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Docents Speak for Dynasty at Family Adobe

March 03, 1994|PSYCHE PASCUAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even on days when the Juan Matias Sanchez Adobe Museum in Montebello is closed to outsiders, a gray-haired man walks across its creaking wooden floors as if he owns it.

Thomas Sanchez stops in front of a glass case that displays a sword. He draws water from a spigot in the yard, and sits in the salon built more than a century ago, when most of California was still owned by Mexico.

Sanchez, 73, a grandson of Matias Sanchez, is one of three descendants who leads tours at the adobe and tells family stories. His cousins, Eleanor Zuniga, 80, and James Jeffredo, 86, often join him.

"People who come here would rather go on a tour with a family member because they have anecdotes we don't have," said Lee Gardipe, president of the Montebello Historical Society, which operates the museum.

Gardipe said the society is trying to get the family's stories down on paper so local schoolchildren will have written histories. Zuniga and Jeffredo, Sanchez's oldest living descendants, have vivid memories of the past.

Zuniga remembers fruit trees circling the homestead, which is now surrounded by houses.

"I was born on the east side of this house," Jeffredo said as he sat in an office that was once a bedroom. "I used to plant corn, potatoes and squash."

The original house was built in 1845 by Dona Maria Casilada Soto de Lobo.

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