For centuries, the indigenous people of the Santa Clara River Valley had been using the oil which seeped up through cracks in the ground to waterproof baskets and canoes and even for chewing gum. Early European settlers used it to water proof water craft and roofs. With the development of kerosene for lighting the demand for oil exploded.
The first viable oil well was drilled at Pico Canyon, about 20 miles east of Fillmore. Soon after, Standard Oil, which was founded in Santa Paula established a small diameter pipeline near Fillmore.
From Fillmore Herald, 1911, Industrial Edition -
"Ventura County bears the title of the "Mother of Oil," as here was the first production in the Golden State of oil in commercial quantities, and it is noteworthy that three-fourths of the yielding wells in this county are within a radius of six miles of Fillmore. About 160 of these wells have been drilled by the Union Oil Company
Until the last few years the development of the oil industry was carried on in a haphazard way, but with the aid of the reports and bulletins of the nation geological experts, the formation of the various oil districts have been so worked out that developing operations can be executed with almost absolute certainty of success.
Southeasterly across the valley are situated the "Torrey Canyon" group of wells of the Union Oil Company, and during the last 20 years these wells have produced millions of barrels of light gravity oil. Further west, the Calumet Oil Company is drilling its first well on the Guiberson Ranch. Adjoining this property is the Shiells lease of the Montebello Company, on which four wells have been brought in during the past six months. A short distance west wells are being put down by the Oak Ridge Oil Company. Still further west and south of Fillmore, is another old group of wells of the Union Oil Company. These shallow wells were drilled in 1890 and are still furnishing oil. Just west of these wells are wells of the Lapp Gifford Oil Company, and also the Bardsdale Crude Oil Company group. Still further west the first well is being drilled on a 300-acre Balcom Lease.
On the north side of the valley and nearly five miles west of Fillmore are the wells of the Empire Oil Company. Immediately east of these wells, our townsmen, Captain O. J. Stowe and A. A. Ward are drilling their first well, which has now penetrated oil sand. Further north, and some miles up the main Sespe Canyon, are the wells of the Big Sespe Oil Company. Almost within sight of Fillmore and beyond the end of Sespe Avenue are the old Kentuck wells, drilled 1880 by the Union Oil Company and just north of these wells is the group of the Clampett Oil Company, which is extending its operations in this field. Adjacent to the Kentuck wells, in the mouth of Little Sespe, are the holdings of the Brownstone Oil Company. About one-half mile east is another group of wells of the Union Oil Company called the "Foot of the Hill" wells with a production of 32 gravity.
Still further east and at the extreme head of the Little Sespe Canyon are the "Four Forks" group of wells of the Union Oil Company. The Rose Oil Company is beginning extensive operations just south of these wells. Ascending to the summit of the divide and looking east, the derricks of the White Star and Turner Oil Companies greet the eye. About one mile northeast of these wells is the Tar Creek basin. The Union Oil Company first began operations here in 1886 and drilled about 40 wells. In 1906, the production of oil being nearly exhausted, this company temporarily abandoned this part of the fields. The Anaconda Petroleum Company is sinking its first well just east of the holdings of the Union Oil Company and will soon be in oil. Further north Guffey and Gail have just completed their first well. At the extreme northeast of Fillmore are the Hopper wells where several companies are beginning operations. The wells in this field furnish oil of 16 to 18 degrees gravity although the wells of the Modelo Oil Company, further east, yield a lighter gravity oil in the same formation. South of these wells are the holdings of the Colonia Oil Company, and further west the Ventura Oil and Development Company is drilling two wells.
This completes the circle of yielding wells around the city of Fillmore at that Time."
In 1919, the Ventura Refining Company built a refinery on the eastern edge of Fillmore. This refinery continued to produce until 1950, producing aviation fuel during World War II. It continued to function as a crude oil storage site until 2002.
After the last tank was removed in 2004, it became a federal superfund site. Clean up of the site has been completed and plans are in the works to convert the site into a solar farm.
Oil is still being produced throughout the area, contributing to Fillmore's economy.