Founded and Built by Portuguese/Azorean Immigrants
Portuguese pioneers flocked into the Freeport/Clarksburg area in the 1850s. Their grit, their religious beliefs, their quiet and noble character, coupled with their willingness to embrace the grueling work necessary to improve life for their families, made them my true heroes. The Azores consists of nine islands that sit in the Atlantic Ocean, one thousand miles west of Portugal and two thousand miles east of Newfoundland. These beautiful farming and fishing islands are volcanic and are very much subject to eruptions and earthquakes.
Azoreans came to the Freeport/Clarksburg riverbanks for its fine water, its fertile lands, and mostly because they followed their family members who had already pioneered the way. The early male immigrants came on whaling ships to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Many then crossed the U.S.A. by rail, while others made it all the way around Cape Horn and landed in San Francisco. The trek from San Francisco to Freeport was made in one of the numerous riverboats that traveled up and down the river at that time.
According to baptismal books at St. Joseph’s, between the years 1893 and 1951, five hundred and ninety-one families from the Azores had children baptized here. Three hundred and four parents came from Pico, one hundred and thirty-five came from Faial, eighty-eight came from Sao Jorge, twenty-four came from Terceira, twenty from Sao Miguel, eleven from Santa Maria, and nine from Flores.
Engaged primarily in fishing and farming along the banks of the Sacramento River, these pioneers built a strong and vibrant community. Cultural traditions were very important to them. In 1893 the I.D.E.S.Hall was built on the Yolo County side of the river. This hall is located about half a mile north of St. Joseph’s Church. The main purpose of the organization was to carry on the traditions of the “Festa do EspiritoSanto” (Festival of the Holy Spirit).
For over one hundred years, the Freeport/Clarksburg“Festa” has taken place every year on Trinity Sunday. The day begins with a procession from the I.D.E.S. Hall to St. Joseph’s Church. During Mass a girl dressed in a beautiful handmade cape and gown, representing St. Isabel, is crowned. After the church ceremony the procession returns to the hall where everyone is fed a meal of the traditional “Sopas e Carne” (bread and meat). The festivities continue throughout the entire afternoon. St. Joseph in the Delta
The Delta which begins about ten miles south of the city of Sacramento, consists of three quarters of a million acres of flatland, one thousand miles of waterways, fifty-five man-made islands, seventy bridges and lots of meandering embankments.
Levees, sloughs and drainage turned this once wild marsh into what it is today, namely, the producer of all kinds of fruits, grapes, vegetables, grains and grasses.
Discipline did the job. Hard work turned this once chaotic swamp into some of California’s most fertile farmland.
St. Joseph Church is located inside the gateway to the Delta. We are blessed to be located by the river.
The church was established by Portuguese Catholics, the vast majority of whom came from the Azore Islands, and erected literally on the banks of the Sacramento River, directly in front of present location.
Because of levee renovations, the rectory and church had to relocate. The rectory was moved to its present site and a new church was built using lumber from the old one.
The original I.D.E.S. (Irmandade do Divino Espirito Santo) Chapel, which was also built in 1893 on South River Road north of the Church, was moved to St. Joseph’s grounds where it still serves as the parish hall.