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Orange County, California



Men and women of vision carved cities from Orange County's beaches, ranchos and farmland.

The county's earliest settlement, Mission San Juan Capistrano, was founded in 1776. The mission eventually added commerce, trading locally prepared hides and tallow for books, furniture and other supplies from the East Coast.

The entrepreneurs who followed saw riches in Orange County's good soil, wide expanses of range and pristine beaches. Settlers and farmers built homes, churches and schools - the foundation of 27 cities to come.

The first cities - Anaheim, Santa Ana and Orange, incorporated between 1876 and 1888.

W.H. Spurgeon investigated the area, bought 74 acres and laid out what would become the town center of Santa Ana, selling downtown lots to investors for $15 each in 1870.

Two lawyers, Alfred Beck Chapman and Andrew Glassell, took 1,385 acres of land in lieu of a legal fee and turned it into a town originally called Richland, then renamed Orange. The town soon became a fruit packing and shipping center.

George Hansen, representing a group of German settlers, bought the land along the Santa Ana River that was to become Anaheim. Hansen planted 400,000 grape vines, turning the area into a major wine and brandy producer. A century later, Anaheim would become known as the home of Disneyland and Mickey Mouse.

The rich soil in northern and central Orange County produced barley wheat, grapes, walnuts, oranges and lemons. Dairy farms prospered in what would become Cypress and La Palma.

To the south, Dana Point and Newport Beach became busy harbors. Cattle and sheep roamed the wide-open ranchos of inland south county.

In the early 1900s, Huntington Beach landowners discovered oil, and films stars discovered Laguna Beach, first as a film locale and then as a convenient getaway.

The real boom in Orange County population followed World War II. After the war, farmland was replaced by houses in the county's northern, central and western areas, giving rise to the cities of Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa and Los Alamitos.

The Growth eventually spread south, transforming still-rugged ranch land and productive farmland into housing tracts in the late 1960s. Now, the county's newest cities are forming in the maturing communities of the south county.

To learn more about each individual city's history, please visit our city pages by clicking on the map to the right.

Go To Interactive Orange County City Map



County of Orange
Official Government

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