Leaming Canyon, Santa Clarita, California


Looking northeast down Leaming Canyon with Interstate 5 in the distance


Leaming Canyon is located between Wiley and Rice Canyons. There is an old road that runs a little way into the canyon stopping at a crib dam. Most of the mouth area appears to be privately owned. The canyon does not extend as far south as the others and is not as deep. There is no evidence of any oil drilling activity.

In early 1865 Christopher Leaming filed a claim for 160 acres under the Possessory Act of 1852 in the canyon giving it its name. White (Formative Years in the Far West, 1962) says that the land Leaming claimed contained an oil seep.

California voter registration documents (the Great Register of Los Angeles County) filled out by Leaming in 1866, 1879, and 1884, narrow his birth date to between May 30, 1829, and July 26, 1829. These documents also state that he was born in New Jersey.

The book Mayflower Pilgrim Descendants in Cape May County, New Jersey" by P.S. Howe states that Humphrey Leaming (1780-1851) was married to Mary Stites on January 19, 1809, at Cape May in New Jersey. Among their six offspring were Mary (1811-1874) and Christopher, born July 1, 1827. The U.S. 1850 census for Cape May County in New Jersey (see below) shows a Humphrey (age 70), Mary (age 39), and Christopher (age 23). This is probably the correct Christopher, although the 1921 book does not indicate his death in 1888, which would only mean that the date was unknown. That would make Christopher's birth date July 1, 1827. For whatever reason, he must have changed the year to 1829 at some time in his life to appear younger.


Leaming came to California in 1849 (according to his obit) and was commissioned a Notary Public in 1862.

When the San Fernando Petroleum Mining District was formed on June 24, 1865, Leaming became its first recorder. Probably being a Notary Public helped him get the job. He remained in that position until his death on May 9, 1888, in Newhall. During his life, he was very active in local Republican politics as a delegate to conventions and as a voting precinct inspector during elections.

Leaming was appointed the first postmaster of Petroleopolis on April 1, 1867. Petroleopolis would become, or was it already called, Lyon's Station. He held that post until Richard N. Hosmer took over on November 21, 1867. Sanford Lyon would be appointed postmaster on July 23, 1869. (From early postmaster appointments in LA county.) There is some question as to whether Lyon's Station actually existed in 1867, since Lyon did not become postmaster until 1869. The first mention of Lyon's Station that I can find is from 1870.

Dr. Vincent Gelcich bought the Leaming claim in 1872 and the Leaming Petroleum Company was formed to develop it. (See the prospectus of that company here.) Gelcich received a half-interest in the company for deeding the claim to a group of five incorporators. However, little, if any, work was actually done on the claim.

Leaming also had a small share, with Sanford Lyon, in the Baker and Beale claim at Pico springs in 1876.

A.B. Perkins reports (The Story of Our Valley) that a claim was filed in the Soledad Mining District by George J. Clarke, George Gleason, Christopher Leaming, and Benjamin C. Truman as the Amazonia Mining company on the Amazonia lode in the 1880's. Also in the 1880's, George J. Clarke, George Gleason, Clarke, Sanford Lyon, Christopher Leaming, and Benjamin C. Truman filed a claim on the Eureka lode also in the Soledad Mining District.

There is no evidence that Leaming ever married.

Here are some snippits of Leamings life as reported in various newspapers.

The first mention of Christopher Leaming in newspapers that I can find is from the Sacramento Daily Union of October 10, 1862. It was reported that Leaming of Los Angeles was commissioned a Notary Public by Governor Leland Stanford.


The Daily Alta California of May 27, 1863, reported that the Occidental Copper Mining Company filed their incorporation papers the previous day with capital stock of $860,000 with 8,600 shares. The claims were located in the Soledad District. The trustees were N. B. Johnson, C. Leaming, T. Young, Wm. H. Codington, J. T. McLean, J. R. Richards, and J. Johnson.

Leaming was appointed an election inspector for the Soledad precinct, where the polling place will be at his house (LA Star October 10, 1863).

C. Leaming of Petroleopolis arrived at the Lafayette Hotel (Los Angeles Herald December 5, 1873)

Articles of incorporation were filed for the Lesina Oil Company. Capital was $100,000 in shares of $10 each. The directors were V. Gelcich, M.W. Childs, C.N. Wilson, Chris Leaming, Sanford Lyon, W.P. Smith, and B. L. Peel. The principal place of business will be in Los Angeles. (Sacramento daily Union July 24, 1874)

On July 25, 1874, the Los Angeles Herald reported that "the flow of oil on the Moore is quite large. It is the property of Messrs. M. W. Childs, Sanford Lyon and C. Leaming."

The Los Angeles Herald of June 29, 1875, reported that Christopher Leaming was re-elected recorder of the San Fernando Petroleum Mining District on June 26. He was the first recorder when the district was formed in 1865 and he remained the recorder until his death.



The Los Angeles Herald of April 7, 1878, reported on a Leaming land conveyance.



Another conveyance - this time Leaming and Lyon convey any ownership they have on the Pico oil claim. (Los Angeles Herald April 25, 1878)



In the General Election held on November 7, 1882, the polling place would be the Southern Hotel with Joel H. Turner inspector. J. W. Saunders and Christopher Leaming would be judges. (Los Angeles Times October 31, 1882)

On November 6, 1883, Leaming was issued a patent (#288,179) for a door securer. (Sacramento Daily Union November 7, 1883)



Leaming was a Newhall delete to the county republican convention. (Los Angeles Herald September 25, 1884)

Again, Leaming (along with John F. Powell) was a Newhall delete to the county republican convention. (Los Angeles Herald July 27, 1886)

Leaming was a county delegate from Newhall to the Republican County Convention. (Los Angeles Herald April 23, 1888)

On April 28, 1888, Leaming was found lying on the floor of his Newhall home after evidently suffering a stroke. (Los Angeles Herald April 29, 1888)



On May 1, Leaming was alive but still helpless. (Los Angeles Herald May 1, 1888)



Christopher Leaming finally dies on May 9, 1888. (Los Angeles Times May 11, 1888).



Leaming eulogized. (Los Angeles Herald May 12, 1888).





Wells in Leaming Canyon

The following quote is from "Petroleum in Southern California", 1913, Paul W. Prutzman, California State Mining Bureau, Bulletin 63. This is the only document I have found that said there were wells in Leaming Canyon.

Two wells are known to have been located in this canyon, but both were shallow, and can hardly be considered as tests.

Dividend Oil Company. The well of this company was near the south line of section 10, and about 1/8 mile from the east line of this section. It was carried to a depth of about 700 feet, and had no signs of oil.

California Oil Company. This company, which also drilled on section 18, 3-15, has a 400-foot abandoned well south of the canyon, in the northeast quarter of section 14. As might be expected, no oil was encountered at this depth.

These wells appear, superficially at least, to be on a secondary fold, or fault, roughly parallel to the main Pico-Wiley fault. The possible productiveness of this fold remains to be proven.
Unfortunately, the descriptions of the wells place them north of Highway 5 (Gavin Canyon) outside of Leaming Canyon, so it is unlikely that any wells were drilled in the actual canyon. Also, while hiking in the canyon, I did not find any trails or roads past the crib dam, and found no evidence of any human activity. I also found no oil seeps nor did I smell any petroleum. I could not hike deep enough in the canyon to find the axis of the Pico Anticline, where most of the oil wells in the other canyons were drilled in or close to. None of the old topographic maps I examined showed a road into Leaming Canyon. Therefore, it appears that no serious oil drilling activity took place in Leaming Canyon.


The road into Leaming Canyon. There is a church on the left and a private business on the right. This is a view toward the north. Leaming Canyon is behind me and The Old Road and the freeway are in front.


Closer view of the mouth area


Crib dam



The crib dam was built in 1971



Looking north from the crib dam. Not too inviting - you have to go through all that brush just to get here.


Looking south up Leaming Canyon. No roads or trails here.


Tree blocking the creek bed


A little deeper in the canyon


A little deeper in the canyon


Another tree blocking the creek bed



Exposure of the beds showing that I am in the north flank of the Pico Anticline


Looking back north down the canyon. Hiking is tough here. There are also a lot of ticks.


High above me is this exposure of the north flank of the anticline


Hiking is very tough through here. Some of those leafless branches are poison oak.


This is the most interesting object I found in the canyon - a bolder with fossils in it laying in the creek bed. The actual source of the bolder is probably in a bed high up above the canyon bottom and very hard to find. This is also unexpected because I found no fossils in Wiley or Rice Canyons, the canyons on each side of Leaming Canyon.


Close-up of the fossils. You can see cross sections of gastropods.


Looking up the western tributary of Leaming Canyon


Looking down at the fork in Leaming Canyon. The tributary from the previous photo is coming diagonally toward the right bottom of the photo.