The Last of the West
by Adam Nilsen
Aug 28, 2010 | 1201 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Earl and John Sanko held a farewell party for their land, the site of today’s Civic Center area, they obviously knew they were contributing to the fast decline of rural Pleasant Hill. They invited the public to their ranch to the event they called “The Last of the West”—an eccentric requiem to the last days of their own little piece of old western ranch life. But who were the Sanko brothers, and what is the story of their ranch? I’ll tell you what I know, and hopefully you can tell me what you know.

As of the 1910 census, the brothers lived with their parents, Austria-natives George and Anna Sanko, in Martinez. According to one source, the brothers moved to a 20-acre piece of land off Taylor Blvd in 1933. Fast-forward to the 1960s, when the brothers still operated their ranch, but with graveyard of oddities—old farm wagons, wagon wheels, a concrete mixer, a hay gatherer, and the first fire engine used in Lafayette. Their house also reportedly had an indoor swimming pool!

In 1968, under pressure, the brothers sold the majority of their land to the City of Pleasant Hill for the construction of a Civic Center complex. John died in 1977 and Earl in 1982, and the “last of the west” was demolished in 1985 to make the city’s corporation yard.

That’s basically all that can be found in the archives of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society. So many questions remain, and there must be people who know more about the ranch and the Sanko brothers. What did they produce on their ranch? What did the ranch look like in its full glory? Does anyone have any photos or memories of the ranch or the Sanko brothers? Are any members of the Sanko family still alive? Give me a holler at 415-290-3925 or apnilsen@gmail.com if you can help fill out the story of Pleasant Hill’s “old west!”

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