OCHS History header
An Orange County Chronology
1769 Gaspar de Portolá leads first Spanish overland expedition into Orange County.
1776 Mission San Juan Capistrano is founded. It was moved to its current site two years later.
1784 Manuel Nieto is given grazing rights between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers, the first rancho in Orange County.
1801 Juan Pablo Grijalva establishes a rancho south and east of the Santa Ana River. It was later granted to his heirs, the Yorba and Peralta families, as the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.
1806 Great Stone Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano is dedicated after nine years of construction. It was destroyed by an earthquake six years later.
1818 Argentine pirate Hipólito Bouchard raids San Juan Capistrano.
1821 Mexico breaks away from the Spanish Empire, taking California with it.
1834 The secularization of the missions opens vast areas to be granted as private ranchos.
1837 Rancho San Joaquin, later part of the Irvine Ranch, is granted to José Sepulveda.
1845 Juan Forster is granted the Rancho Mission Viejo.
1846 War breaks out between the United States and Mexico. California is captured, and ceded to the United States by treaty two years later.
1850 California becomes a state. Los Angeles County is formed. It included what is now Orange County.
1857 Anaheim is founded as a wine growing community. The first settlers arrived two years later, after the first grapevines were planted.
1863-64 Two-year drought devastates the local cattle industry.
1864 Anaheim Landing is established on Alamitos Bay. It is moved to Anaheim Bay three years later.
1864 James Irvine and his partners buy two old Mexican ranchos and a part of third for a sheep ranch. Irvine buys out his partners in 1876, giving him some 110,000 acres.
1868 The Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana is partitioned. The Stearns Ranchos, west of the Santa Ana River, are placed on the market, opening that area to settlement.
1870 Santa Ana is founded by William Spurgeon. Tustin is founded by Columbus Tustin. Westminster is founded by Rev. Lemuel P. Webber. The first attempt is made to create Orange County. The first English walnut trees are planted. The Anaheim Gazette, the first local newspaper, is founded. Newport Bay becomes a shipping point.
1871 Orange is founded by Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell.
1875 The Southern Pacific extends their railroad from Los Angeles down to Anaheim. The rails reached Santa Ana two years later.
1878 Mining boom in the Silverado area.
1882 The first successful oil well in the area is drilled near junction of Brea Canyon and Tonner Canyon.
1886-87 A mysterious grape disease devastates the local wine and raisin industry.
1887 The Santa Fe Railroad arrives, breaking the monopoly of the Southern Pacific. A real estate boom follows. Fullerton is founded by the Amerige brothers. Buena Park is founded by James Whitaker.
1888 The Newport Beach wharf is built by the McFadden brothers. Shakespearean actress Helena Modjeska builds home in upper Santiago Canyon.
1889 Orange County is formed out of the southern portion of Los Angeles County. Santa Ana is selected as the county seat.
1890 First Orange County Fair held.
1891 Santa Ana & Newport Railway begins service. The first commercial celery crop is raised in Orange County.
1893 The Southern California Fruit Exchange (Sunkist) is formed. The first co-operative packing houses are organized. Trabuco Canyon Forest Reserve is created (becomes part of Cleveland National Forest in 1908).
1896 The first sugar beet factory in Orange County is built at Los Alamitos.
1897 James Irvine donates Irvine Park to the county.
1901 Huntington Beach is founded. Originally known as Pacific City, it was renamed two years later after it was acquired by a group of investors led by Henry Huntington. The new Orange County Courthouse opens for business.
1904 Pacific Electric “Big Red Cars” first reach Orange County. Three rail lines are eventually—built down the coast to Balboa, through the center of the county to Santa Ana, and across the northern end of the county to Yorba Linda.
1905 Cypress and Stanton are founded along new Pacific Electric line.
1910 Glenn L. Martin of Santa Ana builds and flies his own airplane. Santa Ana Co-Operative Sugar Co. plant built at Delhi.
1911 City of Stanton incorporates to block Anaheim’s plans for a sewer farm in the area. Dis-incorporates 13 years later.
1913 Fullerton Junior College opens. The first Fuerte avocado orchard is planted in Yorba Linda.
1914 The Orange County Hospital and Poor Farm opens.
1916 The Joy Zone amusement park opens in Seal Beach.
1917-18 Some 1,600 local residents serve in the armed forces during World War I.
1919 Oil discovered on Chapman Ranch in Placentia. The Orange County Free Public Library is established. Orange County Historical Society formed.
1920 The first oil well comes in at Huntington Beach. Walter Knott moves to Buena Park to go into the berry business with his cousin, Jim Preston.
1922 First commercial radio station (KFAW) established in Santa Ana.
1925 San Clemente is founded by Ole Hanson.
1926 The Coast Highway opens.
1927 Orange County Flood Control District formed.
1929 Santiago Orange Growers Association in Orange is the largest Valencia packing house in the nation. St. Joseph Hospital opens.
1931 The Santiago Dam is built, creating Irvine Lake.
1932 First Festival of the Arts held in Laguna Beach; Pageant of the Masters added for second season.
1933 The Long Beach earthquake causes serious damage and loss of life in Orange County.
1934 Ortega Highway opens.
1936 Newport Harbor dedicated following extensive dredging program. San Juan Hot Springs closed.
1938 Major flooding sweeps across Southern California.
1941 The Orange County Airport opens at its current location. Prado Dam completed.
1942 The Santa Ana Army Air Base and Los Alamitos Naval Air Station are established.
1943 El Toro Marine Corps base and lighter-than-air blimp base in Tustin are established.
1947 The case of Mendez v Westminster ends school segregation in California.
1948 Orange Coast College opens on the site of the former Santa Ana Army Air Base.
1950 Pacific Electric (Red Car) passenger service ends in Orange County.
1951 The Municipal Water District of Orange County is formed.
1953 The third national Boy Scout Jamboree is held on the Irvine Ranch.
1954 Chapman College moves down to Orange from Los Angeles. Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch opens on Irvine Ranch.
1955 Disneyland opens.
1958 Hughes Aircraft, Orange County’s first major aerospace plant, opens in Fullerton. The Santa Ana (I-5) freeway is completed through Orange County.
1959 Classes begin at Orange County State College (now California State University, Fullerton).
1961 Rossmoor Leisure World at Seal Beach opens.
1963 Orange County’s population tops 1,000,000.
1964 Laguna Hills Leisure World opens (now the City of Laguna Woods). St. Joseph Hospital completes its expansion to 290 beds along with Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
1965 The University of California, Irvine opens for classes.
1966 Anaheim stadium opens.
1967 South Coast Plaza opens. Last commercial walnut groves torn out.
1968 Yorba Linda native Richard M. Nixon is elected President of the United States.
1969 Major flooding in the Santa Ana Mountains and downstream areas.
1970 University of California, Irvine takes over Orange County Hospital.
1971 The first portion of Dana Point Harbor opens.
1975 With the fall of Saigon, thousands of Vietnamese refugees arrive in Southern California. Many later settle in Westminster and Garden Grove.
1977 Irvine Ranch sold for $337 million.
1978 Villa Park Orchards Association packs its last crop of oranges.
1980 The Crystal Cathedral is completed.
1981 Orange County’s population reaches 2,000,000.
1986 The Orange County Performing Arts Center opens. Rancho Santa Margarita is founded.
1993 The first stretch of the Foothill (241) toll road opens.
1994 Orange County files for Chapter 9 bankruptcy after a $1.5 billion investment pool loss. The county emerges from bankruptcy 18 months later, but it will be years until the debt is paid.
1997 The Knott family sells Knott’s Berry Farm to Cedar Fair LP of Ohio.
1999 The El Toro Marine Corps Naval Air Station is closed. After a long public debate and several elections, part of the area is set aside to form the “Great Park.” The rest will be developed.
2001 Disney’s California Adventure opens.
2002 The Anaheim Angels win the World Series.
2005 Auction of former Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro closes, and construction of the Orange County Great Park begins on this site.
2006 Villa Park Orchards Association closes, Orange County’s last citrus packing house.
2007 The Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup.
2008 National mortgage crisis sends local home prices plummeting.
2010 Federal census sets county population at more than three million.
2012 Following the bankruptcy of Crystal Cathedral Ministries in 2010, Crystal Cathedral is sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange which announces the church will be renamed Christ Cathedral.
2013 Children's Hospital of Orange (CHOC) triples in size with the construction of a seven-story tower.