Stock Photos of Orange County

A Brief History of Orange County, part 1

For at least 17,000 years, native tribes had lived in harmony with the land but they had never seen a sight like this. In 1769, a small group of Spanish soldiers and monks led by Gaspar de Portola entered present-day Orange County. Worried about Russian and English incursions in the north, Spain settled Alta California with a chain of 21 missions, each a day’s walk apart. Mission San Juan Capistrano — established in 1776 just as the United States was being founded — was the "jewel" of the missions and the connecting "king’s" road, El Camino Real, is today’s main artery of I-5. Following Mexican independence in 1821, the missions were abandoned. Their lands and livestock were parceled out to become large cattle farms called "ranchos."

Hide and tallow were the main exports of the ranchos, tallow being cow fat used as candles. A visiting Boston trader, Richard Henry Dana, wrote so well of the area in 1835 that a "romantic spot" overlooking the mission’s harbor was named for him — Dana Point. California became the 31st state to join the Union in 1850. A drought in the 1860s spelled ruin for the ranchos but opportunity for James Irvine. Rich from a wholesale business in Gold Rush-era San Francisco, Irvine bought 120,000 acres (185 square miles), about one quarter of Orange County. Today’s Irvine Company has designated half the land as permanent public space and still owns much of Irvine, Newport Beach, Tustin, Orange, Laguna Beach and Anaheim.

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Photos and text by Andrew Hudson from his book “A Photo Tour of Orange County.”>
© Photo Tour Books, Inc. 2001–2011. No use permitted without written permission.

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