Leo Ranney and the Ranney House


Lee Osborne photo from W.L. Sowell collection


The marker at the Cayucos cemetery reads simply, Leo Ranney, Inventor, 1884--1950. Leo wasn't just an inventor but was someone who had an idea about how to extract much more oil from a single drill hole. He was the first to develop the whipstock concept which angled off in a different direction for lateral drilling. Instead of going through a zone of twenty feet vertically, the idea was to go laterally within the zone. (More about that below)




The mansion we used to call the Ranney house was built in the early 1900's by Charles Oliver Fairbank and Clarissa Sussex Fairbank. It was called "El Banco Sereno Estate." They commuted to Morro Bay from Petrolia, Ontario, Canada. Charles died in 1925 and in 1927 Clarissa married a long time family friend Leo Ranney. Leo and Charles worked together in the oil industry and both are recognized as early industry inventive pioneers. The Ranney's lived here for many years. (This information provided by Clarissa Baynes, London, England, UK)
This great old house, the biggest in Morro's history, was demolished by the state for a bird sanctuary. If you like birds and the stink that goes with about a million of them, you will like this place. Cormorants have now taken over. The eucalyptus trees now look like agent orange has been applied. It is located between the golf course and the bay.

Also of interest from the book "The Story of Fairbank Oil" by Pat McGee is the following excerpt.
" Charles and his wife, Clara ( Clarissa ), had built a secondary home in Morro Bay, an 11- acre site midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Clara had found the site with a scenic view of the Pacific Ocean only because she was riding in a car that had gotten lost. According to Clara, she designed the house. Standing on the undeveloped land, the builder, Tom Bicknell of Petrolia, asked her, " Madam, where would you like your front door?" She then marched to a spot on the grass and pointed. The Morro Bay home would become a centre for the extended family for decades." " The eldest son of Charles and Clara, John Fairbank Junior, had been born in Santa Barbara before the Morro bay home had been built. As an adult, he bought a ranch near Morro Bay, at San Luis Obispo, where he raised livestock. His daughter, Claire, would be born there in 1922."

read this fascinating article about Leo Ranney


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