The Mission of San José de Guadalupe was founded on June 11, 1797, in New Spain and soon acquired national fame, thru owning an orchestra of Mohave Indians, directed by Father Narciso Durán at the beginning of the 18th century; The Franciscan from Empuries, Catalunya arrived in Alta California in 1806 after studying at the San Fernando College of Mexico, serving in the San José Mission until 1833, when he was transferred to the Santa Barbara Mission.
This was one of the largest missions founded by the Franciscans, second in extension after the Mission of St. Louis King of France. The Mission of San José was practically destroyed by an earthquake in 1868, however, the east wing of the monastery was one of the few buildings that survived.
At its peak, Father Duran succeeded in teaching music to the Indians for twenty-seven years, which were those which he worked on the mission, organizing a choir and a thirty-member orchestra that became famous throughout California.
However, the relationship with the Indians was not always harmonious. Estanislao, a rebel local Indian, led a significant uprising in 1828 and several military expeditions of the Mexican army were necessary to quell the revolt. The Indians were punished for robbery and for not fulfilling the Christian form of marriage, wanting to continue their savagery, they were repressed and many fled.
In San Jose, Duran arrested Jedediah Smith, an American adventurer who tried to conquer California on three occasions, however, he released him under the orders of Governor José María de Echeandía in Monterey, the capital of the territory. Smith was a hunter, cartographer, and writer who crossed the Rocky Mountains in the early nineteenth century and fought with his own hands against a grizzly bear.
In the 39 years that he was serving as a missionary, almost 2,000 Indians lived in the surrounding community and Duran spent 12 years of his life training Mohave Indians as orchestra musicians. Both the masses and the liturgical music were in Latin, however, the theme of «Praised», which was sung after the morning and evening mass, was performed in Spanish.
The Indians became experts in instruments like the violin or the cello, following a system of color notes invented in the California missions in which continuity was read with the first black note, the next white and then red and the title was in yellow. The fathers of other missions adopted this system.
In the choir, each voice was punctuated with very marked colors indicating feelings, so the red notes were to «lift the heart of God and show his love» and the blue ones were to «interpret the sorrows of the soul.» The Indians of the region were convinced to participate in the liturgy with gifts, sweets, and fruit, they were soon taught to sing and accompany without musical instruments on the foothills of the Sierra.
Father Durán served as a priest and president of the California missions three times, first from 1824-1828, again from 1831-1838 and finally from 1844-1846. During his second term, with the independence of Spain, the Mexican government decided to secularize the missions, and Father Durán moved to Santa Barbara, which was the only mission that was not secularized.
Father Durán died in Santa Barbara during his third term as presiding father and is buried in the Santa Barbara Mission. The territory occupied by the Mission is located in the city of Fremont, named after the explorer John C. Frémont, which was formed in 1956 through the merge of five farming communities: Centerville, Irvington, Mission San José, Niles, and Warm Springs.