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Home Page Button   Beginnings of the Mission
Teacher Information Button   Mission San Jose was founded on June 11, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen. Father Lasuen dedicated the 14th mission in the chain to Saint Joseph. Mission San Jose was sent livestock and supplies from Mission Santa Clara and Mission San Francisco de Asis to help them get established. Some documents show the name of the Mission as Mission San Jose de Guadalupe but original documents from Father Lasuen’s time show that he named it simply Mission San Jose.
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Bibliography History Button   Location and Geography
    The Mission is located approximately 15 miles east of the pueblo of San Jose. The Pueblo of San Jose, the first non-religious Spanish settlement in California, had been founded several years before near the Guadalupe River. The site for the Mission was chosen because it had good soil and was near a large tribe of Ohlone.

    The Native Americans
    The main tribe in the area around Mission San Jose was the Ohlone. Like most of the other tribes in California, the Ohlone were nomadic. That means that they lived in one area for a time and would move their entire community to follow herds for food or when too much garbage piled up they would burn down the old ones and find another site to build their homes. Men hunted and fished to provide food while the women gathered acorns, wild herbs, roots, and berries to help feed their families.

Only 33 Ohlone joined the Mission the first year. The Fathers began to offer each new convert a new blanket and set of clothing to try to encourage them to live at the Mission. By 1831 over 1800 neophytes had chosen Mission life.

Top of Page Button   Architecture and Layout
    The Fathers followed a regular plan for creating the layout of the mission buildings. Right after blessing the site the Fathers and the soldiers would start building a small building to hold the religious ceremonies, called a Mass. They would encourage local Natives to help them. Many often did; they were fascinated by the tools and gifts that the Fathers had brought with them. The first buildings would be built of wood poles and brush. Eventually the buildings would be replaced by larger adobe brick or stone buildings. After a chapel or church was finished where the Fathers and Neophytes could hold Mass they would start building the Convento. The Convento was where the Fathers would live. Next would come workshops and the Monjerio. The Monjerio was where unmarried girls and women would live and be locked in at night. The Fathers didn’t think that unmarried girls and women should live near single men. Eventually there would be enough buildings for four sides of a square or quadrangle. The Mission complexes weren’t perfect squares because the Fathers didn’t have a way to measure distance other than walking off distances. Most Missions included a fountain. The fountain was used for washing, laundry, and water. The more fancy the fountain the more successful the Mission.

Mission San Jose was built in the standard quadrangle shape. An earthquake in 1808 destroyed the bell tower and the Fathers decided to shorten it so that it did not stand above the church’s roof. The permanent church was finished in 1809.

Top of Page Button   Life at the Mission
    Life at the Mission was difficult for both the Fathers and the Natives. During the early years most Missions had trouble supporting themselves and depended on deliveries of supplies and food from New Spain and other Missions. Often the ships were unable to make the trip and the Mission’s members went hungry. It normally took several years before a Mission was able to plant enough food and raise enough cattle and other animals to be able to feed everyone who lived at the Mission.

Those that lived at the Mission went by a strict schedule. The Fathers were used to this type of lifestyle, but the neophytes were not. The structure of Mission life was one of the reasons many Native Californians tried to leave. A French explorer, Jean François de La Pérouse, visited Mission San Carlos is 1786 and wrote a detailed account of what he observed. Events at the Mission were signaled by the ringing of the Mission bells. Each day started around sunrise (about 6am). The Mission bells would ring to wake everyone and summon them to Mass and morning prayers. Prayer lasted for about an hour and then everyone would go to breakfast. Atole, a type of soup made from barley and other grains, would be served. Breakfast took about 45 minutes and then it was time for everyone to go to work.

The Fathers were responsible for running the Mission and instructing the new converts and children in the Catholic faith. Most of the men went to the fields to tend to the crops or to help with the animals while women stayed at the Mission and worked on domestic chores such as weaving cloth and making clothes, boiling down fat to make soap and candles, and tending to the vegetable gardens. Children often helped at these chores around the Mission once their religious instruction was over. Depending on the particular industry at the Mission there also might be neophytes leatherworking, metalworking, wine making, and pressing olives for olive oil.

At noon the bells would ring again for everyone to gather for dinner, what we would call lunch. Lunch was normally pozole, another thick soup with beans and peas. After an afternoon break everyone returned to their work for another two to four hours depending on how much work there was to be done. A last bell would be rung to end the work day. Another serving of Atole would be served and the neophytes would be able to rest until it was time for bed (Margolin, Pg. 85). Women were usually expected to go to bed by 8pm and men by 9pm. Most of the Fathers allowed their neophytes to continue to hunt and gather additional foods and to cook some of their traditional dishes.

Living at the Mission was often difficult for new converts. They were used to working when work needed to be done and resting when they were tired. The Mission lifestyle was different. The Neophytes were the main source of labor for the Missions. It was their hard work along with the soldiers’ and Fathers’ that built the Missions and their outbuildings. Agriculture and ranching required constant tending to the crops and animals. Without this labor the Missions would not have been able to survive. Many neophytes missed the freedom of their tribal life and would try to leave the Mission. The Fathers wouldn’t allow neophytes to leave and would send soldiers to search for them and bring them back. Runaways were usually punished for breaking the rules.

Top of Page Button   The End of the Mission Period
    Mission San Jose, 1866The Mission was secularized in 1834; one of the last to go through the process. Its assets and buildings were transferred to a secular administrator. The Mission’s assets disappeared, although they were believed to be at the ranch owned by the administrator Jesus Vallejo. In 1846 Governor Pio Pico sold the rest of the property to his brother and a former California Governor. By 1848 it was being used as a store and hotel. The U.S. Government eventually returned some of the land to the Catholic Church. In 1850 the Mission became the town’s church but the building was destroyed in an 1868 earthquake.

Top of Page Button   Reconstruction and The Mission Today
    A wood church was built on top of the Mission ruins in 1869. The Church of St. Joseph served the people of the community until 1965. In 1982 the church was moved off of the site and restoration of the Mission began. The faithful restoration was completed in 1985.

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