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History of San Jose
 
 
 

Early History

For thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers, the area now known as San Jose was inhabited by several groups of Ohlone Native Americans. Permanent European presence in the area came with the 1770 founding of the Presidio of Monterey and Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo by Gaspar de Portolà and Father Junípero Serra, about 60 miles (100 km) to the south. Don Pedro Fages, the military governor at Monterey, passed through the area on his 1770 and 1772 expeditions to explore the East Bay and Sacramento River Delta. Late in 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza led an expedition to bring colonists from New Spain to California and to locate sites for two missions, one presidio (military post), and one pueblo (town). He left the colonists at Monterey in 1776, and explored north with a small group. He selected the sites of the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asís in what is now San Francisco; on his way back to Monterey, he sited Mission Santa Clara de Asís and the pueblo San Jose in the Santa Clara Valley. De Anza returned to Mexico City before any of the settlements were actually founded, but his name lives on in many buildings and street names.

El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe (The Town of Saint Joseph of Guadalupe) was founded by José Joaquín Moraga on November 29, 1777, the first settlement not associated with a mission or a presidio in Alta California. Mission Santa Clara, the closest mission, was founded earlier in 1777, three miles (5 km) from the original pueblo site in neighbouring Santa Clara. Mission San José was not founded until 1797, about 20 miles (30 km) north of San Jose in what is now Fremont. The town was founded by the colonists led to California by de Anza, as a farming community to provide food for the presidios of San Francisco and Monterey. In 1778, the pueblo had a population of 68. In 1797, the pueblo was moved from its original location, near the present-day intersection of Guadalupe Parkway and Taylor Street, to a location in what is now Downtown San Jose, surrounding Pueblo Plaza (now Plaza de César Chávez).

In the ensuing years, a number of Mexican Land Grants were confirmed within the lands now considered San Jose. For example, the Rincón de los Esteros grant was conferred upon Rafael Alvisa in the year 1859; the name of this rancho became the monicker for the modern redevelopment project area.

19th Century

During the Bear Flag Revolt, Captain Thomas Fallon led a small force from Santa Cruz and captured the pueblo without bloodshed on July 11, 1846. Fallon received an American flag from John D. Sloat, and raised it over the pueblo on July 14, as the California Republic agreed to join the United States following the start of the Mexican-American War. Fallon would later become the 10th mayor of San Jose. It's unclear whether or not Fallon ordered all townspeople of Spanish/Mexican origin out of San Jose, as some local historians claimed.

During the California Gold Rush period, the New Almaden Mines just south of the city were the largest mercury mines in North America (mercury was used to help separate gold from ore). The cinnabar deposits were discovered in 1845 by a Mexican cavalry captain, Don Andres Castillero, when he recognised the red powder used by local Ohlone Indians to decorate the chapel at Mission Santa Clara. Mining operations began in 1847 at what was the first operating mine in the province, just in time for the Gold Rush. The importance of the mercury industry at the time explains why the local newspaper is named the Mercury News.

On March 27, 1850, San Jose became the first incorporated city in the US state of California; the first mayor was Josiah Belden. It also served as the state's first capital with the first and second sessions of the California Legislature, known as the Legislature of a Thousand Drinks, being held there in 1850 and 1851. The legislature was unhappy with the location, as no buildings suitable for a state government were available in the city, and took up State Senator Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo's offer to build a new capital on land he donated to the state in what is now Benicia.

In 1881, because of a forceful campaign by editor J.J. Owen of the San Jose Mercury, the city council authorised the construction of the San Jose Electric Light Tower, ostensibly to replace the gas streetlights that had illuminated downtown San Jose since 1861. It didn't provide sufficient illumination, and by 1884 was used only for ceremonial purposes. It collapsed during the great gale of 1915. In 1989, an informal "Court of Historical Inquiry" looked into the issue of whether the Eiffel Tower was a copyright infringement of the Electric Light Tower; the Justice ruled that it was not.


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