The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Jose de Guadalupe
Founded June 11, 1797

Founding of the mission

Mission San Jose de Guadalupe was founded on June 11, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. It was the 14th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. Mission San Jose was built to fill in the mission chain. Each mission was to be a day's journey from the other and in 1797, Father Lasuen received permission to start 5 new missions. Within 2 days after the founding service, shelters were built and in 3 weeks, there were seven more buildings laid out in a rectangle. Mission San Jose received supplies and gifts from the nearby missions to help them get started. The church is 125 feet long, 30 feet wide and 24 feet high. The walls are 8 feet thick.

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Local Indians
Click here to see a video of the Mission Cemetery

During the first year at Mission San Jose only 33 Indians came to live at the mission. The local Ohlone Indians were not eager to join the mission, they liked their existing way of life. The padres were patient and in time, Mission San Jose grew to have more Indians in residence than any other Northern California Mission. The Indians came from miles around to build the church, sleeping quarters, workshops and other rooms at the mission. Once in 1828, an Indian named Estanislao ran away from the mission. He did not like the mission life. One night he and other Indians attacked the mission, a large fight began and in the end, the Indians lost. The padre forgave them and welcomed them back into the mission. Estanislao and many others came back to live at the mission. Estanislao is the Indian that Stanislaus County is name after. In 1831, there were 1,886 Indian converts living at the mission.

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Economy of the mission

The economy of the missions were similar to each other in that they planted crops of wheat and corn. They also planted vineyards, and raised cattle and sheep. The agriculture was needed not only to maintain the mission community and the nearby Indians, but was used for trade and served to visitors to the mission. San Jose grew to be the most successful mission in Northern California. Vegetables, fruits, and crops grew well at the Mission San Jose. In 1831, there were around 12,000 cattle, 13,000 sheep, and 13,000 horses at the mission.

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The community
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Quadrangle

In 1827, the quadrangle was completed. Each side was 900 feet long. It was here that a soap factory and tannery were built. Behind the quadrangle were the adobe Indian homes, a kitchen garden, an orchard, and a vineyard enclosed by ten foot high adobe walls. The mission grew with Indians coming from as far away as 50 miles to life at the mission. The Indians spoke many languages and dialects. The padres had to learn them in order to teach the Indians. The Indians became so good at learning to play music that they developed a 30 piece orchestra using hand made instruments until real ones arrived from Mexico. This orchestra became very famous at that time.

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After Mexico won its independence from Spain, it found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions running as Spain had done. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell all of the lands. They offered the lands to the Indians who did not want the lands or could not come up with the purchase price. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence. After nearly 30 years, the missions were returned to the Catholic Church. Although some of the missions had already been returned to the church, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain would become the property of the Catholic Church and have remained so since that time. Mexican Governor Pio Pico sold the mission in 1845 for $12,000. During the 1848 Gold Rush, the mission became a general store, saloon and hotel. In 1853, the church became the local parish church.

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On October 21, 1868, an earthquake destroyed the mission. A small wooded church was built on the site and used for over 100 years. In 1985, the restoration of the church was completed. It took over 150,000 bricks to complete the church. This was done by the Committee for the Restoration of the Mission San Jose and the Diocese of Oakland. It is a near perfect replication of the original church. The padre's quarters are now a small museum. The mission is a small reminder of the once great days at Mission San Jose de Guadalupe.

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Current use

Saint Joseph's Church at the Mission San Jose is today a local parish church. The church has regular services and also has a visitors center, museum and slide show telling the history of the mission.

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Graphic tour
Click below to see a video Inside the Mission Church
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Mission Quiz

Objective: answer 7 questions correctly. JavaScript required!

1. Who was the founder of Mission San Jose?

Junipero Serra
Gaspar de Portola
Fermin Lasuen
Sebastian Vizcaino

2. Mission San Jose was founded....?

June 11, 1797
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the San Jose Mission?


4. Who was responsible for the restoration of the church in 1985?

Commission to Restore the Mission
Committee for the Restoration of the Mission San Jose
Hearst Foundation
The Catholic Church

5. Who did the actual building of the missions?

construction companies
the priests
the soldiers
the local Indians

6. What happened to the missions in 1834?

They opened
The Indians took over

7. San Jose is the only mission...?

that has been completely rebuilt
to survive an Indian attack
with an Indian orchestra
with a bell tower

8. San Jose is know for having been the...?

only mission to have musical instruments
poorest mission in California
most successful mission in Northern California
mission with the most farming

9. What happened in 1845?

An earthquake
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
The mission was sold

10. What did Abraham Lincoln agree to in 1863?

Formally return the Mission lands to the Church
Run for President of the United States
Visit the San Antonio de Padua Mission
force the Indians to leave the Mission

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The Mission Page | The Assessment Page |Main Page

Other San Jose sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions

This project written by Rob Garretson in partial fulfilment of the Master's of Arts Degree from Cal Poly Pomona

Please send questions and/or comments to Mr. Garretson

This page last updated on February 28, 2015