MISSION  CREEK
History

Sketch of mill near Mission San Jose

The region that is now known as the Mission area in Fremont, was a majestic site for early visitors. During sunrise, golden rays would outline a silhouette of a grand peak, slowly revealing itself in the eastern horizon. The burly live oaks, slender cottonwood, and contorted sycamore trees outlined the meandering creeks that started part way up the flanks of the mountain.  Fragrances from the California buckeye and bay laurel trees mixed with the potpourri of wildflowers, made early visitors think they were in paradise. 

Water in this area originated from bubbling springs, that mystically appeared from groundwater.  Water would ooze out along contorted layers of sandstone that peeked through the soil. The water flowed from the Mission area and slowly made its way toward what is now called  the San Francisco Bay.

This sight was witnessed during the Pleistocene, by mammoths, mastodons, sabercats, camels, and sloths that roamed the savannah type flatlands closer to the bay. All these organisms used the waters that flowed through this area. The landscape changed through time. The hills became taller with each new shake from an earthquake, which constantly changed the course of the creeks.  

Sloth that lived in the Fremont area

The larger animals became extinct, probably due to climatic change. Slowly new visitors to the area, like the Ohlone Indians, saw a perfect area to live. There was a constant source of water and a place to hunt, as animals came to drink along the creeks.

A survey party of soldiers along with Father Antonio Danti in 1795, were looking for a place to operate a new mission. They recommended this golden area with the fertile land and free flowing streams that could support crops and cattle.

In 1797, Father Fermin de Lasuen founded Mission San Jose. They quickly diverted water from three creeks to serve their new living and working quarters. The Ohlone Indians were recruited to create a reservoir above the mission, and started an extensive system of clay pipes to water the crops and serve the Mission San Jose. A large flour mill was erected across the main creek in the early 1800's. A large fountain in the Missionís plaza was erected for bathing and washing.

 Mission creek is shown to enter Stivers Lagoon
in the 1878 map.
(click on picture to enlarge)

The creeks would never again flow freely along the flanks of Mission Peak, as humans diverted the water for their use as the area prospered. The Mission San Jose Water Company sold water in 1878 to customers of the growing cities to the north (Oakland and San Francisco). Juan Gallegos and his prosperous Palmdale Winery would use the waters to nourish miles of grape crops for decades.

Area photograph of Palm Ave.
Near Mission San Jose High School
portion of creek (1956)
(Click on picture to enlarge)

However the extensive use of water, which was stored in the pores of the sandstones below the Mission area, could not supply the creeks forever. Every season the water flows diminished. The creeks, which flowed year round from the underground springs, were now dependant on humans to store water in small reservoirs to keep the streams alive. The remnant of this glorious wet past is now preserved as Mission Creek. This creek feeds into Laguna Creek that begins around the present-day Lake Elizabeth and flows toward the bay. Hence this region is part of the Laguna Creek watershed within the City of Fremont.

In the 1960's as this area became the City of Fremont and Alameda County became responsible for "flood control," these creeks became part of a system to again serve the people. Lake Elizabeth was created from what was then referred to as "Stivers Lagoon."

In the late 1990ís a group of agencies decided to restore a portion of Mission Creek between Palm Ave and Driscoll Road.  The restoration was completed in 2003, and only time will tell if it is successful.

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