Transforming the Irvine Ranch

Irvine, 1960s Photo courtesy O C Archives

Author and former Irvine Co. executive Mike Stockstill will share the history of the Irvine Ranch at the February 9, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Michael Stockstill’s presentation is based on the book he co-authored, Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson, and the Big Plan (2022). He’ll tell the story of Irvine Ranch’s transformation from an agricultural empire into the most successful New Town in the U.S. Along the way, the colorful and tragic history of the Irvine family, especially Joan Irvine Smith, will be featured, along with key insights based on the writings and oral history of Ray Watson and a look at the man who created the first master plans for Irvine and UC Irvine, William Pereira.

Michael Stockstill is a native Californian who moved to Orange County in 1972 where he worked for newspapers and magazines before joining the Irvine Co. in 1978. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1971 with a degree in journalism. After leaving the Irvine Company in 1991 he worked in a variety of public affairs positions before retiring in 2010. He lives with his wife Colleen Clark in Irvine.




Mission Viejo aerial view, circa 1988

Robert David Breton will speak on the history of Mission Viejo at the January 12, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. The public is welcome!


Mission Viejo, CA logo

Former Mission Viejo Mayor and Mission Viejo Heritage Committee member Robert Breton will share the history of the master-planned community he calls home. He will focus on the early rancho days, the formation of the Mission Viejo Company, its purchase of the land from the O’Neill family, the master planning process, and the city’s incorporation and growth.

Lake Mission Viejo, ca 1988

Robert and his family moved to Mission Viejo in 1976. He has served as a member of Mission Viejo’s City Council, Planning Commission, Municipal Advisory Council, Community Services District, Community Services Commission, Friends of the Library, and many other local task forces and boards. As mayor of Mission Viejo, Breton formed the City’s Heritage Committee and assisted Doris Walker in writing its first history book, Mission Viejo: The Ageless Land. He is currently at work on a new history of Mission Viejo, to be published soon.

Company L at the Mexican Border & During WWI

A few members of Company L. circa 1917. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

Santa Ana’s historic National Guard unit, Company L, and their service at the Mexican border and during WWI will be the subject of Richard Hartman’s presentation at the Dec. 8, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. The public is welcome.Company L of California’s 7th Infantry was called to active duty in June of 1916, along with the entire National Guard in the United States, to assist the Regular Army, guarding the US southern border.  It was a time of many changes to the National Guard, when it developed into the force we know today.  Nelson Holderman began 1916 as a Sergeant in Company L and by the end of the year he commanded the Company as a Captain.  He would go on to receive the Medal of Honor in World War 1, while a part of the action known as “The Lost Battalion.”  Several other young men from the Santa Ana company would lose their lives in that same action.  We also have an eye-witness account of the aftermath of the battle from a man from Santa Ana as a member of the first Company to relieve those surrounded men.Our guest speaker, Richard Hartman, served in the California Air Guard as a Chief Master Sergeant and the Maintenance Superintendent of the 222nd Combat Communications Squadron in Costa Mesa.  Richard spent seven years on active duty in the Air Force in Montana and Wyoming as a Systems Analyst on Minuteman 2 and Minuteman 3 missile systems.  In his civilian life, he was a control systems engineer, building flight simulator systems and motion rides.  After retiring from his civilian job, he entered the Master’s History program at Cal State Fullerton.  Richard also volunteers at the Orange Family History Library, helping patrons navigate their research.

Please join us on December 8th!


Recent Orange County history books will be discussed by their authors at the Orange County Historical Society’s Authors Night on Thursday, November 10, 2022, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. After their presentations, you’ll have time to meet the authors, ask questions, buy books, and have those books signed. The public is welcome. Featured books include:

Author’s Night 2008


The gist of this book’s story is right in the title: Saving Upper Newport Bay: How Frank and Frances Robinson Fought to Preserve One of California’s Last Estuaries. Author Cassandra Radcliff began volunteering at Upper Newport Bay in 2014 after visiting the park for birdwatching. She is now a Volunteer Naturalist, recipient of a OneOC Spirit of Volunteerism Award (2019), and Vice President of the Newport Bay Conservancy Board of Directors. She currently lives in south Orange County and works for Walter Foster Publishing, a book publisher founded in Laguna Beach in 1922.


This alternative tour guide “documents sites of oppression, resistance, struggle, and transformation in Orange County, California.” The book’s wide array of topics reflect local diversity, segregation, privatization, the struggle for public space, migration, youth cultures, labor, and much more. Two of the contributing authors will join us for the evening. Dr. Elaine Lewinnek is professor of American Studies and chair of the Environmental Studies program at CSU Fullerton. Dr. Thuy Vo Dang is Curator for the UC Irvine Libraries Southeast Asian Archive and Research Librarian for Asian American studies and is co-author of the book, Vietnamese in Orange County.


OCHS’ longtime friend, author and architectural historian Alan Hess presents this highly visual volume of plans and concept drawings from the private archives of the Armet Davis Newlove firm. This architectural firm created what became known as “Googie Modern,” capturing the optimistic and forward-thinking mood in post-war America and setting the bar for what would become Mid-Century Modern style. Hess has written more than nineteen books on Modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century. This included, beginning in the 1980s, the first serious works on Southern California’s own Googie architecture.


Alice Miller Richardson – the sister of Mission Inn founder Frank Miller — started as a hotel manager in 1874. She proved a natural and over time ran multiple world-class hotels (then “a man’s job”), setting new industry standards along the way. Friends frequenting her waterfront Laguna Beach home included prominent artists, cooks, actors, presidents, architects and poets. Few knew she was one of California’s most successful businesswomen. Author Barbara Ann Burns has long been in charge of training docents at the Mission Inn. Initially, she thought Alice had simply worked in her brother’s famous Inn. Over time, she learned that Alice was really the one in charge.


Author Richard Leslie Brock’s new historical novel is a well-researched and well-remembered depiction of mid-century Laguna Beach. Laguna Diary is about secrets revealed by a long-lost diary written by a boy’s father who abandons his family. Many of the secrets are about local lore unique to Laguna and they guide the boy into adulthood. Others provide clues to the father’s disappearance. Locals will recognize long-gone local institutions, buskers, cults, West Street Beach, Aliso Creek Pier, the death of Killer Dana, and much more. There’s even a connection to Richard Egan of San Juan Capistrano. Brock is a historian, folklorist, novelist and attorney.


Author Janice Munemitsu gave a presentation to OCHS earlier this year about her book, The Kindness of Color: The Story of Two Families and Mendez, et al. v. Westminster, the 1947 Desegregation of California Public Schools. She returns this evening to sell and sign her book and answer your questions. The book tells the true story of two immigrant families (Mendez and Munemitsu) who came to the U.S. for better lives, only to face their own separate battles against racism during the 1940s. The friendship of these two families would help lead to the desegregation for all the school children of California in 1947.

Early Cemeteries of Orange County

Hear the stories of Orange County’s early cemeteries from a panel of experts at the Orange County Historical Society General Meeting held on, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

The Pioneer Monument (foreground) and the old entrance (background) at Anaheim Cemetery

Our panel discussion inculdes an amazing line-up: Yorba experts and “Cemetery Angels” Ann Nepsa and Melanie Goss will discuss Yorba Cemetery (1860). (Melanie also conducts tours of Yorba Cemetery as part of her job with OC Parks.) OCHS board member and historian Stephanie George will discuss Holy Cross Cemetery (1903). Historian and O.C. Cemetery District board member Cynthia Ward will discuss Anaheim Cemetery (1866). And Tim Deutsch, General Manager of the O.C. Cemetery District, and Julio Amarillas, Manager of the Santa Ana Cemetery, will discuss the Santa Ana (1870) and El Toro (1896) cemeteries.

Cemeteries are more than just a place to pay our respects to the departed. They are among our most valuable of historic resources. They teach us about settlement patterns, historic events, religions, lifestyles, and genealogy. For a historian, a walk among the headstones provides a sketch of a community’s past, reminders of half-forgotten tales, and often a list of worthwhile new questions to be researched and answered.

Due to a scheduling conflict, Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee president and Acjachemen tribal member Jerry Nieblas is unable to attend to discuss the Old Mission Cemetery in San Juan Capistrano, but we’re working with him to set up a tour of that historic site in the near future. It’s possible tours of one or two other cemeteries may also be made available. Keep an eye on our website,, for updates.

The meeting is open to the public, so bring your friends!

September 8th General Meeting- Silent Auction and the Origins of the Ortega Highway!

Historian Steve Lech will tell the story of the Ortega Highway at the Orange County Historical Society’s season kick-off event, Thursday, September 8th, at Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar. Social hour, light refreshments, and silent auction begin at 6:00 p.m. Members and guests please do not bring any food items to share. Program begins at 7:30 p.m.

The creation of the Ortega Highway, linking Orange and Riverside Counties, was a hard-fought effort by residents on both sides of the Santa Ana Mountains. Many wanted it, but getting it was another story. Riverside County historian Steve Lech will discuss the thirty-year struggle that led to the eventual opening of this scenic road – a turning point in transportation history for both counties.

County and city officials following part of the planned route of the Ortega Highway in 1930

Steve Lech is a native Riversider who has been interested in the local history of Riverside County for more than forty years. He has written or co-written thirteen books on various topics related to Riverside County history, including Along the Old Roads – A History of the Portion of Southern California That Became Riverside County, 1772-1893, considered to be the definitive history of Riverside County.  He co-authors the weekly “Back in the Day” column for the Press-Enterprise newspaper in which he explores many aspects of local history throughout western Riverside County.  He has been a docent at the historic Mission Inn hotel for over 30 years, is currently the Director of Docent Training for the Mission Inn Foundation, and is the past chair of the Riverside County Historical Commission and the City of Riverside’s Cultural Heritage Board.

To our knowledge, no one had ever researched this story in depth prior Steve’s extensive work while putting together this program for us. We hope you’ll join us for what should be a fun and enlightening evening.

Parking is free at the Sherman and there are two available parking lots: Lot A located at Dahlia Ave at Pacific Coast Highway & Lot B located at Dahlia Ave at 3rd Avenue. Handicapped parking is located in Lot A.

For more information about the lovely Sherman Library & Gardens please click here.

NO June Monthly meeting or Annual Dinner

The Orange County Historical Society regrets to let you know that our 2022 June Annual Dinner has been cancelled. If you’re already registered, you will be reimbursed.
We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at our September 8th meeting at Sherman Gardens. More information will be shared later, but our speaker will be Riverside County Historian Steve Lech, speaking about the history of the Ortega Highway.

Anaheim’s Little Arabia

The Story of Anaheim’s Little Arabia will be the topic of speaker Amin Nash of the Arab American Civic Council at the May 12, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. Nash will discuss local immigrant communities from the Middle East and North Africa, how they established Little Arabia from the 1960s, and how the area has grown and developed in the decades since.

President of CSUF receiving food from Nader, a baker at Forn al Hara

Tucked along a busy Brookhurst Street in West Anaheim, Arabic signs advertise services from restaurants to lawyers to doctors. Some signs are explicitly in Arabic, such as Forna al Hara, which translates to “The Neighborhood’s Oven,” while others are English transliterations, like Al Tayabat, meaning “Wonderful Things.” The businesses and many others like them are regularly patronized by thousands of Arabic-speaking consumers who have made this part of Anaheim their center of business and culture. This neighborhood has been affectionately named Little Arabia by Arabs and non-Arabs alike and offers a rich perspective of Orange Country’s – and Southern California’s – diverse history. Little Arabia’s story reflects the challenges the Arab community has faced and reveals heartwarming aspects of how Anaheim has supported the Arab community through the years.

Little Arabia Plaza sign

Amin Nash is a Ph.D. Student at Claremont Graduate University, where he studies the Arab and Muslim American experience through literature, culture, and history. He is also a Fellow for the Arab American Civic Council located in Anaheim, where he regularly advocates for the Arab community and provides educational materials to the Anaheim population. Amin grew up in Las Vegas, the third child born to Iraqi immigrants, and recalls regularly traveling to Anaheim’s Little Arabia to purchase halal meat during the 1990s and early 2000s. Amin feels that Orange County – and Southern California – has challenged Arab and Muslim Americans and brought an opportunity to the community. He hopes that his work will allow the experiences of this unique American community to be recognized and understood as positive contributors to Orange County and America.

Sammy Khouraki, the owner of Al Tayabat (the oldest market in Little Arabia), giving a kiss to a young girl (the future of Little Arabia!)

2022 Annual Dinner Cancelled

The Orange County Historical Society regrets to let you know that our 2022 June Annual Dinner has been cancelled. If you’re already registered, you will be reimbursed.

We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at our September 8th meeting at Sherman Gardens. More information will be shared later, but our speaker will be Riverside County Historian Steve Lech, speaking about the history of the Ortega Highway.