All about Orange County

A Piece of United States History: Orange County California

Orange County California is thickly rooted into history. Understanding how Orange County grew from several 100 to the millions that live there today is fascinating.


Early Days

The Native American tribe, Gabrielios, were the first known inhabitants of Orange County and were named by the Spaniards. From there the first land holder was Juan Pablo Grijalva. Juan Pablo was a Spanish soldier who came with the early expeditions from Mexico to California. With permission from the Spanish colonial government he built a ranch in 1801. The rancho continued to grow until the family holdings extended to the ocean from Riverside.

It was in 1848 that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California to the United States. Nearly a decade later the rancho was validated. The entire family continued to live there, including any extended family. Though there were sure to be some changes coming.

An extended family member that lived on the rancho, Leonard Cota, borrowed money and used his home on the rancho as collateral. In 1866 he defaulted on his loan and Abel Stearns filed a lawsuit in the Los Angels Superior Court so that he could get Corta’s section of land. Two years of trying to sort out every family member’s partition of land and 1,000 units were parceled to family members and Corta.

Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell were the two lawyers who preceded over the case. They had already been in the process of expanding their investment in buying rancho land and then received payment for their services with parcels of land. In all they owned about 5,400 acres. This would later become downtown Orange. As the town continued to grow, so did farming. Farmers tried many different types of crops, but none were succeeding as expected. Grains did fairly well and then tropical fruits made a show. These were unsuccessful and oranges became a popular crop.


Railways were beginning to make its way into Orange. As the railways competed between each other the fares were dropped to extremely low prices. The price drop brought thousands of visitors and many bought lands and stayed. The rapid expansion brought more businesses, such as hotels and even newspapers. Libraries were built, sidewalks were put in, and gas streetlights were installed downtown. Beautification of the town and community was in process with adding a city park that included a fountain.

The increase in incorporation’s led to the need for the City of Orange to elect a mayor, William Blasdale. People have discussed that the early incorporation of the town was to keep saloons from being built. This dislike to saloons led to the first ordinance being against any intoxication beverages.

The major increase in incorporation ended in the 1880’s. Local farmers were continuing their orange tree crops and were working on other crops as the trees matured. Even with some natural disasters, such as record freezing temperatures and floods, the city’s crops were flourishing. Orange County was able to produce $12 million in oranges. The Great Depression, along with more natural disasters did affect Orange County, but they were able to make a comeback from it.

Modern Era

The modern era is not complete without World War II. Many servicemen were shipped into California for training. When they returned from the war, servicemen brought their families to live in Orange County. A second rapid growth in the population and economy was seen again. By 2005 the population was well over 138,000 after nearly doubling from 1950 on.

The former Mayor, George Weimer, worked to keep the city to a manageable size both in population and incorporation’s. He wanted to make sure that he was able to keep jobs for the citizens and a tax base for the city. Growth in the economy with new businesses and services were purposely planned. Orange County continued to expand building attractive neighborhood and keeping a strong business base. It was a large town, with small town values.


In Southern California, Orange County is one of the smallest towns. Bordered on the southwest by the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles County to the north, San Bernardino and Riverside County border to the northeast, and then San Diego County border the southeast; makes Orange County appear even smaller in retrospect.


Orange County keeps a very comfortable annual temperature of 68 degrees. They are well known for keeping year-round comfortable temperatures. Highs can reach the 100s in the summer months, while in December they have had record lows of 29 degrees. The rainy months for Orange Country are generally November through March, with the peak of the rain being in January.

Micro-Climates are common to Orange County. This is where temperatures can vary up to 18 degrees between inland and the coast. IT also leads to foggy or overcast skies in the morning and sunny skies by noon.


Over the past several decades Orange County economy has grown and evolved. The top employers in the city include the University of California, Irvine Medical VCenter, Sisters of St. Joseph Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Orange County Transportation Authority, and Chapman University. Unemployment rates are below the national average and the job market has a steady increase. Though the tax rates are higher than the national average, it is what helps keep the economy growing. Average income is approximately $81,837 for the medium household income. With a poverty rate of 11%, there are approximately 1.59 million employees in Orange County. Household income and employee rates continue to grow for the county.


With a population over 3 million, Orange County contains several different racial makeups. Approximately 56% of people are white, 1.8% are African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 20% Asian, 14.5% are other races, and 4.2% are mixed with two or more races. Hispanic or Latino descent of any races was about 33.7%. This was according to the 2010 United States Census report. Though white is the dominant race in Orange County, the Asian race has increased considerably over the years. All the races are within similar ranges to the state of California statistics.