An Orange County Chronology (with links)
1542 - Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo leads first Spanish ships to exploring coast of Alta California.
1602 - Sebastian Vizcaíno leads the first Spanish expedition to map the California coast, seemingly naming the Dana Point headlands Punta de Arboleda (Wooded Point).
1769 - Gaspar de Portolá leads the first Spanish overland expedition through what is now Orange County. First baptisms in California conducted by the padres in Cristianitos Canyon.
1775 - First attempt to found Mission San Juan Capistrano; quickly abandoned after an Indian attack on Mission San Diego.
1776 - Mission San Juan Capistrano founded in San Juan Canyon by Father Junípero Serra. Moved to its current location two years later.
1784 - Manuel Nieto given grazing rights between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers, the first rancho in Orange County.
ca 1800 - Juan Pablo Grijalva establishes a rancho south and east of the Santa Ana River. In 1810 it was granted to his heirs, the Yorba and Peralta families, as the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.
1806 - The 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 privateer Hipólito Bouchard raids San Juan Capistrano.
1821 - Mexico breaks away from the Spanish Empire, taking California with it.
1833-34 - The secularization of the missions opens vast areas to be granted as private ranchos.
1834-46 - Nineteen Mexican ranchos granted in what is now Orange County.
1841 - San Juan Capistrano given pueblo status.
1845 - Juan Forster and James McKinley purchase ex-Mission San Juan Capistrano at a government auction for $710. The buildings were returned to the Catholic Church in 1865.
1846 - War breaks out between the United States and Mexico. California is captured, and ceded to the United States by treaty two years later.
1848 - Discovery of gold in Northern California opens a new market for cattle for local rancheros.
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 had been planted.
1863-64 - Two-year drought devastates the local cattle industry.
1864 - Anaheim Landing is established on Alamitos Bay. It was moved to Anaheim Bay three years later.
1864 - James Irvine and his partners begin buying up old Mexican ranchos for sheep ranching. Irvine buys out his partners in 1876, giving him some 108,000 acres.
1868 - The Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana is partitioned and the Stearns Ranchos are placed on the market, opening the area on both sides of the Santa Ana River to settlement.
1870 - Westminster is founded by Rev. Lemuel P. Webber. City of Anaheim incorporated. The Anaheim Gazette, the first local newspaper, is founded. Newport Bay becomes a shipping point. The first attempt is made to create “Anaheim County” (the name Orange County was first proposed in 1872).
1871 - Tustin is founded by Columbus Tustin. 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. First commercial planting of Valencia oranges.
1878 - Mining boom in the Silverado Canyon 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.
1888 - The Newport Beach wharf is built by the McFadden brothers. Shakespearean actress Helena Modjeska builds a vacation 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 harvested 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 the Cleveland National Forest in 1908).
1896 - The first sugar beet factory in Orange County is built at Los Alamitos; four more will follow in Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Huntington Beach.
1897 - James Irvine donates Irvine Park to the county. Oil strike at Olinda.
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.
1908 - “Little Black Bear” killed above Holy Jim Canyon – last confirmed wild grizzly bear killed in California.
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 a decade 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 men and women 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.
1923 - Real estate investors lay out a number of “colonia” tracts around the county to serve the growing Mexican immigrant population.
1924 - Toastmasters International founded in Santa Ana by Dr. Ralph Smedley.
1925 - San Clemente founded by Ole Hanson.
1926 - Coast Highway dedicated, though paving was not completed all along the Orange County coast until 1929.
1927 - Orange County Flood Control District formed.
1928 - First Pacific Coast Surfing Championship held in Corona del Mar.
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 the second season.
1933 - The Long Beach earthquake causes serious damage and loss of life in Orange County. Ortega Highway dedicated.
1936 - Newport Harbor dedicated following extensive dredging program. San Juan Hot Springs closed. Major citrus strike sweeps Orange County.
1938 - Devastating floods sweep across Southern California, taking many lives in Orange County.
1939 - Hurricane hits Orange County, damaging piers and buildings all along the coast.
1941 - Knott’s Berry Farm Ghost Town opens. The Orange County Airport opens at its current location. Prado Dam completed.
1943 - El Toro Marine Corps base and lighter-than-air blimp base in Tustin established. Case of Doss v Bernal overturns race-based housing discrimination in Fullerton.
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. O’Neill Park donated to county.
1950 - Pacific Electric (Red Car) passenger service ends in Orange County.
1951 - The Municipal Water District of Orange County is formed.
1952 - Hoag Memorial Presbyterian Hospital dedicated.
1954 - Chapman College moves down to Orange from Los Angeles. Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch opens on Irvine Ranch.
1955 - Disneyland opens to the public July 18th.
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). 7,100 acres of the Moulton Ranch sold for development – first “master planned” community in Orange County.
1961 - Rossmoor Leisure World at Seal Beach opens.
1963 - Orange County’s recognizes its one millionth resident.
1964 - Laguna Hills Leisure World opens (now the City of Laguna Woods).
1965 - The University of California, Irvine opens for classes. Pastor Chuck Smith founds Calvary Chapel.
1966 - Anaheim stadium opens, bringing major league baseball to Orange County.
1967 - South Coast Plaza opens. Last commercial walnut groves torn out.
1968 - Yorba Linda native Richard M. Nixon elected President of the United States. Resigns in 1974.
1969 - Major flooding in the Santa Ana Mountains and downstream areas. New Orange County Courthouse dedicated.
1970 - University of California, Irvine takes over Orange County Hospital.
1971 - After five years of construction, the first portion of Dana Point Harbor opens.
1972 - KOCE, Orange County’s first television station, goes on the air.
1975 - With the fall of Saigon, thousands of Vietnamese refugees arrive in Southern California. Many soon settle in Westminster and Garden Grove.
1977 - The Irvine Company sold for $337 million.
1979 - The Irvine Company sells Crystal Cove to the state to become a state park.
1980 - The Crystal Cathedral is dedicated by the Rev. Robert Schuller. 1980 Saddleback Church founded by Pastor Rick Warren.
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 completed. Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim 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.
1996 - The Irvine Company places 20,000+ acres in a nature conservancy; the land is deeded to the County of Orange in 2010.
1999 - The El Toro Marine Corps Naval Air Station is closed. After a long public debate and several public votes, part of the area is eventually set aside to form the “Great Park.” The remainder will be developed over the coming years.
2001 - Disney’s California Adventure opens.
2002 - The Angels win their first World Series title.
2008 - National mortgage crisis sends local home prices plummeting. Sheriff Mike Corona resigns.
2010 - Federal census sets county population at more than three million.
2012 - Crystal Cathedral sold to the Catholic Diocese of Orange to become Christ Cathedral.