SAN JUAN BAUTISTA CALIFORNIA
Historic town with a mission
Occupied Historic Town and
San Benito County
Circa 1797 to Present
The Mutsun Indians were among
the first to occupy the San Juan Valley. Their Village of huts occupied the
area just east of the current town. The mission was founded in 1797 by Padre
Fermin Francisco de Lasuen who probably chose the location because of the large
Indian population and its distance between mission Santa Clara and Mission San
Carlos in Carmel. Indians worked and lived at the mission and many are buried
in the missions' cemetery. The El Camino Real connected the mission with the
outside world once it was established by Spanish and Mexican travelers, which
is why the town of San Juan Bautista was founded and grew. In 1834 San Juan
which lay directly across from the mission, became known as San Juan de Castro
after Jose Tiburcio Castro, a Mexican military man accused of treason. In 1846
U.S. surveyor John C. Fremont and followers arrived near Monterey. Discovering
his presence, Castro ordered Fremont to leave California. Fremont ignored the
order and set up camp at Fremont Peak above San Juan. Castro's orders became
much more defined, and Fremont finally complied.
In 1846 a U.S. Comander,
Sloat arrived in Monterey and announced California as the property of the
United States. That November Fremont Returned to the San Juan Valley as a
Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He occupied the town while
strengthening his army of 428 men later known as the California Battalion.
Later that year Fremont met with Andres Pico of Mexico and signed a treaty
ending all conflict between the United States and Mexican occupied California.
Long after Castro evacuated
all interest in San Juan Bautista, The Breen family arrived Via the Sierra
Nevada's as the Donner Party survivors. Arriving poor with only the clothes on
their backs, they took up refuge in the mission. John Breen, 16 year old son of
Patrick and Margaret Breen left the mission to return to the Sierra's where he
discovered gold and returned some time in 1848. The Breen family purchased the
home of former town leader, Castro as well as several hundred acres of
agricultural land in the valley. Descendants of the family continued to occupy
the adobe home up to 1933 when it became a State Historic Park.
The Plaza Hotel facing the mission was built in 1858 and served stage
travelers headed in either direction. San Juan Bautista was then considered an
important stop on the stage between stage stations located at Hollister and
Gilroy. By 1861 there were seven stage lines operating through San Juan between
Hollister, Watsonville, Monterey and Santa Cruz. In 1876 the town's
politician's attempts to attract the railroad had failed and San Juan Bautista
growth period had ended. Outlaw, Tiburcio Vasquez resided in San Juan for some
time. Vasquez was very popular with many who lived in the San Benito and
Gavilan Mountains near Hollister.
Many original buildings still
remain as well as the mission. The best way to see the town is by walking.
Old farm near town