Orange County Formed in 1889
Just as the Gold Rush had populated central California, so the boom brought people to Southern California, and thereby reduced the wide discrepancy between the two regions. The boom caused Los Angeles to jump from 12,000 to 100,000 people between 1866 and 1884. Other cities also expanded rapidly. The boom led to the creation of Orange as a separate county in 1889.
A large number of towns were laid out along the railroad lines during the boom. Many of them survived, but most of the new Orange County remained rural, and agriculture was still the dominant activity. The expansion of diversified farming and citrus-growing was greatly aided by the development or irrigation during the 1880s.
Some of those who did so were attracted by the promotional work of the Bixbys. This family (which included the Flints) were sheepmen from Maine. Originally settling in the central part of the state, they were once part owners of the Irvine Ranch.
John Bixby leased the Los Alamitos ranch for sheep-raising in 1878 and purchased it in 1881. In 1888, this famed rancho was divided three ways. The boom of the 1880s had increased land values in Orange County so it was no longer profitable to graze sheep on much of the land.
In addition, sheep-raising had slowly declined in California since its peak in the 1870s. Then too, the Bixbys undoubtedly observed the success of the Robinson Trust in selling small acreage pots to prospective farmers. Therefore, they and others began to subdivide their sheep pastures, and Cypress was influenced by their action. However, much land in Orange County remains to this day in the hands of the descendants of the Bixbys.
The early pioneers in Cypress suffered the same kind of hardships endured by those who first plowed the land elsewhere in the United States. One woman recalled that in the 1890s, one could see for miles, as "There was nothing to break the view. Only two clumps of trees could be seen in the whole country. On rainy nights, when there was a lull in the storm, you could hear the combers breaking on the shore at Seal Beach so plain that I have run out in the backyard, I was so sure they must be on our land."
One of the most distressing things was the sand or dust storms that swirled everywhere when the Santa Ana winds blew. The sand could literally find its way through the walls of the house and covered everything. Some early settlers even told of shoveling it out. A pioneer wife tells of rigging "a sheet around the head of our bed and the kitchen table to try to keep it out of the bed and food."
Man and beast were made most uncomfortable in the sandstorms. Sand drifts often blocked the roads, and the wagons would become so mired that they had to be unloaded before they could be extricated. As bad as the dust was, the roads became a quagmire in the rainy season, bringing virtually all traffic to a standstill. Even under the best of circumstances, the roads were very poor, including the vital one from Cypress to Anaheim.
One pioneer described it as "just a couple of ruts zig zagging this way and that way, not straight like it is now. At some seasons of the year, the sunflowers grew so tall and close to the road they would touch your hat when driving by. It was a half day's drive to Anaheim, and a full day to Santa Ana and back."
The preceding history is from the News-Enterprise Archives, written by Eileen Wheeler and Dr. Warren Beck. It is reprinted here with permission.