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Mission San Jose and the San Ramon Valley

Mission San Jose became one of the most prosperous in the entire 21 mission string with its excellent water supply, fertile land, many Indian laborers and location near the Bay. In addition the Mission was fortunate in its competent missionary fathers. Narciso Duran, pastor from 1806 to 1833 was an able administrator who became president of all the California missions in 1825. He initiated a renowned music program which included a large Indian orchestra and choir. He and Luis Arguello led one major exploration into the Delta in 1817.

In 1824 Duran drew an extraordinary map of the Mission San Jose territory. On the map the San Ramon Valley is called "Yngerto Canada", its original Spanish name. "Injerto" means "a graft" and, in this case, referred to a joined oak and willow tree at the Creek's origin. "Valle de San Jose" was the Mission name for the Valley which stretched from Sunol to Livermore; it was the Mission's main grazing ranch. The map also marks the first written account of"M. del Diablo", an abbreviation of Monte del Diablo or "thicket of the devil". This referred to the thicket in north Concord where Chupcan Indians had escaped from a Spanish expedition in 1805. Later the Americans transferred the name to the mountain we call Mount Diablo.

Map of Mission San Jose
  Map of Mission San Jose

Probably some time during Duran's tenure an Indian named Ramon had taken care of sheep in Injerto Canada. According to testimony in a land case, Jose Maria Amador said that the Creek and Valley were named for this Indian who was later mayor domo (supervisor) of the Indians at the Mission. The "San" was added to conform to the custom of the day.

The San Ramon Valley was part of Mission San Jose's grazing land and, by 1827, 9,000 cattle and 10,000 sheep were maintained in El Valle de San Jose in the summer and moved to through the San Ramon Valley to the Chupcan Indians' area in the winter. In 1832 the harvest at the Mission included 6,400 bushels of wheat, 1,760 bushels of barley and 1,700 of corn, in addition to a wide array of other vegetables.

By 1830 the Spanish no longer ruled Mexico or Alta California. The Mexican battles for independence, which began in 1810, concluded successfully in 1821. The Mexican government policies regarding the Spanish missionary priests, trade with foreigners, the disposition of mission property and the role of Alta California Governors were much debated by many native Californian families. They also challenged decisions of the new Mexican government and fought among themselves. The history of this period was a turbulent one.

The San Ramon Valley sat on the outskirts of effective Hispanic control throughout this entire period, the rural edge of a sparse necklace of settlements strung along the Pacific coast. In the Valley Mission livestock grazed and both Europeans and Indians hunted deer, but no permanent settlements were built. When Jose Maria Amador, Mariano Castro and Bartolome Pacheco requested grants for ranches here in the 1830s, the Mexican Rancho era began.

Major Sources and Acknowledgments

  • Jose Maria Amador, ND Land Case Number 322, Berkeley: The Bancroft Library, 1855.
  • Juan Crespi, "Return Journey from the Exploration of the Harbor of Our Seraphic Father San Francisco", The Fages-Crespi Expedition of 1772, Pleasanton: Amador-Livermore Historical Society, 1972.
  • Father Narciso Duran, Plano Topographico de la Mision de San .1osq Berkeley: The Bancroft Library, 1824.
  • Father Francis McCarthy, The History of Mission San Jose 1797-1835, Fresno: Academy Library Guild, 1958.
  • Randall T. Milliken, An Ethnohistory of the Indian People of the San Francisco Bay Area from 1770 to 1810, Berkeley: Dissertation, 1991.
  • A Time of Little Choice The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769-1810, Menlo Park: Ballena Press, 1995.
  • Malcom Margolin, Illustrated by Michael Harney, The Ohlone Way, Heyday Books, Berkley, 1978.
  • Drawing of Vaquero and Mission Ranch Outpost by Al Greger
  • Graphic design by John Hamel.

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