Last November, The Militant came out with a list of the origins of the 88 incorporated cities of Los Angeles County, satisfying the curiosities of transplants, immigrants and natives alike, many of whom take such place names for granted.
That post literally made history of its own, becoming the most-read Militant Angeleno blog post of all time, garnering (to date), just a couple hundred views shy of 10,000 (the #2 most-read post only has a little more than half of those stats).
This time, The Militant takes on the land on the other side of The Orange Curtain. Home to famous theme parks, an agricultural heritage, a major league baseball team with a geographical identity crisis, and lots of suburban sprawl, The County Known As Orange also gave the world Richard Nixon (Yorba Linda), Michelle Pfeiffer (Santa Ana), No Doubt (Anaheim), Tiger Woods (Cypress) and the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar (Fullerton).
More recently (like really, really recently), Orange County became the home of the Huell Howser archives and a certain earthquake you might have felt a few days ago.
Like its larger neighbor to the north, which, before 1889, it was once a part of (finalized in 1951 when the county split from the 213 area code), Orange County's cities were named after town founders, saints, Mexican ranchos, topography, marine mammals and oil byproducts. English, Spanish, Invented Spanish, Latin and German contributed to the names of the incorporated burgs of Oh-See.
So after much Militant research, here it is, the etymology of Orange county's 34 cities, in alphabetical order:
Aliso Viejo – Invented Spanish for its native Sycamore trees (Los Alisos) and its proximity to Mission Viejo.
Anaheim – Founded in 1857 by 50 German American settlers of Bavarian heritage from San Francisco. They called the area “Annaheim” (Home of Anna, with “Anna” referring to the Santa Ana River).
Brea – Spanish for “Tar.” A merger of the former towns of Olinda and Randolph, which were located on the Brea-Olinda Oil Field, where tar was abundant.
Buena Park – Invented Spanish for “Good Park,” refers to a green area near today’s Artesia and Beach boulevards that was known by locals as “Plaza Buena.”
Costa Mesa – Formerly "Harper," was renamed in 1920 to the Spanish name for “Coastal tableland,” referring to its location and topography.
Cypress – Formerly "Watertown," and later "Dairy City, "was named after the original Cypress Elementary School. The school planted a row of cypress trees to protect itself from the Santa Ana Winds.
Dana Point – Named after author Richard Henry Dana, Jr, who wrote a book in 1840 called Two Years Before The Mast, which was set in the area. He described it as “The only romantic spot on the coast.”
Fountain Valley – Formerly "Talbert," was re-named in 1957 after the local artesian wells in the area created by the high underground water table.
Fullerton – Named after land developer George H. Fullerton, who was affiliated with the Santa Fe Railway, and was instrumental in bringing the railroad to the area.
Garden Grove – Named in 1874 by early settler and founding father Alonzo Cook, who held a vision of how he wanted the young village, located on an open plain, to look like.
Huntington Beach – Formerly "Pacific City," it was named in 1909 after the Huntington Beach Company, a real estate firm owned by Henry Huntington, who also founded the Pacific Electric Railway.
Irvine – Named after James Irvine, an Irish immigrant who owned much of the land the city now stands on.
La Habra – From Mexican-era Rancho La Habra (mountain pass), which traversed the Puente Hills. See the Los Angeles County list for its cross-county counterpart, La Habra Heights.
La Palma – Formerly "Dairyland," named after La Palma (Spanish for ‘the palm”) Blvd.
Laguna Beach – Derived from early town post office named “Lagona” (misspelled Spanish after the local wetlands, or lagoon), was later changed to “Laguna Beach.”
Laguna Hills -" Laguna" + these little mountain things called "Hills."
Laguna Niguel – "Laguna" + "Niguel," which was the name of an indigenous Acjachemen (a.k.a. Juaneño) village located in the area, along Aliso Creek.
Laguna Woods – "Laguna" + "Woods," for the bushy chaparral area in the hills, and since "Laguna Hills" was already taken. Formerly named "Leisure World." Consider it an upgrade.
Lake Forest – Formerly called "El Toro," was named after the pair of manmade lakes and the forest of Eucalyptus trees in the area.
Los Alamitos – Named after Rancho Los Alamitos - Spanish for “Little Cottonwoods,” after the clusters of cottonwood trees noticed by early Spanish settlers.
Mission Viejo – Invented Spanish for “Old Mission” (correct Spanish is "Vieja Mision") – a reference to nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Newport Beach – Named in 1870 by landowners James Irvine, Robert Irvine and James McFadden, who agreed to name the new port in the area where the steamship The Vaquero unloaded, “Newport” (duh).
Orange – Formerly "Richland," was re-named in 1875 due to another Richland in Orange County. Was named after the first consistently successful crop to grow in the area after years of trial and error (the rest is history).
Placentia – Named by city founders after the latin word for “Pleasant.”
Rancho Santa Margarita – Named after St. Margaret, an early Christian martyr from Antioch (no, not that one).
San Clemente – Named after offshore San Clemente Island, which was named by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, who first arrived on the island on November 23, the feast day of St. Clement, the 4th pope.
San Juan Capistrano – Named after the Mission San Juan Capistrano, which was named after St. John of Capistrano, a 14th-century Italian priest.
Santa Ana –In the early 1770s, Fr. Junipero Serra called the area “Vallejo de Santa Ana” (Valley of St. Anne). St. Anne, the mother of Mary, and Jesus’ grandma, is the patron saint of expectant mothers.
Seal Beach – Originally named "Anaheim Landing" and later re-named, "Bay City," it was re-named again (due to conflicting with Bay City in northern California), this time after the California Sea Lions that were a familiar sight along the coast.
Stanton – Named after Seal Beach founder and land developer Philip Stanton, who agreed to take on this town's sewage utilities after a number of landowners opposed dedicating some of their land for a sewage plant.
Tustin – Named after town founder Columbus Tustin, a carriage maker from northern California.
Villa Park – Formerly Mountain View, the town was forced to change its name in due to conflicting with the city of Mountain View in northern California (man, these Orange County city founders sure lack originality...). You can't lose with invented Spanish around here.
Westminster – Founded as a Presbyterian temperance colony in 1870, was named after the Westminster Assembly of 1643, which created the basic tenets of the Presbyterian Church.
Yorba Linda – Named after Bernardo Yorba, early 19th-century Mexican-era grantee of Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana, upon where the modern Yorba Linda stands. The town was named in 1907 after landowner the Janns Company combined “Yorba” with “Linda” (Spanish for “beautiful”).