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Laguna Beach, CA
ca. 1940's

Members of the Tongva and Juaneño/Luiseño nations long inhabited the area. After the 1769 expedition of Gaspar de Portolà, a Spanish expedition led by Junipero Serra named the area Vallejo de Santa Ana (Valley of Saint Anne). On November 1, 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano became the first permanent European settlement.

A severe drought in the 1860s devastated the prevailing industry, cattle ranching, and much land came into the possession of Richard O'Neill, Sr., James Irvine and other land barons. In 1887, silver was discovered in the Santa Ana mountains, attracting settlers via the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads. This growth led the California legislature to divide Los Angeles County and create Orange County as a separate political entity on March 11, 1889. It was named for its most famous product, but other citrus crops, avocados, and oil extraction were also important to the early economy.

Orange County benefited from the July 4, 1904 completion of the Pacific Electric Railway, a trolley connecting Los Angeles with Newport Beach and Santa Ana. The link made Orange County an accessible weekend retreat for celebrities of early Hollywood. It was deemed so significant that the city of Pacific City changed its name to Huntington Beach in honor of Henry Huntington, president of the Pacific Electric and nephew of robber baron Collis Huntington. Transportation further improved with the completion of the State Route and U.S. Route 101 (now mostly Interstate 5) in the 1920s.

Agriculture, such as the boysenberry which was made famous by Buena Park native Walter Knott, began to decline after World War II but the county's prosperity soared. The completion of Interstate 5 in 1954 helped make Orange County a bedroom community for many who moved to Southern California to work in aerospace and manufacturing. Orange County received a further boost in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland.

In 1969, Yorba Linda-born Orange County native Richard Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

In the 1980s, the population topped two million for the first time. Orange County had become the second largest county in California.





Neighboring Counties
Los Angeles Co., CA
- Riverside Co., CA - San Bernardino Co., CA
San Diego Co., CA


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