History of Orange County
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California is located on the West coast of what was called the New
World in the 1500's, known today as the United States. The history of Orange
County, California began when God made the earth, including the land of Orange
County. Archaeologically, Orange
County rock formations date back to at least 225 million years ago
during the "Age of Reptiles."
Moving ahead, the
American Indians dwelled in Orange
County until the period of Spanish colonization in the late 1700's.
American Indians hunted and
gathered food. They also moved from place to place searching for food.
Their local government was monarchial. Leadership was handed down from one
generation to the next within one particular family. A group of counsel
members were also appointed to help govern.
The two major
groups of American Indians in Orange
County were thought to originate from the Shoshonean family. They
came to be known as the Gabrieleños and the Juaneños because of their
proximity to the San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano Missions.
In the late 1700's the Spanish set
out on a military campaign to colonize the West coast of the New
World. The Spanish expeditionary leaders sought to rapidly transform
California's American Indian population
into Spanish citizens to strengthen ties to Spain. In 1769, Gaspar de
Portolá, became the first Spanish military leader from Europe to
officially explore and write about the territory of Orange
County. He named many of its rivers, mountains and valleys after
the Catholic Saints. The Spanish Empire wanted to colonize quickly on
the West coast of the New World because their enemy, Britain, was
preoccupied on the East coast with the Revolutionary War. The Spanish promised to give land to the
American Indians in exchange
for their support of colonization. This was the opposite of the
British, who were opposed to assimilating American Indians into the
British colonies. The Spanish also encouraged intermarriage between
Spanish soldiers and American Indians. For
example, Jose Antonio Yorba, born in Spain in 1746, from whom Yorba
Linda in Orange
County was eventually named, became a corporal under Gaspar de
Portolá during the Spanish expedition of 1769. Yorba married an
American Indian by the name
of Maria Garcia Feliz at Monterey and had two children. One boy
drowned at age six, and another died in his mid-twenties. Yorba's wife
also died early in 1781. Yorba then married a 16 year old by the name
of Maria Josefa Grijalva, an older daughter of another Spanish
military leader named Juan Pablo Grijalva who eventually received the
highest rank in the Spanish expedition in California
and who also founded Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.
While the Spanish military was
busy colonizing California
for its resources, the Spanish Christian missionaries migrated to
to convert American Indians into
children of Christianity. Father Serra from the Christian Franciscan
order, an order best known for its vows of poverty, traveled with
other Christian missionaries funded by the Spanish Empire and the
Jesuits from Baja California
to build missions and teach American Indians
Christianity. On November 1, 1776, the Franciscans built the first
modern building of Orange
County, known as the San Juan Capistrano Mission, which became the
seventh mission of twenty one in California.
Father Serra soon fled the mission after it was built
because of opposition by the American Indians. However, he
came back and began to teach the American Indians the Christian
religion and because language was such a significant barrier between the
Spanish and American Indians the Christian
missionaries taught American Indians practical job
training skills such as tanning, wine making, blacksmithing, small
business operations, and ranching.
Christian missionary life took place in the midst of a very aggressive
military campaign by the Spanish Empire. The Spanish military was
trying to colonize large amounts of California
real estate in hopes of eventually taking over the New World.
To date, there
seems to be more bad reports depicting how the American Indians were treated
within the Christian missions than there are good reports, but it is
important to note that the most powerful force in the colonization of
was the Spanish military and not the Spanish Christian missions, even
though the Christian mission did become the most widely recognized
historical icon going back to that time in Orange
County history. Some Christian missionaries created laws that were
very bad, including demanding the American Indians not leave the
missions once they were converted to Christianity. Many runaways were
hunted down and forced into slave labor at the mission after conversion.
However, most of the Christian missionaries were frustrated by the idea of
American Indian labor used by the
military and the settlers. Many American Indians joined the
It has also been
discovered that at the highest point of missionary development in
many American Indians worked only 4-5
hours a day and spent the rest of the time in choir, mass, instruction,
and worship. The problem was that the Christian friars at the
highest levels viewed the new American Indian converts, or
neophytes as they were called, as spiritual children and not as equal and
capable leaders. Thus, American Indian social growth was
stunted as they were not recognized as equal citizens. However, the
mission period did not last long enough to really establish a mutual trust
between the two cultures.
period in California lasted less than two generations, conservatively from
1776-1833, but probably not even that long. It is difficult to understand
how much influence the Spanish military and war factions had in the
operations of the mission. There was also the problem of disease brought
by the Spanish to the American Indians. The majority of American Indians were not killed
by violence, but rather were decimated by three major epidemics, two of
which were breakouts of small pox and measles, and both had no cure at the
time. These periodic outbreaks caused many American Indians to doubt the
Between 1776 and
1821 Spain remained in sole control of the real estate in Orange
County and California with hardly any land concessions to individual families.
There were one or two exceptions. One military leader Juan Pablo Grijalva
received title to some
California lands. During this time period, small bands of British,
Russian and French traders also came to the region to trade with the
missionaries and American Indians. In 1810, a
major change occurred when the Mexican and Spanish governments began
fighting for land. In 1821 Mexico beat Spain and declared themselves an
independent nation. The following year the Mexican flag replaced the
Spanish flag in Orange
County. Almost immediately afterwards Mexico took away the
promise of land from the American Indians and gave land to
certain petitioning individuals who could show that they had enough
resources to build a dwelling on the land in less than one year and who
could cultivate the land for the Mexican government. American Indians were deeply
upset over their lost promise for obtaining land and were no longer happy
about living in the missions. Since Spanish resources were spread thinly
across North and South America during the fighting, supplies going to the
missions became scarce. The missions and American Indians were left to
fend for themselves. Immediately many missions in California
were abandoned and the churches fell in ruins.
In 1833 the Mexican
government secularized all of the California
missions and took them away from control by the church. At this time the
mission system of California
had ended. The Mexican government tried to revert the land to American
However, once the
land was taken from the church the Spanish and Mexican governments and
local factions fought for ownership of the
real estate in Southern California
and surrounding regions. The American Indians were out
numbered by ranchers from the United States and Mexico who forced the
American Indians into slavery on
their growing private ranches. Some American Indians managed to
retreat away from the ranch settlements into the mountains. The
Mexican government's control of Orange
County following land owners these lands:
In 1837 Rancho Cienega
de las Ranas was granted to José Sepúlveda.
In 1837 San Juan Cajón
de Santa Ana was granted to Juan Pacífico Ontiveros.
In 1841 Rancho Bolsa
Chica was granted to Joaquín Ruiz.
In 1842 La Bolsa de San
Joaquín was granted to Sepúlveda.
In 1842 Rancho Cañada
de Los Alisos was granted to José Serrano.
In 1842 Rancho Niguel
was granted to José Ávila.
In 1843 Mexican
Governor Manuel Micheltorena gave the Rios tract to Santiago Rios.
In 1845 Rancho Potrero
Los Piños was granted to Don Juan Forster who also bought the San Juan
Capistrano Mission for his own personal residence.
In 1846 Rancho Boca de
la Playa was granted to Emigdio Vejar and Rancho Lomas de Santiago was
granted to Teodocio Yorba, both by Mexican Governor Pío Pico.
While Mexico controlled California,
large rancher owners oversaw development of the
commercial property, homes and land in Orange
County for their own commerce. During that time an influx of United
States Americans from the Midwest and Eastern United States began to
colonize the West. There were disturbances between Mexican provincial
administrators and the United States citizens. Soon thereafter the United
States and Mexico were in a war.
The US - Mexican War lasted from 1846 to 1848.
The Mexican government fled as US troops advanced and on February 2, 1848
the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in which the Mexican government
sold 55% of its territory, including
and parts of
for $15 million to compensate for war damages.
became the 31st state of the United States. A year later in 1849 the
gold rush began. At this time Orange
County was only a part of the
real estate in
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