Mission San Jose

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Mission San Jose (Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church)

A brief history

The Mission San Jose is the 14th mission founded in California. It was founded on June 11, 1797 by Friar Fermin Lasuen. Named for Saint Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church.

In 1795, Father Lasuen received word that his please to the Viceroy to authorize the founding of more missions was being realized. He dispatched expeditions from various missions to find suitable sites. The group from San Antonio founded the first. They arrived near San Francisco and travel northeast from Santa Clara to where they could see Mission Dolores as well as the Yerba Buena Island. Father Antonio Danti set up a cross near the Alameda Creek and then returned to Santa Clara.

Two years passed before the Viceroy gave permission for the mission to be established. Father Lasuen raised and blessed a cross on that Trinity Sunday and dedicated the mission in honor of the foster father of Christ.

Construction of the shelters was begun and soon after they finished herds of cattle and flocks of sheep arrived from Santa Clara. For twenty years Fathers Buenaventura Fortuni and Narciso Duran worked together until Fortuni left for the mission at Sonoma. Father Duran became the Father-President of the mission chain and was a versatile man talented in music. He organized a thirty-piece band and created practice instruments until the real ones arrived from Mexico.

Throughout its existence, the mission also served as a military base for expeditions against the hostile natives. Later an expedition under Sergeant Francisco Soto, the first Spanish child born in San Francisco used the mission as a base to drive out a thousand hostile natives from the San Joaquin Valley. One of Father Duran’s helpers, a native named Estanislao defected to the warring tribes and lead attacks against the settlers. He was captured by General Mariano Vallejo.

A large church stood for many years to care for the local converts until 1868 when an earthquake brought it down. In the thirty-nine years the mission was operating it had 6.737 converts, second only to the San Luis Rey mission.

In 1869, a wood gothic-style church was established on the foundation of the old mission. Call St. Joseph, it served as a Catholic parish until 1965. In 1982, the gothic church, now called Old St. Joseph was removed and relocated to Burlingame. Then in 1985, an authentic reconstruction of the original mission was completed. Using early drawings and historical accounts, the restoration was completed using original tools and authentic materials. Portions are deliberately uneven as per the original. Close to the entrance is the gravestone of Robert Livermore for whom the Bay Area town was named, that was found during reconstruction.

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