Orange County, California


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Orange County
1889 to 1909


County of Orange is Formed!

Attorney Eugene Edwards of Santa Ana is re-elected to the State Assembly on a separation platform. He introduces a bill to create a new county south of Coyote Creek and allow voters to decide between Santa Ana and Orange as county seat. The name "Orange" is adopted for the proposed new county. OC lobbyists pass a lot of money around Sacramento amounting to as much as $50,000 to get legislative approval. The bill is passed in the Assembly with a 64-6 vote and sent to the state senate. The senate further passes the bill with a 28-8 vote. Governor Robert Waterman signs the bill in March and the matter is left to a vote of residents of the proposed new county. That summer, OC voters, 2,509 to 500, approve formation of the new County of Orange. A second election is held a month later to select either Santa Ana or Orange as county seat and Santa Ana wins with 1,729 votes to 775. Most Anaheim voters boycott the vote because their city was not on the ballot. The first OC Board of Supervisors meets on August 5. Among their first official acts is to reject bills from Los Angeles County totaling $11,375, most of which were for a bridge over the Santa Ana River. Los Angeles County fails to secure payment after three lawsuits and appeals. The OC Medical Association is formed. The Pacific Creamery Company opens as the first evaporated-milk company in California and the first industry in Buena Park. The Fullerton Grammar School is built. Modesta Avila of San Juan Capistrano is convicted and sentenced to three years in San Quentin for attempting to obstruct a train. She is OCís first felony conviction as a new county. She dies in prison after two years. Tom Owens, a farmer, becomes the first male felony conviction. He is convicted of horse theft. After his release, he ends up back in prison for stealing a cow. The highly successful Olive Milling Company flour and feed mill burns down leaving a mountain of stored grain smoldering for days. The first child born in the new County of Orange is a baby boy, Francis A. Edwards, born to William and Ella Edwards of Westminster. Myttle Walls, age 18, of Santa Ana and Frank Benedict, age 27, a Santa Monica constable, are the first couple to wed under the new County of Orange.


The first OC jail is dedicated on Sycamore Street in Santa Ana, the first building constructed by the new county. Its cost was $4,000 and it contained three jail cells. The first Orange County Fair opens. The U.S. Census puts the population of OC at 13,589. Company "L" of the California State Guard is formed in Santa Ana. The Santa Ana Race Track opens. The Olive Milling Company flourmill is rebuilt. French's Opera House opens in Santa Ana.


The first high school in OC opens in Santa Ana. The McFadden's launch the Santa Ana and Newport Railway. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison visits OC. The Santa Ana Gas and Electric Company incorporates as successor to Santa Ana Gas Company and Parker Brothers and Harris Electric Plant.


After being dragged out of the lightly guarded OC Jail in Santa Ana, Francisco Torres is lynched by a mob convinced that he was the killer of popular OC resident and Modjeska Ranch foreman William McKelvy. The lynching is the last to occur in California. Oil is discovered in Brea. James Harvey Irvine (also known as "J.I.") reaches age 25 and gains full control of the inheritance left to him upon his fatherís death in 1886.


The Southern California Fruit Exchange, later renamed Sunkist, is formed in Fullerton. The Trabuco Canyon Forest Reserve (future Cleveland National Forest) is created. The quest by the Irvines to find a suitable drought resistant crop leads to the first experiments with lima beans. Lima beans eventually become a leading crop in OC. An oil-drilling project in Carbon Canyon uncovers a flow of warm mineral water.


San Juan Capistrano opens a permanent train station, connecting South Orange County to Los Angeles. The Irvine Ranch incorporates as the Irvine Company. The Ebell Society is founded in Santa Ana. The OC Anti-Saloon League forms. The Union Oil Company (future Unocal) purchases 1,200 acres of potential oil land in the area later known as the Brea-Olinda Oilfield.


The new OC Jail is completed. The original jail was called "Brunnerís Basement" because it was located in the basement of Joseph Hilbrunnerís Santa Ana jewelry store.


The OC jail opens in Santa Ana. Edward L. Doheny discovers oil in Olinda. The Town of Los Alamitos is established as part of the Los Alamitos Sugar Company sugar beet factory complex. Preservation efforts begin at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. OCís first golf course opens in Peter Canyon. James McFadden acquires the poorly-regard marsh island in Newport bay (later dredged) and constructs Balboa, Lido and Harbor Islands. The first automobile driven in OC is introduced by the visiting Ringling Brothers Circus.


Santa Ana machinist John Leck takes the first automobile built in OC out for a drive. It can do a top speed of 4-5 mph. James Irvine II donates the land for OC Park (future Irvine Park).


The OC State Guard Company L is mobilized for the Spanish American War. The George Key home on the George Key Ranch in Placentia is built as well as the Newland House in Huntington Beach. Both homes continue to exist to through the present.


Fullerton is flooded on New Year's Day. The Santa Ana and Newport Railroad and Wharf are sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad. Edison Electric Company acquires Santa Ana Gas and Electric Company.


There are only three automobiles in OC. The U.S. Census puts the population of OC at 19,696 with 60 percent of residents living on farms. Swedish immigrant Carl Segerstrom, founder of what will become one of OCís wealthiest land-owning families, arrives in OC and enters bean growing. Construction begins on the new OC Courthouse designed by Charles L. Strange of Los Angeles. The courthouse cornerstone dedication celebration experiences a tragedy when balloonist Emil Markeburg falls to his death before 8,000 onlookers. The First Presbyterian Church of Fullerton is built. Only three automobiles are recorded in OC. Schools are closed due to a diphtheria outbreak. The OC Medical Association counts 12 physicians in its membership.


The OC Courthouse opens. Henry Huntington of the conducts a personal survey of the La Habra Valley in anticipation of opening up a Pacific Electric Railway Red Car line from Los Angeles to La Habra and Yorba Linda via Slauson. A sensational alleged 21-foot "giant sea serpent" washes ashore at Newport. The "monster" turns out to be a rarely observed Oarfish. The Santa Ana Tin Mine opens in Trabuco Canyon. Philip Stanton founds Pacific City (future Huntington Beach). A group of 10 attorneys meet at the newly opened OC Courthouse to form the OC Bar Association.


Santa Ana Valley Hospital opens, the first hospital in OC. The Santa Ana and Newport Railway ceases operations. Mormon missionaries arrive in Santa Ana from Los Angeles. The Bradford House is built by rancher Albert Sumner Bradford in Placentia.


A male grizzly bear is the last of its kind shot and killed in OC. Another Santa Ana Mountains grizzly, a female named Little Black Bear, continued to survive, but, in 1908, encountered on the San Diego County side of the county line, she too is shot and killed. Philip Stanton founds Bay City (future Seal Beach).


The Pacific Electric Railway (Red Cars) enters OC at Seal Beach then connects to Huntington Beach. Fullerton, with a population of 1,719, incorporates as a city. Huntington Beach holds its first Independence Day parade. Fullerton Hospital opens.


The Pacific Electric Railway (Red Cars) reaches Newport Beach.


The Santa Ana Daily Register (future OC Register) newspaper is founded in Santa Ana. The Pacific Electric Railway (Red Cars) reaches Santa Ana. The Balboa Pavilion built. Orange builds a high school (future Chapman College). Helena Modjeska sells her estate in Santiago Canyon. Contractor George Washington Smith and his crew are laying pipe near Old County Park Road when a worker uncovers a box containing $5,020 in gold coins, none of which were dated later than 1856.


Newport Beach, with a population of 445, incorporates as a city. The $15,000 Balboa Pavilion is completed. Newport annexes Balboa. The Balboa ferry begins operating. Pacific Electric Railway Red Cars begins service to the Balboa Peninsula and Pavilion and La Habra. J.P Baumgartner purchases the Santa Ana Daily Register (future OC Register) newspaper. Fearing rumors of leprosy in Chinatown, the Chinese community in Santa Ana is deliberately burned down as a precaution. Chinese residents, however, are allowed to continue to reside in the city. "Doc" Roberts open the "Electric Theatre," the first movie theater on Fourth Street in Santa Ana. The OC State Guard unit, Company "L" is deployed to San Francisco in response to the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Methodist Auditorium opens in Huntington Beach. The first EI Camino Real bells are installed in OC.


The Newbert Protection District is formed to re-channel the Santa Ana River. West Newport canals are dredged to create Newport Island. Italian gondolier John Scarpa begins taking visitors on across Newport Bay in a gondola decorated with Japanese lanterns.


The Plaza, the first shopping mall in OC, located at the intersection of Chapman and Glassell, becomes a symbolic center for the county. Italian gondolier John Scarpa begins a tradition when he stages the first illuminated night boat parade through Newport Bay. New oil discoveries are made in Randolph (future Brea). Little Black Bear, the last surviving wild grizzly bear from the Santa Ana Mountains, is shot and killed in San Diego County, just south of the OC-San Diego county line in Trabuco Canyon. Little Black Bear was the last surviving wild grizzly in Southern California and the only grizzly from the Santa Ana Mountains ever photographed. Her remains Ė a hide - are kept at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt designates the Trabuco Canyon Reserve as a national forest and renames it Cleveland National Forest in honor of former President Grover Cleveland.


Glenn Martin builds and flies the first airplane in OC. The aircraft, the first built in California, is constructed in an empty Santa Ana church and flown over McFaddenís pasture for 12 seconds at an altitude of 8 feet. Huntington Beach, with a population of 915, incorporates as a city. Famed actress Madame Helena Modjeska dies at her home on Bay Island. Lima beans are grown on 17,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch.



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