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Formation of the County

The History of Orange County
by Samuel Armor

The Formation and Development of Orange County

     The state of California was created out of territory ceded to the United States by Mexico in the year 1848. It was admitted into the Union as a free state in 1850 with a population of 92,597. This population was located in a few little cities with a small portion in the mining camps and scattered over the grazing lands adjacent to the water courses. The style of government inherited from Mexico might be characterized as feudal or patriarchal, each city or pueblo and the adjoining territory being governed by an alcalde or other officer appointed by the Mexican government. When the state was formed, each of the principal towns was created into a county; because the towns were far apart and the intervening territory sparsely settled, the areas of the first counties were large and the populations small. As the county was settled and other centers of population were formed, efforts were made from time to time to form new counties by cutting off portions of the old ones; some of these efforts were successful and others failed.

     With the growth of the communities in the southeastern part of Los Angeles County, there sprang up the desire for a smaller county with a county seat nearer home. This feeling grew until finally an appeal was made to the legislature of 1889 for autonomy. The city of Santa Ana, which had outgrown the other cities in the proposed new county, took the land in the struggle for county division. A lobby was maintained in Sacramento all winter at considerable expense, without being able to overcome the influence of Los Angeles against the bill for the new county. This bill was entitled "An Act to Create the County of Orange," the name Orange being selected partly on its own merits and partly to conciliate the city of the name, which also aspired to be county seat. Finally, late in the session, W.H. Spurgeon and James McFadden took up the matter in the legislature with better success. They found some members who were friendly to their project and others who were hostile to Los Angeles. There are sometimes a few members of the legislature who are looking for "Col. Mazuma" to come to the help or hindrance of much desired legislation. Because the rich County of Los Angeles would not distribute a large defense fund among such members, they turned against that county. Then San Francisco has begun to recognize in Los Angeles a possible rival and was glad of the opportunity to deprive her of some of here territory. These various interests and antagonisms were so skillfully handled that the bill was passed by legislature and was signed by Governor Waterman on March 11, 1889.

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