. Early California Oil: A Photographic History, 1865-1940. Texas A & M University Press, 1985.

Gates, Paul W. Land and Law in California: Essays on Land Policies. Iowa State University Press, 1991.

Half-breed Scrip, Chippewas of Lake Superior. Correspondence and Action [re: the 1854 LaPointe, WI, treaty] including the Report of the Commission appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, April 21, 1871, composed of Henry S. Neal, Selden N. Clark, Edward P. Smith, and R.F. Crowell; and the Report of the Commission appointed July 15, 1872, composed of Thomas C. Jones, Edward P. Smith, and Dana E. King. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Washington, 1874. (Available as free e-book on Google Books.)

Journal: Appendix. Reports, Volume 5. California Legislature, 1874. Available on Google Books (free to read online). Reports of a couple of dozen committees on all sorts of bureaucratic matters. A gold mine of information from the chaotic early period of the state’s development.

W.W. Robinson. Land in California: The story of mission lands, ranchos, squatters, mining claims, railroad grants, land scrip, homesteads. University of California Press, Cambridge University Press, 1948. (Part available on Google Books, or can be downloaded for a small fee.)

Lavender, David Sievert. California: Land of New Beginnings, Harper & Row, 1972, or University of Nebraska reprint. (Part available on Google Books, or find print copy.)

Stalder, Walter A. Contribution to California Oil and Gas History (California Oil World). 1941. [This essay, not available on amazon nor, with reasonable searching, online in its entirety, i found excerpted in the handwriting of Martha Beer Roscoe. It was located in her volume of notes titled Chippewa Scrip at the Humboldt County Historical Society, H and 8th, Eureka. It is probably excerpted from this slightly earlier report often appearing on a google search for Stalder: History of exploration and development of gas and oil in northern California: Calif. Dept. Nat. Res., Div. Mines Bull. 118, pt. 1, pp. 75-80, illus., Apr. 1940.]

Taylor, Frank J., and Welty, Earl M. Black Bonanza: How an Oil Hunt Grew into the Union Oil Company of California. Whittlesey House (McGraw-Hill), 1950.

http://files.usgwarchives.net/ca/humboldt/land/humboldt.txt An index to Federal Land Patents in Humboldt County.

https://glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx Both of these two websites are full of valuable information; but this one has everything. You can find old surveys and plats, related patent information, all the government patents on any section of land… just fill in your Township and Range, Section number if you want to narrow it down, Humboldt Meridian, etc. and voila! Historical data at your fingertips.

I also had access to the transcribed diaries of James W. Henderson from 1865 and 1867, though i am not at liberty to publish their contents now.


In case you don’t want to go digging around online, I will call your attention here to a few key passages from the online books Half-breed scrip… and Journal…; both thorough, and, we hope, faithful reports of testimony and correspondence regarding the Indian scrip scandal investigations, and both published in 1874.

Regarding how much the half-breed scrip recipients may have been paid for their land rights–Half-breed scrip…, p. 60 (my page numbers will refer to those printed on the page, not the digitization’s Google book number, in case you find a different version…):

“Matilda Thompson (No. 46) swears that ‘I was a married woman September 30, 1854; that I made application for scrip under the treaty of September 30, 1854, made at LaPointe, Wisconsin, through Isaac Van Etten; that I never saw the scrip, but was told by Van Etten that the scrip was worthless; that it could only be laid on some land around Lake Superior, on which I would have to pay taxes, and thereby induced me to sell it to him for $20.’ ”  That’s for scrip worth 80 acres of land.

“Elizabeth Monchand (No. 32) swears: ‘I applied through Isaac Van Etten, about seven years ago, and have never received either land, scrip, or money, nor do I know that any scrip was ever issued. Van Etten told me to sign the paper, but did not explain it to me.’ ”  Van Etten is the man who witnessed the Power of Attorney being granted  to E.O.F. Hastings by some of our recipients of local land in 1864. He also witnessed for many Chippewa, including many on our Mattole-area scrip patents (Massey, Brunelle, Folstrom), handing over Power of Attorney to Thomas R. Bard. Van Etten was an attorney and investor in pine forests to feed Minnesota’s booming lumber industry, and used some of the scrip he managed to procure for himself for personal enrichment via that pine timber.

As early as 1856, concerned public servants had fretted about the potential for abuse of the scrip. Thomas A. Hendricks, Commissioner at the General Land Office, wrote (Half-breed scrip, p. 38) that “…the seventh section of the second article of said treaty [the 1854 LaPointe treaty with the Chippewa] requires lands to be selected by them (the Indians,) ‘under direction of the President, and which shall be secured to them by patent in the usual form.’ The third article of said treaty contains a stipulation that the President may, ‘at his discretion, make rules and regulations respecting the disposition of the lands in case of the death of the head of a family or single person occupying the same, or in the case of its abandonment by them, and may also assign other lands in exchange for mineral lands, if any such are found in the tracts herein set apart,’ &c.

“There is no provision whatever in the treaty for the issuing of scrip or land certificates, and, in my judgment, there is no law for it. If adopted, even as a temporary expedient, it seems to me it would be fraught with many evils in opening the door to speculation and irregularities, by creating a sort of Indian pre-emption float, liable to pass, indirectly if not directly, into other hands–leading to disputes in ownership, and liable to conflicts with settlers.” Hendricks therefore proposes a more isolated process between the Indian agent and his particular assigned purview of Natives and half-breeds, which would then be approved by the Indian bureau, without intervention from outsiders.

Here (p. 303) is the response of Charles Gilman, a register of the Land Office of St. Cloud, Minnesota, throughout the 1860s, when asked about how applications for scrip were made: “The half-breeds claiming to be entitled to land usually came to the office and stated that they wished to apply for land under the treaty. They usually came with some person who did their talking for them. Many of them could not speak English… Unless there was an appearance that they clearly were not entitled, I usually filled out their applications for them, and administered the oath that was required to their witnesses, and in due time sent the applications to the Department [Dept. of the Interior/Indian Affairs, or General Land Office?] for their approval or decision in the matter. No decision of the merits of the case was made at the local office, but left wholly for the Department at Washington.”

Perhaps this is a sort of answer to how this abuse managed to slip by. The people usurping the rights of legitimate scrip recipients were trusted by the Washington authorities to have allowed only worthy applications to be passed on to the federal gov’t; at what point Washington figured out that something fishy was going on, i don’t know, but hundreds of scrip certificates had been issued by then.

The “fishy business” was really on two levels: first, in order to get the numbers of scrip patents the businessmen really wanted for their timber (or in our area, oil) claims, many half-breeds or Indians of questionable eligibility were recruited to sign up for scrip. This padding of the numbers of recipients is a matter whose investigation takes up much of the testimony and correspondence in the Half-breed… publication. People who had already been granted scrip, or whose spouse had been granted (making for two heads of a household, rather than the specified one), those with no connection to the Chippewa of Lake Superior, people already deceased, etc., had their names on scrip applications. Before you feel badly that these people were eventually discovered as non-entitled and had their scrip-provided patents cancelled, remember that they wouldn’t have gotten the land anyway; they maybe got 25 cents or 50 cents an acre for the right to it, when a lawyer bought Power of Attorney from them.

Question to Gilman: (p. 304) Do you know whether it was the custom to make purchase of the rights of the half-breeds after they had made their applications and before they were approved at Washington?
A: “I think it was the general practice.”

Now comes William S. Chapman (p. 306), testifying in November, 1872. Though the question directed to him concerned Chippewa scrip redeemed for land in the Mount Diablo meridian, i think we can assume this was the stand he took regarding all his scrip purchases: “I am forty-five years of age. I have lived in Nevada and California during the last nine years. My occupation is dealing in real estate. During the years 1865 and 1867 I obtained from C.W. Thompson and Franklin Steele, of Minnesota, the eighteen pieces of Chippewa half-breed scrip described in the annexed schedule… and agreed to pay for the same from one and a quarter to two and a half dollars per acre. I located the said scrip at the time… the value of which lands, respectively, I believe to be therein as stated. I obtained the said scrip in good faith, never having heard the regularity and legality of its issue questioned before the location of that class of scrip was suspended by order of the General Land-Office in the year 1871.” Sworn before a Notary Public by Wm. S. Chapman. He says he had no idea!

There is much more about the investigation in the Journal: Appendix. Reports, Vol. 5. from 1874. All you ever are likely to want to know about how both the U.S. Government and the half-breeds of Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc., were defrauded. Instead of typing up the excerpts here though, i will list the pages of the references i found most relevant to our angle on the matter; but first, here is a web address to bring you to the same version i am looking at:

pp. 149, 163
pp. 191,199,201,211,224-25
pp. 241, 250, 254, 258, 262-63
pp. 315, 318
pp. 337, 346-47 (this section especially concerning William S. Chapman)

Before signing off here today, however, i want to let you know how some of this story came together for me in the Humboldt Co. Recorder’s Office, 5th floor of the courthouse in Eureka. It began when i spied the books recording Powers of Attorney, after seeing on some of the sales of Indian land that they were sold “by” thus-and-such “half-breed” by (or via) their attorney-in-fact, whose name would be that of one of the bigwigs mentioned in James W. Henderson’s diaries from 1865 and 1867. An “attorney-in-fact” is someone who has acquired Power of Attorney for another party, and legally acts in that person’s stead. At first, browsing through Book A of the P of A’s, I saw many of the by-now familiar Chippewa and Sioux names, French-sounding names, giving P of A to a Jno. P. Green, E.O.F. Hastings, and William S. Chapman. These P of A documents were hand-copied versions of agreements signed in Minnesota, but registered here, i suppose, to legitimize land business done in Humboldt County. And a lot of business was being done!

Here’s a reversal of the usual pattern of the illiterate “half-breed” giving his rights to an attorney; it’s Thomas A. Scott himself, of Philadelphia, a very busy man, appointing Samuel L. Theller of San Francisco as his true and lawful attorney, “to sell and convey by quit claim deed all my right title and interest in, of, and to, the following tracts… situated in the County of Humboldt, State of California, and described as follows, to wit…” and then 3760 acres in 1S, 2W, and 507 more acres in 1N, 3W, and 1S, 2W are described–these are the scrip parcels–  “… and to ask, demand, recover, and receive all sums of money which shall become due and owing to me by reason of the Sale of the Real Estate aforesaid. Giving unto my said Attorney full power to do and perform everything necessary to be done in the premises with the additional authority to substitute one under him with like power.” This was on Dec. 26, 1866–after the main promise of the Mattole oil boom had failed, but yet before a good portion of Scott’s land acquisition. The Power of Attorney contract was recorded in Humboldt County at the request of Samuel L. Theller on April 27, 1867.

It’s interesting that one of the witnesses to this agreement was William V. Archer, a “Commissioner of California” at Philadelphia, “duly appointed and qualified with authority to take acknowledgments and to administer oaths and affirmations to be used … in said State of California.” I guess Pennsylvania and California had a lot of shared interests then.

In 1869, Thomas A. Scott vested in John P. Green, his private secretary, of San Buenaventura (now Ventura County), his Power of Attorney, with the same provision granted to Theller, above, for deputizing someone below him with like power. Accordingly, soon afterward, Green shared this P of A with Thomas R. Bard of Rancho Ojai, to take care of Scott’s business. Bard was one of the wealthiest men in California, and a nephew of Scott’s; a Pennsylvania wildcatter who had come west to profit from the promising new oil fields of California. John P. Green could do business as an attorney representing both Thomas A. Scott, backer and investor with the moneybags, and the landless, cash-poor half-breeds of the upper Plains; Bard could do the same, but spent most of his time turning his own oil wells into one of the world’s largest energy corporations to this day, Union Oil Company of California. Bard was the first president at the formation of Unocal in 1890, due largely to the fact that he owned two of the three oil companies that merged to form the new entity. Unocal owns Union 76 gas stations and… well, no need to inform you of the vast wealth, and therefore power, of such an oil company.

That’s about it for this topic, which has gotten rather far afield of the Mattole Valley. Once upon a time the world sent emissaries of these men to the sleepy little ranching town of Petrolia; as luck would have it, our oil was just a bit too stubborn to come out in any lasting quantities.  The Chippewa and Sioux who signed away their scrip rights never knew of the beautiful land that was once tied to their names on the white man’s pieces of paper.



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Hi Everyone,
If you are members of the MVHS, you should have received Issue #44 of the Now… and Then newsletter. The paper copies were mailed Monday, July 22, and emailed .pdf’s were sent out mid-week.

(If you are not a member, please contact the Mattole Valley Historical Society [mattolehistory@frontiernet.net] to sign up.)

This edition’s main article, entitled “The ‘Other’ Native Land Grab: Chippewa, Sioux, and Big Oil Ambitions,” got too big and unwieldy for the pages available for it; I couldn’t fit all the information I wanted to in the newsletter, so I promised to post more on this blog. Of course, the best solution for people wanting to know more about the Indian scrip and how it came to be used for oil lands on the coast north of the Mattole River would be for them to read further in the sources listed below, and to do some of their own research. Unfortunately, I left some pretty big holes in the story as printed. Some of the answers might be found by learning more about the operations of the federal General Land Office’s outpost in Eureka in the 1860s–who worked there and by whom in Washington they were directly supervised; and by asking an attorney well-schooled in real estate law and California history how and when the patents were cancelled, what the legal status of lands whose patents never were cancelled, etc.

As far as wondering who worked in the Land Office goes, it would be interesting to verify some of the claims made by Paul W. Gates in his Land and Law in California: Essays on Land Policies. On p. 240, Gates writes, “Clinton Gurnee, a son-in-law of [William S.] Chapman, was secretary of the Sioux commission, and it was he who actually negotiated for the scrip and entered for Chapman 8,000 acres in Santa Cruz County. Altogether, in the San Francisco and Humboldt districts, Chapman entered 20,685 acres with this scrip and 14,200 acres in Nevada. Chapman’s brother was deputy surveyor in the Humboldt district and through his control of the maps and knowledge of the best timbered sections was able to secure the lands with the best stumpage, as was pointed out by a rival.” The rival was A.W. McPherson, who is mentioned in Henderson’s journal and in several of the government reports and investigations into the scrip fraud. Now, this explanation of the son-in-law on the Sioux commission and the brother being a deputy surveyor in Humboldt sounds like a pretty convenient way to explain Chapman’s ease in abusing the scrip. However, my research on ancestry.com so far does not bear out these kinship claims. Chapman’s daughter Elizabeth married Jesse Grant, the son of President Ulysses S. Grant. That’s a pretty influential level on which to operate, but he was not Clinton Gurnee. Elizabeth’s sister Mary Ellen married John Elliott Mason, and Josephine Lucelia died at the age of 18. (Two different death records exist; one claims her cause of death as typhoid fever, and the other says premature birth, which is scratched out and replaced by “Abortion.”) Josephine still carried the surname Chapman, so I doubt she was a connection to Gurnee. And as far as William S. Chapman’s brother being a Humboldt County Surveyor, it’s possible–he had many brothers and I haven’t tracked down the locations and occupations of each. But it’s also possible that Gates is confusing our William Smith Chapman with the W. W. Chapman family. The Surveyor General of Oregon, W. W. Chapman, had four sons who were also involved in that calling: Arthur, Winfield, Huston, and Thomas. I can’t see that this family was related to our William Smith Chapman family, though it could be. W.W. Chapman was not W.S. Chapman’s brother, that much is clear.

We’ll get back to these sources and the investigation in a little bit. But this 1865 map, part of which appears on the front page of our current newsletter, shows something that was cut off there: A dot labelled “Johnson’s House” in the northwest quarter of Section 13 (T1S, R3W, Humboldt Meridian)–just south of the mouth of Davis Creek.


Now that’s a pretty location for a house. It is likely the place and the person mentioned in two of Henderson’s 1865 journal entries: on March 4, he says, “Johnson arrives from San Francisco,” and on March 22, “Hastings arranging to locate the property (…?) of 1S, 3W Johnson purchase.” Who is this Johnson? Well, later that year, six parcels in 1N, 3W (Cape Mendocino and north) were deeded from the U.S. Government to Thomas A. Scott and John F. Johnson (on 11/01/1865). A letter in the Humboldt Times of June 11, 1864, from Mattole’s Judge Moses J. Conklin, had related that “A company in San Francisco has purchased some of the [oil] springs and I believe some land also. A gentleman named Johnson, who is versed in such matters, has been looking at the springs and making enquiries. As to the intentions of the company, I am not advised. But I would like to call the attention of capitalists and enterprising businessmen to the fact that we have large and extensive oils springs in our valley.”

I am pretty convinced this Johnson is the John F. Johnson who purchased land with Scott, and whom Henderson mentions. There were other people named as “Johnson” in Mattole oil history; one was D.J. Johnson, who came from Pennsylvania but did not arrive until late in the decade, and the other, Charles A. Johnston, whose name is persistently misspelled without the “T” but who likewise was not in the Mattole area of 1865. So oilman Johnson is likely John F. Johnson, and he probably had the house at the mouth of Davis Creek. But what else do we know about John F. Johnson, of San Francisco and Mattole? Nothing. There were dozens of John Johnsons in the man’s likely age range in San Francisco in the 1860s, so it’s hard to pin him down. But that’s just an interesting thing to know, i think– that there was once a house on the south bank of Davis Creek, probably up against the hillside on the east side of the road, though i can’t tell if it would have been down on the flat close to the creek or on the little plateau above that.

Here are the two maps that wouldn’t fit into the newsletter, showing more of the Chippewa scrip claims in, first, 1N, 3W–these seven patents were issued in May of 1870:


… and the one to John B. Nolin in Section 34 at Upper Mattole:


Below is a photo circulating around Metis websites of “Five of the Earliest Indian Inhabitants of St. Mary’s Falls, 1855.” That would be Sault Ste. Marie to us, and the men were Metis, not strictly Native, though adopted into the Ojibway tribe. Although there are various versions of the order of the names, Louis Cadotte is probably one of the two men on the left. If this is the Louis Cadotte who was issued Chippewa Scrip to Mattole-area land–and his other connections make me believe this is possible, if not likely–then he briefly held title to some steep land just north of Domingo Creek.
Just to give a little more of a picture of the players in this episode of history.


Photo from http://metis-history.info/photo-ck4f.shtml


There is quite a bit more information I will post on this topic, so stay tuned for #2 and maybe #3 of this follow-up.
I also will put up some more info on other MVHS projects soon! Please be patient.
Thank you!

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Earlier this summer, I went up to the Humboldt County Public Library, enticed by a poster reading: “Petrolia 1865, California’s first oil field: A century of disappointment.” The speaker was Dr. Ken Aalto, an HSU professor emeritus who has studied Humboldt’s geology since 1974. The advertisement went on to explain that Aalto would be sharing a “tale of how Petrolia’s shear zone geology, at the noted Mendocino Triple Junction, kindled and dashed the hopes of oil explorers for a century.”

The Events room, off to the left just as you enter the Eureka library, was packed full as it has been every time I’ve been to one of these series of Saturday historical talks, which are presented jointly by the Humboldt Co. Historical Society and the Humboldt County Library. However, there were not too many Mattole faces there, so I am reporting on the presentation here, with the benefit of some of the diagrams and maps–and mostly, a paper–that Ken Aalto used in the slide show.

The clarity of the graphics on this blog site is not high; however, they make satisfactory illustrations of the general ideas, for the layperson. Luckily, I found Ken to be a generous man, and he allowed me to share any and all of the material he emailed me; so, if you would like to see any of these papers in greater detail, please let me know, and I can forward you a better copy, or more complete information. (Of course you would want to continue to give credit where it is due if you were to use his writing or maps anywhere else.)

I have been pretty ignorant of the science of our local geology, knowing little more than what I’ve read in local news reports around earthquake time, or in old-time descriptions of the oil-producing capabilities of the Mattole area. I confess that many of the words and coded designations on these maps make little sense to me. But it was the big question that drew me, and its answer was most satisfying. The question was, “With all this oil known to be around here, and with the new technologies that allow fracking to squeeze oil and gas out of previously impossible situations… are they going to try to start fracking around here?”

Dr. Aalto showed us several dozen slides, mainly of maps and diagrams of the earth beneath our feet. Some were of historical newspaper articles about the oil excitement, and a few were color photos of today’s landscape. His expert interpretation of these images was very interesting, if a bit hard to grasp and retain (for me!). However, he kindly sent me the paper he wrote, which seems to sum up his talk; and the abstract from it sums up the paper. So, here is the crystallized gist of the paper “PETROLIA, CALIFORNIA’S FIRST OIL FIELD–A CENTURY OF DISAPPOINTMENT,” by K.R. Aalto, Department of Geology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA  95521 (kra1@humboldt.edu); published by the Petroleum History Institute in the journal Oil-Industry History, v. 12, no. 1, 2011:

“ABSTRACT: The Petrolia oil field, the first to be developed in California in the 1860’s, attracted considerable interest and investment among oilmen because of the abundance of oil and gas seeps throughout that region. The ‘Union well’, first producing well drilled in California in 1865, yielded some thirty barrels of high quality oil, but production soon slowed to one barrel per day and the prospect was abandoned. However, over the next half-century exploration and drilling continued throughout the region with little or no success.
“Although touted as a potential major oil district, the highly deformed Franciscan Complex basement rocks, that were structurally imbricated with Neogene marine strata as part of an actively growing accretionary prism atop the subducting Farallon plate, did not provide adequate reservoirs. Rather, oil and gas seeped to the surface along shear zones. The tectonostratigraphic setting of California’s only oilfield unequivocally located in an active subduction zone precluded its success.”

Here is an excellently detailed schematic of the area's geology. If i orient myself as if i were underneath King Peak and looking northwest through the Earth, it makes sense.

An excellently detailed schematic of the area’s geology. If I orient myself as if I were under the ground south of King Peak and looking northwest through the Earth, it makes sense. Click on the image to make it full-screen.

Here is an overview of the Triple Junction area, showing the older Pacific Plate, to the south, pushing up into the Gorda/Juan de Fuca Plate, which is pushing underneath the continent (the North American Plate). Volcanoes east of us are one result of the pushing of the Pacific Plate under the westward-moving North American. We all know another result!

Here is an overview of the Triple Junction area, showing the older Pacific Plate, to the south, pushing up into the Gorda/Juan de Fuca Plate, which is pushing underneath the continent (the North American Plate). Volcanoes east of us are one result of the pushing of the Pacific Plate under the westward-moving North American. We all know another result!


In this zoom view, I put a little red dot where the town square of Petrolia sits, and highlighted the river in blue. It’s a blur if you blow it up too much (though you should click on it once), but as I said, I can email you a better copy if you are interested. There is also a key to all the colors and codes–it’s a humongous bunch of information, too big to put up here. One thing I find interesting about this map is the line of some sort of fracture going out northwest from Petrolia toward the ocean at McNutt Gulch. Several people have theorized that at one time, the Mattole River emptied out to the sea through that gulch, and that a massive uplift of “the Table” with its flat, straight lines and abrupt rises, diverted it south to its present bed.

These first three images are from USGS map series MF-2336, by R.J. McLaughlin, S.D. Ellen, M.C. Blake, Jr., A.S. Jayko, W.P. Irwin, K.R. Aalto, G.A. Carver, and S.H. Clarke, Jr., et. al.; from the year 2000.

Ken Aalto’s 2011 paper on our local geology (cited above) lays out the situation far better than I can. Allow me to copy directly from his document (and note that the definition of “terrane” as used here is “the area or surface over which a particular rock or group of rocks is prevalent”–Merriam-Webster):

“MODERN INTERPRETATION: Basement rock in the Petrolia area consists of penetratively deformed Franciscan Complex Coastal belt which is divided into several tectonostratigraphic terranes that include rocks ranging from Late Cretaceous to Middle Miocene age (Fig.1). The sandstones of these terranes are highly sheared, well cemented and discontinuous, thus their reservoir potential is low. Franciscan rocks are locally depositionally overlain and structurally imbricated with thin slabs and slivers of Miocene and younger non-accretionary marine strata (the Late Cenozoic overlap assemblage) originally deposited in forearc or marginal basin settings (Fig. 1; Aalto et al. 1995; Miller and Aalto, 1983). Miocene and younger source rocks are depicted as imbricate slices in an accretionary complex (Fig. 4; McLaughlin et al. 2000). H. D. MacGinitie recognized this structural style, noting that:
‘[t]he Tertiary outcrops are found as elongated strips following the structural trends [of the subjacent Franciscan Complex]. The strips are synclinal in nature and are usually overturned toward the south and bounded by overthrust blocks of the Mesozoic rocks on the north side.’ (MacGinitie 1943, p. 633).
“Source rocks, originating in forearc or marginal basin settings, are thrust beneath False Cape and Coastal terranes, and possibly provide a source for the oil presently leaking from seeps and wells within the Coastal terrane of the Petrolia area (Fig. 4; McLaughlin et al. 1999).
“MacGinitie (1943, p. 634) noted that the abundant oil and gas seeps of the Petrolia region commonly occurred ‘…in connection with major lines of faulting’ and that ‘…the source of the oil in the seeps and from the wildcat wells may be found in black, organic shale.’ However, he suggested that ‘…the folding and faulting have been so strong in the areas where oil indications occur that the majority of the structures are too broken to furnish satisfactory oil storage’
(MacGinitie, 1943, p. 635). Ogle (1953) determined that sandstone beds of Lower Wildcat Group (Fig. 3, part of the overlap assemblage) served as reservoir rocks in the gas fields developed near Eureka. Franciscan basement rocks did not appear to be suitable as reservoirs, although some sheared areas were permeable.
“In 1997, McLaughlin et al. (1999) collected some dozens of samples from active seeps and oil and gas wells of the Petrolia region. These have stable isotopic compositions similar to petroleum derived from Miocene source rocks elsewhere in California. In assessing possible source rocks among exposed Tertiary rocks, McLaughlin et al. (1999) concluded:
‘Fair to good petroleum generative potential is indicated for thermally immature Miocene shale and mudstone [of the Petrolia region], with TOC values of 1.1-1.8 wt %, HI>200, and Tmax values of about 420 degrees C.’ (Text from poster presented by McLaughlin et al., 1999).
“These data and regional structure suggest petroleum could very well have been generated from similar forearc source rocks that were structurally interleaved with the Franciscan Complex during growth of the modern accretionary prism, and which reached thermal maturity during thrust burial to several kilometers.”

Here is a good diagram from Ken Aalto's paper.

This diagram appeared in the Ken Aalto paper “Petrolia, California’s First Oil Field…”

And now, for the all-important…

“McLaughlin et al. (1999) concluded that:
‘[t]he oil systems of this area are unique in California in having reservoir rocks within the youngest part of the Franciscan Complex and in being the only California oilfield that is unequivocally associated with an active subduction zone setting.’
“Such a setting is unlikely to persist in geologic time due to the extensive structural dismemberment that accompanies the growth of the prism by the continuous stacking of thrust plates. Ongoing faulting and duplexing of oil-generative rocks engenders leakage to the surface and consequent destruction of hydrocarbons (Fig. 4). Reservoirs, whether created within duplexed younger sandstones or within zones with enhanced fracture porosity, are likely to be destroyed by ongoing deformation. Thus the richest oil fields in the world at Petrolia were never to be.”

Or, as Dr. Aalto put it at the end of his presentation, “There is no hope. There is never enough of a reservoir or a yield to be profitable.”
Thank you, Ken Aalto!

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On last Thursday, Dec. 2, i attended a double book-signing party at the Humboldt County Historical Society. Dennis and Gloria Turner were presenting their new, expanded, corrected, and updated Place Names of Humboldt County, which i will write about presently; and Marvin Shepherd with his wife Patsy were meeting and greeting and signing copies of his exciting new volume, The Sea Captain’s Odyssey: A Biography of Captain H. H. Buhne, 1822-1894.

Marv had visited the MVHS a couple of time in the last few years looking for material about Petrolia during the years of Buhne’s interest here. I was looking forward to his book mainly to see what he did with this Mattole information. However, now that i have the book in hand, i find it a hard-to-put-down read! Captain Buhne, for whom many a locality and landmark in Eureka is named, left his home in Flensburg, Denmark, in 1838, as cabin boy on a whaling ship, and thus began a lifetime of ambition, adventure, and attendant hardship. His main claim to fame in Humboldt has been piloting the first ship of American settlers over the Humboldt Bar in 1850, but there is a lot more to his story than this. Fans of Horatio Alger (as the author points out), Richard Henry Dana, and of course, of any early Humboldt history, will relish the Buhne saga. There is no shortage of dramatic life-or-death struggle here.

Marv’s book is very well-written, painstakingly researched, and set up so that both the casual reader and the historical researcher will enjoy it. I was impressed with his section on the oil frenzy in the Mattole and the investment in the excitement by Humboldt Bay businessmen– it felt like he was doing my work for me!

Marvin Shepherd kindly allowed me to print a few scans of pages of his brand-new book here. If you would like to purchase a copy, the best way for now is to visit the Humboldt County Historical Society at 8th and H Streets in Eureka (call 707-445-4342 to verify hours). Eventually Marv will have copies available online, and i will have a few at the MVHS office. Enjoy!

Scanning done by permission of author Marvin Shepherd. Sorry about the dark edge

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Here is the article by teacher Leslie Gould from earlier in 1907, promised in the Nov. 30 blog entry, below. I believe it was from the Humboldt Standard as well. (Click on it, and click again until it’s really big.)

From the Humboldt Room at Humboldt State University. Much gratitude to the HSU librarians, especially Joan Berman, for maintaining that place so beautifully and making so much available to us!

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