A Year in the Life of a Spanish Colonial Pueblo: San José de Guadalupe in 1809

Official correspondence from the Spanish-Mexican Records of the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe

Silicon Valley's Hispanic Roots

Colonial Spain was not able to establish a permanent settlement in the more remote regions of its northwestern frontier until over a century and three quarters after the conquest of Mexico City in 1521. It was not until the 17th century was almost over -- in 1697 -- that a foothold on the eastern shore of what we now call Baja California was established. Named Loreto by the Italian Jesuits who founded it, the settlement soon became home to the two institutions which spearheaded the Spanish expansion into the Californias: the mission and the presidio. These two entities, one religious and the other military, directed the Spanish enterprise in Baja California through the 18th century. However, when Spain decided to expand its settlements further north to the area called Alta (Upper) California, it soon found that it needed a third type of institution -- the pueblo -- to raise crops to support the presidios. San José de Guadalupe was the first pueblo founded in Alta California. A party from San Francisco, led by José Joaquín Moraga, established the pueblo near the eastern bank of the Guadalupe River on November 29, 1777. Lands were distributed in 1783 and in that same year the first municipal elections were held. The site proved to be too close to the banks of the river however, and was relocated to a place farther from the river in 1797. It soon became one of the major sources of food for the two adjoining presidios, San Francisco and Monterey, the capital of Alta California.  The correspondence that follows gives a cross section of life in this important pueblo during the year 1809, a reminder that before it became Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley was Native American and Hispanic.

Map of Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe, 1781 (1781-06-01)History San José

The first known map of what is today San Jose, California, listing owners of the plots of land distributed to the settlers.

Volume 3, page 662-663 / Discusses selection of alcaldes and regidores; pack train to be sent for corn Volume 3, page 662-663 / Discusses selection of alcaldes and regidores; pack train to be sent for corn (1809-01-04) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

José María Martínez was born in Topago, Sonora, Mexico c. 1755. He served in the military at Monterey and San Francisco before settling in San José in 1794. José María Estudillo was born in Spain in 1772 and came to America in 1787. He served at Loreto from 1796 to 1806, when he was transferred to Monterey.

Volume 3, page 655-656 / Grants permission for Juan María Martínez to accept position of soldier Volume 3, page 655-656 / Grants permission for Juan María Martínez to accept position of soldier (1809-01-05) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

An inválido was a soldier who was retired either because of age or injuries. Toribio Martínez Guzmân was born around 1750 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Francisco González was a settler at San José in the 1790s and served as regidor in 1803.

Volume 3, page 646-647 / Request by José Antonio Acebes that his son be permitted to sleep at home (1809-01-02) by José Antonio AcebesHistory San José

José Antonio Quitero Acebes was born c. 1740 at Valle del Bartolomé, Durango, Mexico. His family arrived in Alta California with the Anza party in 1776. He settled in San José and was granted the Salinas Rancho in the 1790s. He died in 1820.

Volume 3, pages 659 / Nominations for alcaldes and regidores (1809-01-11) by José Marĺa EstudilloHistory San José

Marcos Chabolla was a Spanish soldier who served as a corporal and settled at San Francisco before 1800. Antonio Soto was a settler at San José from before 1800. He served as regidor from 1809-1810 and as alcalde in 1818. He died in 1818. Juan Altamirano served as regidor in 1809 and died in 1811.

Volume 3, page 651-654 / Requests permission for Antonio Buelna’s son to sleep at home Volume 3, page 651-654 / Requests permission for Antonio Buelna’s son to sleep at home (1809-01-12) by Antonio BuelnaHistory San José

Antonio Buelna was born around 1754 in Sinaloa, Mexico. He joined the military and arrived in California before 1780. He served in the Soledad mission guard and was granted Rancho Cañada de Huerta near Monterey, then settled in San José in the late 1790s and served as a teacher in both Monterey and San José. He died in 1821.

Volume 3, page 661 / Shipment of corn for frigate Regina (1809-01-13) by José MarÍa EstudilloHistory San José

The pueblo of San José was created to raise crops and livestock, and became one of the major sources of food for the two adjoining presidios, San Francisco and Monterey.

Volume 3, page 581-584 / Complaints by Mission San Jose that cattle from Pueblo are damaging property Volume 3, page 581-584 / Complaints by Mission San Jose that cattle from Pueblo are damaging property (1809-01-28) by José JoaquÍn de ArrillagaHistory San José

Luis Peralta was born about 1760 in Tubac, Sonora, Mexico. He accompanied his parents to Alta California on the Anza expedition in 1776, and was part of the original colonists in San José in 1777. He enlisted in the military in 1782, served as comisionado of San José from 1807 to 1822, and retired from the military in 1826. He died in 1851.

Volume 3, page 579-580 / Response regarding livestock; encloses knife for Father Viader Volume 3, page 579-580 / Response regarding livestock; encloses knife for Father Viader (1809-02-14) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Father José Viader was born in 1765 in Catalonia, Spain. He became a Franciscan in 1788 and arrived in Alta California in 1796. He spent the next 33 years at Mission Santa Clara, returning to Spain in 1833.

Volume 3, page 632-635 / Proclamations regarding war with Napoleon Volume 3, page 632-635 / Proclamations regarding war with Napoleon (1808-10-03/1809-02-26) by José María Estudillo, Luis Peralta, and Pedro GarivayHistory San José

Fernando VII (1784-1833) became king of Spain in 1808, lost the crown to Napoleon’s brother Joseph, but regained it in 1813. Under his rule, Spain lost its New World colonies.

Volume 3, page 572-573 / Indian named Secundino, who has been arrested (1809-05-03) by José MarÍa EstudilloHistory San José

Joaquín Buelna was a son of Antonio Buelna and María Ana Antonia Tapia. He was a teacher in San José in 1821. He was granted Rancho Sayante in 1833. The comandante at the San Francisco presidio was Luis Antonio Arguello, born in San Francisco in 1784. He was selected as the first governor of Mexican California in 1822, and held the post until 1825. He died in 1830.

Volume 3, page 578 / Cigar ration for the Presidio Volume 3, page 578 / Cigar ration for the Presidio (1809-05-11) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Volume 3, page 576 / Charges brought by Tiburcio Vasquez (1809-06-14) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Tiburcio Vásquez was born about 1755 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He came with his parents to Alta California with the Anza expedition in 1776. He settled in San José in 1783 and served as alcalde in 1802 and 1807. He died in 1827.

Volume 3, page 568-571 / Runaway Indian from Santa Clara Mission; urges stricter enforcement of laws, and grazing limits Volume 3, page 568-571 / Runaway Indian from Santa Clara Mission; urges stricter enforcement of laws, and grazing limits (1809-09-15) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Calaveras (Skulls) Peak is located a bit to the north and east of present day Milpitas, now known as Monument Peak. Pedro Amador was born around 1739 in Cocula, Jalisco, Mexico. He enlisted in the military and participated in the expedition to Alta California in 1769. He retired to San José, where he died in 1824.

Volume 3, page 664-665 / Boundaries between jurisdictions of the Town and Mission of San Jose Volume 3, page 664-665 / Boundaries between jurisdictions of the Town and Mission of San Jose (1809-09-25) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Volume 3, page 562 / Instruction for Toribio Guzmán to move to Branciforte (1809-09-25) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

The Villa of Branciforte, near Mission Santa Cruz, was founded in 1797. It was projected to be the third pueblo in Alta California, after San José and Los Angeles. It never succeeded.

Volume 3, page 565 / Grants permission to Luis Peralta to plant orchard on Coyote Creek (1809-10-02) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

José María Larios was born around 1765 in Zapotlán, Guadalajara, Mexico. He was killed by a grizzly bear in 1818. Ignacio Cantua was born about 1740 at Navajoa, Río Yaqui, Sonora, Mexico. He and his wife settled in San José in the 1790s, but also spent time around San Juan Bautista and Monterey.

Volume 3, page 563-564 / Requests information about how wife of Pedro Amador treats her stepson Volume 3, page 563-564 / Requests information about how wife of Pedro Amador treats her stepson (1809-10-03) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Volume 3, page 566-567 / Order regarding harvest distribution Volume 3, page 566-567 / Order regarding harvest distribution (1809-10-14) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Francisco Castro is thought to be the well known Francisco Maria Castro, born in Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1775. He served as a soldier in the artillery and eventually settled in San Francisco. He was granted Rancho San Pablo in 1823, and died in 1831.

Volume 3, page 560-561 / Authorizes temporary grazing at Place of the Skulls Volume 3, page 560-561 / Authorizes temporary grazing at Place of the Skulls (1809-10-31) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Father Narciso Durán was born in 1776 at Castellón de Ampurias in Catalonia, Spain. He was assigned to Mission San José in 1806, where he organized the neophytes into a choir and composed liturgical music. He left San José in 1833 and lived at Mission Santa Barbara until his death in 1845.

Volume 3, page 574-575 / Orders removal of Mission San José cattle from Place of the Skulls Volume 3, page 574-575 / Orders removal of Mission San José cattle from Place of the Skulls (1809-11-12) by José María EstudilloHistory San José

Volume 3, page 590 / Mission San José cattle removed from Place of the Skulls (1809-11-18) by José MarÍa EstudilloHistory San José

Chichiguas was a rancho near San Juan Bautista which was granted to Rafael González after secularization in 1835.

Volume 6, page 715 / Report of the tithes collected during the year 1809 (1809-11-30) by Luis PeraltaHistory San José

The monetary unit of Spanish America was the peso. Eight reales equaled one peso; 96 granos of silver equaled one peso. In the first half of the 19th century, a peso was roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar. Units of weight revolved around the Spanish libra (pound) and the arroba (25 libras). Abbreviations: al=almad (1/2 fanega, a fanega is equivalent to 1.6 bushels); q=quintal (100 libras or 25 arrobas); r=arroba (25 libras).

San Jose Bicentennial commemorative stamp poster (1977) by United States Postal ServiceHistory San José

In 1977, San José celebrated its bicentennial with a commemorative stamp. The Peralta Adobe, San José's oldest residence, is still standing today, a reminder that long before Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley was Native American and Hispanic.

Credits: Story

Transcriptions and translations originally published as "Research Manuscript No. 9, Research Manuscript Series on the Cultural and Natural History of Santa Clara" (Santa Clara University, 1998), by Diane Lambert, Naomi Reinhart, Ludivina Russell, Gregory Von Herzen with the assistance of Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz.

Online exhibit created by Catherine Mills, Curator of Research Library & Archives, History San José

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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