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History of County Communities
The area comprising present-day Los Angeles County was first explored by Europeans in 1769 when Gaspar de Portola and a group of missionaries camped on what is now the banks of the Los Angeles River. A member of the party, Friar Juan Crespi, suggested the area be named “Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de la Porciuncula” (Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula).
In September 1771, Father Junipero Serra and a group of Spaniards founded the San Gabriel Mission as the center of the first "community" in an area inhabited by small bands of Gabrielino Indians. Ten years later the Pobladores, a group of 11 families recruited from Mexico by Capt. Rivera y Moncada, traveled from the San Gabriel Mission to a spot selected by Alta California Gov. Felipe de Neve to establish a new pueblo. The settlement was named El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles (The Pueblo of the Queen of the Angels). In its early years, the town was a small, isolated cluster of adobe-brick houses and random streets carved out of the desert, and its main product was grain. Over time, the area became known as the Ciudad de Los Angeles, "City of Angels."
In September 1797, the Franciscan monks established the San Fernando Mission Rey de Espana in the northern San Fernando Valley.
Although the Spanish government placed a ban on trading with foreign ships, American vessels began arriving in the early 1800s, and the first English-speaking inhabitant settled in the area in 1818. He was a carpenter named Joseph Chapman, who helped build the church facing the town's central plaza, a structure that still stands. California was ruled by Spain until 1822, when Mexico assumed jurisdiction. As a result, trade with the United States became more frequent. The ocean waters off the coast of California were important for whaling and seal hunting, and a number of trading ships docked at nearby San Pedro to buy cattle hides and tallow. By the 1840s, Los Angeles was the largest town in Southern California.