Native Americans, called Gabrielinos by the Spaniards, were the first inhabitants of Orange. The first landholder was Don Juan Pablo Grijalva, a retired Spanish soldier who built an adobe ranch house around 1801. Upon his death, his grandsons Antonio Yorba and Juan Pablo Peralta inherited the land and in 1810 were officially granted the ranch by the King of Spain. In 1868, Alfred B. Chapman and Andrew Glassell were hired by the Yorba and Peralta families to handle an inheritance dispute and were given land as payment.
By 1870, Chapman and Glassell owned about 5,400 acres and hired a surveyor to divide the land into tracts. Andrew's brother, William T. Glassell, was hired as land agent, and he laid out the downtown area. He set aside land in the center of town for a plaza and supervised construction of a canal for water.
Orange began as a farming community. Grapes were a major crop until the 1886 blight destroyed most of the grapevines. In 1873, farmers started growing oranges and other produce, which made the city prosperous again.
Orange was incorporated as a city on April 6, 1888. At that time, the city was 3.1 square miles and had a population of 866. Orange is now 34.9 square miles and home to 136,995 people.
The Orange Public Library was founded in 1885, make it one of the oldest libraries in Orange County.