CA Places: San Jose

Now the largest city in northern California, San Jose was founded November 29, 1777, twenty years before Mission San Jose was built, as a farming community to provide food for Spain’s presidios (forts) in Monterey and San Francisco Bay. Its original name was El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe (the Town of Saint Joseph of Guadalupe). Each settler brought from New Spain (Mexico) in this first overland expedition of colonists, was issued animals, farm implements, seeds, and a monthly stipend. A year later, the new town had a population of 68. Prunes, apples, apricots, cherries, peaches and pears became the region’s largest crops. During the Gold Rush era, San Jose was a supply station for prospectors and an important stage and boat link on the route to San Francisco.  When California gained statehood in 1850, San Jose served as its first capital. San Jose was the first incorporated city in California, and Josiah Belden, an American who had entered California with the Bartleson-Bidwell Party in 1841, was elected its first mayor.  James Reed, of the Donner Party, also settled there and was a prominent citizen until his death in 1874. Direct descendants of the Spanish founders still reside in San Jose.