A Piece of U.S. History: Orange County, CA

Orange County, California is deeply rooted in history. It is fascinating to learn about how Orange County grew from a few hundred to the millions of people that are living there today.


Early Days

The Gabrielios, a Native American tribe, was Orange County’s first known inhabitant and were given this name by the Spaniards. From there Juan Pablo Grijalva was the first landholder. He was a Spanish soldier who arrived in California from early expeditions out of Mexico. In 1801 the Spanish colonial government gave him permission to build a ranch. His ranch continued growing until his family holdings extended from Riverside to the ocean.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded California to the U.S. His rancho was validated almost a decade later. Grijalva’s entire family continued living there, including his extended family. Although there were changes coming.

Leonard Cota was an extended family member living on the rancho. He borrowed money, using his rancho house as collateral on the loan. He defaulted on the loan in 1866 and a lawsuit was filed by Abel Stearns in Los Angeles Superior Court to get Corta’s land. For two years it was attempted to sort out each family member’s section of land and 1,000 units got parceled to Corta and family members.

Andrew Glassell and Alfred Chapman were two lawyers preceding over this case. they had been in the process already of expanding their investment in purchasing rancho land and received payments for the services they provided with parcels of land. They owned around 5,400 acres in total. It would become downtown Orange later. As the town kept growing, the farming did as well. Farmers tried to grow different kinds of crops, but none of them were succeeding as they were expected. Grains did pretty well and some tropical fruits. They were unsuccessful and then orange became a very popular crop to grow.


Railways were starting to make their way into Orange. The railways competing with each other resulted in the fares dropping to very low prices. The drop in prices brought thousands of new visitors in, and many of them purchased land and stayed in the area. This rapid expansion brought in more businesses, like newspapers and hotels. Gas streetlights got installed downtown, sidewalks got put in, libraries were built. Beautification of the community and town was a process that involved adding on a city park with a foundation.

Increased incorporation led to the City of Orange needing to elect a mayor. The first mayor was William Bladsale. The early incorporation of the city was for preventing saloons from getting built. The dislike of saloons led to the initial ordinance being against all intoxication beverages.

The major increase of incorporation came to the end in the 1880’s. The farmers in the local continued with orange tree crops and worked on other crops while the trees were maturing. Even with natural disasters, like floods and record freezing temperatures, the crops of the city was flourishing. Orange County produced $12 million of oranges. More natural disasters and the Great Depression affected Orange County but made a comeback.

Modern Era

World War II was an important part of the modern era. Many servicemen got shipped to California to be trained. After returning from the war, many servicemen came back to live in Orange County with their families. A second period of rapid growth within the economy and population was seen. By 2005 Orange County’s population was more than 138,000 after almost doubling from 1950 onward.

George Weimer, the former Mayor, worked to keep the city at a manageable size in terms of both incorporations and the population. He wanted to ensure that he could keep the tax base for his city and jobs for the residents. Economic growth with new services and businesses were purposely planned. Over time Orange County continued expanding and to keep a strong business base and build attractive neighborhoods. It was a big town, with small town values.


Orange County, in Southern California, is one of the smallest counties. Bordered by the Pacific on the southwest, Los Angeles County in the north, Riverside County and San Bernardino County border the northeast, and in the southeast San Diego County, making Orange County seem even smaller.

Temperature and Climate

Orange County maintains a very comfortable yearly 68-degree temperature. It is well-known for maintaining comfortable temperatures all year long. During the summer months, highs may reach into the 100s, while in December there are record lows down to 29 degrees. In Orange County, the rainy months are usually November through March. The peak period of rain is in January.

In Orange County, micro-climates are quite common. That is where temperatures may vary by as much as 18 degrees between the coast and inland. This also leads to overcast and foggy skies in the morning and by noon sunny skies.


The Orange County economy over the last several decades has grown and continues to evolve. The top employers in the county include Chapman University, Orange County Transportation Authority, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Sisters of St. Joseph Hospital, Irvine Medical VCenter, and the University of California, Irvine. Unemployment rates are lower than the national average with a steadily increasing job market. Although it has higher tax rates compared to the national average, it helps to keep the county’s economy growing. The average income for median household income is about $81,837 with an 11% poverty rate, and there are about 1.59 million employees within Orange County. Employee rates and household income continues to grow throughout the county.


Orange County, was a population of more than 3 million contains several different races. Approximately 56% of individuals are white, Latino or Hispanic rates 33.7%, 20% Asian, 14.5% other races, 4.2% are mixed with two races or more, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 0.6% Native American, and 1.8% African American. This was according to the U.S. Census Report in 2010. Although Orange County’s dominant race is white, over the years the Asian race has continued to increase considerably. All of the races are fairly similar ranges with California state statistics.