At one time Orange County was the home of Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm…and not much else. Orange groves and dairy farms made up most of Orange County when Disneyland opened to the public in 1955. Within the first three months more than a million people visited Disneyland. While Knotts Berry Farm has a long history here in California, the rest of the world didn’t discover it until 1968 when they began charging admission for the new rides and attractions installed near Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner restaurant.
These days, things are a bit different. Orange groves and dairy farms have been replaced by people, people and more people. Culturally diverse and spread over the 947 square miles that make up Orange County the current population is 221 times the size it was on the county’s founding year of 1889.
Orange County Demographics
- Current Population 3,010,232
- 2010 Census Breakdown:
- White persons 60.8%
- Black persons 1.7%
- American Indian and Alaska Native persons 0.6%
- Asian persons 17.9%
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders 0.3%
- Persons reporting two or more races 4.2%
- Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin 33.7%
Orange County History
So, how did a mainly farming community become the home of so many Californians? In 1857, a group of German immigrants living in San Francisco bought a portion of the Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana to homestead and start a winemaking community. After two years settling the area, the first colonists moved to Anaheim in 1859.
In 1868, large portions of what would become Orange County were placed on the market. From these land purchases grew the towns of Santa Ana, Tustin, Orange, Westminster, and Garden Grove. In 1870, the first commercial vessel entered Newport Bay, which soon became a regular shipping point. The Southern Pacific built the first railroad in the area in 1875.
As early as 1870, local residents tried to break away from Los Angeles and form their own county. The county itself was not created until 1889. Originally, the proposed county line was drawn at the San Gabriel River, but the line was moved south to Coyote Creek to ensure support of the state government in Sacramento. On August 1, 1889 the County of Orange was officially formed and Santa Ana was selected as the county seat.
From 1889 to the early 1950′s Orange County remained a farming community. With the completion of Interstate 5 in 1954, the demographics shifted dramatically. Rather than remaining an agricultural community, Orange County became a bedroom community for the thousands who moved to Southern California to work in aerospace and manufacturing.
Orange County remains one of the most identifiable regions of the country. Through its portrayal on television and movies people all over the country have seen the beaches and more affluent parts of the county. Yet, this is only a small part of Orange County’s story. The real story spans far beyond Laguna Beach and Coto de Caza and encompasses a rich history and tradition that people rarely see on television and in the movies.