The 24.29 square miles (15545.6 acres) known as Highlands Ranch and first claimed by the French in 1682. The Spanish gained control in 1763 and returned the territory to France in 1801. Two years later in 1803, this area of Northern Douglas County was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The area’s lack of water made farming improbable and ranching preferable. Fast forward to 1978, California developer Mission Viejo bought the land for a Planned Unit Development that today is home to 105,631 residents. 31,510 homes and 1,000 businesses employing more than 6,800 people.