A Church and Faith Restored: Part 10 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Photograph by Thomas Houseworth of Mission San Jose, 1866.

While it was unheard of for a priest such as Father Joseph du Lin to take possession of a church as his own property, it was not unprecedented that Eduard Baron and his co-workers took control of the living quarters at Mission San Jose. Early common law in European countries such as Spain and France allowed artisans to take possession of property until they received compensation for their labors and materials. Originally called an artisan’s lien, the right to claim pay for work performed evolved into what we know today as a mechanic’s lien.

When word of the double occupation reached Father John Nobili, the bishop’s delegate in the matter, he moved quickly to protect the sacred space of the mission church and had du Lin and his uncle, Mr. Chaumont, evicted. Four days later, Bishop Joseph Alemany removed du Lin’s ecclesiastical faculties.

Suspension of faculties is a serious penalty by the Catholic Church and can be made only for grave reason. Though du Lin remained a member of the clergy, he was prohibited from exercising public ministry, including celebrating Mass, preaching, confessions, and baptisms (except in case of imminent death). To avoid further scandal and ensure the penalty would stick, the Vicar General wrote to all the priests in the Diocese, notifying them that du Lin was no longer a priest in good standing and was unsuitable for ministry.

The mission church was back in the hands of the parish, but the living quarters remained occupied by six workers*, including carpenters Eduard Baron and Jules Audrain. Having watched the sheriff evict Father Joseph du Lin and his uncle, Mr. Chaumont from the church, Father Anthony Langlois was certain the workers would be thrown out just as expeditiously.

But Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany was guided by a broader vision. As crucial as it was to restore and preserve the sacred integrity of Mission San Jose, the pastoral care of souls – all souls, not just his parishioners – was equally important to him. He felt a moral obligation to the six young men who had labored on the mission and perhaps had even provided materials for months without pay.

At his direction, Nobili, who was of the same mind, negotiated a compromise with the workmen and their attorneys, agreeing to pay a portion of the money owed by Father du Lin in exchange for the peaceable surrender of the occupied rooms at the mission. The men retained the right to sue du Lin for the balance.

Page 1 of the English version of the settlement agreement between the Bishop of Monterey, Eduard Baron, and Jules Audrain, July 22, 1852. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.
Pages 2 and 3 of the English version of the settlement agreement between the Bishop of Monterey, Eduard Baron, and Jules Audrain, July 22, 1852. The pages include signatures of receipt for monthly payments through December of that year. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.

The money came from the Pious Fund of the Californias, a reserve established in 1697 and sustained by donations given by the faithful to support the California missions. Eduard Baron and his associates were about to receive the justice they had sought for so long.

On July 22, 1852, the workmen ended their two-week-long occupation of the living quarters of Mission San Jose and peaceably surrendered possession to the Catholic Church. Eduard and Jules were granted the largest settlement of the six, totaling $1,500, a little over half of the $2,700 owed them. Split evenly, that meant each man received a sum equivalent to about $26,000 as of this writing in 2021.

The settlement, written in English and French, was witnessed by Peter Burnett, the first American governor of California. It was memorialized in the document I first discovered in the Santa Clara University archives.

Eduard married Concepción Celaya that same year. They would go on to have five children and eventually moved to Tucson, Arizona. Eduard died in 1921 at age 93 in Tucson, barely four years after Concepción’s death at age 86 in 1917.

Other than the 1852 Census record showing Jules Audrain living in San Jose with Eduard that September, there is no trace of him after the settlement nor clues as to whether he was Eduard’s friend or relative.

Father Nobili tirelessly continued expanding and improving the young Santa Clara College, earning the institution accolades for its literary and scientific scholarship. On March 1, 1856, he died of lockjaw after he contracted tetanus from stepping on a nail. He was 44 years old.

After disappearing again, Father du Lin faced more litigation dealing with additional unpaid debts. The records on him pretty much dry up after that, suggesting he left the area and possibly the country.

Father Anthony Langlois was transferred to Mission San Luis Rey in early 1853, later entering the Dominican order as Father Augustine. He died in Martinez, California, in 1892.

Rendition of damage done to Mission San Jose in the Hayward Earthquake of 1868.

In 1868, the violent Hayward Earthquake destroyed the mission church and most of its buildings. It was rebuilt a year later as a wooden, Norman-Gothic style church, nothing like the original. In the early 1970s, efforts began to rebuild a replica of the original mission church, and it was finally dedicated in 1985. Whitewashed and pristine, it remains a holy center of faith and a quiet repository of the sometimes forgotten stories of the men and women whose lives would be forever intertwined with its history.

* Besides Eduard Baron and Jules Audrain, the other workers included carpenters Jean DuPont, Bernard Garance, Jean Salavert, and a plasterer named “Tabbit.”

Work Cited

Mission San Jose Business Contract. July 22, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

Desperate Measures: Part 9 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Replica of priests’ quarters, Mission San Jose

Father Joseph du Lin, the French priest at Mission San Jose, had embarked on an extensive renovation project of the property in direct disobedience to his superior, Bishop Joseph Alemany. Among his many debts, he owed carpenters Eduard Baron and Jules Audrain at least $2,700 piastres, or U.S. dollars, for their work.

$2,700 piastres in 1852 would equal a whopping $95,000 U.S. dollars as of this writing in 2021. While artisans and carpenters could expect relatively high pay during the Gold Rush era, this amount suggests that Eduard and Jules’ work was extensive and required a high degree of craftsmanship, not to mention building materials that workers often paid for upfront. Du Lin had hired three other carpenters, but for a fraction of what he had promised Eduard and Jules.

Eduard felt a camaraderie with his co-workers, who were from his native France. He likely found significance in working on the mission named for the venerated Saint Joseph, not only a carpenter himself and the patron saint of workers but, more importantly, the foster father of Jesus. He was proud to contribute over many months to the mission and its buildings that would serve the people of God for generations to come. Imagining his upcoming wedding with Concepción Celaya here, he could not wait to see her radiant and wondrous face as she came through the doors of the church he was restoring with his own hands.

Still, the shadow of having no income at this point placed a pall over his plans, and he put off the wedding until he could be paid. He must have wrestled with mixed feelings of confusion, frustration, anger, and even guilt as he contemplated his situation and the pressure it was causing in his personal life, maybe even in his faith life. After all, it was not just anyone who shattered his trust but his own parish priest.

Church window at Mission San Jose. Linda Huesca Tully.

We hold priests to a higher and holier standard (and justifiably so). As shepherds of their flocks in the imitation of Christ, it is rare that they exercise imprudence, but as human beings, they are subject to the same enticements and temptations as anyone else. However well-meaning du Lin’s intentions were at the start to provide a solid church for his flock, he had lost his soul to the guiles of greed and corruption along the way. Now he either was too cowardly to face the consequences of his actions or did not care at all.

Either way, Eduard was in a tough predicament. In late June of 1852, after months of working and waiting for a paycheck that did not come, he and Jules felt that nothing could be more pressing as they told their story to Father Anthony Langlois.

Langlois listened distractedly to their grievances. His mind was on something else: the illegal possession of the mission church by Father du Lin and his uncle, Mr. Chaumont, and the scandal and spiritual upheaval it had caused parishioners.

From all accounts, du Lin was gone for at least three weeks, reappearing briefly at the mission and then disappearing again. Correspondence between Diocesan attorney C.B. Strode and the Diocese on July 3, 1852, states that du Lin gave power of attorney to his uncle, Mr. Chaumont, to claim ownership of the church as its curate, with the right to do with it as he saw fit. With the document in hand, Chaumont refused to surrender the church to the diocese. It is unclear whether du Lin was physically present at this time of the occupation, though a later account puts him there.

Father Joseph du Lin was wrong. Neither civil nor canonical (church) law recognizes personal ownership of a Catholic church. A diocesan bishop is recognized as a corporation sole and legally owns the property on behalf of the diocese.

Though the act of taking illegal possession of a church was appalling enough, its implications were lost on Eduard and his fellow workmen. All they cared about now was recouping their lost wages so they could move on with their lives.

Their patience worn thin, it evaporated into the toxic air of du Lin’s platitudes and deceit. They had met countless times with him, traveled to San Francisco to plead their case with his superiors, hired lawyers, and appealed to the new mission administrator. They were tired of waiting and could not grasp that the church moves slowly and deliberately, especially in times of crisis. To them, their pleas had fallen on deaf ears. They needed some way to draw attention to their plight.

Before du Lin and his uncle could occupy the rest of the mission premises, the desperate young men abruptly seized the living quarters adjoining the church, vowing not to surrender the rooms until they received their pay.

Works Cited

Langlois Letter re: Mission San Jose Condition. June 28, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Strode Letter re: Du Lin Case 2. July 3, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Next: Part 10 – A Church and Faith Restored

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

“The Debts are Higher than We Thought”: Part 8 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Interior of present-day Mission San Jose. Linda Huesca Tully.

“The priest has not returned. I do not know where he is.”

So begins the first of three letters Father Anthony Langlois wrote to diocesan administrators toward the end of June 1852, from Washington Township, where he had gone to resolve the crisis unraveling at Mission San Jose following the hasty departure of the curate, Father Joseph du Lin.

In the letters, he recounted how he learned that du Lin fled the place, either to San Francisco or Monterey, and that he found du Lin’s uncle, one Mr. Chaumont, occupying the padres’ living quarters. He wrote of his frustration with the unhelpful Chaumont, who called the French-Canadian Langlois an outsider and boasted that he had encouraged his nephew several times to leave the country.

On Langlois’ arrival, Chaumont locked him out of the church. He opened the door only after another priest, Father Dominic Blaive, intervened an hour before Mass. Once inside, the two priests found the premises desecrated and left in shambles.

Page 1 of a letter, dated June 28, 1852, from Father Anthony Langlois to Father John Nobili on the condition of Mission San Jose. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.

Tapestries were “ruined, scraped & destroyed in quantities.” The cemetery was in disarray. Worst of all, the Blessed Sacrament, the outward and sacred sign of the Body of Christ, was abandoned carelessly on a table in the sacristy.

Page 2 of a letter, dated June 28, 1852, from Father Anthony Langlois to Father John Nobili on the condition of Mission San Jose. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.

For Father Langlois, a man with a deep sense of his vocation and a fervent desire to uphold the virtue of the church and the purity of her faithful, this was too much to take. He was appalled by the chaos he encountered at the mission. He resolved to restore stability posthaste for the good of the church and its parishioners.

He had another concern, too. Eduard Baron and Jules Audrain, two of the five carpenters on the mission renovation project, had come to see him about recovering some $2,700 in lost wages. While that amount might seem paltry to the modern-day reader, it would be equivalent to about $95,000 U.S. Dollars as of this writing in 2021.

Du Lin was a master of excuses and always managed to find a reason not to pay the carpenters. He even had tried to persuade the young men to return with him to France, where he would get them the money. This latest example of Du Lin’s deceit against his own countrymen infuriated Langlois.

“The debts,” he wrote, “are higher than we thought.”

Works Cited

de Vos Letter re: Disappearance of Du Lin. June 25, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University

Langlois Letter re: Mission San Jose Condition. June 28, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Next: Part 9: Desperate Measures

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

Trouble at Mission San Jose: Part 7 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Cemetery at Mission San Jose. Linda Tully, 2018.

If you have been following the story of my husband’s great-great-grandfather, Eduard Baron, you know that he and four of his co-workers, all French carpenters, appealed to the Bishop of Monterey after they were denied wages for their work on the restoration of Mission San Jose. In late May 1852, the Bishop’s delegate in the matter, Father John Nobili, wrote to the mission curate, Father Joseph du Lin, reprimanding his actions. Nearly a month later, he received word that the French priest had quietly disappeared.

“Father…has been absent for eight or nine days, due to debts he had …of about 7 or 8 thousand piastres*,” wrote another Jesuit, Father Peter de Vos. “The good people of the mission are urging that they be sent a good priest from Santa Clara or San Juan Bautista and by Sunday. There is no one there for Sunday.”

The pastoral needs of the faithful being the church’s utmost priority, two priests were dispatched to the mission straightaway. Father Anthony Langlois, the pastor of Saint Francis Church in San Francisco, was named temporary administrator, aided by Father Dominic Blaive, a French pioneer priest based in Stockton.

Meanwhile, the bishop’s aide, hopeful that du Lin had returned to the parish, sent him a warning to pay his debts or have his priestly faculties removed:

Letter from Father François Llebaria to Father Joseph du Lin, dated June 24, 1952, regarding payment of debts at Mission San Jose. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.

My dear Sir,

Following my last interview with you, I was visited by many people from San Francisco, who asked me how they could be paid what you owe them. I am sending you two letters written by them that have gone unanswered.

But my decision is made, to recommend that you pay these debts, and right away to cease all work at Mission San Jose, so that upon receipt of this letter, if you continue one single day, to hire one single man within the actual property limits of the Mission, ipso facto, you will suffer the pain of Ecclesiastical suspension, that is, of all your exercise of Ministry.

I assure you, my dear Sir, that it pains me greatly to proceed thus. Still, I am also overwhelmed after several days of these unwelcome visits paid me and from hearing certain words against you that dishonor the Ecclesiastical state.

Adieu, my dear [Father] Abbot, with the affections of your humble servant.

(signed) G. François Llebaria, V.G.

The reverse of the letter contains a note of reference, presumably written sometime later, in Father Nobili’s hand: “Dulin [sic], Llebaria, Blaive. Trouble in Mission San José.”

  • Piastres was the original French word for American dollars.

Works Cited

de Vos Letter regarding Dulin (sic) disappearance. June 21, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Llebaria Letter re: Dulin’s (sic) debts 1. June 24, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Next: Part 8: “The Debts are Higher than We Thought”

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

Answering to God and Man: Part 6 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Image of Christ at His Crucifixion, Mission San Jose. Linda Huesca Tully, 2018.

Empty promises and no pay were all Eduard Baron and his fellow workmen received after months of repair work on the church and adjoining rooms at Mission San Jose. Their attempts to recover lost wages from the parish priest, Father Joseph du Lin, were met with disdain and derision. They escalated their efforts and hired an attorney to represent them in a claim against the diocese.

Word soon reached Father John Nobili at Mission Santa Clara, some 15 miles to the south. Adding to the matters that crossed his desk about Mission Santa Clara and the fledgling Santa Clara College, the French curate’s needless trouble pushed his patience to the edge. Outraged, he wrote to castigate him.

The Santa Clara University archives only have what appears to be an unsigned, cathartic first draft. Dated May 24, 1852, It contains references to piastres, a French term referring to currency, in this case, American dollars.

What follows is my translation of the French document. The letter says as much about the recipient as the writer:

My Reverend and very dear [Father] Dulin [sic],

Without talking about the hundred piastres, which were due to Mr. Stafford, I just received strong remonstrances against you on behalf of five persons* who complain that you have not paid them for a long time the sum of money that you have promised, nor have you given them (the equivalent) in merchandise the amount of one thousand and seven hundred piastres!!

And more! I have received a cordial letter from Mr. Yates, the attorney for the Pueblo, in which he advises me that three of the workers you refused to pay will be pursuing payment through the Court, in the sum, altogether, of six hundred seventy-nine piastres!!

My dear [Father]…this is a disgrace to the Clergy and the Church!!!

I tried to prevent this scandal from taking place today! I do not know if I succeeded because I could not see Mr. Yates yesterday, nor even the merchants of the Pueblo!

All the sum, therefore, for which you are indebted, adds up to $2479!!! And maybe you have even more debts than I know!!!

What then will be the consequence? And what danger for the little left at the Mission of San José! If you have no money, why are you spending so much in San Francisco, the Pueblo, and the Mission? Indeed the Court could not have obliged you to do that – Did you not have enough out of the five hundred piastres from the tithes to pay the lawyer?

So, what have you done with the four hundred piastres you received recently from Mr. White, about whom, astonishingly, you could not say enough! At least (!) if you had used that money to pay your debts – but – no!! – Why do you then try to take further advantage by ordering even more merchandise on credit from San Francisco?

Might you … be surprised that I speak to you in such a manner, and as your Superior! Well! I will tell you …. I do it reluctantly.

In the end, I am to answer to God and man, and in particular to the Bishop, regarding my conduct in this very delicate affair. . . and I cannot hide in the present circumstances, whatever goodwill I have had until now. . . [Bishop] Alemany vests me with doubts about the Mission of San José and even about your person as the pastor of said Mission. I have the Bishop’s written documents and the testimony of [Father] Langlois, who the Bishop Himself sent, while [Langlois] was still Vicar General. . . and I have, I flatter myself, also the testimony of the present Vicar, [Father] Llebaria.

[unsigned, but penned in Nobili’s hand]

* The five persons were the French carpenters Eduard Baron, Jules Audrain, Jean DuPont, Bernard Garance, and Jean Salavert.

Work Cited

Nobili, John (draft) re: Dulin regarding outstanding debts. May 24, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB1 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Next: Part 7: Trouble at Mission San Jose

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

Words of Caution: Part 5 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Mission San Jose. Linda Huesca Tully, 2018.

The first sign that something was amiss at Mission San Jose appeared in a letter, dated August 4, 1851, from Joseph Sadoc Alemany, Bishop of Monterey, to Father John Nobili, the Jesuit he had appointed pastor of Mission Santa Clara. In the letter, he briefly mentioned communication from Father Joseph du Lin, the French priest in charge of Mission San Jose, regarding an unnamed “serious” matter.

Four days later, in a second letter, Bishop Alemany expressed reservations about du Lin’s taking on too many improvements at the mission. “I did make a few gentle reflections to him about the visible advances and works that he was undertaking,” he wrote, “also asking him to be careful to not go into debt.” He went on to say he had summoned du Lin to San Francisco to meet with the Diocesan Vicar General, Father Anthony Langlois, about his activities.

The letters to and from Nobili suggest that as pastor of Santa Clara and founder of Santa Clara College, the first institution of higher learning in California, he had earned the respect and trust of his bishop and peers. At age 39, he had been ordained for the Society of Jesus in Rome only eight years earlier, had taught in two Roman colleges, and performed missionary work in Oregon and Canada before arriving in California in 1849.

The indefatigable Jesuit, whose analytical mind reflected his background in physics and mathematics, was known for being farsighted and judicious. The Santa Clara University Archives collection of his papers from 1851 – 1856 offers a condensed snapshot of the daily myriad of events and issues he faced with discretion and prudence. Small wonder, then, that Bishop Alemany had delegated him as his representative in various matters, including that of the affairs of Mission San Jose.

Conversely, Joseph du Lin’s life was more obscure than that of the august Father Nobili. Few records mention him other than a June 25, 1850, letter of recommendation to Bishop Alemany from a bishop in New York and correspondence between the Monterey diocesan administrators and others of the time. Du Lin’s letters, written mainly in French, are scrawled and impulsive as if written by someone in a hurry.

A running thread in his letters is his inability to pay people for their services, whether they were lawyers defending him and the mission in a lawsuit over property rights or the workmen he hired to repair it.

His excuses for not paying the lawyers varied. He claimed ignorance of agreements, feigned illness, and said an accident prevented him from going to San Francisco, where he supposedly kept his money.

Du Lin claimed to have paid one of the workmen but refused to pay the others because they were “bad people, which I should have realized before it was too late.” He noted this in a letter to Nobili, dated March 22, 1852, regarding “difficulties” with the employees and said that they hired a lawyer when he refused to pay them more than what he promised.

“You do not need to be concerned,” he assured Nobili. “Those people will learn the lesson they deserve, without any compromise to my dignity as a man and a priest. I will learn from this lesson myself: to be on guard against these workers who in this country exploit the goodwill of honest people.”

The workmen disagreed on who was exploiting whom. Some, among them Eduard Baron, appealed to Bishop Alemany to help them recoup their unpaid wages, prompting the bishop to send Father Langlois as his envoy to investigate.

The matter weighed heavily on the bishop, even as he left Monterey for New York a few weeks later. In a letter to Nobili, dated April 22, 1852, from Navy Bay near Chagres, Panama, he suggested moving the troublesome priest to another assignment where he would not be in charge of a church:

“As to Father Dulin [sic], he seemed to me to do so well for the times,” he wrote. “Lest if you find necessary to have him moved, at least in the capacity of Pastor, ask that change from (Father) Llebaria, to whom I explained all the particulars of that Mission and (of) the expediency of your cooperation in that place brought to such critical circumstances.”

Undeterred, du Lin continued to ignore his debts. His carelessness with money and his apparent disregard for the orders of his superiors eventually aroused the fury of the even-tempered Nobili.

Works Cited

Alemany Letter re: Vallejo, Dulin, and Mission San Jose. August 4, 1851. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Letter of Recommendation Re: Dulin. Archives, Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Dulin Letter re: Difficulties with Workmen. March 22, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB1 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Alemany Letter re: Replacement of Langlois by Llebaria. April 22, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Next: Part 6: Answering to God and Man

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

Days of Romance and Bliss – Part 4 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Sunol Hillside Pasture in Soft Light. Photo by Charlie Day. Flickr, Creative Commons

Life in the one-street village of Mission San Jose was not as worldly as it had been in San Francisco, but there still was enough to occupy a young man’s free time. With 300 inhabitants and many travelers passing through the area, the village boasted the usual religious festivals and social functions. There also was fishing in nearby creeks and the bay and hiking in the surrounding hills. The two hotels across from the mission offered a dance hall and a billiards hall, where Eduard Baron and his new friends sometimes went to relax and unwind after a long day’s work.

During this time, he most likely met the young Mexican señorita who would become his wife, Concepción Celaya.

It is hard to pinpoint when Concepción and her family first arrived in California from Sonora, Mexico. She told a U.S. Census taker in 1860 that she had immigrated in 1849, around the same time as Eduard. However, her father, Diego Celaya, might have come ahead of his family from their hometown of Altar, Sonora, with a large group of settlers who had followed the route to California established by famed explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.

I found two records listing Concepción’s father, Diego. The first, in Joseph Eugene Baker’s Past and Present of Alameda County, mentions “an old major-domo (household manager) named Diego Celaya,” who with his wife, María Belen Velázquez, resided at the home of early California settler Antonio Suñol in Murray Township, near Mission San Jose, in 1850. The second is a record of the marriage of another of their three daughters, María Fermina, who married Presentación Bernal, scion of José Agustín Bernal, a well-known figure in early California history (and Suñol’s brother-in-law). The marriage took place at the mission on November 11, 1850, and produced seven children.

The backdrop for Eduard and Concepción’s courtship might well have been a similar scenario to one described in a romantic account of the era that appeared in The History of Washington Township, a book by The Country Club of Washington Township Research Committee:

Flowers at Mission San Jose

“Bullfights and rodeos with the attendant festivities, races, dancing, feasting and the entertainment of guests from leagues away, furnished the sports and pleasures of the lovely, soft-eyed Señoritas and gallant Señores. The one street which the Mission could boast was boarded up, seats were erected on one side for the spectators, and within this enclosure, the gayest sports took place. Men and women vied with each other in throwing money and jewels to the victors.”

One of the events the couple would have participated in was the annual religious observation of Good Friday, a solemn feast in the village. The activities that followed the next day, called Judas’ Day, were more raucous and sensational. Citizens would reenact the killing of Judas Iscariot by hanging a straw effigy with a hideous face from some conspicuous place. The figure, clothed in a hat, suit, and boots, was stuffed with explosives. As people exited the church, someone would light a fuse, setting fire to the figure, and it would explode, to the delight of the onlookers.

As time passed, Eduard’s thoughts continually turned to his growing feelings for Concepción and the happiness she brought him. Regardless of how much gold he found during his early days in California, he was sure his work at the mission would pay him more than enough money to provide a happy and comfortable life for Concepción and the family they hoped to have. She gladly accepted his proposal of marriage, and they began to dream of their future together.

Header Image: Ohlone Wilderness Trail, by Josh Mazgelis. 2002. Flickr Creative Commons.

Works Cited

Baker, Joseph Eugene. Past and Present of Alameda County. S.J. Clarke, Chicago, IL: 1914.

Country Club of Washington Township Research Committee. The History of Washington Township. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA: 1965.

Next: Part 5 – Words of Caution

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

A Hard Offer to Refuse: Part 3 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

A painting from the museum at Mission San Jose shows life in the early mission days.

Though Eduard Baron and Jules Audrain had been attracted to the climate and beauty of the town of Mission San Jose, it was an intriguing job offer in 1851 to restore the mission itself that sealed their decision to put down roots there.

Mission San Jose, founded on June 11, 1797, by Spanish Franciscan missionaries, was the 14th of the now-legendary California missions. Strategically situated on the Camino Real, or King’s Highway connecting all 21 missions from San Diego to Sonoma, its purpose was to convert the native Ohlone population to Catholicism. Now part of the modern-day city of Fremont, it sat on a hillside at the eastern end of the San Francisco Bay and 15 miles northeast of the Pueblo (and current city) of San Jose and the nearest mission, Santa Clara. The ideal location made it a viable hub of commerce and a convenient stopover for travelers going to San Francisco, Stockton, or Sacramento.

Broad brick buttresses supported the church’s four-foot thick white-washed adobe walls. Adobe tiles made on the premises covered the roof, and timber beams from redwood trees to the north stretched across the thatched ceiling. The first thing the faithful saw as they entered the airy interior was an elaborate altar and tabernacle, surrounded by dramatic statues brought from Spain and Mexico and accented by intricate hand-painted borders and chair rails along the walls.

Adjoining the church was a long building housing the padres’ living quarters, guest rooms, a school, a dormitory for unmarried native women, a kitchen, and a weaving room. In the traditional mission style, the structures bordered a large square courtyard overlooking lush gardens filled with vegetables, grapevines, and native flowers: roses, geraniums, nasturtiums, and lantana. Fruit trees abounded: apple, cherry, fig, pear, peach, apricot, plum, orange, olive, and pomegranate.

Sadly, in the half-century since its founding, the mission fell into decay due to changes of ownership, political and religious neglect, weather and termite damage, and misuse by squatters. Recognizing the need to establish stability and restore sustainability to the mission, the Bishop of Monterey, Joseph Sadoc Alemany, assigned a newly-arrived French priest, Father Joseph du Lin, as curate in 1851. This being his first assignment in California, he would report to Father John Nobili, the Jesuit pastor of Mission Santa Clara and founder of the fledgling Santa Clara College, the first institution of higher learning in California.

Mission San Jose, by C.E. Watkins, 1850.

With Father Nobili busy with his work in Santa Clara, Father du Lin took it upon himself to restore Mission San Jose. He hired a mason, artisans, and carpenters, including Jules and Eduard, to perform badly-needed renovations on the mission church and its buildings and promised them generous wages for their extensive work. It was an offer that was hard to refuse.

What Eduard and Jules could not have known at the time was that Father du Lin was moving ahead quickly on his project without being honest with his pastor or bishop about its scope or the costs involved.

Next: Part 4 – Days of Romance and Bliss

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

Clues on the Ancestry Trail – Part 2 of 10


The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Signature page of a legal settlement executed on July 22, 1852, by Father John Nobili, S.J., Eduard Baron, and Jules Audrain. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.

If you’ve ever explored your family tree, you’ve probably stumbled across someone who left few to no breadcrumbs on the ancestry trail. Maybe you gave up your search, or you were content to have just found their name as a link to someone else who was, shall we say, a bit more intriguing.

For me, such was the case with Eduard Baron, my husband’s great-great-grandfather. Gradually, though, the mystery of how he was connected to Mission San Jose led me back to the archives at Santa Clara University to learn more about him.

It had been thrilling to see Eduard’s signature, but the document he signed was a legal settlement that left more questions than answers. Dated July 22, 1852, it also was signed by Jules Audrain and Father John Nobili, a priest of the Society of Jesus, who was acting on behalf of the Bishop of Alta and Baja California.

So what brought Eduard and Jules to Mission San Jose, and what kind of work did they do there? Had Nobili hired them?

I returned on a cold February morning in 2018 to Santa Clara for the answers, poring over correspondence and documents from the Papers of John Nobili, S.J., a part of the Inventory of Presidents’ Papers. Most of the letters were in Spanish or French, with a very few in English and one in Latin. They were about a little-known episode at Mission San Jose that had involved my husband’s great-great-grandfather, Eduard Baron. But how? It would take far more than a single afternoon to study and analyze the information.

With the archivist’s permission, I photographed some 43 documents and went home to read and translate many of them into English, a task that took a couple of months to do in between family life and a hectic work schedule. As I pieced together the bits of information I already had on Eduard and the events mentioned in the Santa Clara documents, a clearer picture of him and his story began to emerge.

Between 1850 and 1851, Eduard Baron had to admit that the long journey from his native France to California in search of gold had not gone as he expected. He had left his family in 1848, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean and traveling overland to the West Coast, one of tens of thousands of immigrants who hoped to strike it rich in the gold fields of California.

A statue of Saint Junípero Serra, founder of the California Missions, greets visitors to the Mission Gardens. Linda Huesca Tully, 2018.

Although some of the Argonauts struck it rich in the Sierras, most were not so lucky. Some, broke and broken by their fruitless efforts, returned to their homelands in dismay. Others, who were more enterprising, if not downright greedy, capitalized on low supply and high demand for everyday necessities and charged exorbitant prices for food and supplies at the rate of whatever amount desperate new arrivals could pay. Still others refused to look back. Pioneers in both spirit and action, they forged their own destinies, finding or creating opportunities and settlements.

Eduard, like many 49ers, likely found little or none of the coveted precious metal during his foray. The only prospecting he faced now was what to do next with his life at the ripe old age of 23.

It did not take him long to realize that there was more money to be had in building new towns and homes to keep up with the influx of settlers arriving daily in California. San Francisco’s own population, at 459 in 1847 when it was known as the town of Yerba Buena, had exploded to 34,000 almost overnight. Sensing his carpentry skills were a lucrative commodity, Eduard made up his mind to return to San Francisco. He was joined by a fellow French expatriate and carpenter, Jules Audrain.

On their way back, they stopped at Mission San Jose, about halfway between the Bay Area and the California gold fields. The town that had sprung up around the mission had become an important trading post and layover point for travelers going to and coming from the gold mines through Mission Pass along the Diablo mountain range. There, they could find lodging at one of two hotels and buy fresh fruit and meat and pelts from the coyote, deer, elk, bears, mountain lions, and cattle roaming the lands.

Overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the lush valleys surrounding it, the growing mission settlement was not a bad place to contemplate the future. The natural beauty of its setting and its mild, Mediterranean-like climate, unlike the changing, sometimes extreme weather of the Sierras and the damp fog and wind of San Francisco, appealed to the two young men, and they chose to go no further. The decision would alter their own lives and the history of the mission.

Header image: Signature page of legal settlement executed on July 22, 1852, by Father John Nobili, S.J., Eduard Baron, and Jules Audrain. Image courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University.

Work Cited

Mission San Jose Business Contract. July 22, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB01, Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.

Next: Part 3: A Hard Offer to Refuse

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully

More than Meets the Eye – Part 1 of 10

The Carpenter of Mission San Jose

Eduard Baron (1825 – 1921)

Mission San Jose. Copyright Linda Huesca Tully, 2021.

Everyone has a story.  Whether you discover that story depends on how much effort you’re willing to put into getting to know that person.  And if you take the time and dig deep enough, you might find that the seemingly most ordinary person is surprisingly extraordinary.

Something about Eduard Baron told me his was an unfinished story.  My husband’s paternal great-great-grandfather, he left his native France as a young man for San Francisco in 1849 in search of gold.  He settled in the Santa Clara Valley, married, had five children, and became an American citizen before moving his family to Arizona.

Yet despite his having lived within driving distance of our home, first in Washington Township and later in San Jose, the details of his life in those places eluded me for years.

Late one Saturday night a few years ago, I stumbled on Eduard’s name in an online index mentioning a business contract and receipts for work that he and a fellow carpenter had performed on the church and house at Mission San Jose. The receipts were part of the Inventory of President’s Papers, Papers of John Nobili, S.J., at the Santa Clara University Archives.

The other carpenter had a familiar name:  Jules Audrain.  I had seen Jules’ name before in the 1852 California State Census, indicating he and Eduard lived in San Jose.  Wondering if he was a cousin or a friend of Eduard’s, I had tried learning more about him but came up dry.  Yet here was his name again as one of the signers of the receipts.

There was a third signer whose name I did recognize:  Father John Nobili, S.J. 

Father Nobili, a Jesuit priest and one of the giants of the early days of the Santa Clara Valley, not only had been president of the California missions at one time but also, and more significantly, founded Santa Clara College, known today as Santa Clara University.

In French and dated December 14, 1852, the business contract and receipt were part of a collection of his personal papers.

As soon as I could arrange it, I took an afternoon off and scurried over to the university library, a short drive from my office.  It didn’t take the archivist long to find the legal-size green-gray folder containing the papers, which were in French.  I gave silent thanks for falling in love with the language years before and eagerly began translating the contents into English.

That’s when I discovered the document was more than just a series of paystubs.  It was a legal settlement for a little-known event that would come to be known as the Mission San Jose Scandal.

Next: Part 2 – Clues on the Ancestry Trail

To read all the episodes in this series or to find other stories about the Baron family, click here.

Copyright ©  2021  Linda Huesca Tully