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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


LEVI VREDENBURGH, whose home for many years was at Chino, where Mrs. Vredenburgh resides, was a pioneer oil man, gaining his experience in the early days of oil production in Western Pennsylvania, was known in the East as an expert on the technical phases of oil production and refining, and his interests finally brought him to the West, and it is generally acknowledged that he laid the secure foundation for the prosperous management of the Puente Oil Refinery.

Mr. Vredenburgh was born at Croton Falls, New York, December 1, 1842, and was seventy-six years of age when death came to him at Chino on December 18, 1918. He was of Holland Dutch ancestry, a son of Harry and Elizabeth (Be vans) Vredenburgh, the former born June 20, 1811, and the latter May 20, 1815. A brief record of the children of his parents is as follows: Fannie, born June 25, 1834; Harriet, born July 13, 1836; Amanda J., born April 19, 1838; Charles, born June 13, 1840, died while a Union soldier in the service of the Federal Government April 27, 1863 ; Levi ; Julia, born September 23, 1845 ; George, born April 23, 1848; Edgar, born October 28, 1853, died December 16, 1853; and Helen, born September 28, 1856, and died March 20, 1857.

Levi Vredenburgh grew up and acquired his early education in New York State. At the age of seventeen he enlisted in the Federal Army, served and fought as a private, was wounded in one battle, and for three years carried a bullet in his knee. After the war he earned his money as a worker in the timber woods of Pennsylvania, and was soon attracted to the great oil fields of the Oil Creek District of Pennsylvania. His varied experiences in the study of the oil business made him an expert on the refining processes, and he had some very responsible positions while in the East.

On August 25, 1869, Mr. Vredenburgh married Miss Anna M. Terwilliger, who was born at Leeds, Greene County, New York, in February, 1846. To this union were born two children. Elizabeth Jane, born at Sherman Well in Venango County, Pennsylvania, November 4, 1870, died February 10, 1895. Ezra Irving Vredenburgh, who was born at Meredith, Cherokee Township, Venango County, April 20, 1872, was liberally educated and had a very successful career as a physician and surgeon. He died June 5, 1909, and is survived by his widow and one son Irving, born July 20, 1906, and now living at Oakland, California.

After the death of his first wife Mr. Vredenburgh married in 1880 Miss Violet Elizabeth Heckathora. She was born June 17, 1835, in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth (Shaffer) Heckathora, also natives of Pennsylvania. In the Heckathora family were the following children: David, Catherine, Violet, Jacob, James Harper, Mary and William Boyd Heckathora. William Boyd Heckathora was born March 9, 1845, died July 17, 1907. He married Martha Jane Heckathora, and their five children were Florence L., Myra J., Delvinasia E., Halgerdia G. and Merrill E. The mother of these children died in June, 1884, and William Boyd Heckathora subsequently married Sarah Jane Powell, and by this union had two children. Charity P. and Chloe.

After his second marriage Levi Vredenburgh lived for several years in Buffalo, New York, then returned to Oil City, Pennsylvania, and subsequently had charge of a refinery in Cleveland. While in Cleveland he was selected by some capitalists to take charge of a placer mining proposition on the Colorado River in Arizona. He personally invested of his means in this venture, and when it failed to produce he lost both his investment and salary.

In the meantime the Puente Oil Refinery of California had been built and was operating at a loss. Some of the interested stockholders learned of Mr. Vredenburgh's presence in the Southwest, sent for him and in 1897 he took charge as general superintendent of the plant. He remained as superintendent and manager for twenty-one years, and in that time brought the business out of chaos and made it one of the best managed oil refineries in California. Failing health finally compelled him to give up his post of duty, but he continued to draw his salary from the management until his death.

Mr. Vredenburgh was for a number of years the largest stockholder and president of the First National Bank of Chino. He had bought ten acres of the townsite, subdivided and sold that to great advantage, known as the Vredenburgh tract, and about 1910 he built one of the most attractive homes, at the northwest corner of Seventh and B streets, the place now occupied by Mrs. Vredenburgh. Mr. Vredenburgh was a staunch republican, was a leader in the Baptist Church and for many years interested in the Sunday School and superintendent of the school. He was public spirited in everything he did, and his memory is cherished in this community.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011