The 14th Mission
Father Fermin Lasuen, second Father-Presidente of the Alta California Mission Chain, founded the Mission San Jose de Guadalupe on June 11th, 1797. It was the 14th of California’s 21 missions, and it had more Indian converts than any other Northern California Mission.
The Founding of Mission San Jose de Guadalupe and the Native Americans
The mission initially faced many difficulties with the surrounding Indian tribes. San Jose was known as a hotbed of hate toward the missionaries. A military pueblo actually was established not far from the mission in order to combat the angry Indians. Given the hostility of the Natives, conversions at the mission were slow going. In the first year, only 33 people were converted.
Despite these slow beginnings, the mission became one of the most successful in Northern California. It maintained a population of almost 2,000 Indians, and the fathers recorded approximately 6,000 conversions at the church. These Indian residents contributed greatly to the success of the mission’s economy.
Father Duran and the Mission San Jose Orchestra
Native Americans at Mission San Jose also played a vital social role. They built a unified community and helped to attract more converts. Much of this was due to the help of the resident padre, Father Duran. Father Duran was extremely sympathetic to the natives and their struggle against the Spanish. He was also very popular. He began a 30-piece orchestra for the Indians. They played handmade instruments until Father Duran could have real ones imported from Mexico. The orchestra gained a lot of fame for the mission and was visited by people from miles away.
Native American Massacre at Mission San Jose
In 1826, a group of 1,000 Indians led by Estanislao attacked the mission. The Commandante at the nearby pueblo retaliated in force. His troops defeated the Indians, and those Natives not killed in the battle were hung unceremoniously. The only Indian left alive was Estanislao. He was brought to Father Duran who was infuriated by the actions of the Commandante. Father Duran then pardoned him.
The Buildings at Mission San Jose de Guadalupe
A large adobe church was built at the mission to house all the converts. It was 125 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 24 feet high. Its walls were 8 feet thick. The church was only one of the structures built by the converts at Mission San Jose. They also constructed barracks, Indian homes, and an infirmary.
How Did the Mission San Jose de Guadalupe Support Itself
Like most California missions, the Mission San Jose de Guadalupe supported itself and the Native inhabitants of the area by growing crops of wheat and corn. They also raised herds of horses and cattle, and cultivated grapes in a vineyard. The mission was extremely prosperous, producing tanned hides, fruits, and vegetables for their own use and to trade.