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History of Orange County, California - Page 2

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After California became part of the US, any land owner who did not have paperwork for their ownership lost possession of their land. Most land owners lost their land since Spain and Mexico did not normally provide adequate paperwork to show proper boundaries for the land in California. The US government took the land and sold it back at very affordable rates to local farmers and pioneers from the Eastern and Midwestern United States who came to California to dwell there.

 

In 1862, a horrendous set of natural disasters struck Orange County and changed everything. First a flood swept through the region and set up the perfect conditions for a massive plague academic which became a small pox outbreak that killed many Americans.

 

California Ranch

California Ranch

 

 

 

Not long afterwards within the same year a massive drought dried up all of Orange County crops and cattle ranches. The once rich ranchers who received land from the Mexican and Spanish government from before the US - Mexico War lost all of their cattle and were forced into bankruptcy by huge interest rates set by merciless North American businessmen at a rate of 3% interest due per month on average. Local farmers also went bankrupt and lost their land.

 

Irvine Ranch

The Irvine Ranch

 

Between 1863 and 1888 Orange County entered a "boomtown" period where settlers, developers, investors, farmers, ranchers and locals built up the cities and communities that we now have today. James Irvine bought the Irvine Ranch, then about one fifth of the total amount of real estate in Orange County. Anaheim became the first city in Orange County to incorporate in 1876. Santa Ana was formed out of a mustard field found by William Spurgeon after he bought 74 acres and sold then a piece at a time beginning a year after he bought the land in 1869. Westminster was founded by Presbyterian minister Lemuel P. Webber in 1870. Orange was founded by Chapman (Chapman University in Orange was named in his memory) and Glassell. Newport, Fullerton, and Buena Park were established between 1874-1888.

 

In 1888 the state of California recognized the County of Orange. Orange County came into being at this time because the people of the three incorporated cities of Santa Ana, Anaheim and Orange with a total population of 13,000 convinced California legislatures that Los Angeles County was not giving enough resources to aid the people in the south part of Los Angeles County. There were far less city infrastructures than were in Los Angeles County cities, including less roads and bridges than were necessary.

 

Santa Ana, with a population three times that of Anaheim, lobbied to have the main county building in their city and to be the county seat. Santa Ana tried to create a county line at Coyote Creek, but when the people of Anaheim found out they pushed for legislators to make the boundary farther out at the San Gabriel River because they did not want Santa Ana to be the county seat. Legislators agreed to set it at the Coyote Creek which infuriated the people of Anaheim and turned them against having a county separate from Los Angeles. The state agreed to hold elections to decide on whether there would be a new county for the people of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Orange. $50,000 was given by people from Orange County so they could be recognized. State government officials passed a measure soon after through the house and senate to establish Orange County. Votes cast by Orange County residents were 2,509 votes in favor of having their own county to 500 votes which opposed.

Next, a second election was held to determine whether Orange or Santa Ana would be the county seat. Santa Ana won 1,729 votes to 775. The majority of Anaheim registrants did not vote since their city was not placed on the ballot. The first baby born in Orange County was recorded in 1889; his name was Francis A. Edwards.

In the late 1800's, after Orange County was established, infrastructure and commerce increased at a faster pace. Santa Ana opened the first high school of Orange County in 1891. In 1893, Fullerton became home of the Fruit Exchange which later turned into Sunkist. In 1894, San Juan Capistrano connected Orange County to Los Angeles by train and the Union Oil Company which is currently known as Unocal (or Unocal 76) bought large acreages of land with oil known as the Brea-Olinda Oilfield. The first county jail was built in Santa Ana in 1896 under a jewelry shop the same year that Los Alamitos became known as the sugar beet town, and James McFadden developed Balboa, Lido and Harbor Islands. In 1899 the large Edison Electric Company bought out the Santa Ana Gas and Electric Company. In 1901 Philip Stanton found Pacific City, later known as Huntington Beach. In the same year ten attorneys came together and formed the Orange County Bar Association. In 1902 Santa Ana Valley became the first hospital of OC. In 1903 Philip Stanton found Bay City which is now Seal Beach. The Pacific Electric Railway known as the Red Car connected Huntington Beach real estate to Seal Beach real estate in 1904 and reached Newport and Santa Ana in 1905. In 1908 US President Theodore Teddy Roosevelt renamed the Trabuco Canyon Reserve the Cleveland National Forest after former President Grover Cleveland. In 1911 Stanton incorporated to dodge becoming a place for sewage and then unincorporated in 1924. The first avocado grove was planted in 1913 in Yorba Linda by John T. Wheeden. In 1913 Fullerton Junior College becomes the first junior college of the county. In 1914 108 miles of road were marked for construction from municipal bond money.  Cities and municipalities grew in Orange County from 1917 to 1929.

The US went to war in 1917 and in 1919 there was a victory parade celebrating the end of World War I held at the Orange County Park which later became Irvine. In 1917 the City of Brea was established. The population of Orange County in 1920 according to the US Census was 61,375. Walter Knott set up his first farm in 1920, which is now the spot for a famous theme park known as Knott's Berry Farm. Women were also allowed to sit on the Grand Jury in the same year. In 1921 the Orange County Library, County Health Department and Eddie Martin Airport had their first opening. In 1922 Duke Kahanamoku brought the sport of surfing to Orange County and KFAW was the first county radio station. Midway City was developed in 1922, halfway between Santa Ana and Long Beach to house people who worked on the oil fields. Dana Point became a recognized development in 1924, La Habra incorporated in 1925 and in the same year San Clemente was recognized, but did not incorporate until 1928. San Clemente was referred to as the "Spanish Village of the Sea". Placentia formed in 1926 along with the Pacific Coast Highway which opened between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Tustin and Laguna Beach incorporated in 1927. Nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange opened St. Josephs Hospital in 1929 and Ortega Highway construction began the same year.

The population of Orange County doubled from 1920 to 1940. In 1920 it was 61,375, and rose to 118,674 in 1930 and 130,760 in 1940. The Doheny Beach State Park was established after the death of Edward Doheny Jr. in 1931 and the first Laguna Beach Arts Festival took place in 1932. In 1933 the Long Beach Earthquake hit and devastated Orange County real estate. Bower's Museum was opened in Santa Ana in 1936. Great changes took place in Orange County from the time the US entered World War II in 1941 to the end of the 1940's. Two Air bases were built, the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station and the Santa Ana Army Air Base. Colorado River aqueducts provided drinking water to Orange County in 1941. 2,000 Japanese were deported out of Orange County into the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona. In 1943 the El Toro Marine Base opened. The first county public defender's office arrived in 1944 In 1946 school segregation ceased and in 1948 Orange Coast College opened.

In the 1950's and 60's many new cities emerged. The Orange County population increased to 216,224 in 1950 according to the US Census. The California missions were given over to the Catholic Church by the United States in the 1950's and 1960's

Interstate 5 began construction in 1950. Southern California Bible College, currently known as Vanguard University, became the first four year degree school in Orange County in 1950 after moving from Pasadena to Costa Mesa. The Tustin Navy based reopened in 1951 to support US troops in the Korean War. Buena Park and Costa Mesa incorporated in 1953. Garden Grove, Stanton and Dairy City, later named Cypress, incorporated in 1956. In 1957, Westminster and Fountain Valley emerge as cities. Orange County State College, later named California State University Fullerton, opened in 1959 in the same year that the San Diego 405 Freeway was built.

In 1960 the Orange County population increased to 703,925. The City of Los Alamitos established in 1960 and San Juan incorporated the following year Villa Park became a city in 1962. The University of California Irvine began in 1964. La Palma originated from a former area known as Dairlyland in 1965, and a year later Mission Viejo was founded Yorba Linda incorporated in 1967 the same year Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza, the Orange County Airport- named the John Wayne Airport in 1978 after Newport Beach resident John Wayne died, and the 22 Freeway was built the same year.

Municipalities and commerce grew in the 1970's and 1980's in Orange County. In 1970 the Orange County population rose to 1,420,386 according to the US Census. Irvine incorporated in 1971. In the same year Rockwell International constructed a one of a kind building called "Ziggurat" in Laguna Niguel, which in 1974 became the headquarters for numerous federal agencies including the Federal Records Center. The concept for the Irvine Business Spectrum came about in 1975 and 50,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Vietnam War were admitted into Orange County. In 1976 the Orange Freeway 57 was finished and in 1979 the Corona Del Mar Freeway 73 was also completed.

In the 1980's cities grew. New centers for culture and commerce emerged. In 1980 the population in Orange County reached 1,931,570 according to the US Census.

The largest religious structure in the state, the Crystal Cathedral, opened in 1980 and the first nuclear emergency drill was practiced in 1981. A famous writer, Kim Stanley Robinson scribed the first of his series Three Californias Trilogy (or the Orange County Trilogy) titled The Wild Shore in 1984, The Gold Coast in 1988 and Pacific Edge in 1990. The books depicted possible futures for Orange County. The Costa Mesa 55 commuter lane opened in 1985. The Performing Arts Center opened in Costa Mesa in 1986. Dana Point and Laguna Niguel incorporated in 1989.

During the 1990's Orange County experienced a rise in commercial growth and political corruption. In 1990 the population of Orange County reached 2,410,556. Laguna Hills and Lake Forest incorporated in 1991. Orange County filed Chapter 9 Bankruptcy after municipalities gambled the county's money away in the stock market. In 1994 the Richard Nixon Library (Former President of the United States) opened in Yorba Linda in memory of his death. The Irvine Spectrum Center was built in 1995. In the same year Republican Assemblyman Scott Baugh from Huntington Beach was indicted on four felony and eighteen misdemeanor counts related to campaign contribution misrepresentation. The most famous political party voted on by the people of Orange County was "none of the above". In 1998, the "Block," a shopping center, opened in Orange and a public relations specialist was hired for the first time in history to promote District Attorney Tony Rackauckas of Orange County. In 1999, the El Toro and Marine Corps Air Stations both closed, Laguna Woods incorporated, and Highway 261 was completed.

The New Millennium in Orange County was followed by an upswing in California real estate and government budget cuts mandated by the State. In 2000, according to the US Census, Orange County's population rose to 2,846,289. In 2000, the Orange County High School of the Arts located in Santa Ana was founded. Rancho Santa Margarita and Aliso Viejo incorporated the following year. Orange County voters agree to have El Toro Air Base turned into a park in 2002. In 2003 Governor Gray Davis was recalled and American action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger took his place. In 2004 and 2005 Orange County residents packed and moved to Riverside and San Bernardino counties to buy more affordable homes. Now those counties are in a boom and development stage. In 2005, the Visitor’s Bureau of Huntington Beach trademarked the term "Surf City USA.”

 

Added June, 2005

 

About the Author: This history of Orange County, California, was part of an original research project by South California Real Estate Agent John-Robin Middlebrook posted June 11, 2005. Southern California real estate information and experience can be obtained from Realtor John-Robin Middlebrook relating to Los Angeles real estate (Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Long Beach, Lakewood) and Orange County real estate (Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Huntington Harbor, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Irvine, Newport Beach) to buyers, sellers and industry professionals.

 

Sources:

Answers.com – History of California

California Indians Memorial

Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County

Orange County Almanac

Timeline of Orange County

 

 

Also See:

Santa Monica at the End of Route 66

Los Angeles - City of Angels

California (main page)

California Photo Print Galleries

Anaheim, California, 1879

A westward view down Anaheim's Center Street in 1879, one year after the city incorporated. Anaheim is the oldest city in Orange County. Photo courtesy of First American Title Insurance.

 

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