History of San Jose Mission

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(Saint Joseph), The fourteenth Franciscan mission founded in California, and the first one of the five new missions established by Fr. Lasuen in 1797-98 to fill the gaps between the older ones. The site chosen was about 15 miles north of Santa Clara, and about 3 miles from the present town of Irvington, Alameda County. The native name of the site was Oroysom. The formal ceremonies of foundation were performed by Fr. Lasuen on June 11,1797, and by the end of that year there were 33 baptisms, and 286 by 1800. In 1810 there were 545, but 1,104 deaths were reported during the decade.

In 1820 there were 1,754 neophytes. The highest number, 1,886, was reached in 1831. The mission was prosperous from the beginning and continued so long after many of the others declined. In 1820 there were 6,859 large stock and 1,200 small stock; in 1830, 13,300 and 13,030, respectively. The average crop for the decade ending 1820 was 6,020 bushels, and for that ending 1830, 5,409 bushels.

The first church was a wooden structure with a grass roof, but in 1809 a new church was dedicated. Even before the founding of the mission the Indians of the neighborhood, especially to the eastward, were somewhat feared, and San Jose seems to have had more trouble with the Indians than any other in California. The rather forceful methods used by the padres in obtaining neophytes, together with the ease with which they could escape to gentile or hostile villages, doubtless increased the difficulties. More than once expeditions to recover runaway neophytes were attacked. In 1826 a party of neophytes got into trouble with the Cosumni, and a punitive expedition was sent out, which brought in 40 captives.
In 1829 there was an extensive campaign into the San Joaquin valley against rebellious natives headed by Estanislas, a former neophyte of the mission. After 1830 San Jose was more prosperous than any other mission in California. In 1834 the neophytes numbered about 1,400. The number of natives baptized up to that time was 6,670, of whom 2,488 were children. In 1840, 580 were still at the mission, with possibly 200 more scattered in the district.

The mission was secularized in 1836, when the inventory showed a total valuation, excluding lands and church property, of $155,000. After 1840 the decline was rapid. In 1843 the mission was restored to the control of the padres. Two years later it was estimated that about 250 Indians still lived in the vicinity.

In 1846 the mission was sold by Gov. Pico for $12,000, but this sale was not confirmed, and the Catholic Church retained control. The old mission church has now completely disappeared and a modern parish church has been built on the site.

The only part of the old buildings remaining is a portion of the monastery. The Indians in the neighborhood of the mission belonged to the Costanoan linguistic stock, the Saklan, Karkin, and Mutsun divisions being doubtless represented.

A large part of the neophytes, however, especially during the later years of its existence, came from San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, and included representatives of the Moquelumnan, Copehan, and Mariposan (Yokuts) linguistic stocks.

MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 19 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/history-of-san-jose-mission.htm - Last updated on Aug 16th, 2011

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