by Nancy Christofferson
WALSENBURG — The July 8, 1927 issue of the Walsenburg World carried the news of the death of one the city and county’s most enthusiastic leaders.
Although there were many pioneer families with the surname of Sanchez, this one member, born in Huerfano County in 1879, stands out as a steady contributor to the well being of the local people.
Panta Leon, known as P.L. and occasionally, Pantaleon, was born to Antonio and Maria Reyes Sanchez. Antonio Jose was a stockraiser and later Walsenburg merchant who was born in New Mexico. The marriage records show Maria Reyes was named Lucero when she wed Antonio Dec. 23, 1876 at age 16, though her obituary said her maiden name was Castro. It also stated her family came from Spain, as did her new husband’s, and that her father moved to Huerfano County in the 1860s. Reyes could well have been, even at the tender age of 16, a widow, but we’ll let the family genealogists figure that out.
P.L.’s birthplace was said to be the old A. Levy home that stood in what is now Heritage Park in Walsenburg. He was the eldest of Antonio and Reyes’ 10 surviving children.
P.L. married Sofia Maldonado, daughter of Canuto and Josefa Maldonado, July 21, 1897. Canuto is generally referred to as Baldonado, and, like Antonio Sanchez, was a successful merchant and loyal Catholic who generously donated toward the St. Mary Church building fund. In fact, Canuto’s home was at Seventh and Main streets where an earlier Catholic church had been located.
The wedding of P.L. and Sofia must have been a merry affair. Both were the offspring of fairly prosperous businessmen and following the ceremony, conducted by Father Ussell, there was a grand ball in Mazzone Hall.
In 1900 P.L. won his first public office when he was elected county assessor. However, since he was, by Colorado law, too young to serve in public office, he was unable to take over and fulfill his duties so his father served in his stead until his majority. Meanwhile he served as his father’s deputy and learned the finer details of assessing.
At the time of his election, P.L. was one of Huerfano County’s few college men, having attended Sacred Heart in Denver. P.L. was re-elected in the next five elections and served until 1912.
In 1902 P.L. proved up on a homestead in the very eastern tip of the county near the Rattlesnake Buttes, and no doubt took up sheep raising like his father. At the same time he was having built an eight-room, brick home with the dimensions of 26 by 40 feet on Fifth Street, east of the old schoolhouse later known as Washington. The family moved in during October 1902. His and Sofia’s only son, P.L. Jr., died there in November 1902 at the age of five months. They would go on to have more children, including another son named P.L.
In May 1903 P.L. was elected as a director of the Walsenburg District #4 school board, and soon was serving as its president. Beginning in 1906 he was the interpreter for the school board when it had to deal with Spanish-speaking parents. He was president from at least 1909 to 1912.
About the same time he was elected to the Walsenburg town council as a trustee. This was a decade or two before Walsenburg became a city.
With his family and reputation growing, Panta Leon undertook another building project, this time a 10-room brick house on East Sixth.
Following his public service, P.L. became a merchant, then in 1917 he opened a real estate and insurance office in the Roof and Dick building. He later moved his office down Main Street to the Victoria Hotel.
P.L. died in July 1927 at the age of 48. Sofia lived on until 1941. They left nine children, who were listed as Evan, Tony, P.L. Jr., Joseph, Mrs. Roger Martinez, Mrs. Gilbert Trujillo, Mrs. Ted Gonzales, Mrs. K.P. Tuttle and Mrs. Jake Vallejos.
Huerfano County would be split between two house districts by Mark Craddock OUR WORLD — Largely because of its national implications in a U.S. Congress