Map of Southern Orange County (courtesy of Chris Jepsen)

Historian Chris Jepsen will share the story of Al Capone’s attempt to buy the Rancho Santa Margarita — including much of South O.C. and all of today’s Camp Pendleton — at the Thursday, September 14, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. (Note that unlike most OCHS season kick-off meetings, this one will be held in Orange.)

Tales of Chicago gangster “Scarface” Capone’s desire to buy the Rancho Santa Margarita have circulated since 1931 but were dismissed by historians for lack of evidence. But for twelve years, Jepsen gathered evidence from newspapers, real estate brokers’ correspondence, Mission San Juan Capistrano’s archives, family members of those involved, and much more. Taken together, it painted a clear picture of Capone’s effort to buy this huge, unguarded swath of California coast, which would have been perfect for landing shiploads of booze from Canada and Mexico. During his program, Jepsen will tell this tale along with related stories of California rancheros, local bootlegging, and Capone’s face-off with the padres of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Al Capone pulp magazine 1931 pub (courtesy of Chris Jepsen)
OC Sheriff Jernigan destroys contraband liquor, March 31, 1932(courtesy of Chris Jepsen)

Chris Jepsen has been involved in local history work since the 1980s and has been president of OCHS the past twelve years. As an independent historian and “local history evangelist” he has organized tours and seminars, lectured frequently, developed museum exhibits, documented endangered historic sites, organized non-profit groups, and served on the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board. He writes articles for historical journals, his own O.C. History Roundup blog, county publications, and was Orange Coast Magazine’s “O.C. Answer Man” for six years. For the past twenty years, his day job has been serving as the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives. Chris is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, but says his greatest education came from five years of daily mentorship as assistant to California historian Phil Brigandi.

See you on September 14th at 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange!