Dabney, Joseph B.

Mr. Dabney was a man of rare qualities. A self-made captain of industry and a man of large affairs, he was one of the most generous souls I have ever known. Generous not only with his wealth but with his interest and sympathy. He had a sense of discrimination which enabled him to distinguish with unerring certainty between merit and sham in all their forms. ....Those who worked in the Humanities counted him as their most loyal friend.
-- Dr. Wm. B. Munro

Born on a farm in Madison County, Iowa (1858?) Mr. Dabney's youthful ambition was to be a lawyer and he achieved this ambition to the extent of being admitted to the bar, but never practiced his profession, leaving for the Northwest to seek his fortune as a young man. After a short interlude as a newspaper man in Bozeman, Mont., he became interested in oil. He was one of the first men to conduct operations in what later became the immensely productive oil fields of Northern Wyoming but did not remain there long. He became for a time a resident of Aberdeen, Wash., where he still owned extensive business properties at his death. Then he came to California some forty years ago.
It was in this state that his genius for locating productive wells had an opportunity for full play. He pioneered in the Bakersfield field and was soon recognized as a highly successful operator. After being well established in the oil business, he made his headquarters for a number of years in San Francisco but about a year after the fire he moved to Southern California.

Here he made one of the most successful business ventures of his career, when he purchased in partnership with Frank (Ralph) B. Lloyd practically all the land which later became the gushingly productive Ventura oil field. He and Lloyd did not operate wells there but after the value of the field was proven they leased their land to several of the major companies.

He was one of the pioneers of the Signal Hill field and there became one of the most active operators, sinking a great number of wells, all of them highly productive. He was also a pioneer in the Huntington Beach field and continued to conduct extensive operations there. Oil men generally regarded him as possessed of an uncanny ability in locating wells, and of the hundreds of wells he sank during his career there were very few dry holes.

He was president of the Dabney-Johnston Oil Corporation, but in addition to the properties of that corporation he owned, either by himself or in partnership, numerous other oil properties all over the state. He was active in the oil business almost to the day of his death.

Probably better known to the public for his large benefactions to charitable and educational institutions, Caltech and Salvation Army. He was president of the McKinley Industrial Home for Boys in San Fernando. Member of the advisory board of the Salvation Army. Gave funds for the erection of the army's home for women in Griffin Avenue, Truelove Home, and made original contribution for the establishment of the army's summer camp at Redondo Beach.

LA Times, Sept. 12, 1932


HTML Transcription Note:
The parenthetical name (Ralph) for Mr. Lloyd was actually handwritten in the margin of these otherwise typewritten 3x5 index cards.
See the initial URL

Steve Allen <sla@alumni.caltech.edu>
1998-11-17