Mission San Jose was founded in June 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. It was the 14th of 21 Spanish missions in Alta (Upper) California. The missions were founded to secure Spain's claim to this land and to teach the native people the Spanish way of life and Christianity. This site was the only mission on the east side of San Francisco Bay.
This area had been inhabited for countless generations - by the Ohlone Indians. The Ohlones lived in harmony with nature, taking what they needed for their sustenance but never wasting resources.
Three years after the founding of Mission San Jose, several hundred Ohlones had come to live at the mission. The Spanish Franciscan missionaries introduced them to a new way of life.
The mission's permanent adobe church was dedicated with great ceremony in April 1809. Valuable gifts of vestments, sacred vessels, religious statues, and paintings showed the generosity of friends of the mission in the Bay Area and abroad. The silken fabrics and embroideries are products of various textile centers of the Spanish Empire.
In 1833, Mission San Jose was one of the most prosperous of all the California missions. An inventory, of the time lists a church, monastery, guardhouse, guest house, and women's dormitory, in addition to the thousands of acres of crop and grazing land.
A decree of secularization by the Mexican government in 1934, took the missions out of the administration of the padres and brought the mission system to an end.
Jose de Jesus Vallejo was appointed civil administrator and the mission lands were divided into ranchos. The native people fled the mission, many of them died of disease and starvation, unable to readjust to their former way of life. The mission buildings, granaries, orchards, and gardens were allowed to decay.
At the end of the Mexican War, in 1848, Alta California was ceded to the United States. During the ensuing Gold Rush, H.C. Smith converted the mission to a place of lodging and added a general store to the south end of the mission wing.
In 1858, the United States government returned a small percentage of the mission lands to the Catholic Church. Ten years later, a giant earthquake centered on the Hayward fault shattered the walls of the mission church and broke open the roof. Restoration efforts by the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West in 1915 and 1950, saved the surviving portion of the mission wing and converted it into a museum.
In 1956, the town of Mission San Jose incorporated with four others to become the City of Fremont. In 1973 plans were launched to reconstruct the church of Mission San Jose.
After extensive archeological excavations and planning, construction began in 1982, on a replica of the 1809 adobe church. It was completed and rededicated in June, 1985.
Three of the original mission bells were transferred from the destroyed adobe church to the wooden church of 1869, where they hung until the 1970s. A fourth bell had been given to a church in Oakland and recast, but was returned to the mission during the reconstruction of the bell tower. Now all four bells are hung, ready to ring on special occasions.
Contrary to popular belief the mission is not Mission San Jose de Guadalupe. In the early part of the 1900s, a sign was erected on the roof of the museum which said "MISSION SAN JOSE de GUADALUPE." Many books have since been published and, unfortunately, the authors used this reference in their stories.
When this mission was founded it was named "LA MISSION DEL GLORIOSISIMO PATRIARCH SAN JOSE", in honor of the patron of St. Joseph. All of the record books refer to the mission as Mission San Jose.