It Happened Here

USA Fact File

Footsteps of

Mottos, Slogans
and Nicknames

Noted Notables


Footsteps of History

The California Missions


San Jose Mission
14th Mission of the California Mission Chain
Founded June 11, 1797
by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen

Naming of Mission:
Some accounts say the name of the mission was "Mission San Jose de Guadalupe." But at its founding, the official name was "La Mision del Gloriosisimo Patriarch San Jose." This was in honor of the mission's patron, St. Joseph. The records all list it as Mission San Jose. Joseph was the foster father of Christ, Saint Joseph.
in Fremont east of San Francisco Bay
Though the El Camino Real had become a busy road, both north and south, there were still many stretches of lonely road where travelers could find trouble, either from nature or from hostilities. Both the new governor and Father Lasuen felt the chain needed to be completed to assist these travelers. They hoped to build five additional missions. San Jose was the first of these, founded 1 June 1797.
The mission got off to a slow start with only 30 local Indians coming in the first year, but very gradually more and more local Indians came to the mission for assistance, training and spiritual insight. The local natives were the Ohlone Indians. Their village at this site was known as Orisom. The area was rich in natural resources and was a center for both agriculture and industry. Father. Buenaventura Fortuni and Father Narcisco Duran came to Mission San Jose in 1806. Father Duran was a musician. He organized and trained an orchestra of 30 Indian musicians, playing flute, violin, trumpet, and drums. The orchestra played for fiestas and weddings. On feast days, Indians came all the way from Santa Clara and Dolores to hear the Indian orchestra. Both men worked together to help the Indians. Many of the Indians came to live at the mission and were taught new skills and trained to do other types of work than they had done for centuries.
In 1805 a new adobe church was started. It was finished and dedicated on April 22, 1809. It was a simple, solid building with walls 8 feet thick in some places. The residents of the Bay area gave generously to the mission which had many beautiful paintings and other decorations. By 1816, the mission was prospering. Their cattle herd had grown from just 500 head to over 350,000, the largest in the chain. They were able to produce so many good that they traded with people from all over. They even bought a boat to move their goods across the bay to trade with outgoing ships. The quadrangle was finally completed in 1827 with each side being 900 feet long!
When secularization came in 1834, Jose de Jesus Vallejo was appointed civil administrator and the mission lands were divided into ranchos. The Indians left but weren't able to function as they had before the mission era. Many died of disease or just plain starvation because they could not fend for themselves. The mission along with its gardens, orchards and other areas deteriorated and the herds were dispersed.
In the late 1840's, during the Gold Rush times, H.C. Smith transformed the mission into a hotel of sorts and a general store. It was known as a gateway to the southern goldmines. By 1858, some of the lands were returned to the Catholic Church. When a large earthquake in the area hit on 21 October 1868, the mission church was gravely damaged. The roof broke open as the walls shattered. The site had to be cleared and later, a wooden church was built over the original tile floor. By 1890, a victorian rectory was built over another portion of the site. Though the initial complex had over 100 buildings, few were left. In both 1915 and in 1950, groups sought to save any surviving portions of the mission and converted them into a museum. In 1973, plans were begun to truly re-construct the mission and grounds. The Victorian Recotry was moved to Anza Street and the Gothic wooden church was also moved. It went to San Mateo to be used as a church of another faith. Finally, in 1982, construction began. The builders had worked hard to plan for a replica of the 1809 adobe church. Old building methods were used as much as possible. Nail heads were flattened to simulate the square headed nails used in the original construction. Under the roof, branches were tied together with rawhide
strips. On 11 June 1985, it was dedicated. The interior was decorated as historical documents describe it. The walls are very thick and the lumber has a hand-hewn look, just as in the original building. During restoration, the grave marker of Robert Livermore was located in the original tile floor of the church along with many other prominent people of the time. His is the only marker preserved. Three of the original bells which had hung in the wooden church of 1869 were returned and a fourth bell was recast after being broken in the 1868 earthquake. It was then used in an Oakland church and returned to the re-constructed bell tower when it was completed.
Contact the Mission:
Old Mission San Jose
Mailing address:
P.O. Box 3159
Fremont, California 94539
Location address:
43300 Mission Blvd at Washington Blvd
Fremont California 94539
Phone: (510) 657-1979.
Mission Trivia:
This is the only mission on the east side of San Francisco Bay
The city of San Jose and Mission San Jose are only connected by being named for the same saint, St. Joseph.
Mission Links
Mission Website
A history page for the Mission
Floor plan drawings of the Mission

Search Key to the City
Custom Search
or Search anywhere on the Web
Custom Search

Return to the Footsteps of History California Missions Trail home page
Return to the Footsteps of History home page to choose a new Trail to follow

This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 10:12 pm
Key to the City is not responsible for the accuracy of the information submitted. It is the responsibility of the submitter to be sure that the information is correct and in good taste. Key to the City reserves the right to refuse publication of any item it considers improper.
All submissions become the property of Key to the City and can not be returned.
Thanks for coming! Don't forget to come back soon.