In early 20th cen­tury, Idaho saw a grow­ing Basque com­mu­nity

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - STAY CONNECTED - BY ARTHUR HART Spe­cial to the Idaho States­man

Idaho’s Basque pioneers were never called any­thing but “Span­ish” by the Idaho States­man and other news­pa­pers in their early years here. We found this item of Oct. 23, 1902, es­pe­cially in­ter­est­ing:

“Cit­i­zen­ship. The fol­low­ing per­sons signed dec­la­ra­tions yes­ter­day of their in­ten­tion to be­come cit­i­zens of the United States: Ju­lian Erquinaga foreswore al­le­giance to the king of Spain; James S. Stu­art re­nounced al­le­giance to King Edward of Eng­land, and Nels An­der­son quit King Os­car of Swe­den.”

The 1900 United States cen­sus tak­ers had found 77 Span­ish-born peo­ple in Idaho, al­most surely Basques. By 1910 the cen­sus listed 1,179 “Span­ish,” prob­a­bly all Basque.

Al­though most Basque men would find em­ploy­ment as sheep­herders when they ar­rived in Idaho, tend­ing their flocks in re­mote and lonely parts of the state, they came into town for the winter, cre­at­ing a need for board­ing houses and restau­rants. The ear­li­est ref­er­ence we have to these ap­peared in the States­man on the day be­fore Christ­mas in 1893: “R. J. Luark has sold the City Restau­rant, on Ninth Street be­tween Main and Idaho, to two Spa­niards, Ytur­raspe & Uberu­aga, who will take charge on Jan­uary 1 1894, and con­duct a first class place. Mr. Luark has been pro­pri­etor of the City Restau­rant for twelve con­sec­u­tive years. He con­tem­plates mov­ing east shortly to lo­cate.”

We learn that the new Basque own­ers had ac­quired a lodg­ing house as part of the deal from their ad in the States­man on Dec. 31, 1893: “They will run the restau­rant in first class style in ev­ery re­spect. Meals will be fur­nished for 25 cents; beds for 25 cents.”

That herd­ing sheep could be a dan­ger­ous, as well as lone­some, way to make a liv­ing, we learn from sev­eral news items in the early years of the 20th cen­tury. In July 1907: “Sheep Camp Ten­der Shot in Owyhee. J. Ari­etta by Frank Coats on the morn­ing of the fourth.” The Idaho

World re­ported on May 18, 1908: “Sheep Herder Killed: Domingo Evesenna by Thomas R. Ar­rate with a 30-30. Ar­rate claims gun dis­charged by ac­ci­dent. Ro­man Alde­coa was the only witness.”

When the body of Si­mon Balasteguer was found near the head of Sheep Creek in Owyhee County in Septem­ber 1914, the prime sus­pects were two brothers named Wil­lameger: “It is said that the herder and the Wil­lamegers quar­reled Sun­day af­ter­noon, and that the min­ers chased him off their claim af­ter beat­ing him and tak­ing his gun away from him.”

Idaho’s Basque his­tory is rich and col­or­ful, with only a few tragic episodes like this one. We’ll tell more of it next week.

Arthur Hart writes this col­umn on Idaho his­tory for the Idaho States­man each Sun­day. Email hist­[email protected]

Idaho State His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

This young Basque sheep­herder far from his home­land had his por­trait taken by an Idaho photo stu­dio.

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