In January 15, 1875, an enterprising 49-year-old auctioneer-turned-venture capitalist named Henry Mayo Newhall paid just under $2 for each of 46,460 acres of the Rancho San Francisco. An old land grant that had fallen into private hands when Mexican Revolutionaries wrested political control from Spanish missionaries in the early 1800s, the Rancho encompassed most of the western Santa Clarita Valley and stretched out into Ventura County.

If $2 per acre sounds like a steal, consider that some pioneer oilmen had paid Don Antonio del Valle's descendants $1.11 an acre for it, ten years earlier. The drought of 1863-1864 had devastated the Del Valle cattle ranch, and the hunt for black gold was on.

Henry Newhall purchased the Rancho after various speculators defaulted on loans. Between 1871 and 1875, Newhall acquired a total of 143,000 acres throughout Alta California that had fallen, or would soon fall, into receivership.

Newhall had made a fortune in railroads and knew the Iron Horse could bring people, commerce and prosperity to his new holdings.

For one dollar, the clever businessman deeded a right of way at the eastern extremity of his local Rancho to Southern Pacific's Charles Crocker (of banking fame) and Leland Stanford (co-founder of the California Republican Party).

For another dollar, Newhall sold them a plot of land for a whistle stop near present-day Railroad Avenue. Southern Pacific started designing a new town around it later that year and dubbed it "Newhall."

Following Henry Newhall's untimely death in 1882, his widow and five sons sought to avoid the family imbroglios that invariably seem to accompany the division of an estate. Rather than split their California Ranchos among themselves, family members joined forces and created what they called The Newhall Land and Farming Company to manage their agricultural and ranching concerns.

On December 23, 1936 — sixty years after Alex Mentry started pumping high-grade crude out of Pico Canyon, a mile south of Newhall property — Henry Newhall's grandson-in-law Atholl McBean finally struck oil on the Rancho San Francisco. McBean changed the old land grant's name to "Newhall Ranch."





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