Costa Mesa History

Costa Mesa is a city that has much to offer to its occupants and has for centuries.

The City of Costa Mesa may have only been in existence as a city for just over 50 years, but it has been a place occupied by diverse peoples since The Indians of Lukup first populated the area on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

It has been occupied by the Spanish, the Mexicans and cattle.  It has been home to huge amounts of agriculture and one of the largest shopping malls (South Coast Plaza) in the U.S. It houses several colleges and universities, and even a law school. There is the Orange County Fairgrounds, the Swapmeet and the Pacific Amiptheater.

The Indians of Lukup

Costa Mesa is a city that has much to offer to its occupants and has for centuries.

The City of Costa Mesa may have only been in existence as a city for just over 50 years, but it has been a place occupied by diverse peoples since The Indians of Lukup first populated the area on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

It has been occupied by the Spanish, the Mexicans and cattle.  It has been home to huge amounts of agriculture and one of the largest shopping malls (South Coast Plaza) in the U.S. It houses several colleges and universities, and even a law school. There is the Orange County Fairgrounds, the Swapmeet and the Pacific Amiptheater.

The Spaniards

For hundreds of years, the Indians lived a simple hunter-gatherer lifestyle until July 1769 when Don Gaspar de Portola and his soldiers arrived in Central Orange County. They came up from Mexico to explore California and to help settle the land for the King of Spain had offered large grants of land to encourage people to move to California.

Don de Portola arrived in what would come to be called Orange County on July 26, St. Anne’s Day, so he named both the valley and the river in her honor. Thus, the valley and the river became Santa Ana., Spanish for St. Anne.

The Spaniards who came to settle the land changed the Indians’ way of life, teaching them to raise cattle, grow crops and work on the Spaniards’ ranches or ranchos.

The Indian Village of Lukup was absorbed into the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.

After the Spaniards came to Costa Mesa, three adobes were built near Lukup.  An adobe is a house made of dried mud bricks.  Only one of these three adobes still exists today; it is known as the Estancia or Diego Sepulveda Adobe.  The original use of these adobes is not known, but many believe that they were originally built to shelter those traveling along the mission trail.

The Estancia Adobe has been restored and can be seen in Estancia Park.

Costa Mesa remained a Spanish territory until Mexico gained its independence in 1821.

Mexican Independence

When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the territory which is now the State of California became a part of Mexico.

During this time, many more settlers came to the Costa Mesa area and established more ranchos with large herds of cattle on the grassy plains that existed back then.

After two years of war between the United States and Mexico, Mexico was defeated in 1848, and California became part of the United States.

In 1850, California became the 31st state.  In less than thirty years, the spot that would one day become Costa Mesa had belonged to Spain, Mexico and the United States.

California 49ers,  gold rush and modern day cattle drive

After only three years as a state, California experienced the beginning of its gold rush.

Although the California Gold Rush brought many people racing to Northern California in hopes of making a fortune by striking a gold mine, it had effects on Southern California as well.

The cattle that had previously been raised in Southern California mostly for leather hides to create clothing and shoes were suddenly more in demand for their meat by those who came to Northern California in search of their dreams.

As a result, the vaqueros who raised their cattle in Costa Mesa began cattle drives to San Francisco, making the cattle business big business.

During this same period of time, many of the ranchos were divided into smaller pieces.  By 1880, the Rancho  Santiago de Santa Ana, which encompassed Costa Mesa and other modern cities, had been divided into 73 parcels.

Can you just imagine cattle roaming the streets of Costa Mesa?  They did last year when there was an old fashioned cattle drive to celebrate the Orange County Fair.