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Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Rancho Mission Viejo originated as a series of land grants to John Forster in 1845. As of 2017, the Sendero village and the Gavilan senior housing developments have been completed. The larger Esencia village is currently under construction with a K-8 school to be opened in fall of 2018.
Forster acquired Rancho La Paz and Mission San Juan Capistrano. Forster added these properties to Rancho Trabuco, which he had purchased in 1843.
Forster’s brother-in-law was Pío Pico, governor of then-Mexican-held California. After Forster died in 1882, Irish immigrants Richard O’Neill Sr. James Flood acquired the ranch, taking equal ownership of the Rancho Santa Margarita y las Flores, Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Trabuco lands. O’Neill, offering his skills as a cattleman as sweat equity, agreed to work out his half as resident manager.
Under O’Neill, the cattle herd was expanded, the land was improved, row crops were introduced, and the ranch became Orange County’s largest producer of wheat. Flood, son of the original owner, made good on his late father’s promise and conveyed an undivided half interest to O’Neill, Sr. Four months later, declining health caused O’Neill to deed his interest to his son, Jerome. In 1923, the sons of Flood and O’Neill consolidated their partnership with the Santa Margarita Company.