History of San Jose, California - Part 1
From: History of Santa Clara County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co. Publishers
San Francisco, California, 1881


IN this chapter of our history of Santa Clara county we have been per force obliged to adopt a different method from that pursued in the annals of the other townships, for the population is so large in San Jose that it would have been next to impossible to follow the residents as they arrived and settled in so densely crowded a district. With this simple observation we leave our researches in the hands of the reader.

During the Gubernational regime of Don Felipe de Neve, which we have already shown commenced in December, 1774, and closed September, 1782, reports upon the topography, character and condition of Upper California, and what situations were most suitable for establishments were frequently made to His Most Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain, through the Viceroy in Mexico. The country from south to north, from San Diego to the Bay of San Francisco, then the Dan and Beersheba of our State, was carefully examined, and permission sought to locate two pueblos or towns, viz.: that tract of land, now Los Angeles, which lies contiguous to the river La Portincula, one hundred and twenty six miles from San Diego and six from the Mission of San Gabriel; and also, that tract on the margin of the river Guadalupe, seventy eight miles from the presidio of Monterey forty eight from that of San Francisco, and two miles and a quarter from the Mission of Santa Clara. The dispatch embodying these measures bore date June 3, 1777, but so long was the Governor in receiving the awaited reply, owing chiefly to the distance which separated him from the City of Mexico, that he took the responsibility upon his own shoulders, and directed Don Jose Moraga, the Lieutenant commanding the presidio of San Francisco, to detach from garrison duty there nine soldiers of known agricultural skill, and two settlers, with three others obtained for that specific purpose, and with them proceed to form a settlement on the banks of the Guadalupe. On November 29, Anno Domini 1777, this little band planted themselves on the margin of that stream, about a mile and a quarter north of the center of the present city, dubbed their camp a pueblo, and gave to it the name of San Jose de Guadalupe, after the holy Saint Joseph.

The information hereinbefore given is derived chiefly from Mr. Hall's "History of San Jose;" let us see what an older authority has to say in regard to the founding of the Peublo de San Jose de Guadalupe: In the "Noticias de Nueva California" by the Rev. Father Palou, among the manuscript archives of the City of Mexico, we are distinctly told that the pueblo was founded November 7, 1777, and that the persons taking possession, made their settlement in the name of his Majesty, making out the square for the erection of the houses, distributing the solares (house lots) and measuring to each settler a piece of ground for the sowing of a fanega of maize (two hundred varas by four hundred,) and for beans and other vegetables. The Regulation for the Government of the Provinces made by Governor Neve, at Monterey, June 1, 1779, and approved by the King, by Royal Order, October 24, 1781, as is hereafter shown, allowed to each settler four lots of two hundred varas square, besides their house lot, and was acted upon by the Commissioner - but we must not anticipate.

On April 15, 1778, Governor Neve communicated his step to the Viceroy, who, in reply dated July 22d of the same year, fully approved the action taken, and warmly commended the Governor for his share in the affair. As in duty bound the Viceroy reported the measure to the Central Government, a full approval being received by letter bearing date March 6, 1779, wherein His Majesty expressed his supreme satisfaction at the action of Felipe de Neve, who was charged to use ever caution to the end that the new pueblo be an assistance and not a hindrance to the neighboring Mission of Santa Clara.

The little company of pioneers were early left to their own devices for the Lieutenant had returned to his military duties at San Francisco. It is not hard to picture their solitude. True the same genial sun that had warmed them in their aimless youth now shown upon the budding of a useful manhood; the same moon which caused the merry shadows to gambol around their Mexican homes, now lent her pure rays to illuminate their lonely dwellings; and surely these are the same stars that playfully twinkled over their infantile diversions and now brighten their monotonous tedium; therefore rather than permit the canker worm of care to ingraft itself upon their minds, they were up and doing, and first commenced a desultory kind of cultivation, and so went on until the sway of Governor Neve had ceased and Don Pedro Fages was appointed in September, 1782.

On the 24th December, of that year, Lieutenant Moraga, who, it would appear, is intimately connected with the earliest history of this city, was appointed a Commissioner to proceed to San Jose to parcel out the land to the nine founders, so that the possessions should be uniform and regular, and that a proper line of demarcation should be introduced between vacant lands common lands for pasturage, vacant suburbs for building, and wood lands. This duty Moraga performed in the following manner, according to his official report, dated, September 1, 1783, a document bearing his own, as well as the signature of the two assisting witnesses, whom he was ordered to appoint, Felipe Tapia and Juan Jose Peralta: On May 13th, of that year, he nominated the witnesses to office, which was duly accepted, and then on the following day, the 14th, he called the nine founders and the assisting witnesses to appear before him, when, in his company, the lands to be distributed were visited, and in the presence of all, the division of each was given, as under: First. - To Ignacio Archuleta he gave a house lot, thirty varas square, adjoining, on one side, that on which stood the Ayuntamiento, or House of the ToVan Council, and on the other, the lot of Manuel Gonzales, as well as two hundred varas square (comprised in four suertes, or out lots, two watered, and two dry), of cultivable lands, all of which were irrigable, and possession given to the said Archuleta. Second. - On the 15th, he gave the same amount of land to Manuel Gonzales, whose suertes were bounded by those of Jose Tiburcio Vasquez, Bernado Rosales, Claudio Alvires, and Sebastian Alvitre, the limits of his house lot being that of Archuleta, on the one side, and Vasquez on the other. Third. He gave a like quantity of land, on the same day, to Jose Tiburcio Vasquez, the tillable land thus apportioned being bounded by those of Francisco Avila, Bernado Rosales, Manuel Gonzales, and Manuel Amesquita. Fourth. - May the 16th, he assigned to Manuel Amesquita a house lot bounded on one side by that of Jose Tiburcio Vasquez, and on the other, by that of Antonio Romero; that he also gave him four suertes, bounded on one side by those of Claudio Alvires, and on the other by the lands of Jose Tiburcio Vasquez. Fifth. - The next day Antonio Romero received a house lot, bounded on one side by that of Manuel Amesquita, and on the other by that of Bernado Rosales, also four out lots bounded by those of Jose Tiburcio Vasquez and Francisco Avila. Sixth. - That on the same day he gave a solar (house lot) to Bernado Rosales, bounded by that of Antonio Romero on one side, and on the other, by that of Francisco Avila; four suertes were also given, their limits being the lands of Francisco Avila, and Manuel Gonzales. Seventh. - To Francisco Avila, he apportioned, on the 18th, a house lot, bounded on the one side by the solar of the Ayuntamiento, and on the other by that of Sebastian Alvitre; also four suertes, bounded by those of Jose Tiburcio Vasquez, Atonio Romero, and Bernado Rosales. Eighth. - That, on the same day, he assigned to Sebastian Alvitre, a solar, bounded on one side by that of Francisco Avila, and on the other by that of Claudio Alvires; as well as four out lots adjoining those of Bernado Rosales, Claudio Alvires, and Manuel Gonzales. Ninth. - And that, likewise on this date, he gave to Claudio Alvires, a house lot, bounded by that of Sebastian; also, four out lots, having as their boundaries, the parcels of lands allotted to Sebastian Alvitre and Bernado Rosales. As possession was given to each new fledged land owner, he was made the recipient of a branding iron to mark his cattle; he also received a title to each session; and was instructed to surround his house lot with an alley ten varas wide; and around each suerte, or out lot, one of four varas. On the 19th, the action conferring possessory rights having been effected, the Commissioner, with the two assisting witnesses and the founders, crossed the Guadalupe to its western hank, and measured from the dam to the boundary line separating the lands of the Santa Clara Mission and those of the pueblo, and found it to be nineteen hundred and fifty eight varas. One half of this survey was assigned to the pueblo, for propios (common lands with pasturage and fields rented for the purpose of raising a revenue for municipal purposes), the other half being looked upon as vacant, excepting, always, such portions as were intended for house lots and out lots - solars and suertes; that the ejidos - vacant suburbs intended to be used for house lots as the pueblo increased - had been assigned near the buildings, where the ground was high, the dimensions being fifteen hundred vans in length, and seven hundred wide. We are told that this report is somewhat vague as to the exact boundaries of the ejidos a great fault, indeed, inasmuch as under the Spanish and Mexican laws it was absolutely necessary to clearly define every class of pueblo lands, and particularly the ejidos, as they were laid off around the town expressly for building lots, and could not be granted for any other purpose. Prescription did not run against them.

Thus it will be seen who the actual fathers of the present prosperous city were. Let us, for the sake of conciseness, re-enumerate them. There were: Ignacio Archuleta, Manuel Gonzales, Jose Tiburcio Vasquez, Manuel Armesquita, Antonio Romero, Bernado Rosales, Francisco Avila, Sebastian Alvitre, and Claudio Alvires. This is a fact, the value of which can not be overrated, yet there is another matter of as much importance, and which is of deep interest, and that is, the relative position of each man's land, and the general idea of the situation. To bring this dearly to the mind of the reader, we here produce a copy of the original plan of the pueblo, as allotted by Commissioner Lieutenant Moraga, still it is a vast pity that a complete plan of all the lots he handed over to the pobladores was not made, and if made, not kept in the archives, for, owing to the insufficiency of the plan, and there being no monuments, it is next to impossible to designate their exact location.

We have already said the first houses stood about a mile and a quarter from the center of the present city; that is, the precise locality in which they were erected, is about where the first bridge, on the road to Alviso, is built. Here, however, they were not to remain, or rather, it was not long before the settlement was to be moved.

Up till the year 1785, the little band of settlers were the victims of all the vicissitudes attendant on stormy, cold and wet winters, indeed, the end of 1778 and beginning of 1779 saw them flooded almost out of house and home. These discomforts, added to hostile demonstrations by predatory bands of Indians, caused them to talk over the matter of translocation, and seek a remedy at the hands of the Government. With this end in view, a formal petition was drawn up and transmitted to the Governor, in which permission was asked to remove the pueblo to higher ground, a little distance south of the position it then occupied, but that official not having the necessary power to issue such an order, he made a full report of the subject matter, under date August 5, 1785, to the Commandante General of the Intendencia, at Arispe, Sonora. In those days, though, it took much time to move the wheels of official machinery, delay followed delay, the last more vexatious than the preceding; form and ceremony went hand in hand to balk the desire of the little band of pioneers: day followed day, weeks grew into months and these into years, and yet no reply came to hand, nor was any received until well on into the third year after the petition was sent. At lung last a decree was issued by the Commandante, June 21, 1787, authorizing the settlers to move to the "adjacent Ioma (little hill) selected by them as more useful and advantageous, without changing or altering, for this reason, the limits and boundaries of the territory or district assigned to said settlement and to the neighboring Mission of Santa Clara, as there is no just cause why the latter should attempt to appropriate to herself the land." Still, this dictum would appear to have been without effect, for ten years later it is on record that Don Diego de Borica, who was Governor between the years 1794 and 1800, requested Don Gabriel Moraga, as to what means could be devised, to free the inhabitants from their periodic martyrdom. Moraga replied. January 8, 1797, that the only resources whereby the pueblo could be freed of this annual flood, were: "To move and build houses on the other side of the river, where there is a sitio aproposito (an appropriate site), about two gunshots distant, in front of which are oaks, in the same plain that extends to the Mission. This paraje, place or site, is the property of the pueblo and within its territory, and without any controversy in relation to its boundaries. This place possesses great advantages and security against the rising of the water, and the principal one is the facility of traveling to the Mission: although the water may be high the passing will not be inconvenient, and there will be no detention from mass or confession (which at present the people are deprived of), and the traveling will not be disagreeable; but in weather like the present there is no alternative (although a sudden death or accident should occur), except to carry on one's shoulders the sick person; and this, with a thousand difficulties they would meet, would not be an easy task, nor one to which the Reverend Fathers should he exposed. These are the reasons, sir, which the inhabitants, except four individuals, have made known to me. Indeed, Ygnacio Vallejo is of the same opinion." In this report Moraga embodied the views of the said Vallejo, given in these words: "At the time I obtained command as Commissioner of the pueblo, the water raised so high that a little more would have carried off our houses. Some of them were much injured, and we were deprived of going to mass and confession, not being able to pass to the Mission without going round circuitously a distance of three leagues, to avoid the had places which were so numerous in such weather. And in the bad places many were left afoot without being able to use their horses; nor could they look after their cavallado (band of horses grazing), nor use them to notify each other in case of any trouble or accident. Already in the pueblo and in the adjoining Mission, on such occasions, the wild, unchristianized Indians have committed depredations, Finally, for sowing wheat, corn and other grains, the carrying of the mails, and the, passage of pack trains, it offers great advantage, as well as for timber and wood; everything is nearer and more convenient, and I fully approve of the view of the citizens."

The above would appear to have been good and sufficient reasons why the pueblo should be relocated, and to be such they were proven, for the fiat went forth that the prayer of the petitioners be granted, but effect was not given to the decree until full a dozen years later. What was the cause of the delay is purely suppositious there may have been fair reasons and there may have been none, unhappily the precise date on which the removal was effected, is veiled in obscurity, nor are there any records extant, we believe, which go to show that there was a redistribution of house lots (solars), and out lots (suertes), similar to that performed, in 178:3, by Lieutenant Moraga, but this we do know, that the removal was accomplished in the year 1707, the central point of the new location being near the corner of Market and San Fernando streets.

At this period there arose a dispute between the Fathers at the Mission and the pueblo residents as to the boundary line dividing the two concessions, which, after several appeals to the authorities at Mexico, was finally settled; this subject will, however, be found more fully gone into, in another portion of this volume.

We have thus far seen the first village of San Jose established, its subsequent removal to a more advantageous locality, and its inauguration on ground with which we are all more or less familiar. It is to be presumed that in the old pueblo there had been a Town Council House, for we find the lot on which stood the Ayuntamiento designated in 1783 as a boundary to certain solars then granted, what became of the building no one now knows, it has probably mixed with the clay from which it was originally fashioned; in 1783, however, that Ayunatmiento or Juzgado, so well remembered by many pioneers of our own day, was erected on Market street near the corner of El Dorado street. It was one story high, contained three rooms, while the gable ends faced east and west. The central apartment was occupied by the Court; that to the east was the room of the Alcalde; while the western division was used as a jail. The building was torn down in the year 1850, and the adobe bricks from its walls, after sixty seven years' usage, went towards the construction of a fine house on the north east corner of Market and Santa Clara streets for J. D. Hoppe.

The next two decades did not bring much of interest to the pueblo, in fact, were it not for the excitement fermented by boundary disputes, theirs' was a dull time indeed; at length it dawned upon them that the Mission of Santa Clara was too distant, and the way thither too dangerous for them to attend the religious exercises with any degree of regularity, therefore, in the advancement of Roman Catholicity, and a part of their national functions as well, it was considered expedient to erect a chapel within their own precincts, and, trusting to the Mission Fathers for an officiating clergyman, whose dangers were unconsidered when traveling between the two points of the Mission and pueblo, there might worship according to their own devices. The measure having advanced through its preliminary stages, Don Macario Castro indicted an epistle to Don Jose de la Guerra, Commandante at San Carlos, near Monterey, July 1, 1803, begging him to come to San Jose and act as Sponsor at the consecration of the corner stone of the new place of worship; the reply received was dated July 7th, and went on to relate that his daily acts of impiety would preclude the possibility of his taking advantage of the gracious request, but, seeing that he was permitted to name a substitute, he had deputed Don Jose Maria Estudillo, a cadet, a person in whom he had the most implicit reliance, to perform the duties, knowing full well that to him they could be trusted. On the 12th of July the ceremony took place with becoming pomp; coins of the reigns of different Spanish sovereigns were placed beneath the corner stone, and a statement of the ceremonies placed in a sealed bottle, so that the memory thereof should be perpetuated. Thus reads the translation of this document:-

"In the Pueblo of San Jose de Guadalupe, the 12th day of July, 1803, Senor Don Carlos IV., being King of Spain, Don Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga. Governor ad interim, and Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Army; the retired Sergeant Macario de Castro, Commissioner of the Pueblo; Ignacio Archuleta, ordinary Alcalde; and Bernado Heridia and Francisco Gonzales, Regidore: at six o'clock of the evening on said day, was made the consecration of the first stone and mortar of the church which was commenced in the said Pueblo dedicated to the Patriarch Senor St. Joseph, and the Virgin Guadalupe, which ceremony was celebrated with much solemnity by the Reverend Father Friar, Joseph Viader, minister of the Santa Clara Mission; Don Jose Maria Estudillo, Cadet, acting as god father, by proxy, from Alferez de Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega, Commandante at the presidio at Monterey, and who placed under the first stone, money of every sovereign, and a duplicate of this document, in a bottle sealed with wax, for its preservation in the future; and for the present, we sign it in the said Pueblo, the day, month and year aforesaid.

"JOSE MARIA ESTUDILLO, As proxy for Alferez de la Guerra y Noriega.
MACARIO DE CASTRO, Commissioner."

This chapel was composed of adobe walls and covered with a roof of tules; within, was ornamented with a few simple pictures of Saints, and Biblical scenes; it stood until the year 1835, when it gave place to another and fitter edifice, while the present noble structure standing at the corner of Market and San Fernando streets, and built in the shape of a cross, has in its main body the site of the original St. Joseph's Church, the first place of worship erected in San Jose. We doubt not for the thirty years and more which it stood, many submissive hearts have knelt in deep devotion before its primitive altar, and many rebellious spirits been soothed within its sacred walls. We can almost now hear the impressive service commenced, the praises chanted, and the benediction pronounced, and see the happy few return to their homes relieved in mind, and for the present with all feuds forgotten; indeed it is a pleasant solace to conjecture the earlier citizens of this lovely city, though rough in exterior, still child like in spirit, fearing the Lord, for if there is ever one time when prayer may be more beneficially asked than at another, it is when deep solitude surrounds us, when the dark future appears to be yet more dark, when thankfulness is to be divided among only a small community, and when deep love binds man and woman, youth and maiden, old and young, then and then only, do the hardened pray with fervor, and the wicked seek to be reclaimed.

In our day unhappily the growth of a city may be guaged by the number of saloons in force; that such was not the case in the earliest times of San Jose is a fact to be remembered, yet we are informed that not more than the half of a dozen years had elapsed since its foundation than permission was sought from the Government by an enterprising citizen to manufacture peach brandy. Then as now the valley was prolific, probably more so in those times than at the present; fruit trees, vegetables and cereals flourished with prodigious success where they had been planted, and such was the prodigal out come of one crop of peaches, that the owner, Manuel Higuera, found his way to Monterey, solicited the boon to turn his surplus crop of peaches into brandy, and received the august authorization, dated August 19, 1805, to make one barrel of the cherished tipple, which no doubt he performed with becoming zeal in what may be called the first distillery in San Jose.

During these years it is only natural to suppose that the community throve in the genial climate of the valley, and that the youth of the pueblo flourished as a green bay tree; still there are no records extant as to any first step being taken towards the establishment of a system of public tuition. In the San Jose Records, there is preserved a Spanish document bearing on this subject, and from which the following information may be gleaned: It would seem that in the year 1811 a contract had been entered into by the Commissioner of the pueblo, acting on behalf of the families thereof, and an infirm corporal named Rafael Irillavicencio, to instruct the children of the settlement. This covenant was transmitted to Monterey for approval, but the Commander, considering the document defective, made the accompanying reply to the Commissioner:-

"I return to you, that the same may be placed in the archives, the obligation which the inhabitants of the neighborhood have made with the infirm corporal, Rafael Irillavicencio, who transmitted it to me by official letter of the 30th of last September, in which he obligated himself to teach the children of this pueblo and vicinity, to read, write, and the Doctrine; and to be paid therefor at the rate of eighteen reales per annum, by every head of a family, in grain or flour. As in this obligation of both parties, the conditions are not expressed, which I consider ought to be, I have thought proper to dictate them; that you may make it known to both parties in public, with their consent; and that it be signed by you, the Alcalde, Regidores, and the teacher, and registered in the archives.

"Firstly. - The pay of eighteen reales annually by each and every head of a family, I think is quite sufficient for the teacher; and as it is all they can give, in virtue of which, the Commissioner will be obliged to collect the same at the proper time, in order to deliver it to the teacher. The teacher, in virtue of the pay which is to be made to him, will also be obliged to perform his obligation with the greatest vigilance and strictness, without giving his attention to anything else but the teaching. As the hours are not expressed in which the attendance of the children ought to be at school, they will be these: six in a day; three in the morning and three in the afternoon; in the morning from eight o'clock until eleven, and in the afternoon fromtwo until five; it being the duty of the Commissioner to compel the fathers to make their children attend; and to see that the teacher in no instance fails.

"Every Thursday and Saturday afternoons, the children will not write or read, but explanations will be given them these two afternoons, of the Doctrine (faith); at which times the Commissioner will attend, and advise the teacher that he must answer for the little or much explanation which he may make.

"When the teacher observes the absence of any of the scholars at the school, he will notify their fathers, who will give some satisfactory reason why they were absent on that morning or afternoon; and if they should be absent a second time, then he will notify the Commissioner, who will compel the fathers to send their children, without receiving any excuse or pretexts, particularly from the mothers, because they will be frivolous, since the children have ssufficient time to do all that they are required to do.

"Lastly. - During the time in which the children are at school, their fathers will be exempt from being responsible to God for them, and the teacher will be the one who is thus responsible; as he will, also, in consideration of his pay, be responsible for the education and teaching of the holy dogmas of the religion; and the teacher is he who must be responsible to God, the parish priest, and to their authority. It is also understood that the fathers are obliged to examine their children at home, as to the advancement which they may make, and to complain to the Commissioner when they see no advancement, in order that he may remedy the matter, if necessary.

"As the teacher is responsible in the Divine presence for the education and good examples of his scholars, and as he must answer to the State for the fulfillment of his obligations, he has the right to correct and punish his scholars with advice, warning, and lashes, in case of necessity; and particularly he ought to do it for any failure to learn theDoctrine, for which he ought not to accept any excuse, nor to pardon any one from punishment who fails to learn it, or who does not commit to memory the lesson which may be given him.

"Having made known that it should be registered as I command: God preserve you many years. JOSE MA. ESTUDILLO."

A true and correct copy of this curious document was placed in the cornerstone of the State Normal School, when it was laid, October 20, 1870, and after the destruction of that building by fire February 10, 1880, was brought to light in a state of remarkable preservation, to be again hidden from view, on the occasion of a like ceremony for the edifice which has since arisen from the ashes of the last grand structure.

[Contuined in San Jose History part 2.]

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