Great Value for Irvine Landlords
The Gabrieleño indigenous group inhabited Irvine about 2,000 years ago. Gaspar de Portolà, a Spanish explorer, came to the area in 1769, which led to the establishment of forts, missions and cattle herds. The King of Spain parceled out land for missions and private use.
After Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican government secularized the missions and assumed control of the lands. It began distributing the land to Mexican citizens who applied for grants. Three large Spanish/Mexican grants made up the land that later became the Irvine Ranch: Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, Rancho San Joaquin and Rancho Lomas de Santiago.
In 1864, Jose Andres Sepulveda, owner of Rancho San Joaquin sold 50,000 acres (200 km2) to Benjamin and Thomas Flint, Llewellyn Bixby and James Irvine for $18,000 to resolve debts due to the Great Drought. In 1866, Irvine, Flint and Bixby acquired 47,000-acre (190 km2) Rancho Lomas de Santiago for $7,000. After the Mexican-American war the land of Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana fell prey to tangled titles. In 1868, the ranch was divided among four claimants as part of a lawsuit: Flint, Bixby and Irvine. The ranches were devoted to sheep grazing. However, in 1870, tenant farming was permitted.
In 1878, James Irvine acquired his partners' interests for $150,000. His 110,000 acres (450 km2) stretched 23 miles (37 km) from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana River. James Irvine died in 1886. The ranch was inherited by his son, James Irvine, Jr., who incorporated it into The Irvine Company. James, Jr. shifted the ranch operations to field crops, olive and citrus crops.
In 1888, the Santa Fe Railroad extended its line to Fallbrook Junction, north of San Diego, and named a station along the way after James Irvine. The town that formed around this station was named Myford, after Irvine's son, because a post office in Calaveras County already bore the family name. The town was renamed Irvine in 1914.