Property in Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Trabuco Canyon, Robinson Ranch, Walden, Rancho Cielo, Dove Canyon, Coto de Caza, Wagon Wheel, Las Flores, and Ladera Ranch have a rich history dating to the mid-1700’s.
Capitan Gaspar de Portola, with 63 men and two priests, on July 22, 1769, established the territory known as Rancho Mission Viejo. After the 1821 Mexican independence, an English trader named John Foster ( Don Juan Forster ) acquired title to Ranchos Trabuco, Mission Viejo, and Los Portreros. Later he purchased the property known as Santa Margarita, to stretch his holdings from Oceanside to Aliso Canyon, an area of over 200,000 acres.
In 1882 the property was purchased by Richard O’Neill, and it has remained in the family since then.The ranch was a working cattle spread, and O’Neill imported healthy livestock to turn it from a non-prosperous property to a profit producing venture. In 1923 nearly 230,000 acres was consolidated as The Santa Margarita Company.
With the outbreak of World War II, the San Diego section was deeded to the Marines and became Camp Joseph H. Pendleton. In 1941, after division of the properties, the canyon properties, with 52,000 acres, became Rancho Mission Viejo.Portions of the property have been converted to the development of communities. The ranch still exists today, run by members of the O’Neill family. Development is handled by the family’s operational company.
Starting with the 10,000 acre planned community of Mission Viejo, later adding Rancho Santa Margarita, and Ladera Ranch. The properties have been developed to meet the home needs of Orange County residents. They are nationally recognized for careful planning and their architecture which blends with the surrounding national forest and wildlife sanctuaries.
Development continues today along the ranch lands served by Ortega Highway, a scenic route that travels from Mission San Juan Capistrano east, through the Cleveland National Forest, then past the inland valley area and Lake Elsinore, then up through the mountain community of Idyllwild.