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Orange County

Orange County is Proud of its Deep Heritage in Southern California...

The area known as current-day Orange County was initially inhabited by Native Americans, or Gabrielios as they were known to the Spaniards of that time. The first Catholic missionaries and Spanish soldiers were sent to colonize the western land in 1769, with two missions (Mission San Gabriel and Mission San Juan Capistrano) established here between 1771 and 1776.

Mexico broke away from Spain in 1821 and began secularizing the California missions in 1834. California was ultimately ceded to the U.S. at the end of the Mexican War in 1848 and became a state by 1850. At this time, current-day Orange County was part of Los Angeles County.

Anaheim became the first American town founded in what is now Orange County and was followed by a number of additional towns, including Orange, which began springing up alongside of the Santa Ana River by the 1860s. The area continued on its path of growth into the 1880s, as existing communities surged and more new towns were established.


While residents began work on breaking away from Los Angeles County as early as 1870, the county division was not established for nearly two more decades. In 1889, the County of Orange was founded and Santa Ana was designated the county seat.

Agriculture, dominated by the citrus industry, was the leading economic factor in the county until the 1950s. In addition to agriculture, oil played a large part in the county’s prosperity, with the first successful wells constructed in the 1890s. While agriculture has virtually disappeared, the oil industry remains vital today and is accompanied by strong tourism, manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare and services industries. As the economy grew, so did the population. By 1963, the county topped one million residents. Today, more than 3.1 million people reside in one of Orange County’s 34 incorporated municipalities.

Further information on Orange County history is available through the Orange County Historical Society – www.orangecountyhistory.org.

Current-day Orange’s first landholder, Juan Pablo Grijalva, settled his ranch in 1801, with the land stretching from the Santa Ana River and the foothills over to the location of Villa Park to the waters at Newport Beach. The ranch, which came to be known as the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, was taken over by Grijalva’s son-in-law, Jose Antonio Yorba, and his grandson, Juan Pablo Peralta, upon Grijalva’s passing. Additional acreage was added, ultimately lengthening the property from the Riverside area to the ocean.

City of Orange

In the early 1860s, a lawsuit brewed, eventually dividing the land into 1,000 units. Gaining a portion of the land now known as Orange were two Los Angeles lawyers, Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell. In 1864, the lawyers began to purchase portions of the ranch’s land, and by 1870, the two men owned nearly 5,400 acres. Exploiting its natural resources and attractive location, Chapman began selling lots in what he called ‘Richland.’

By 1871, around one dozen homes were established within and around Richland. March of 1872 marked the opening of the first school. It was soon followed by the inception of the first local store, the area’s first civic organization and the premier congregation. In 1873, the application for a post office was denied due to the fact that there was another community known as Richland in nearby Sacramento County. Thus, the area was renamed Orange.

The 1880s brought about an exciting time of growth in Orange – of which the most important being the incorporation of Orange as a city on April 6, 1888. The area continued to prosper throughout the years and experienced major growth both in size and population. With 3.8 square miles of land in 1952, Orange expanded to 8.3 square miles in 1960 – a number which eventually expanded to nearly 25 square miles in the 1990s. Accordingly, the city’s population between 1950 and 1960 increased from 10,027 to 26,444, followed by an explosive increase to 77,374 in 1970. The 1990s saw another burst in population that hit over 120,000. Currently, Orange is home to more than 136,000 people.

Further information on the city of Orange’s history is available through the Orange Community Historical Society – www.historicorange.org.

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