Mission San José (Photos)

Text and photographs provided by Anupama Mande and Khédija Gadhoum

Located in the city of Fremont (about fifteen miles from the city of San José), Mission San José is the fourteenth in the Alta California chain. Originally known as La mision del gloriosísimo patriarca Señor San José, it was established on June 11, 1797, by Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén. It was one of the most successful missions of northern California in the colonial period, credited in large part to the extraordinary efforts of Father Narciso Durán, who supervised it for twenty-seven years. He planned military strategy against local indigenous peoples, designed and constructed irrigation systems, and taught European music to the local Native Americans. He organized his students into groups and created a choir and a thirty-piece orchestra. Both became well known and quite popular in the area, and people traveled several miles to listen to the music.

The mission’s wealth and importance declined after secularization. The 1868 earthquake toppled almost all the buildings, and only a small portion of one original structure remains today. A reconstructed adobe church was completed in 1985. The padre’s living quarters is now a museum that showcases the history of the mission and the local Ohlone Indians.