The Missions: Number 14

Mission San Jose, the 14th of Spain’s missions in Alta California, was founded by Padre Fermin de Lasuen on June 11, 1797, on a site which was a natural highway between the Livermore and San Joaquin Valleys—today part of the city of Fremont.  Its original name La Mission del Gloriosisimo Patriarch San Jose honored St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. Within three weeks, the priests’ military escort erected shelters and seven more buildings laid out in a rectangle. Mission Santa Clara gifted the new establishment with 500 cattle and a flock of sheep. The chosen site had abundant natural resources, and by 1810 agricultural efforts had yielded bountiful crops of wheat, grapes, olives, and figs. As in the other missions, the local Indians here, the Ohlone, were trained in a variety of skills, including weaving, rope making, carpentry, and leather tanning. The mission’s permanent adobe church was dedicated April 22, 1809, with great ceremony. By 1816 the mission was trading Indian-made goods for coffee, sugar, spices, hardware, fabrics, and other supplies from Mexico. Just prior to secularization mandated by the Mexican government,  prosperous Mission San Jose’s olive oil production was the highest of any mission, and  its 350,000 cattle grazed on mission lands that extended from present day Oakland through the Sacramento Delta. Upon secularization, Jose Vallejo was appointed as civil administrator, and the mission lands were divided into ranches. The buildings, granaries, orchards, and gardens fell into decay. Thirteen miles away, the pueblo of San Jose rose and flourished. Then in 1868, a massive earthquake shattered the mission’s church walls and roof. Restoration efforts by the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West in 1915, and again in 1950, saved the surviving portion of the mission wing. A reconstructed adobe church was completed in 1985. The Mission Church and museum are open daily except for New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

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