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AN OIL LOCATOR'S SHACK IN
presence. He, too, THE CALIFORNIA DESERT.
got off, for fifteen
dollars an acre. His 24. Upon these sage
pay for removing brush areas they
himself was better. erected their notices
The third set of and immediately
claimants organized hunted for a buyer.
the Mount Diablo Oil One Jameson was
Company. They willing to acquire
leased a portion of the what rights the locat
land to someone wilors might have in the
ling to do real work, land. He offered two
willing to spend his dollars an acre. On
money in an effort to condition that he also
find oil and bring it take Section 24 at
to the surface. The fifty cents an acre,
lessee struck oil, the locators accepted
whereupon others his offer for the other
rushed in to lease and square mile. They
drill the balance of pocketed the reward
the section. For its of honest labor. Great UNDER PRESSURE OF THE NATURAL GAS THE
services in negotiatservice had they ren
ing the leases, for its dered the public by
assistance in proving being the first to decorate the land with the presence of oil, the third set of claima location notice. For this service they ants two years after the drilling of the received sixteen hundred dollars.
first well received a monthly royalty of Not enough oil to fill a pint-bottle was eight thousand barrels worth four thouvisible on the land. The "prospectors” sand dollars at the prices then prevailing. simply guessed that petroleum might be One of the operating companies, from a somewhere beneath the surface. They partially developed quarter section, was did nothing to find or lift the oil. They paying dividends on a capitalization of were paid to get off. For the labor of half a million, notwithstanding the royremoving themselves the pay was not alty it had to pay. The entire section, bad, but the land was dirt cheap at the so it is reported, was sold to a British price. Neither did the second claimant syndicate for a million and a half. Ultido more than encumber the land with his mately the Britishers hoped to receive
GRABBING THE WEST'S LIQUID FUEL
thirty per cent. dividends from the roy- panies organized to drill on the land have alties.
paid three million dollars in dividends You and I and all the other parts of since then, and the land is still producing the prodigal public sold that land for two million barrels of oil a year, the just enough to pay the transfer expenses. Southern Pacific buying the output for
Section 24, sold by us on the same use on its engines, just as the government terms, is today controlled by Standard is purchasing more than a million barrels Oil and the Santa Fe.
a year, paying market price for oil that Two miles north of these sections lies is pumped out of land given away with a tract of eighty acres which, after pass- a free and liberal hand. ing through various hands, always at a Here the analogy ceases. Though the profit, was acquired by one Dyer on a Southern Pacific acted the part of a fool thirty-day option. The price was to be without foresight for a year or two, it twenty-eight thousand dollars. Twenty- soon ended the practice of giving away four hours later the Santa Fe bought the land worth five thousand dollars an acre. land for forty thousand dollars. Dyer The government, on the contrary, conmade twelve thousand dollars on the deal tinued to hand out its oil land to all in a day.
comers. In Oklahoma the Interior DeYou and I and all the other part own- partment erected a hog-tight fence ers were satisfied with two hundred dol around the oil land belonging to its lars.
wards, the Indians; in California the Part of the land which now is the Kern same Department allowed the speculators River field, the oldest oil district in the to help themselves for ten years. At the San Joaquin Valley, belonged to the gov- end of the decade, after incessant conernment. The largest portion of the servation preachments, after the scramble remainder was patented to the Southern for the land had degenerated into a freePacific. When oil was discovered on this for-all fight in which the strongest and land in 1899, the railway, like the gov- wealthiest, by brute force, were taking ernment, played the part of the fool away the claims of the weak, the Interior without foresight. Because it had small Department at last awoke. But it did faith in the future of the oil industry, not put up a hog-tight fence. It only because it did not recognize the economic waved its arms menacingly and shouted: value of the new fuel source, the South- “Shoo! Shoo! Get out of there!" ern Pacific joyously made use of the oil Did the grabbers mind the shooing? boom to dispose of many sections for two Did they pull up their location stakes and dollars and a half an acre. In 1900 J. J. depart? Mack and J. M. Keith bought from the railroad some eight hundred acres for two thousand dollars. The two com
POSSESSION IS A VITAL POINT IN SUCCESSFULLY HOLDING DOWN A CLAIM. A few boards are thrown together in the form of a cabin and are loaded onto a wagon to be hauled out to a claim and
set up as a home.
They did not. Acting upon the advice he swore, in his application for patent, of eminent attorneys, they placed the end that he had traveled all over the “swamp' of the thumb to the tip of the nose and in a canoe before "reclaiming" the land. wriggled the fingers derisively.
In this broad valley Haggin and Tevis Once again the Interior Department acquired holdings of nearly half a million pronounced its threatening “Shoo!" with acres in one county. In this valley, the same result. That was nine months through the efforts of the land barons, after the first warning. Having thus per- the insidious doctrine of riparian rights formed its duty, it centered its attention was foisted upon California, a doctrine upon Alaska's coal, guarding with holy which enables the great land owners to zeal that which no one was taking. Down monopolize the flow of the streams within the San Joaquin Valley oil was being out making a really beneficial use of the pumped illegally out of public land day water. Here again, in the Sierra Nevada and night. To this day it is being pumped bounding the valley on the east, power out of land withdrawn from entry, but no corporations have pre-empted water steps have been taken to end the theft of power sites and water rights capable of public property.
producing two million horsepower, holdSince settlement began the San Joa- ing the rights and sites against the time quin Valley has been the scene of grab- when the growth of the valley below will bing operations on an impressive scale. make the development of current highly It was here that Henry Miller, the Ger- profitable. man butcher—it was his boast that he I n this sanctuary of the grabber the could drive cattle from the Canadian to most important supply of fuel in the Far the Mexican line and water them on his West was discovered. Before that dis. own land every night-acquired a king- covery coal, imported from distant fields, dom of 330,000 acres by various methods. retailed at fourteen dollars a ton in CaliIt was here that a boat on wheels was fornia. Coal fuel cost the railroads an dragged over many sections that the average of seven dollars a ton. Every claimant might not perjure himself when industry was handicapped by excessive
eral deposit except veins and lodes of more land with less expense, the joint ore between walls of rock. It was elas- claim was invented. The joint claim entic. With a little pull it could be stretched ables eight persons to pool their holdings, to cover standing timber, water power to take up a hundred and sixty acres and sites, water rights. And Congress make all improvements on one twentystretched it to cover petroleum land. acre tract. In effect, the joint claim in
What kind of a critter is this placer creased the individual's grabbing capacity claim?
eightfold. With the aid of seven dumIn its commonest form it is a rect- mies who lent their names simply as an angular piece of land containing some accommodation, expecting similar courform of mineral, the land being claimed tesies in return, one prospector could by the discoverer of its valuable con- legally swallow an unlimited number of tents. The law gives him this land pro- quarter sections instead of slowly and laboriously filing on twenty-acre claims. upon the discovery of mineral. No rights Thus, with no more expense, he could of any kind are acquired prior to a dishold eight claims while doing work on covery. No one is entitled to the profbut one. By means of this joint placer fered reward by pointing out a haystack claim private parties, in quarter-section as the locus of the lost diamond. The bites, devoured practically every acre of California oil "prospectors” squatted potential oil land in California. They upon the haystack, did nothing and asked would be peacefully digesting the meal tribute of those willing to search for the by this time, not a foot of oil land would jewel. They pre-empted square mile be left in the hands of the public after square mile of public land presumif it were not for the ancient, unshakable ably containing oil, but they furnished fact that the bear refuses to part with his no proof of its presence. Most of them hide before he is found and killed.