The history of the Berryessa name

What are the origins of this San Jose district’s name?

A Berryessa sign at the BART station, with North San Jose and the hills in the background.

You’ll see the “Berryessa” name all around the North San Jose district. (And, don’t forget Napa’s “Lake Berryessa.”)

Photo by SJtoday staff

Hey San Jose — City Editor Nicole here. I grew up in the Berryessa area and never thought twice about the district’s name... until now. 👀

Recently, I’ve learned that the name “Berryessa” actually comes from one of the most prominent families in San Jose’s history.

The Berryessa family — whose name was also spelled “Berrelleza” — was originally from the Basque region of Spain and settled in California as members of the De Anza expedition.

🔎 Quick facts

  • The family owned much of the Bay Area — including the New Almaden quicksilver mine (which produced today’s equivalent of $449 million in mercury by 1880). 💰
  • Despite their influence, they lost most of their land (and several lives) after the Bear Flag Revolt.

Wanna learn more? Local author Jenny Clendenen’s Berryessa biography captures the full story of murder, betrayal, and theft. 📖

What other historic San Jose placenames should we explore next?

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