Santa Clara County, California
Genealogy ~ History

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The First Pueblo In California

The Evening News. September 20, 1916.

2. The First Pueblo In California

After the Mission St. Clare of Thamien had been in existence a few months, Don Felipe de Neve, the Governor of California, decided to found a pueblo a few miles distant. The fathers protested. There were no other pueblos in California. Not for many leagues did they desire a civil settlement. They themselves were holy men. They led holy lives. Laymen, soldiers - what regard had they for men of prayer and their labors.

But governments grow great by guns, not by prayers. After all, what was a mission but a musical prelude to the great drama of empire-building sketched by the Viceroy for the king of Spain? And so, on November 29, 1777, one league from the Mission of St. Clare, El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe was established by Lieutenant Don Jose de Moraga, commandant of the Presido.

The first pueblo in California had a population of fourteen - nine soldiers, two settlers and three laborers. The site chosen for the new settlement was on the ruins of an old Indian rancheria. At one time, there had stood on the spot a tem 'escal [illegible]. But that did not concern the empire-builders. They were building for the glory of Spain. From death comes life.

Moraga parcelled off the lands to the settlers. These Spanish pioneers were Ignacio Archuneta, Manuel Gonzales, Manuel Amesquita, Antonio Romero, Bernardo Rosales, Francisco Avila, Sebastian Alvitre, Claudio Alvire, and last Tiburcio Vasquez.

The Viceroy wrote governor de Neve approving of the new settlement. The Viceroy was a practical man, formerly a cobbler, who later became prime minister of Spain. He prophesied that within two years the crops of the Pueblo should be sufficient to supply the Presidio and lessen the expense of the royal treasury. Two years later King Charles III sent his approval of founding the Pueblo. His care was also for the little mission of St. Clare. He asked that the new Pueblo in every way aid instead of hinder the Mission fathers.

The governor of California showed that he feared greed in the settlers. He desired to encourage their activity, but he also desired to hold for the crown of Spain as much land as possible. Great tracts were held by the governor for common usage, and no settler was allowed to possess more than fifty cattle.

[line missing] Pueblo monthy pay and daily rations for a period of three years. Each settler had two cows, two oxen, two hens, two sheep, two goats, one mule and implements for cultivating the soil. However, all was to be paid back in cattle and grain to the royal treasury, except the monthly wages and rations.

In choosing a site for the Pueblo, Lieutenant Moraga repeated the mistake that he and Father Pena had made in selecting the Laurel Wood rancheria for the mission. Moraga forgot the dangerous moods of rising rivers. The Pueblo buildings were made of sticks, tules and coarse grasses. They had earthen roofs. They stood about a mile and a quarter from the present center of San Jose. The first winter the Guadalupe rose in the rainy season and the settlers were obliged to take to their boats. There was much ill-health, but no deaths.

It was hoped that the next winter the Guadalupe would behave better. And she did. Irrigating ditches were dug through the town. Some adobe houses were built, but the Guadalupe had another caprice and the adobe houses became like wet cellars. The last of these adobe buildings was taken down a few years ago. In the garden of Mr. Archie MacDonald near the Vendome Hotel is a tablet on the tree marking the spot where stood the last of the adobes of the old Pueblo.

Other floods came and the Pueblo had a feeling of impermanence. People said it was removed to higher, safer ground. A petition was sent to the governor to that effect. But mails were slow, and Spanish governors were slower. So nothing was done for some years. The Pueblo of San Jose paddled along in the mud the best it could.

In the meantime, the settlers of the Pueblo were dissatisfied with their government. There were many factions, and all dissapproved of the Alcaldes appointment by the Governor. The Governor often felt like spanking San Jose. He said the Pueblo was a spoiled child, not nearly so nice and amenable as the good little sister Pueblo of Los Angeles, the second Pueblo in the state to be established.

Finally the Governor sent to San Jose a strong man, Ignacio Vallejo, who ruled for seven years. The Governor thought he ruled wisely, for the town was more prosperous. But a committee of citizens complained to the Governor that Vallejo did nothing but govern; he should "be put to work in the fields."

The people of San Jose were so dissatisfied with their Alcaldes that finally the Governor in order to quiet them had a special municipal organization for San Jose called the "Ayuntamiento." It consisted of the Alcalde, two regidors and a sindico. Temporarily there was peace.

But the Pueblo never bacame prosperous in the low land. After all, it was a matter of the river. The people could not travel even to the Mission of Santa Clara without going ten miles. Children were drowned in the mud. Horses even frequently died in the mud between the pueblo and the mission. But not until ten years after the settlement of the town did Governor Fages authorize the settlers to remove to the "adjacent loma" (little hill) selected by them as more useful and advantageous without changing or altering the limits and boundaries of the territory and district assigned to said settlement.

In 1797 the early settlers of the Pueblo crawled out of the mud and took up their permanent residence around the present Plaza. In 1797, as in 1916, the Plaza was the heart of the town.

Transcribed by Claire Martin, for the Santa Clara Co. CAGenWeb Project. 2007.

Return to When San Jose Was Young Index.

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