San Jose

San José Key Facts

San José was founded on June 11, 1797. This successful, prosperous mission was destroyed in an earthquake in 1869. The Mission San Jose church was carefully restored between 1982-1985 and is considered one of the most authentic mission structures in California. There is a gift shop and museum in the former padre’s quarters.

General Information

San José

Founded:
June 11, 1797
Also Called:
The Mission of the Most Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph
Current Status:
An active church that is part of Saint Joseph's Parish.
Summary:
San José was founded on June 11, 1797. This successful, prosperous mission was destroyed in an earthquake in 1869. The Mission San Jose church was carefully restored between 1982-1985 and is considered one of the most authentic mission structures in California. There is a gift shop and museum in the former padre’s quarters.

Key Facts About This Mission

Named For

Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Founding Father President

Fr. Lasuen Fr. Fermiin Francisco de Lasuén

Founding Missionaries

Frs. Isidro Barcenilla and Agustín Merino

Prominent Missionary Leaders

Fr. Duran with an Indian child.Frs. Buenaventura Fortuny and Narciso Durán were assigned to San José in 1806, and these talented, energetic missionaries worked together with the Indians for 27 years to build one of the most prosperous missions in California.

Indians Joining Mission

San José was founded in the land of the Costanoan people. Ohlone, one of the most prominent Coastanoan tribes, is often used to refer to the natives of the San José and San Francisco de Asís missions. San José also recruited Indians from other groups including Miwok, Patwin, and Northern Valley Yokuts.

Ohlone Ceremonial Dance  In c.1806 Georg Heinrich von Landsdorf, an artist attached to a Russian Scientific Expedition sketched an Ohlone Ceremonial Dance at San Jose Mission. 

Mission Site

In Fremont, 15 miles northeast of the pueblo (and current city) of San José.

Layout

The layout was more of a rectangle than the traditional quadrangle. 

Water Source

Alameda Creek was the mission’s main source of water.

Population

The highest mission population was 1,886, in 1831.

Livestock

San Jose Cattle Brand San José was the agricultural and livestock powerhouse among the northern missions. The initial cattle were provided by Santa Clara. In 1832, the last year for which we have records, the mission had a sizeable herd of cattle (12,000), sheep (11,000), and horses (1,100), placing its livestock herd in the upper 25% of all the missions. 

Agricultural Output

Mission San José, which was well managed and located in an area with rich soil, had the second highest agricultural production of the 21 missions with approximately 289,000 bushels of grain and produce. It's production of barley, corn, beans, and vegetables often exceeded the amount grown by any other mission during these years. 

San José also had extensive olive and fruit tree orchards and there was a large vineyard near the mission quadrangle. San José rapidly became known for the quality of its olive oil, fruit and produce. 

Mission Church

San Jose old daguerreotype The San Jose Mission was destroyed in an earthquake in 1868. An old daguerreotype taken in c.1853, shows how the mission looked before it’s destruction 

An authentic restoration of the mission church was completed between 1982-85

Mission Bells

The bell tower is quite truncated but contains four original bells.

Mission Art

The restored padre’s wing is now a museum.

Significant Events

Estanislao Estanislao, a San José mission neophyte, led a large-scale Indian uprising in 1828-29. Several military expeditions were required to put down the revolt. Stanislaus County is named after Estanislao. 

Secularized

1834

Year Returned to Catholic Church

1858

Interesting Facts

The nearby Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe was established in 1777 as an agricultural settlement for provisioning the presidio garrisons at San Carlos de Monterey and San Francisco.

A devastating epidemic of smallpox and measles took a terrible toll on the neophytes (over 150 died) in 1805-06

The mission was renowned for its orchestra and choir, developed and led by Fr. Narciso Durán. 

Mexican Franciscans from the Colegio de Zacatecas replaced the Spanish Franciscans at Mission San José in 1833.

Additional Information
  • Holmes, P. (1977). Two Centuries at Mission San Jose, 1797-1997.
  • Oral History Associates. (1989). City of Fremont, The First Thirty Years: History of Growth
  • Margaret, A. (1999). Mission San José (Power Kids Press series on the Missions of California)

Discover More Information About California's Rich History

Browse the Mission Resource Store, where we have everything from maps to trading cards to help immerse you in the California Missions and more.

Browse Resources