James Irvine was born December 27, 1827, and came to the United States from Belfast, Ireland in 1846 at the age of 19 along with his younger brother, William. He came to California in 1849 during the Gold Rush, and acquired three ranchos in southern California along with brothers Thomas and Benjamin Flint and their cousin Llewellyn Bixby in 1864. Originally a sheep-raising operation, the acreage became one of the largest, most productive agriculture enterprises in the state of California. It spanned approximately 120,000 acres stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of the Cleveland National Forest — almost a third of present day Orange County. He married Henrietta Maria “Nettie” Rice on July 25, 1866. They had two sons, James Harvey Irvine, who was born October 16, 1867, and Harvey Rice, who was born in 1874 and lived only seven months. Nettie died in 1874, and James Irvine remarried in 1880 to Margaret Byrne. In 1876 James Irvine bought out his partners. He died March 15, 1886.

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