The 14th mission to be established by the Franciscan order, the Mission of San Jose is located in the modern-day city of Fremont California. The mission was established by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen in 1797. The site of the mission was selected because the soil was fertile, water was accessible and abundance of natural resources in the area.
The mission initially experienced difficulties in converting the native population to Catholicism. The Saclan, a native group that had fled from another nearby mission, threatened to wage war on any group that joined Mission San José. But Spanish soldiers attacked the Saclan and arrested their leaders just weeks after the mission's founding in July.
By the end of 1800, there were 277 "neophytes" associated with the mission. The Catholic priests called converted natives by this term which means "new believer." By the end of 1805, all the natives in the East Bay area south of Carquinez Strait had become affiliated with the mission. That's due in part to Father Buenaventura Fortuni and Father Narcisa Duran who worked to attract the natives. The men were trained to weave, blacksmith, tan leather, make tiles and carpentry. Native women were taught to sew, spin, cook and do needlework.
Construction of the Mission
Construction on a permanent adobe church started in 1805. The building was dedicated with much celebration 1809. Walls of the new church were eight-feet thick in places. Gifts of vestments, statues and paintings were bestowed upon the mission by generous donors in the San Francisco Bay area and abroad.
The mission prospered. An initial herd of 500 cattle grew to more than 350,000, the largest of the missions' herds. With lots of arable land available to grow food on, the Mission San Jose produced almost as much food as any mission in the chain. Only Mission San Gabriel grew more. However, Mission San Jose produced more olive oil than any other mission.
By 1825, new homes were added as the mission's population included more than 1,800 natives. By 1830, some 2,000 natives lived at the mission, giving it the largest native population of the northern missions. A church inventory in 1833 listed the mission's resources as including the church building, monastery, guardhouse, guest house and dormitory, along with thousands of acres of land.
Secularization and Decline
Mission life came to an end in 1834 following a decree of secularization by the Mexican government. The priests were removed as the mission leaders and a civil administrator was appointed. The lands were divided into ranches. The natives attempted to return to their former way of life, but many died of starvation or disease. Livestock scattered, and the mission buildings were allowed to deteriorate.
Then, in 1868, an earthquake destroyed the adobe church and many surrounding buildings. A wooden gothic church was built at the site in 1890. It wasn't until 1915 when the Daughters of the Golden West and Native Sons attempted to save the San Jose California mission and created a museum at the site. Additional restoration efforts took place in the 1950s, with an all-out restoration of the restoration of the church completed in 1985 by the Committee for the Restoration of the mission San Jose and the Catholic Diocese of Oakland. A steel frame was added to provide protection during earthquakes.