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Mission Santa Clara de Asis
June 17, 2013, 05:00 AM By Darold Fredricks

Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County History Museum Mission Santa Clara de Assis (sister mission of Mission Dolores) in the 1850s.

Between 1769 and March 1776, little exploration occurred in the southern section of the Bay. In 1776, Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza and a group of soldiers camped at the Plain of the Oaks-Cupertino, as they explored from Monterey to the tip of the Bay-San Francisco. Anza was in great pain due to a leg injury and, after resting one night, the group trod up what is now El Camino Real toward San Francisco. Anza’s task was to choose a site for a Presidio and a Mission at the tip of the Peninsula. Palo Alto had been mentioned many times as a good site for a Mission but the government in Mexico wanted the Presidio and Mission at the tip to defend against any Russian, English or other intruders.

In November 1776, Father Pena, a Franciscan priest from Monterey, visited and chose a site on the Guadalupe River for a mission. This site favored a potential port that could be developed (Alviso) for travel and trade to Mission Dolores that had already been established at the tip of the Peninsula. The object of the Mission was to “civilize” the native Ohlone Indians by teaching the agriculture and other arts that would be used by the Indians to develop their own land that would be given to them by the church after they became Christians. No resistance was offered by the natives as they settled down to become European-type citizens.

The final site for a pueblo would be up to the officer in charge of the Presidio of San Francisco — Lt. Moraga. The governor, Felipe de Neve, wanted the pueblo on the east side of Guadalupe River but Moraga placed it closer to the river than Neve wanted. This would prove to be a big mistake when wet periods flooded the pueblo and destroyed the mission. In 1828, the mission was rebuilt on the present site of Santa Clara University. This distance from the pueblo caused friction among the settlers until 200 Indians and the priests planted trees and improved the road, the Alameda, so the trip was more pleasant when services were held at the Mission. St. Joseph Church was built in San Jose in 1803 thus reducing the need for all the services at the Mission.

The Mission was established on mud flats, along the Guadalupe River in January 1777. The first church lasted until floods destroyed the buildings the first year. The second mission was moved further south toward the pueblo. This attempt to develop a Mission to the south along the Guadalupe River also met with disaster when another flood wiped out the structures. The next attempt was more successful as the Mission site chosen was quite a distance to the west of the creek. The entire 1822-1825 church was destroyed by fire in October of 1826 and then rebuilt. It now consisted of a quadrangle within the compound that was made up of the church, storerooms, priest’s residence and quarters for the young Indian neophyte girls. Outside the quadrangle were a guardhouse, jail and six houses for guards.

In 1893, the Mission had proved to be very successful. The Indian population of Santa Clara was now 1,271. The Mission reported that it now had 5,000 cattle, 7,000 sheep, 2,200 horses and 30 mules on Mission lands. Ample supplies of grain — wheat, barley and corn had been harvested. In 1850, California became a state and the Jesuit Order took over the Mission Santa Clara. In 1851, Father John Nobili, S.J., was put in charge of the Mission and he began a college on the Mission site. This is the oldest university in California.  

Rediscovering the Peninsula by Darold Fredricks appears in the Monday edition of the Daily Journal.




Tags: mission, pueblo, church, river, would, guadalupe,

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