San Jose Mission was dedicated to St. Joseph, the spouse of the Holy Virgin, June 11, 1797, by direct order from the Apostolic College at San Fernando. Padre Lasuen founded it, and appointed Padres Isadore Barcenilla and Augustine Morino as priests in control of the Mission. It was the sister to Santa Clara, and situated three miles away, on the foothills of the Coast Range, where the beautiful city of San Jose is now located, and fifty miles south of San Francisco. The region is noted for its immense stretch of fertile and well-watered lands, upon which the flocks and herds could graze and wander in native pastures without limit, summer and winter. These were the resources from which the Missions prospered and amassed their wealth. Here Nature, again, with but little care, yielded bountifully her products to minister to the comfort and luxury of man.
This Mission at an early day led many others in riches and in the influence these bestowed upon it. Hunting in the mountains and trapping on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers were sources of considerable wealth. The great mountains around the open country tempered the climate and promoted health and vigor, while they stirred the soul with their awe-inspiring scenery. Stanislaus, the renegade leader, like Yoscolo of the Santa Clara Mission, was educated here. But he too, like his ingrate associate, turned on the hands that nurtured him, and in 1825, with a band of about one hundred Indians, raided the ranches and drove away hundreds of cattle and horses. The animals were some days afterwards recovered as a result of a battle between the robbers and a small force of twenty men led by Guillermo Castro, who subsequently became a Mexican General, and commanded the Mexican army against General John C. Fremont in his famous bear campaign for the conquest of that part of California. It was a species of guerilla warfare in which Castro excelled by reason of his ability to hide in the mountain recesses beyond the reach of Fremont, who at last turned away to pursue his campaign more effectively in Southern California.
San Jose Mission was originally a small wooden erection, roofed with mats made by, the Indians, of strands of woven grasses stitched together; but about the year 1800 a new building was constructed. These ruins, although the Mission was simple and modest, and in no sense comparable with some others in size, cost, number, or magnificence of structure, have received more attention and been described in more glowing colors by writers and visitors than many another more extensive Mission.
General Vallejo, the Comisionado, took possession of the Mission property in 1834, and found ten thousand head of cattle, four thousand horses, and twelve thousand sheep; there were also about two thousand converted Indians, a most remarkable showing for a small Mission in thirty-seven years of existence.