History of a ghost town
Mentryville, California… A unique ghost town in Santa Clarita’s own backyard. Located at the end of Pico Canyon Road about 2 miles west of Stevenson Ranch, Mentryville was the birthplace of the California Oil Industry. The Oil Company we now know today as Chevron started in 1876 with the spudding of Pico or C.S.O (which stood for California Star Oil) number 4. Pico #4 was spudded around July of 1876 by oilman Charles Alexander Mentry… a native of France. On September 26th 1876, Mr. Mentry expanded the well by digging an extra 300 feet. On that day, as they were digging, Mentry discovered a massive deposit of oil which shot out of the derrick 60 feet into the air. Within the next few years a town was formed at the base of Pico Canyon. The company town which at that time was referred to as Pico Springs or just Pico had 200 families at one point. Mentryville was complete with boarding houses, bunkhouses, a bakery, a schoolhouse and a dance hall. Alex Mentry, by the 1890s was a very rich man. He constructed a 13 room mansion at the entrance of the canyon. The house had 4 fireplaces, gas lighting, and even 3 bathrooms, as well as a dumbwaiter. Charles Alex Mentry passed away on October 4th 1900 and is buried in Los Angeles. After his death, the town slowly went into decline. By 1932, there were about 6 families living in Mentryville at that point. By mid-1959, Standard Oil of California (rebranded as Chevron USA in 1977) didn’t really see a need to keep the structures that were leftover from the town's heyday, although there was still oil producing from Pico Canyon even then. Alton Manzer an oilman working for Standard Oil was living in Castaic with his family… wife Pat, daughter’s Alice and Karen and their youngest child and only son Darryl. When Al Manzer learned that the Standard was making plans to bulldoze what was left of Mentryville, he negotiated with the company that he and his family would move into Alex Mentry’s 13 room mansion and fix up the buildings out of their own pocket. The Manzer family lived in Mentryville for a little over 6 years. In 1964 the Manzer family “modernized” the house by wiring the house with electricity. After Darryl and his family moved out in 1966, Standard Oil again threatened Mentryville with the wrecking ball. Frenchy Lagasse, also an oilman employed with the Standard recognized the unique history Mentryville holds and decided to negotiate with Standard Oil to care for Mentry’s 13 room mansion. In July of 1966 the Lagasses put their home in Saugus up for sale and moved to Mentryville. Carol, Frenchy, and their three daughters… Nannette, Laurette, and Suzette spent the next 30 years restoring, maintaining, and preserving Mentryville’s legacy, even opening up the mansion and restored schoolhouse to school children for tours. That all came to an end on January 17th 1994 at 4:30 am when a magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocked Southern California causing widespread damage. Alex Mentry’s 13 room mansion received the most damage out of all the buildings in Pico Canyon. Two years later Chevron sold the last of its land holdings which included Mentryville and the surrounding 851 acres of Pico Canyon to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which is a joint agency with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Mentryville, California Inc was established in July of 2020 as a nonprofit for the sole purpose to preserve Mentryville, as well as other landmarks, and relics in Pico Canyon, and to educate the public on Mentryville's important role the town had in the creation of the oil industry in California. Currently, Mentryville's grounds is open to hiking, biking, and equestrian activities.