Parish History

The first St. Joseph Church was a wooden structure "used by people and bees alike", built in 1881 on the site occupied by the present rectory. The Pinole neighborhood was first a mission of St. Paul Church in San Pablo. In 1923 it became a mission of the newly formed St. Patrick Church in Rodeo. On September 4, 1947 Fr. Flatley, pastor of St. Patrick Church wrote Archbishop John J. Mitty of San Francisco to say that Pinole could take care of itself. Some weeks later, St. Joseph was constituted a parish in its own right.

What's in a Name: "Pinole"
The city of Pinole is named after pinole, a form of meal made of acorns, seeds, and wild grain, given by native people to hungry Spanish explorers in the 18th century. For us, this food recalls the Bread of Life, which our Catholic Church has shared with this community for a century and a quarter.

The neighboring area of Hercules, some of which comprises the north side of the parish, was the home of a dynamite factory. This has been replaced with housing and other buildings - but can still remind us of the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. Our southern boundary also has powerful associations. It includes the Hayward earthquake fault, which enters the bay at Point Pinole. Our location on San Pablo Bay reminds us of St. Paul, the great apostle and writer, whose ministry still touches on our shores.

During World War II, many industries came to this area with a consequent increase in population. Housing development went ahead at a fast pace in Pinole and the surrounding area. Fr. Dennis Glennon, first pastor of St. Joseph Parish, had a new church and rectory built in 1950. Fr. Joseph Smith succeeded him in 1955-56 followed by Fr. Thomas Collins who had St. Joseph School built in 1962-63 and enlarged the Church in 1966-67. Fr. Parick Finnegan followed as Pastor and had one of the first functioning parish councils in our diocese.

After the short administration of Monsignor Frank Maurovich in 1972-73, Fr. John Crumlish, the popular Irish tenor, became pastor and consolidated the ministries of the parish. Fr. Thomas Gallagher served as pastor from 1979 to 1982, and had the church block nicely landscaped. Fr. Thomas Ryan, pastor from 1982-88, revived the Parish Council, had the church roof renewed, and decorated the church inside and out. Fr. Paddy Bishop, S.M., "Father Oktoberfest" served as parish administrator from 1988-92, followed by Fr. Ray Sacca as pastor from 1992-96. Fr. Michael Galvan served as pastor from 1996-98 and Fr. Quang Minh Dong served as pastor from 1998 to 2005.  Under Fr. Quang, the new St. Joseph Middle School was constructed, the sanctuary of the church was renovated and a baptismal pool was installed. Fr. Paul Schmidt was pastor from 2005 to 2014 and Fr. John Direen from 2014 to 2016.

Today, Fr. Geoffrey Baraan is Pastor of St. Joseph and is joined by Parochial Vicar, Fr. Francisco Figueroa-Esquer. Other priests in the diocese who have worked in our parish in recent years are Fathers John Prochaska, Ramiro Flores, Kenneth Nobrega, Lee Chompoochan, Gus Acob, Jan Rudzewicz, Mark Amaral, Eddie Castanas and Peter Son Vo.

Over a century and a quarter as a worshipping community and more than half a century as a parish, we have experienced much growth and many changes as our faith community has developed. Today, our parish population consists of more than 3,500 families, including over 10,000 individuals. We are truly blessed with a broad diversity of parishioners who enrich us with so much talent, creativity, experience and vitality.

Indian Heritage in Pinole

The first European ship to sail into San Francisco Bay sailed through the Golden Gate on August 5, 1775. The Chaplain aboard   the “San Carlos” was Father Abella. As the San Carlos sailed around the north end of the bay a group of Indians from the east side approached the ship, greeting the strangers and giving them fresh fish and other food. The Indians came in tule boats from an area known as the “Land of the Huchiunes”. This was located north of point Huchiunes (point San Pablo) and toward the Carquinez Straits.

In April 1776, the Anza-Font Expedition reached an Indian village. Probably located on Pinole Creek, where they were warmly greeted and given food.  They were presented with “…roasted amole, which is a root  rather like a long onion… The Amole which is their most usual food, is the food which most abounds, and the fields along here are full of it”. Amole is also known as Saoproot by Euro-American settlers. The Indians invited the explorers to stay and danced in their honor.

Who were these people that greeted strangers so warmly and gave them food? Who were these people who had the spirit of St. Joseph’s and Pinole before there was a Pinole and a St. Joseph’s?

The Huchiunes were a group of people that inhabited the area between Emeryville and Rodeo. They spoke a common language. They had been in this area for about 2,000 years. The average adult was 5 feet 5 inches. The men wore loin cloths and the women wore skirts made from tule leaves. In the winter both men and women wore cloaks made from animal skins. The weather throughout most of the years was mild and warm. The Huchiunes respected the old and the very young were also much loved. The Huchiunes believed in bathing twice a day. The men also took sweat baths. Everyone wore beads. The beads were made from sea shells, clam shells, bay mussels, oysters and abalone; they were tubular, thin lipped and olivella shaped. The Huchiunes lived in huts made from tule branches or bark from the trees in the area. They made baskets to cook in, which were tightly woven to hold water. Water would be put into baskets, then stones heated in the fire were placed in the water and replaced when necessary until the food was cooked. Tools were made from the fish they caught or the animals they hunted. Awls were made from bones, as were needles and fish hooks.  Knives, arrow heads and spear heads were made of obsidian. Burials were primarily by cremation, but also flexed burials were done (laid to rest in a sleeping position).

When the Huchiunes arrived in California they settled in the area which is now Pinole. They had everything they needed, plenty of open space to live in and good weather. There were fish, deer and elk to hunt; buckeye, coastal oak and live oak provided buckeye nuts and acorns to make pinole (a meal made by grinding acorns or buckeye nuts). Food was all around. There were plenty of streams and springs in the area for fresh water. When the Spanish arrived the Huchiunes were happy to share what they had. There were camp sites all the way up Pinole Creek and Refugio Creek. One of the biggest village sites was located in the area which is now San Pablo Avenue in downtown Pinole.

Between 1780 and 1810 there were over 400 Huchiunes converted to Catholicism and most were baptized at Mission Dolores. You can see even the first to settle were among the first to embrace the faith. Before they were baptized they had the warmth and friendliness one associates with St. Joseph’s. The spirit of the Oktoberfest brings out that same spirit that greeted the Spanish explorers when they arrived in Pinole over 200 years ago.

Compiled and written by Jim Drouillard

Rancho Pinole-The Hispanic Connection

Commandante Don Ignacio Martinez, one of the most aristocratic of the Spanish dons of early California was chief military officer of the Presidio of San Francisco. In 1823 he received possession of Rancho El Pinole in Contra Costa.

Ignacio Martinez was born in Mexico City in 1774. He came to California about 1790, and entered the army as a cadet in the Santa Barbara Company. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the San Diego Company in 1806, and served much of his time there as a paymaster. In 1817, Martinez was recommended for promotion to lieutenant of the Santa Company, but an error made at Madrid or Mexico City, resulted in a commission for the San Francisco Company. As commandante at San Francisco in 1822 – 1827, and again from 1828 – 1832, he participated in a number of expeditions against the Indians. He served as attorney in some criminal cases and as a member of the town council in 1824 and 1827. Martinez retired with full pay in 1831, credited with forty – one years of service.

In consideration of his military service, Governor Antonio Luis Arguello gave Ignacio title to a tract of land situated in Costa Costa known as Pinole y Canada del Hambre (later known as Alhambra Valley) in 1829.

Three square leagues had been originally granted Martinez and he later requested and acquired an additional square league because of the growth of his cattle herds. Don Ignacio wrote of his holdings:

“Although this may appear considerable, the greater part is not fit for pasture, being proposed of rocky hills and swamps. The better part is on the side of the ‘siscar’ and the Canada del Hambre.”

Rancho Pinole’s boundaries were the mouth of the Canada del Pinole, thence easterly with the same to the corral of Galindo; thence to a point on the Canada del Hambre and along it to the Straits of Carquinez and terminating at the mouth of the Canada del Pinole on the Bay of San Francisco. The Rancho Pinole grant consisted 17,786.49 acres.

Don Ignacio did not move his family to the Rancho until 1836, living until that time at the Pueblo of San Jose. To fulfill the requirements upon which grants were made by the government, he proceeded to build a home and other homes of adobe in the valley of Pinole about two and half miles from the bay. Martinez occupied and cultivated a large portion of the land, set out a vineyard and fruit orchards. Hence, the present names of the streets of Old Town Pinole: Peach, Plum, Pear and Prune.

The Martinez family numbered thirteen people, including Don Ignacio and his wife Maria.

By  Virginia Macias Rhone

Early Irish and German Members of St. Joseph

MICHAEL J. SCANLON, born in County Sligo, Ireland, 1824. He came to Pinole by way of Canada and New Orleans. While in New Orleans he met and married Penelope Melarkey, who was born in County Mayo, Ireland in 1826. He came to California across the plains. Penelope and their infant son, Eugene, followed 6 months later by way of the Isthmus of Panama, which was considered less hazardous in those days. The story is told that baby Eugene became separated from his mother during the journey. Great was her joy on reaching the Pacific side to find Eugene in the care of friendly natives. They were reunited with Michael in San Francisco and in 1853 they took up residence in Pinole, on what was later the Buckley Ranch, west of Nob Hill. The family later moved to the Old Adobe in Pinole Valley an in 1870, purchased the property along Pinole Creek that later became the Mohring Ranch. Seventy-two acres of the land was part of the Sobrante Grant. They had nine more children. The ranch remained in the Scanlon Family until 1911, when it was sold to the William Mohrings.           

In 1924 one of William Mohrings sons, Henry, married Evelyn O’Neill. Their son Leonard and his family still operate the ranch.           

JOHN O’NEILL, born in County Cork, Ireland, 1804. In 1840 he married Margaret Toomey, who was born in Cork in 1811. They came to California by ship in 1854 and settled in Mokeloumne Hill, Calaveras County. They ran a General Store for 10 years. In 1864 the family, now with 5 children, took up farming on the Little Valley Ranch, approximately 320 acres on San Pablo Creek, which was  part of the Sobrante Grant. One half interests in the ranch were granted to their elder sons, John F. and Henry A. O’Neill. John F. O’ Neill married Isabella Castro, daughter of Victor and Louisa Martinez Castro. The youngest daughter Henrietta O’Neill married Patricio Castro, brother of Isabella. Brother and sister of one family marrying brother and sister of another family was not unusual in towns and farming country where population is small. In the next generation of the O’Neill, William O’Neill married Emma Mohring and Evelyn O’Neill married Henry Mohring.            

HENRY A. O’NEILL, married Mary Ann Scanlon, daughter of Michael and Penelope Scanlon, in 1877. They had 7 children. Mary Ann Scanlon stayed on and ran the ranch after the death of her husband in 1903. Her sons Harry (Henry), Charles and William, continued to operate the ranch until 1918.           

The ranch had been reduced to less then 5 acres, due to litigation which had been going on for many years regarding the validity of the tile conveyed by early Mexican Land Grants. Other ranchers in the Pinole Valley also lost property due to this litigation.            The O’Neill and Scanlon Families have been active in St. Joseph’s since the establishment of the Mission. A number of current parishioners are descended from these families.            

It is interesting to note that even after the building of the church in Pinole, priests often traveled to the ranches of Pinole Valley from San Pablo. Travel by horse and buggy made the ride to town a long one. My grandmother, Mary Theresa O’Neill, was married to Charles P. Clark in 1902, at the O’Neill’s ranch in Pinole Valley. Father Pimentel, from San Pablo, visited several other ranches in the Valley before arriving to conduct the wedding ceremony.           

Gladys Clark Hooper recalls that, when she was a child in Pinole, Father Porto came from San Pablo on Fridays to teach the local children Catechism. He came again on Sunday to celebrate Mass. His sermons were always given in English and then repeated in Portuguese, as some of the parishioners didn’t speak English.            

HENRY BLUME, born in Prussia in 1837, came to Pinole in 1859. He and his wife Fredreka had 5 sons. One of their sons, Fredrick married Henrietta O’Neill, daughter of Henry A. and Mary Ann Scanlon, in 1917. They farmed the Blume Ranch which included the land that is now Hilltop Mall.            

There were other early Irish and German farmers in the Pinole area that attended the Mission Church. They included the Tormeys, Fitzgeralds, and the Abrotts.           

With the coming of the Hercules Powder Works in 1879, the population of Pinole and the surrounding area began to increase.             

JOHN COLLINS, who arrived in Pinole in the 1890’s, was town constable. He and his descendants have been active in civic and Church activities. His son Edwin was a dentist. Martin was Postmaster of Pinole for 38 years. Francis and Robert were lawyers. Francis served as Pinole City Attorney for 40 years. Margaret and Marie were teachers. Margaret was superintendent of Pinole Schools for a number of years.           

EUGENE SHEA, arrived via Australia from County Kerry, Ireland in 1898 to work at the powder works. In 1906, he married Matilda Lucid, who had come from County Clare Ireland to San Francisco in 1903. They had 2 children, Helen and Eugene.            

GEORGE LUCID, left county Clare in 1900, came to San Francisco and then to work at the Powder Works. In 1908 he married Ellen Shea, who had come from County Kerry in 1906. They had 2 children, Mary and Elizabeth. The Sheas and Lucids have contributed a great deal to parish life.           

AUGUSTUS ZEHRINGER arrived in Pinole in the early 1900’s. Mr. Zehringer had a cleaning business in Pinole. His family was active in St. Josephs Church. Mrs. Zehringer is still living in the family home in Pinole.    

Sources: Historical Sketches by Jessie H. Clark               
                 Research on Pinole and the O’Neill and Scanlon Families              
                 By Neil P. Clark 
                       Miss M. Lucid

The Portuguese in Pinole

The story is told of a “joke” Bernardo Fernandez once played on his wife Carlotta. The front pew of St. Joseph’s Church (circa 1880s) was reserved for Pinole’s foremost Portuguese pioneers – the Fernandez family. Bernardo told his wife that he had “forgotten” to pay his tithing. Such an oversight caused her concern for fear of losing their coveted position near the altar.

Fernandez would never have neglected his generous contributions to support his parish and seating status. It was not the Portuguese way to be lax when it came to religious duties.

On another level the story is an illustration of how important the Church was in the lives of Pinole’s Portuguese citizens. The Portuguese community has always placed the Catholic faith at the center of their values, social life and cultural traditions.

Today, many of the stained glass windows of St. Joseph’s Church are historical markers to the Portuguese influence in Pinole. The colorful “In Memoriams” bear the names of Fernandez, Faria, Marcos and Costa as well as one gift of glass donated by the Portuguese organizations of Pinole.

Pinole’s Portuguese past goes back to the 1850’s when male adventurers seeking a better life settled on the waterfront. Henry Cruz, Manuel Suerez and Bernardo Fernandez began a small shipping and trading business using their skills of seamanship. By the end of the century, Fernandez had acquired most of the land in and around Pinole and had a thriving complex of ships, warehouses and wharfs on Pinole’s coastline. His son, Dr. M.L. Fernandez was a beloved physician to Pinole’s residents from 1906 to 1947.

The largest wave of Portuguese immigration into California, (and hence Pinole) occurred between 1870 and 1921. Most came from the Azores Island of the Atlantic – Fayal, Pico, Sao Jorge and Terceira. They came by railroad from the East coast, getting off in Oakland. The San Francisco – Oakland Bay Area as well as the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys became Portuguese strongholds. By 1920, the Portuguese were a minority making up 1% of the state’s total population. Over 12,000 lived in Oakland and San Leandro.

Most early immigrants engaged in whaling and mining. Later arrivals pursued fishing, farming and ranching. They came primarily due to poverty at home. 

In Pinole, the rural pattern of Portuguese settlement also held true. Some new arrivals became workers on ranches in the Pinole Valley, also traveling between San Pablo and Martinez to work seasonally in the harvests and “hay presses.” Many also worked at the nearby California Powder Works of Hercules Powder Company. 

Eventually, Portuguese-Americans leased or purchased ranch land and also entered the businesses of downtown Pinole. People of Portuguese background became saloon keepers and shop keepers, merchants, hotel, and dairy operators. From the turn of the century until the closings of the “Central Grocery” in 1959 and the “Alibi Tavern” in the 1970’s, Pinole had a Portuguese stamp with names such as Lewis, Vincent, Faria, Costa, Silva, Goularte, Bispo, Rose, Pontes, Marcos, Barroca, Enos, Silveira, Brazil, Silvas, Mariero, Dutra, Nunes, and Pereira.

With so many Portuguese residents, Pinole acquired a Portuguese flavor. This came especially from the Azorean tradition of the Holy Ghost Festival or “Festa.” This was carried on by the I.D.E.S. and S.P.R.S.I. societies.

Pinole’s annual “Festa do Espirito Santo” was traditionally held on a Sunday in mid summer. The religious festival and celebration dates back to the 14th century Queen Isabel who began the cult of the Holy Ghost and gave meat and bread to the poor. 

The I.D.E.S or “Portuguese Hall” across from Fernandez Park was the center of activity. Donated livestock were brought in and kept in cattle pens built behind the hall. An “Arraial” or carnival of fun and sometimes fireworks preceded the Sunday celebration. A Sunday parade took place through the neighborhoods of Pinole with marchers, flags, music and the Pinole Band playing the Azorean “Alva Pomba” hymn to the Holy Ghost. 

Central to the ceremony was the selection and crowning of St. Joseph’s Church of the queen who reigned over the Festa. Many local Portuguese-American girls held this honor with May Vincent being the town’s first queen in 1911 at the age of fourteen.

After the coronation ceremony, came the free banquet feast with “Sopas” – French bread, spiced gravy, mint, meat, and sweet bread. After the eating came the outdoor auction of donated foodstuffs, needlework, wines, and livestock. Indoors, music, singing and dancing was highlighted by the circle dancing of the Azorean folkdance “The Chamarrita.” 

While the last Holy Ghost Festa was held in 1959, other culinary traditions still live on with those of Portuguese ancestry. Foods such as “bacalhau” (codfish) and “linguisa” (Sausage) are still common in Pinole. Old-timers still plant mint and “favas” (horse-beans).

Newcomers can today view Pinole’s Portuguese heritage through the windows of St. Joseph’s Church, street names, or in the 21 room Fernandez mansion build in 1894. All are contributions made by Portuguese-Americans to this “little hamlet on the pebbly beach of San Pablo Bay.”
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