Padre Thomas Peña Founds Mission Santa Clara De Asís

The first mission to be built to honor a woman, the outpost was originally established as La Misión Santa Clara de Thamien (or Mission Santa Clara de Thamien) at the Indian village of So-co-is-u-ka (meaning "Laurelwood," located on the Guadalupe River) January 12, 1777. There they erected a cross and shelter for worship to bring Christianity to the Ohlone and Costanoan peoples. Floods, fires, and earthquakes damaged many of the early structures and forced relocation to higher ground. The second site is known as Mission Santa Clara de Asís. A subsequent site of the Mission dating from 1784 to 1819 is located several hundred yards west of the De La Cruz overpass of the CALTRAIN track; moreover, several Native American burial sites have been discovered near this subsequent site. The current site, home to the first college in Alta California, dates back to 1828.

On January 12, 1777 Padre Thomas Peña, under the direction of Padre Junípero Serra, officially founded Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the eighth of California's twenty-one missions. Located along El Camino Real, the Royal Road, these missions stretched up the California coast from San Diego to Sonoma, a distance of about seven hundred miles. When the chain was completed each mission lay about one day's journey by horse apart from the next.

Each of the twenty-one missions, founded between 1769 and 1823, was similarly constructed in a quadrangular shape and consisted of a patio, chapel, convento (living quarters for the priests), kitchen, and dormitório. The mission also had craft rooms, storehouses, irrigated fields, orchards, and grazing land. In the fields the missionaries frequently worked side-by-side with their converts who were expected to live apart from unconverted members of their tribe and abide by strict rules or face reprimand, in some cases the lash. Over the years, Native Americans displayed a wide range of reactions to the mission way of life: some embraced it wholeheartedly, some rejected it violently, others endured it for the various material and cultural benefits it bestowed.

Father Serra, a native of Mallorca, Spain, inaugurated the first of the missions, San Diego de Alcala, in 1769, having accompanied Gaspar de Portolá from Mexico during the latter's occupation of Alta California. Before his death in 1784, Serra oversaw the development of the first nine missions in the chain, including Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo (1770), San Antonio de Padua (1771), San Gabriel Arcángel (1771), San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (1772), San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) (1776), San Juan Capistrano (1776), and San Buenaventura (1782).