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August 2001 Vol, XXX No. 11
Thursday, August 9 @ 7:00 p.m.
LHG Meeting, Carnegie Bldg.
August 12 Noon to 4 p. m. FREE
Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social, Ravenswood
Traditional family entertainment, including music by the Pleasanton Community Concert Band.
2647 Arroyo Rd., Livermore Info: 443-0238
Please save the last Saturday in September for the Livermore Heritage Guild's Annual General Meeting and Open House @ Duarte Garage. Details to follow in September newsletter.
The September newsletter will also include Renewal mernbership forms The Post Office requires all newsletters be identical, so consequently life members will also receive a renewal slip which they can pass onto a friend.
Wanted Someone with pleasant handwriting to write notes once each month to new and renewing members. Note paper will be provided. Please call Anna Siig 373-9468.

Excerpted from Livermore Herald, October 1967
Early Oil Pioneers
by M. R. Henry

This is the final installment in a four-part series on early oil exploration in Livermore Valley, written by former Herald & News publisherMaitland R. Henry. Recent discoveries of oil in the Valley may produce the boom that was being sought as early as 1899.

Among the names identified with early oil well drilling in the Livermore Valley is that of W. W. French, leads all the rest.

French was the only one of the early operators to have a well named for him. The Atlantic & Western Oil Co which took over the Independence after his company had reached 1,700 feet and continuing it to 3,150 feet, renamed the well "French No. 1"

Col. M. M. Ogden, whose pompous figure became familiar on Livermore streets, came here as an expert in oil development. He had extensive experience in the Pennsylvania oil fields and in the Kern and McKittrick fields in California. The first Kern County fields were opened as a result of a survey Ogden made.

He was the first secretary of the San Francisco Oil Exchange. The colonel located the Alisal, Independence and W.M.&S. well sites. He continued to be a firm believer in the ultimate success of the Livermore field until his death in 1922.

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Two Livermore residents - one a pioneer and the other a newcomer - came into prominence with the first well. It was drilled by the Alameda Oil Company northeast of Livermore on the Brown ranch, starting just prior to January 1900.

John Aylward, who owned a machine shop and was a leader in public affairs, did most of the promotion work for the well, signing leases on thousands of acres which he turned over to the company.

Property owners were not paid for these leases. Their recompense was to come from royalties if a producing well developed. Although he never worked on a drilling crew, his son, E.F. Aylward, whose death occurred recently, put in more time on drilling machinery than any other person.

A master mechanic, he was either called to the wells to repair the machinery, which continually broke down, or worked in his shop on parts which could be brought to town.

C.P. Lefever was the driller of the first well and remained here to put down several others. He started his career in the Pennsylvania oil fields in the '70s and continued in Colorado, Texas and New Mexico before coming to California in 1897. He spent two years at Coalinga and then came to Livermore. Lefever retired from drilling in 1907 and became Livermore's town marshal serving until his death in 1917. Three of his sons became identified with drilling.

The late Howard Lefever promoted several wells. He was a director of the Livermore-Coalinga Oil Company and also engaged in drilling. His wife, Mrs. Etta Lefever, still resides here, as do his son, Harry Lefever, and daughter, Mrs. Rene Mestres.

The other sons, the late Percy Lefever and Robert W. Lefever, worked with drilling crews both here and in Kern County.

The latter now resides at Port Hueneme and annually visits Livermore to attend Company I Old Guard reunions. He served several terms as a Santa Barbara County supervisor.

E. P. Newhall engaged in both oil and mining development in this area. He was associated with the Independence, W.M.&S. and Monterey Southern

Oil Company. He was president of the E. P. Newhall Quicksilver Company, which attempted to develop quicksilver mines in Deer Park, near San Antone Valley, reached by the Mines Road from Livermore.

C. G. Clarke, retired Livermore city engineer, was a member of the drilling crew on the Daisy, in 1908-1909 well at Midway, where he lived at that time.

Horton & Kennedy, Livermore lumber yard and planing mill, erected the derrick for the W.M.&S. well.

Greatest tragedy of the early Livermore Valley oil development is told in the obituary of W. W. French, published in the Aug. 16, 1935 issue of the Livermore Herald: "Brown hills of the Townsend district still held their secret as William Wesley French, who had devoted the last 20 years of his life and expended a fortune in efforts to tap their hidden pools of oil, died penniless and alone at Fairmont Hospital, San Leandro, Sunday evening.

"A prominent attorney of Boston, mayor and police judge of Gloucester, Mass., French came here in 1915 to provide financial backing for the old Independence well. And there was born a sublime confidence, an unshakable conviction, that existed to the day of his death.

"as own personal fortune of some $75,000 exhausted as the bits drilled into either dry holes or water-logged strata, always with just enough showing of oil to keep his hopes high and his courage firm, French tumed to eastern friends, inspired them with his own convictions and induced them, too, to sink their funds in unproductive wells.

"Reduced to poverty, aging fast and with health impaired, French still greeted each new burst of activity in the search for oil with wild enthusiasm, countered each disappointing failure with the firm conviction that the next attempt would make his dreams come true.

"Unwilling to face friends whose money had been lost, French stubbornly refused to return to the east, content to eke out an existence here. He dabbled in real estate, did a bit of notary work, on rare occasions offered legal advice, attempted house-to-house selling of raincoats, shoes, knives and a dozen other things Expensive quarters which he occupied on his arrival here gave way to furnished rooms,

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a cot in the rear of a littered office and finally, a leaky shed attached to a decrepit barn.

"Food was a glass of milk, a handful of figs, a few crackers. Clothes were gifts from compassionate merchants and faithful friends Twice, sickness brought him to death's door but both times courage brought an emaciated, feeble man back to his feet to await the day when oil would flow from the Livermore hills and he could return in triumph to the scenes of earlier days, his oil development career a success.

"Charity was unthinkable to a man who had one been the wealthy mayor of an eastern city, a former student at Harvard, a graduate of Dartmouth. Only when age and illness made him unable to continue stubborn, unreasonable opposition was it possible early this year to give him county aid, to bring

him from his hovel to a comfortable room, to provide food and clothing.

"And still pride ran high. On July 4, he went to Oakland on "business", seeking a means to earn a few pennies. Police found him wandering around the city and took him into custody. Haughtily, he demanded to be returned to Livermore. Instead, they placed him in Fairmont Hospital.

"For a full month he remained there, still confident he would be able to return to Livermore, still certain he would live to see this district the oil center of the world. He died Sunday right.

"A native of North Brockton, Mass., French was 87 years, 6 months and 29 days of age. His only known relative is his wife, Mrs. Luetta French, residing at Gloucester. During the early days of her husband's activities she had occasionally visited him in Livermore but only for short periods."

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Excerpted from Oakland Tribune, June 29, 1988

Livermore's Small Share of BIack Gold
The gasoline you pumped into old Bessie today may not have come from a hot Texas oil field or from a Saudi Arabian desert. It may have come from under a Livermore cow pasture. That's right, oil in Livermore.

The Livermore Well Field off Greenville Road has been quietly pumping the black gold from beneath the valley floor since 1967, when oil was discovered here by the McCullough Oil Co.

The Livermore field, which later was purchased by the Hershey Oil Co., is the only producing oil field in Alameda County, and one of the few producing well fields in Northern California. And although the Livermore field won't intimidate the likes of a J. R. Ewing or an Arabian oil sheik, it has been producing revenue for Hershey and a handful of Livermore residents who receive royalties.

It's been a good little field," said Harry C. Harper, vice president and secretary of Hershey Oil Co. "It's producing longer and better than we might have originally thought it would." Harper said the Livermore field is one of the northern most oil fields in the state. "It is unusual in that it is not in the main San Joaquin basin or an established basin," he said. "We are one mountain range over from where most of the oil and gas was generated."

Harper said his company has attempted to drill more wells in Livermore, but without success. "We tried to extend the field several times, but without much luck," he said.

Livermore Crude is low in sulphur content, which makes it easier to refine into gasoline than many domestic oils, Harper said. It contains about three-tenths of I percent sulphur, compared to as much as 2 percent in a lot of oil produced in California. The field currently produces 60-75 barrels of crude a day from 10 wells, Total production through January of this year was about 1.6 million barrels. Harper said there are about 200,000 barrels of proven reserves still in the ground, and the Livermore wells should continue pumping for up to 10 years more, provided the price of oil doesn't drop so low as to make the field too expensive to continue operation.

Over the years, Hershey has sold its Livermore Crude to such oil giants as Shell Oil and Union Oil, and to smaller, independent dealers. It currently sells for $12.25 a barrel, "a. fairly low price, to my way of thinking," Harper said. West Texas Crude sells for $1 or $2 a barrel more, he added.

The small Livermore field is one of hundreds of similar fields all over the state that add to the state's oil pool.

"In the overall scheme of things," Harper asserted, "you add up all the fields like that one and it counts for a big part of production." Harper said the company is proud of what he calls "that little field." But the 50-acre field in the shadow of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory doesn't pose a threat to OPEC or J. R. Ewing

"We are not going to destroy the market for them," he promised.


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November 4, 2001