California Missions – San Jose De Guadalupe

THERE was a period of rest after the founding of Santa Cruz and La Soledad. Padre presidente Lasuen was making ready for a new and great effort. Hitherto the Mission establishments had been isolated units of civilization, each one alone in its work save for the occasional visits of governor, inspector, or presidente. Now they were to be linked together, by the founding of intermediate missions, into one great chain, near enough for mutual help and encouragement, the boundary of one practically the boundary of the next one, both north and south. The two new foundations of Santa Cruz and Soledad were a step in this direction, but now the plan was to be completed. With the Viceroy’s approval Governor Borica authorized Lasuen to have the regions between the old Missions carefully explored for new sites. Accordingly the padres and their guards were sent out, and simultaneously a work of investigation began never before known. Reports were sent in, and finally after a careful study of the whole situation it was concluded that five new Missions could be established and a great annual saving thereby made in future yearly expenses. Governor Borica’s idea was that the new Missions would convert all the gentile Indians west of the Coast Range. This done, the guards could be reduced at an annual saving of $15,000. This showing pleased the Viceroy, and he agreed to provide the $1000 needed for each new establishment on the condition that no added military force be called for. The guardian of San Fernando College was so notified August 19, 1796; and on September 29 he in turn announced to the Viceroy that the required ten missionaries were ready, but begged that no reduction be made in the guards at the Missions already established. Lasuen felt that it would create large demands upon the old Missions to found so many new ones all at once, as they must help with cattle, horses, sheep, neophyte laborers, etc.; yet, to obtain the Missions, he was willing to do his very best, and felt sure his brave associates would further his efforts in every possible way. Thus it was that San Jose was founded, as before related, on June 11, 1797. The same day all returned to Santa Clara, and five days elapsed ere the guards and laborers were sent to begin work. Timbers were cut and water brought to the location, and soon the temporary buildings were ready for occupancy. By the end of the year there were 33 converts, and in 1800, 286. A wooden structure with a grass roof served as a church.

The mountain Indians near San Jose did not like the presence of the missionaries, consequently the padres were apprehensive of trouble from the very start. Yet nothing of a serious nature occurred until January, 1805. Then, Padre Cueva was called upon to visit some sick neophytes living in .a rancheria some ten or fifteen miles to the east. He was escorted by Majordomo Higuera and two soldiers, as well as accompanied by a few neophytes. Either he was treacherously guided to the wrong rancheria, and was there attacked, or he was set on by hostiles on his return (the records are not clear), and Higuera killed, the padre struck in the face, a soldier badly wounded, three neophytes and all the horses killed. Though so badly demoralized, the remaining soldier fought on, killed a gentile, checked the pursuit, and managed to get back to the Mission. The news was forwarded to San Francisco, and immediately a force was sent out, augmented to 34 by settlers from San Jose, under Sergeant Peralta, who followed the now fleeing hostiles, killed eleven of them, and captured thirty, mostly women. Peralta made another raid in February, but found nothing but penitence and submission, one chieftain coming from as far as the San Joaquin River to assure the officer that he and his people had taken no part in the attack.

In April, 1806, Langsdorff visited Mission San Jose, where Padre Cueva hospitably received him, arranged an Indian dance for his entertainment (which he pictures), and generally made a holiday in his honor. His first attempt to reach the Mission by boat was unsuccessful; but on the second attempt, made a few days later, after perpetually going astray up wrong channels, he managed to find a landing ten miles away from the Mission. Of the Mission buildings, etc., he says :

“Although it is only eight years since they were begun, they are already of very considerable extent : the quantity of corn in the granaries far exceeded my expectations. . . . The kitchen garden is well laid out, and kept in very good order; the soil is everywhere rich and fertile, and yields ample returns. The fruittrees are still very young, but their produce is as good as could be expected. A small rivulet runs through the garden, which preserves a constant moisture. Some vineyards have been planted within a few years, which yield excellent wine, sweet and resembling malaga.

“The situation of the Mission is admirably chosen, and ac-cording to the universal opinion, this Mission will in a few years be the richest and best in New California. The only disadvantage is, that there are no large trees very near. . . .To compensate this disadvantage, there are in the neighborhood of the mission chalk-hills, and excellent brick earth so that most of their buildings are of brick. The organization of the institution is entirely the same as at San Francisco. The habitations for the Indians, las rancherias, are not yet finished, so that at present they live chiefly in straw huts of a conical form.”

In 1809, April 23, the new church was completed, and President Tapis came and blessed it. The following day he preached, and Padre Arroyo de la Cuesta said mass before a large congregation, including other priests, several of the military, and people from the pueblo and Santa Clara, and various neophytes. The following July the cemetery was blessed with the usual solemnities.

In 1811 Padre Fortuni accompanied Padre Abella on a journey of exploration to the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. They were gone fifteen days, found the Indians very timid, and thought the shores of the Sacramento offered a favorable site for a new Mission.

In 1817 Sergeant Soto, with one hundred San Jose neophytes, met twelve soldiers from San Francisco, and proceeded, by boat, to pursue some fugitives. They went up a river, possibly the San Joaquin, to a marshy island where, according to Soto’s report, a thousand hostiles were assembled, who immediately fell upon their pursuers and fought them for three hours. So desperately did they fight, relying upon their superior numbers, that Soto was doubtful as to the result; but eventually they broke and fled, swimming to places of safety, leaving many dead and wounded but no captives. Only one neophyte warrior was killed.

In 1820 San Jose reported a population of 1754, with 6859 large stock, 859 horses, etc., and 12,000 sheep.

For twenty-seven years Padre Duran, who from 1825 to 1827 was also the padre presidente, served Mission San Jose. In 1824 it reached its maximum of population in 1806 souls. In everything it was prosperous, standing fourth on the list both as to crops and herds.

Owing to its situation, being the first Mission reached by trappers, etc., from the East, and also being the nearest to the valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, which afforded good retreats for fugitives, San Jose had an exciting history. In 1826 there was an expedition against the Cosumnes, in which forty Indians were killed, a rancheria destroyed, and forty captives taken. In 1829 the famous campaign against Estanislas, who has given his name to both a river and county, took place. This Indian was a neophyte of San Jose, and being of more than usual ability and smartness was made alcalde. In 1827 or early in 1828 he ran away, and with a companion, Cipriano, and a large following, soon made himself the terror of the rancheros of the neighborhood. One expedition sent against him resulted disastrously, owing to insufficient equipment, so a determined effort under M. G. Vallejo, who was now the commander-in-chief of the whole California army, was made. May 29 he and his forces crossed the San Joaquin river on rafts, and arrived the next day at the scene of the former battle. With taunts, yells of defiance, and a shower of arrows, Estanislas met the coming army, he and his forces hidden in the fancied security of an impenetrable forest. Vallejo at once set men to work in different directions to fire the wood, which brought some of the Indians to the edge, where they were slain. As evening came. on twenty-five men and an officer entered the wood and fought until dusk, retiring with three men wounded. Next morning Vallejo, with thirty-seven soldiers, entered the wood, where he found pits, ditches, and barricades arranged with considerable skill. Nothing but fire could have dislodged the enemy. They had fled under cover of night. Vallejo set off in pursuit, and when two days later he surrounded them they declared they would die rather than surrender. A road was cut through the chaparral with axes, along which the field piece and muskets were pressed forward and discharged. The Indians retreated slowly, wounding eight soldiers. When the cannon was close to the enemies’ intrenchments the ammunition gave out, and this fact and the heat of the burning thicket compelled retreat. During the night the Indians endeavored to escape, one by one, but most of them were killed by the watchful guards. The next day nothing but the dead and three living women were found. There were some accusations, later, that Vallejo summarily executed some captives ; but he denied it, and claimed that the only justification for any such charge arose from the fact that one man and one woman had been killed, the latter wrongfully by a soldier, whom he advised be punished.

California in those days was not hospitably disposed to unknown and unaccredited foreigners, so when, in 1826, Jedediah Smith appeared in the province, having come from the Great Salt Lake, he was looked upon with suspicion. After various experiences with officials in the South, on working his way northward he finally reached Mission San Jose. Padre Duran afterwards accused him of enticing four hundred of his neophytes to run away, but investigation did not confirm the charge. Meeting with nothing but hostility, Smith crossed the Sierras, — the first known case on record, — and in twenty-eight days reached Salt Lake, having had to eat the horses that had succumbed to the rigors of the trip.

Later Smith returned, was vouched for by Captain Cooper at Monterey, and allowed to go back with full equipment of mules, horses, and provisions. He was killed in 1831 in New Mexico.

Up to the time of secularization the Mission continued to be one of the most prosperous. Jesus Vallejo was the administrator for secularization, and in 1837 he and Padre Gonzalez Rubio made an inventory which gave a total of over $155,000, when all debts were paid. Even now for awhile it seemed to prosper, and not until 1840 did the decline set in.

Captain Sutter of New Helvetia, one of the best known of the early California pioneers, had trouble in 1839 with a band of San Jose Indians, who came to him with a pass from the padres, entitling them to visit their relatives, the Ochumnes. Sutter permitted them certain privileges, but ere long they attacked a rancheria of Zalesumnes, many of whom, under Pulpule, were working for Sutter. They killed seven of the men, and stole all the women and children. This treachery so incensed Sutter that he joined forces with Pulpule, freed the captives, and finally shot ten of the aggressors, and delivered all the other San Jose neophytes he could catch to the authorities.

In accordance with Micheltorena’s decree of March 29, 1843, San Jose was restored to the temporal control of the padres, who entered with good-will and zest into the labor of saving what they could out of the wreck. Under Pico’s decree of 1845 the Mission was inventoried, but the document cannot now be found, nor a copy of it. The population was reported as 400 in 1842, and it is supposed that possibly 250 still lived at the Mission in 1845. On the 5th of May, 1846, Pico sold all the property to Andres Pico and J. B. Alvarado for $12,000, but the sale never went into effect.

Mission San Jose de Guadalupe and the pueblo of the same name are not, as so many people, even residents of California, think, one and the same. The pueblo of San Jose is now the modern city of that name, the home of the State Normal School, and the starting-point for Mount Hamilton. But Mission San Jose is a small settlement, nearly twenty miles east and north, in the foothills over-looking the southeast end of San Francisco Bay. The Mission church has entirely disappeared, an earthquake in 1868 having completed the ruin begun by the spoliation at the time of secularization. A modern parish church has since been built upon the site. Nothing of the original Mission now remains except a portion of the monastery. The corridor is without arches, and is plain and unpretentious, the roof being composed of willows tied to the roughly hewn log rafters with rawhide. Behind this is a beautiful old alameda of olives, at the upper end of which a modern orphanage, conducted by the Dominican Sisters, has been erected. This avenue of olives is crossed by an-other one at right angles, and both were planted by the padres in the early days, as is evidenced by the age of the trees. Doubtless many a procession of Indian neophytes has walked up and down here, even as I saw a procession of the orphans and their white-garbed guardians a short time ago. The surrounding garden is kept up in as good style under the care of the sisters as it was in early days by the padres.

What a fine location it is! With beautiful rolling hills behind, the Mission Peak to the south, the front view leading the eye over fertile meadows and pasture land to what was once swamp land, — but now reclaimed and more productive than the dreams of the padres ever contemplated for their best hilly soil, — beyond which is the placid and silvery face of the bay. Even then the eye cannot rest, for further still on the western shore are trees, foothills, and the bold Santa Cruz range. During the rainy season all this verdure and woods is washed clean, and everything is rich, green, and beautiful. In the summer the green is contrasted with the gold, and in the fall and winter new tints come into the leaves about to fall.

The orphanage was erected in 1884 by Archbishop Ale-many as a seminary for young men who wished to study for the priesthood, but it was never very successful in this work. For awhile it remained empty, then was offered to the Dominican Sisters as a boarding-school. But as this undertaking did not pay, in 1891 Archbishop Riordan offered such terms as led the Mother General of the Dominican Sisters to purchase it as an orphanage, and as such it is now most successfully conducted. There are at the present time about eighty children cared for by these sweet and gentle sisters of our Lord.

The olive trees planted by the padres still bear plentifully, and each February a large crop of rich, juicy olives is gathered to be pressed for their oil, or put in large vats and pickled for table use.

The Mission vines were still in existence until 1899, when, becoming diseased, they were taken up and not renewed, the sisters feeling that wine-making was an industry better suited to men than women, though for many years the wine made at San Jose had been used only for sacra-mental purposes.

Two of the old Mission bells are hung in the new church. On one of these is the inscription : ” S. S. Jose. Ano de 1826.” And on the upper bell, ” S. S. Joseph 1815, Ave Maria Purisima.”

The old Mission baptismal font is also still in use. It is of hammered copper, about three feet in diameter, surmounted by an iron cross about eight inches high. The font stands upon a wooden base, painted, and is about four feet high.