His great-great-grandfather, Juan Sanchez, lived his entire life in the Los Angeles area before dying at the age of 82 in 1873 after living under the flags of three countries – Spain, Mexico and the United States. Juan Sanchez’s family became wealthy after California joined the U.S. and the area was flooded by prospectors and immigrants during the Gold Rush of 1849.
"They were living like kings," 90-year-old Jack Sanchez told Hector Tobar of the Los Angeles Times. "They had hundreds of thousands of horses and cattle."
The family also had extensive land holdings, including some 13,000 acres in present-day Ventura and an area known today as Baldwin Hills.
But a drought in 1863 hit their livestock particularly hard.
"Whenever they ran out of money, they sold a piece of land," Sanchez explained to Tobar. With the family’s holdings all but depleted, Fred Sanchez, Jack's father, left in 1886 for Portland, Ore., where Jack was born.
But Jack, who had a career in the motion picture business, re-located to Los Angeles following his marriage in 1942. Although his family’s land holdings were long-gone, their contribution to Los Angeles history was remembered through Sanchez Street, a block-long alley in famed Los Angeles plaza, the oldest inhabited spot in the city.
It was on Sanchez Street that Juan Sanchez’s brother, Vicente Sanchez – who once served as the city’s mayor when it was under Mexican rule – built Los Angeles’ first two-story building for his family home.
"I'd take my family and show them the [street] sign," Jack Sanchez told Tobar.
But the sign disappeared in recent years. Jack Sanchez wants it put back. City officials don’t know when or why it disappeared but have promised to look into the matter.
I hope Jack Sanchez gets his sign. While we don’t all have such colorful family histories, we all have ancestral homes that are worthy of our remembrances.
Writing prompt for the day: What do you consider your ancestral homes and what have you done to remember them?
Larry Lehmer is a professional personal historian and senior legacy planner at When Words Matter in Urbandale, Iowa. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter.