The Story of Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose was founded on June 11, 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen on a site which was part of a natural highway by way of the Livermore Valley to the San Joaquin Valley. It is the fourteenth of the 21 Spanish Missions in Alta California. They were founded to secure Spain's claim to this land and to teach the native people Christianity and the Spanish way of life.
A fully developed mission was a self-sustaining village. It was occupied by local natives, a few soldiers, several artisans with families, and one or two priests. According to Spanish law, the mission's lands and resources belonged to the natives and would be put in their control when they had learned to manage themselves in the Spanish way.
The site chosen for the only mission on the east side of San Francisco Bay had been inhabited for countless generations by the Ohlone Indians. Their village at this site was known as Orisom. The Ohlones lived close to the land in harmony with nature, taking what they needed for their sustenance but never wasting irreplaceable resources. What we could call ecology was a way of life for them. Their food included seeds, roots, berries, acorn meal, small game and seafood. Three years after the founding of Mission San Jose, several hundred Ohlones had come to live at the Mission. They were introduced to a new way of life by the Spanish Franciscan missionaries. Thousands of cattle roamed the mission ranges. Acres of wheat and other crops were planted and harvested under the direction of the padres.
Students interested in learning more about the history of Mission San Jose, especially for the 4th Grade Mission Project, can write to request the free historical information packet.
Why was the Mission in Fremont named "Mission San Jose?"
Contrary to what you may have read in most books, we are not the Mission San Jose de Guadalupe. In the early part of the 1900's, a sign was erected on the roof of the Museum which said "Mission San Jose de Guadalupe." Many books have since been published and, unfortunately, the authors use this reference in their stories. When this Mission was founded it was named "La Mision del Gloriosisimo Patriarch San Jose" in honor of St. Joseph. All of our record books refer to the Mission as Mission San Jose. Though the pueblo (city) of San Jose was founded 13 miles south near the Guadalupe River, the only connection between the pueblo and the Old Mission is that both were named in honor of St. Joseph.
June 11, 1797 - Mission San Jose founded by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen.
1809 - Adobe brick and redwood timber Mission Church dedicated.
1868 - Earthquake destroyed adobe church and many nearby buildings. West wing which housed the convento was left standing. It contains the present Mission San Jose Museum.
1982 - Commencement of reconstruction of Mission San Jose adobe church as it appeared in the 1830s.
1985 - Reconstructed adobe church completed.
2001-2002 - The museum building was seismically retrofitted.