“Sandstone has been quarried at different points in Sespe Canon by various parties for a great many years, but nearly all the stone (except a little in Razzle Dazzle Cañon) has been quarried by hand from surface boulders. Scores of immense boulders, some of them hundreds of tons in weight, offer inducement for inexpensive quarrying. A further inducement is found in the position of these boulders at the base of the hill, which the ledges are generally high up on the mountainside, where considerable expense would be involved in bringing the quarried blocks to the roadway in the bottom of the valley.
“The Los Angeles Brownstone Company quarried rock in this cañon for several months, in 1888, and then left the work. Several other parties have quarried stone here, some for a few months, some for a few years, but only one party is quarrying stone at present.
“In the XIIIth Report of the State Mineralogist, in 1896, two companies are mentioned as then in operation: The Mentone Sandstone Works, at Brownstone spur, employing 18 men; the Razzle Dazzle Sandstone Quarry, 3 ½ miles north of the works, and owned by the same company; and the Henley Brothers, operating the Phoenix Sandstone Quarry.”
Ventura County, by Emile Huguenin, Field Assistant. Field Work in December, 1915.
“Ventura County, created March 22, 1872, is one of the coast counties and lies between parallels 34° and 34° 50’ north latitude, having a coast line of about 50 miles. It is bounded on the north by Kern County, on the east by Los Angeles County, on the south by Los Angeles County and the Pacific Ocean, and on the west by Santa Barbara County. The total area is 1878 square miles. The population as shown by the census of 1910 was 18,347 and is now estimated at over 22,000 (circa 1915-1916). Its assessed valuation in 1915 was $32,159,977.
“The City of Ventura, originally called San Buenaventura, is the county seat and lies on the shores of the Santa Barbara Channel. It has a population of approximately 4000 (circa 1915-1916). The cities of Oxnard and Santa Paula, next in importance, are of almost equal population. Fillmore has grown from a town of a few hundred to over 1000 in the past five years, due to the activity in the oil fields of that vicinity.
“Ventura County is essentially an agricultural county. The increasing production of petroleum in the past five years is rapidly bringing it forward on the list of mineral producing counties.”
Transportation(in Ventura County)
“The county is traversed by the S. P. R. R., with a branch line from Ventura to Nordhoff. At Montalvo, five miles east of Ventura, the main line divides into two branches, one going to Los Angeles via Las Posas and Simi Valleys, the other through the Santa Clara Valley, joining the San Joaquin Valley line at Saugus. The northern portion of the county is extremely inaccessible, only a few trails penetrating this mountainous region from the south. Access to the gold and borax districts is obtained over the new State Highway from Bakersfield to Los Angeles via the Tejon Pass. A fine line of automobile stages over this highway now makes those districts easily accessible.
Mineral Resources (in Ventura County)
“Ventura County was the 21st county in the State in respect to the value of its mineral production for 1915 (Bulletin 71, Mineral Production for 1915).
“By referring to the table of Mineral Production for Ventura County it will be seen that the value of petroleum produced was over 99% of the total value of minerals produced that year; natural gas, brick, and sandstone together making up the remainder.
“The total recorded production of the county up to the end of 1915 is $11,572,339; its products, in order of their values, being, petroleum, $9,461,583; unapportioned and miscellaneous, which include borax and mica, $1,048,387; stone industry, $410,296; asphalt and bituminous rock, $374,216; brick, $121,170; natural gas, $67,352; sandstone, $58,849; gold, $22,871; and clay, $7,615….”
“In addition to the above minerals are known occurrences of gypsum, infusorial earth, limestone, mineral water, mineral paint, and phosphates.”
Limestone (in Ventura County)
“The only known limestone deposits in the county of any commercial value are those limestone beds outcropping in the Matilija Cañon. This limestone is said to be a natural rock cement.
“‘A limestone which in nature contains sufficient clay, or other substance, mixed with the carbonate of lime, so that it only requires proper burning and grinding to form a cement, is called a waterlime or natural cement rock.’ (Bulletin No. 38, p. 171.)”
Sandstone (in Ventura County)
“The sandstone industry of the county has greatly decreased in the past few years, and only one quarry remains at which any stone has recently been cut.
“For many years building stone was quarried from the huge boulders and broken slabs of the Sespe brownstone in Sespe Cañon. This is a hard brown sandstone, uniform in texture and color and very resistant to weathering as shown by the bold outcropping ledges and the fresh surfaces of the broken slabs.
“Massive beds of white, siliceous sandstone outcrop in Matilija Cañon. Some building stone was cut from boulders of this tough sandstone at Wheeler’s Hot Springs for local use.”
Stone Industry (in Ventura County)
“Under this heading are grouped crushed rock, sand and gravel. No production has been recorded since 1911, except a small amount of rip-rap in 1915. Ventura County has recently appropriated $1,000,000 for the construction of highways in the county so there should be a revival of this industry in the near future.”
Area: 1,878 square miles.
Population: 28,724 (1920 census)
Location: Southwestern portion of state, bordering on Pacific Ocean.
“Ventura is the tenth county in the state in respect to the value of its mineral production for 1919, the exact figure being $3,017,074, as compared with the output for 1919, worth $2,186,311, the advance being due to petroleum.
“The highest gravity petroleum produced in the state is found here.
“Among its other mineral resources are: Asphalt, borax, brick, clay, mineral water, natural gas, sandstone, and miscellaneous stone.
“The commercial production for 1919 was as follows:
(Headings for the information below are: Substance, Amount, and Value.)
Clay and clay products, ---, $4,550
Natural gas, 1,038,574 M. cu. ft., $252,240
Petroleum, 1,685,073 bbls., $2,755,094
Stone, miscellaneous, ---, $5,000
Other minerals, ---, $190
(Total value) $3,107,074
“During the last 20 years there has been irregular production from deposits of shell limestone on rancho Simi, north and east of north from Santa Susana. The quarries are on hills 2 ½ miles apart and 1 to 2 miles from the Los Angeles County line.
“A so-called ‘natural-cement rock’ has also been known for many years in Matilija Canyon 8 to 10 miles northwest of Ojai. Remains of an old kiln in the canyon indicate that some of the stone was burned in early days.”
(* Please note this list does not include sand or gravel quarries.)
“In the Sespe Cañon, a few miles east of Santa Paula, are the quarries of the Sespe Brown Stone Company. This stone is used in some of the finest buildings in the State, among others the elegant new building of the San Francisco Chronicle. The quarries are extensive, there being practically no limit the supply. It is of a rich brown color, and in color and texture closely resembles the noted brown stone of Nova Scotia. It has been tried by all tests known to science, and is pronounced the finest quality found. When subjected to a white heat and dropped into water, it turns to granite instead of crumbling as other stones have done in large fires.”
“Sespe Cañon Brownstone Quarry, in Sec. 35, T. 5 N., R. 20 W., and Secs. 1 and 2, T. 4 N., R. 20 W., S. B. M.; George J. Henley, Sespe, owner. This is the only quarry at present in operation; it is located from 5 to 6 miles from Brownstone, a station on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Most of the stone is loaded for shipment at Brownstone. It was used in the State Insane Hospital at Patton. Four men are employed.
“In this locality the Sespe River cuts across the ‘Coldwater Anticline,’ with its axis nearly east and west, dipping toward the east. The brown sandstone is exposed on the crown and on both sides of the axis on both sides of the river. It is also exposed in the several small tributary cañons, such as Coldwater Cañon, east of the river. In places, as at the ‘Devil’s Gate,’ and below, the shearing planes developed by the folding are more prominent than the bedding planes and in places cut the stone into small dimensions. On the north side of the axis the stone does not appear to be at all shattered, and occurs in heavy massive beds, with two sets of nearly rectangular joint planes, so that it lies in huge cubical blocks which have a gentle dip to the north and east.
“The brownstone beds are underlaid by a series of oil-bearing gray sandstones and gray and red variegated shales. Overlying the brownstone is another oil-bearing series of gray sandstones and shales.
“The brownstone series consist of sandstones, shales, and conglomerates, with a total thickness of 800 feet or more. The lower portion of the series is prevailingly conglomerate, quite coarse in places, with some sandstone and shale intermingled. The upper part of the series consists of brown shales and alternating beds of sandstone. The middle portion of the series, several hundred feet in thickness in places, is almost entirely brown sandstone. While this is the general relation of the beds, there are local variations.
“The most favorable location for a quarry opening would be where the greater part of the overlying shales has been eroded, exposing the sandstone of the middle portion of the series over an area sufficiently large for quarry locations.
On the west side of the river, just north of the axis, the shales have been eroded, exposing the top of the sandstones over a large area, probably 100 acres or more. Several small perennial watercourses have cut deep tributary cañons into this hill, exposing the edges of the sandstone layers from 15 to 20 feet thick, and in places forming perpendicular cliffs from 30 to 50 feet in height, and in one place more than half a mile long. Good quarries of excellent brownstone could be opened at many places in this hill.
“The stone has such a straight fracture and even grain that it could be most economically quarried by wedging with the knox blasting system. The evenness of the fracture and the regularity of the joint planes are indicated by the huge talus blocks, which are, in places, as rectangular and as square-cornered as though they had just come from the hands of the stonecutter.
“No stone has yet been quarried on this hill, because of the difficulty in getting it to railroad. There probably are good quarry sites in the brownstone area, other than the one described.
“The stone is a typical brownstone; the coarser-grained varieties have a rich purplish-brown color, and the finer-grained stone has a light reddish-brown color. The stone is free from the ‘iron balls,’ ‘iron blisters,’ or ‘liver spots,’ too common in many of the Eastern brownstones; in fact, it is remarkably free from defects of any kind. In many places, most prominent in the finer-grained varieties, there is a faint banding parallel with the bedding, which is perceptible on the rock- or sand-rubbed surface. It works readily under the stonecutter’s tools, and is adapted to carved and dressed surfaces as well as rock-faced work. Blocks several feet in diameter are split straight and even by plug-and-feather in 3-inch hand-drilled holes.
“The durability of the stone is indicated by the steep mountain slopes on which it occurs, and by the bold outcropping ledges and the sharp corners and fresh surfaces of the talus blocks. It is rarely discolored, even on the long-exposed outcrop. The conglomerate beds are likewise for the most part quite durable and might be safely used for bridge abutments, foundations, retaining walls, and similar uses. The shaly layers and the very fine-grained stone should be avoided where great durability is important.”
References on the Sespe Brownstone:
“Buildings constructed wholly or in part of Sespe Brownstone: Bryson Block, Los Angeles, first story and superstructure trimmings; Y.M.C.A. Building, Los Angeles, front façade; Burdick Block, Los Angeles, first story and trimmings; Drew Block, San Bernardino, trimmings; Opera House, South Pasadena, trimmings; People’s Bank, Pomona, trimmings; Orphan Asylum, Los Angeles; Shatto Pyramid, Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles; Briswalter monument, Courier Building, Los Angeles; Bradbury Building, Los Angeles; Van Nuys Hotel, Los Angeles, two doorways; Old Chamber of Commerce Building, Los Angeles, Methodist Episcopal Church, Pasadena; Torrence Building, Pasadena; Academy of Sciences Buildings, San Francisco; Pacific Insurance Building, San Francisco; Whittier State School, Whittier; Chico High School, Chico; Sherman Indian School, Arlington; Gay residence, San Diego; Highland Insane Asylum, near San Bernardino.
“In most of the above mentioned buildings the brownstone is used for doorways or trimmings, or both.”
“Sespe Cañon Brownstone Quarry, Geo. J. Henley et al., owners, is in Sec, 35, T. 5 N., R. 20 W., S. B. M. The quarry is 5 miles north of Brownstone Station, from which the stone is shipped. Large boulders and broken slabs are quarried by hand. Very little stone has been cut from the ledges, as the many boulders can be quarried at less expense. Worked for assessment only. For further details on the Sespe Brownstone, see Bull. 11, p. 26; Bull. 19, p. 94.
“Mr. Henley has taken a claim (120 acres) in Sec. 1, T. 4 N., R. 20 W., embracing a large exposure of hard, white siliceous sandstone. This white sandstone rests conformably on the brownstone and has been described by W. L. Watts in Bulletin 11, p. 26. Worked for assessment only.”
“...In the Los Angeles Field Division mention is made of the Sespe Canyon Brownstone Quarry, five miles north of Brownstone, a station on the Southern Pacific Railroad. This brown sandstone is exposed on both sides of the Sespe River and also in tributary streams and canyons. On the north side of the river it occurs in massive beds with two sets of nearly rectangular planes, so that it lies in huge cubical blocks dipping to the north and east. Good quarries of excellent sandstone, the report says, could be opened at many places in the hills. The stone is a typical brownstone, the courser (sic) varieties having a rich purplish-brown color. Most of the stone shipped has been taken from the boulders and very little has been taken from the layers of the deposits. This material has been used in many California cities. The last important job being that of the Methodist Church in Pasadena in 1924. Massive beds of white Siliceous sandstone are exposed on the north side of Coldwater Canyon, but only a small amount has ever been quarried. It rests on the brownstone. Only assessment work has been done.”
“Camarillo Quarry; Southern Pacific Railroad Company, owner. In Sec. 5, T 1 N., R. 20 W., S. B. M. A light pinkish-gray igneous rock, used for ballast on the roadbed from Burbank to north of Santa Barbara.”
“Camarillo Quarry is in Sec. 5, T. 1 N., R. 20 W., S. B. M., 2 miles southeast of Camarillo. Opened in 1907 by the S. P. R. R. and was worked continuously until 1910. The company erected a large plant, consisting of a gyratory crusher, revolving screens, bucket elevator, etc., and a steam power plant for operating same. Coal was used for fuel. A spur track was built from Camarillo to the quarry.
“The rock is a pinkish gray felsite, very irregular in character, grading into soft clay. Many thousand tons were used for ballast along the coast line of the S. P. R. R., but proved to be too soft for such use. The company is about to abandon the quarry and remove the plant (circa 1915-1916).
“Bibl.: Bull. 38, p. 327.”
“Argilla group of claims is in secs. 23 and 24, T. 5 N., R. 24 W., S.B., 9 miles by road northwest of Matilija, a railroad point a mile west of Ojai. A massive bed of limestone strikes east along the south side of Matilija Canyon. The following analysis was published in 1925 (Tucker, W. B. 25a, p. 240).*
Silica, 16.015 percent
Aluminum and iron oxide, 5.32 percent
Lime, 42.63 percent
Magnesia, 1.119 percent
Carbon dioxide, 34.19 percent
(* W. Burling Tucker, Los Angeles Field Division, “Ventura County,” California Mining Bureau Report 21, pp. 223-245, 1925.)
“Argilla Claims, located in 1904 by E. Duryea, Hollingsworth Bldg., Los Angeles, are in Secs. 23 and 24, T. 5 N., R. 24 W., S. B M. Massive bed of limestone exposed on south side of cañon, striking east and west, dipping south. This deposit has been frequently sampled and the rock is said to be an excellent natural cement….”
“The deposit is 23 miles north of Ventura and 8 miles northeast of Nordhoff, with a good wagon road running almost to the property. Undeveloped.
“Sugar Lime Rock Company, formerly of Oxnard, have moved to Los Angeles. All of the limestone used by the sugar refineries of Ventura County is at present quarried in San Bernardino County (circa 1915-1916)."
“Gillibrand (Tapo Alto) deposit is 6 miles by road north from Santa Susana, in the northeast part of Rancho Simi. This was under lease in 1924 to Ventura County Lime & Fertilizer Company, and a small production was reported.
“The deposit is of shell limestone, on the summit of Tapo Alto Mountain, at an elevation of 2400 feet. An analysis by Smith, Emery & Company, first published in 1924 (Tucker, W. B. 24, p. 97)* indicated a very good grade material:
(* W. Burling Tucker, Los Angeles Field Division, California Mining Bureau Report 20, pp. 87-98, 1924.)
Analysis of Tapo Alto Shell limestone:
- CaO, 54.64 percent
- CO2, 42.86 percent
- P2O3, 0.07 to 0.33 percent
- Insoluble equivalent, 2.07 percent
- CaCO3, 97.50 percent
“In 1929 Tapo Alto Shell & Fertilizer Company leased the deposit and produced limestone until 1935. They dug limestone with a ¼-cubic-yard gasoline shovel, and screened and crushed it in a plant having a daily capacity of 15 tons. The principal product was poultry grit in two sizes, minus 8-mesh plus 10-mesh, and minus 10-mesh. Some shipments of limestone rejected in the above process were also made for agricultural use. A sample of this material, taken and tested by the State Department of Agriculture, was found to carry 91 percent CaCO3. A screening test showed 98 percent passing 40-mesh and 24 percent passing 100-mesh sieves.”
(Tapo Alto Shell & Fertilizer Co. - See: Santa Susana (north of), Ventura County, California – Gillibrand (Tapo Alto) Limestone Deposit above.
“Western Lime Products Company, 6305 Yucca Street, Hollywood 28, has been the only limestone producer in the county in the past few years. They have been working a deposit of shell limestone 5 miles north of Santa Susana, on Rancho Simi. The quarry is on a hill at an elevation of 2200 feet. The product is sold for use in poultry and cattle feeds, and agricultural limestone. Partial analyses of the part of the product marketed as ‘oyster-shell meal,’ analyzed by the State Department of Agriculture, showed 93.76 CaCO3 in 1942, 91.59 percent CaCO3 in 1943, and 90.75 percent CaCO3 in 1946. The property is claimed by the operators to contain 8,000,000 tons.”
(See: Brownstone Station (Sespe Cañon), Ventura County, California - the Sespe Brown Stone Company Sandstone Quarry above.)
Ventura County, by Dr. Stephen Bowers, Assistant in the Field.
“Ventura County has, probably, one of the largest known deposits of brown sandstone. Beginning near the seashore on the west side of Ventura River, I have traced it northeasterly for a distance of about thirty miles. There is an outcrop in Diablo Cañon, some two miles from the ocean, where the strata are horizontal. Some five miles distant, on the Ventura River, there is an extensive vertical exposure, which has been worked by the Ventura Brownstone Company. From this point many tons have been quarried and shipped to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Several miles northwest of the last named place, on the Beekman Ranch, near the mouth of the Matilija Cañon, there is another horizontal exposure. This appears again on the western side of the Ojai Valley, again on the Gridley Ranch. It then dips under Topa Topa Mountain, and is exposed by the gorge of the Sespe. In ascending this stream, one meets with large bowlders of this stone, many of which are quarried advantageously. When first met in situ it is vertical, but becomes more horizontal as the stream is ascended.
“East of this, as we cross from Tar Creek to Hot Spring Cañon, it assumes nearly a horizontal position, forming what is known as the ‘Stone Corral.’ It is nearly four miles wide at this point, the longer axis being nearly east and west. Another outcrop may be seen some miles east in descending the trail into Agua Blanca Cañon.
“As far as I have been able to trace this vast deposit, I have found the strata, with a single exception, nearly horizontal on the north side. In one place the exposure shows a thickness of about two thousand feet. Many tons of this handsome rock have been quarried and shipped from Sespe.”
“Matilija Claims. Joshua Stockton and Merle J. Rodgers, Ventura, owners. Beds of hard, blue limestone are exposed along top of ridge north of the Matilija Cañon, above Stingley’s Hot Springs and opposite the claims of E. Duryea. Trail to claims from the Matilija Cañon. Inaccessible. Undeveloped.
“Ventura Cement Company for many years held 400 acres, patented, in secs. 22, 23, 26, and 27, T. 5 N., R. 24 E., S.B., 10 miles from Matilija, on the Ojai branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
“A deposit of gray, fine-grained limestone outcrops in two beds, 75 feet and 175 feet thick respectively, and separated by about 300 feet of shale, on the northwest side of a branch canyon which enters Matilija Canyon from the southwest. The deposit is said to be traceable westward for about half a mile into another canyon. It dips steeply south. The state geologic map (Jenkins, O. P. 38)* shows this area to be covered by upper Eocene rocks. The following analyses, published in 1932 (Tucker, W. B. 33, p. 268),** shows the deposits to be mainly of the type called ‘natural cement rock’, although selected samples have given from 93.5 to 97.86 percent CaCO3.”
(* Olaf P. Jenkins, Geologic Map of California, scale 1:500,000, California Division of Mines, 1938.)
(** W. Burling Tucker and R. J. Sampson, Los Angles Field Division, “Ventura County,” California Division of Mines Report 28, pp. 247-277, 1933.)
Analyses of Ventura Cement Company’s limestone:
- Volatile ( CO2 ): 34.54 percent; 30.99 percent; 44.26 percent; 36.78 percent; 28.78 percent
- SiO2: 15.06 percent; 22.64 percent; 2.95 percent; 12.22 percent; 28.54 percent
- Al2O3 and Fe3O4: 5.20 percent; 7.86 percent; 1.94 percent; 4.76 percent; 6.34 percent
- CaO: 42.76 percent; 37.76 percent; 35.33 percent; 43.60 percent; 36.06 percent
- CaCO3 (equivalent): 76.11 percent; 69.97 percent; 63.59 percent; 78.48 percent; 64.91 percent
“Ventura Cement Company Deposit. Joseph Roth, Ventura, president. Exposure of limestone beds (natural cement rock) outcropping in a side cañon south of Matilija Creek, one mile above Vickers Hot Springs. The company owns 400 acres, patented, in Secs. 22, 23, 26, 27, T. 5 N., R. 25 W., S. B. M….”
Mine name: Mary Smith Quarry; Operator: Sanders, A. J. (A. J. Sanders); Address & County: P. O. Box 805, Camarillo, CA 93011, Ventura County; Phone: (805) 482-1237; Latitude: 34.18, Longitude: -118.99, and Mine location number: Map No. 892; Mineral commodity: Stone.
“Santa Susanna Quarry; Southern Pacific Railroad Company, owner. In Sec. 16, T. 2 N., R. 17 W., S. B. M. The material is similar to that of the Chatsworth Park quarry, Los Angeles County. It is used by the railroad company in several places along its roadbed as rip-rap, and it is also mixed with oil for pavements.”
“Santa Susana Quarry is in Sec. 16, T. 2 N., R. 17 W., S. B. M., 2 miles east of Santa Susana. Massive beds of buff-colored sandstone were quarried by the S. P. R. R. Co. and the stone used for rip-rap work on the roadbed. The sandstone proved to be too soft for this use. Idle.
“Bibl.: Bull. 38, p. 327.”
From the 1880s until the early 1900s, sandstone from the quarry was used to construct the Los Angeles harbor breakwater and was also used in the construction of buildings in Los Angeles. (The previous version of this site included the above information. This current version does not speak of the quarry at all.)
“…Some building stone was cut from boulders of this tough sandstone at Wheeler’s Hot Springs for local use.”