Tag: Winnemucca

The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca

Somebody recently mentioned to me that the Martin in Winnemucca is one of the oldest restaurants in Nevada, so I decided to look into it. In fact, according to http://www.onlyinyourstate.com, the Martin is the oldest in the state, opening in 1898. As they put it:

The Martin was established as a rooming house for area cattle ranchers in 1898. Today this beloved family-style Basque restaurant continues to draw travelers and townfolk alike. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s a bit of the restaurant’s history, according to the Martin Hotel’s website:

A lithograph dated 1881 shows a residence on this property.  Sometime between 1898 and 1908 Alfonso Pasquale opened the Roman Tavern and Restaurant here.  In 1913 Augustine A. Martin and Elisee Henri Martin, both of France, acquired this building and the business was named The Martin Hotel.  In 1920, after a fire, the building was reconstructed with twenty-five rooms.

Rene Martin, Augustine and Elisee’s son, wrote in 1980, “My parents catered to the sheepmen and cattlemen.  Although they were not Basque, the sheepherders and stockmen  made the Martin their home when in town.  It was not unusual for a herder to come in from this long stay with the sheep, be paid off in full for his work and give the entire sum over to my father.  The herder would then stay at the hotel, eat in the restaurant, play cards, visit with friends and drink in the bar.  My father, keeping the account, would advance him pocket money when asked for and when the sheepherder’s money started to run out, father would tell them so and help them line up a new job.  Then off the sheepherder would go for another long stint with the sheep.”

During prohibition, the hotel and restaurant downstairs prospered while a speakeasy thrived in what is now the attic.  The story is told that when the revenuers found the whiskey, they dumped it all down Melarkey Street and people turned out with cups to sample it as it flowed by.

The Martin Hotel continued as a restaurant after Augustine Martin died.  It was owned and managed by Basque families stretching into the 1970’s; Yruetas, Bengoa, Bilboa, and Sil and Rosie Uriguen.

The Martin Hotel today is a internationally known Basque and American family style restaurant, still home to stockmen as well as a wonderful cross section of people from Winnemucca and around the world…and as always , “where friends gather”.

Now my point isn’t to make you hungry. Ever since moving to Reno, I have been struck by how so many people know about the Basques and frequent their establishments. Having grown up in California, I constantly had to explain my name, origin, etc. Here, everyone knows about Basques, loves picon punch, and has an opinion. When I visited Winnemucca for the Basque festival a few weeks ago, I was impressed by how many people from the greater community were part of the fun. So, besides recommending you to visit the Martin, this post is dedicated to the strength of Basque culture in Nevada!

Winnemucca Euskaldunak Danak Bat Basque Club Scholarship 2017

39th Annual Basque Festival in Winnemucca

While looking through the program for the Winnemucca 2017 Basque Festival, I discovered that the Euskaldunak Danak Bat Basque Club has a yearly scholarship for graduating seniors, going back to 1981. This year, the sisters Tiana Marie and Amaya Michon Herrera have received the award for their studies at UNR. We look forward to a visit from them to the center! Here’s a bit of information on the ahizpak from the program:

Photos from the Festival Program

Tiana Marie Herrera and Amaya Michon Herrera have been dancing with the Winnemucca Irrintzi Dancers since they were three. They have thoroughly enjoyed each and every year of dancing and hope to continue dancing in the years to come at the University of Nevada, Reno. They have enjoyed all of the people that are involved with the Winnemucca Club–their instructors, everyone who has been at a festival or a Christmas Party or a Summer Picnic. They have really enjoyed working with the younger kids on different dances. They will both be attending UNR in the fall, Amaya will be majoring in History and Tiana will be majoring in Elementary Education and hope to pursue a master’s degree in Counseling. Tiana and Amaya are extremely grateful for this scholarship and all of the support they have received from so many people involved with the Winnemucca Euskaldunak Danak Bat.

Zorionak, neskak!



Winnemucca Basque Festival

Continuing on our summer Basque Festival tour of the West, some of us at the CBS and Jon Bilbao Basque Library had the chance to visit Winnemucca and attend its 39th Annual Basque Festival. Once again, we got up early (but thankfully not as early as the weekend before) and set off east toward Winnemucca. On the way there, we had a lovely breakfast in Lovelock!

Cowpoke Cafe in Lovelock


Once in Winnemucca, we watched the Basque Festival Parade. Many of the dance groups and clubs had floats parade down Winnemucca Blvd. The local fire and police department were also present. It seemed as if all of the town had gone out to watch the parade, and the children were giddy with excitement over the candy being thrown to them from all of the participants.


More parading!

Next up, we headed to the convention center. Right outside, on the Nixon Lawn, festival goers had set up for the picnic, and everywhere you looked, you could see young boys and girls dressed in their traditional outfits ready to have fun.

Txiki dancers

Inside the convention center, everyone was buying tickets for the lunch and merriment. The Boise Basque Museum had set up a table with various gift items and souvenirs. Our Basque Books Editor was also present with a display of our many publications and eager buyers.

Inside the Convention Center

Our Basque Books Editor!

Before the eating began, the national anthems were sung and dance performances kicked off the event. Throughout the day, various groups danced and competitions were held. Among them, dance-offs and weight lifting competitions. A professional wood chopping display was the highlight for me. Stephanie Braña did a great job! To learn more about her, see the following article in Euskal Kazeta.



Lunch was delicious! We had salad, beans, lamb stew, and steak, accompanied by wine and bread. Hats off to the cooks! We then had the chance to watch more performances but left before the concerts began. Too bad we couldn’t stick around!


Once again, these Basque festivals and picnics do not disappoint! Not only was it a lovely day in the sun, but we were surrounded by fun people and entertainment. Can’t wait till the next one!

Nothing like the Nevada views

Photo credits: Edurne Arostegui, Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, and Irati U.

Tales from Basques in the United States: Constancia Bengoechea and the only house in the US whose address was written out in Basque on the front door (probably)

This week’s story from Basques in the United States, adapted from volume 1, is about the only house in the US (probably) whose address was written out in Basque on the front door… and yet another remarkable Basque women who lived there: Constancia Bengoechea (also spelled Bengochea).


A photo of Constancia taken on her wedding day in 1916.

Born in 1895 in Nabarniz, Bizkaia, Constancia married Daniel “Dan” Gabica of Ereño, Biz. (b. 1883) in 1916, before coming to the US in December 1918 with their daughter, Felicia, born that same year. Dan had first come to the US in 1910. She arrived at Rock Creek Ranch near Orovada, Humboldt Co., NV, owned by Dan, in the dead of winter. The temperature was below zero and the ranch house was still not finished, the windows covered with blankets in an attempt to keep out the freezing cold. “Nora etor naz ni, ba?” (Where on earth have I come?) she would say and right then and there Constancia vowed never to go short of money again. But after WWI the armed forces quit buying lamb meat and wool and prices plummeted, with the result that the couple lost all their sheep.


The Winnemucca Hotel, where Constancia worked for over forty years. Picture by Finetooth, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This setback didn’t deter them, however, and following the births of Raymond (b. 1921), Joe (b. 1923, killed in WWII in 1944), Dan Jr. (b. 1925), and Mary (b. 1927), by the 1930s Dan was one of the most prosperous sheepmen in Northern Nevada, working in Rebel Creek, Humboldt Co. In 1931 he joined the board of directors of Humboldt Co. Farm Center. The couple then moved into the hotel business, running a motel on East Winnemucca Blvd. in Winnemucca. Life for Constancia was work and more work; then, after a few hours of rest, back to more work. Dan died in 1960, and Constancia went on to work at the famous Winnemucca Hotel for over forty years, always with a smile on her face. Felicia also worked alongside her mother for many years in the 60s and 70s.


“Beŕeun da Oguei, Ekera Binemuḱa Zeraitz”** (Two Hundred Twenty, East Winnemucca Boulevard). Photo by Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe.

Famously, Constancia owned a house on main street in Winnemucca, the only house (probably) in the US that had the address written entirely in Basque, mixing Iparralde and Bizkaian dialects. She died a centenarian in 1995 in Winnemucca (or “Binemuka” as she would say all her life).

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

**The rendering of the address in Basque is the best we could make out from the photo. If it was spelled any differently, just let us know and we’ll change it accordingly.

Basques, Broncs, and a Jack


Ramon Montero Orquin from Oronoz’s great-grandson Trenten Montero competes in the bareback riding and the bull riding at the Reno Rodeo.

It’s Reno Rodeo time here in Reno and it has all of us thinking about cowboys, but what about the roots of our Basque cowboys? A disclaimer, this post is a lot about my family, but as I’ve been working on our massive upcoming 2-volume compendium Basques in the United States, family roots have been on my mind a lot lately. The Reno Gazette Journal posted a really nice article about my nephew, Trenten Montero, and in it I found listed at least one other Nevadan Reno Rodeo competitor with Basque descent, Victor Ugalde  from Kings River, who will compete in the team roping. I was curious and looked up the entries for both of these cowboys’ immigrant descendants, and thought I would share with you all the entries that will be forthcoming in the Basques in the United States. Among the many striking things about these entries, the dangers and hardships, the hard work these ancestors put in and that their great-grandsons have put in to make it to the Reno Rodeo, what I want to highlight is that both of the ranches mentioned here, Leonard Creek Ranch on the Pine Forest Range, and 9 Mile Ranch in Kings River (both in my birthplace of Humboldt Co., NV) remain with these respective families. That says a lot about roots, Basque and cowboy, and how they’ve come together in our little corner of the West. Also maybe something about the central place of the Basque baserri in Basque culture (see for example, Zulaika and Douglass, Basque Culture) and how it relates to “Home on the Range.”

Trenten’s great-grandfather Ramon (from Volume 2: Iparralde and Nafarroa):

MONTERO ORQUIN, Ramon. Born in Oronoz to Antonio Montero and Ignacia Orquin. They were nine siblings and he sailed from LeH aboard La Lorraine, arriving in the US on Dec. 8, 1902 when he was just 18. While at the train station, Ramon was steered into the right train by a black woman, who noticed his tag attached to the jacket. Montero did not know how to thank her, but in his heart he did so, and profusely. Arrived in Los Angeles and herded sheep for Echenique, earning $25 a month. It took him six months to pay for the trip from Oronoz to California. At age 31 he married Fermina Frantziska Bidegaray. She was 21, from Eiheralarre and the marriage took place on Jan. 13 (or 16), 1918 at Our Lady Queen of Angels’ church in Los Angeles. The witnesses were Fermin Montero and Dominica Bidegaray. Frantziska’s parents were Juan Bidegaray and Juana Maitia (from Iparralde). Montero eventually came to Winnemucca and became a sheepman. He and Michel Bidart bought the Leonard Creek Ranch and for a time they ran 10–12,000 sheep. The ranch is isolated, so there was plenty of room for the sheep. They had donkeys, which are the best for herding sheep, and one day a fellow came looking for a jack donkey to breed his female. Montero had a jack and made a good deal when he exchanged the jack for five cows. That was the beginning of the cattle operation at Leonard Creek Ranch. Ramon’s son Albert (born in Winnemucca) in a memoir published in Herria in 2011, shares a detail worth replicating here. He told the interviewer Miel Elustondo that when his father was young growing up in Nafarroa, he smuggled contraband across the French-Spanish border (which by-the-way, cut the Basque Country in two). The interesting thing was that Ramon’s father was a border guard, working for the Spanish state.

And Victor’s great-grandfather, Antonio, who was born in Ea, Bizkaia (from Volume 1: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa):

UGALDE CHACARTEGUI, Antonio. Born Feb. 9, 1889. Arrived in 1904. On Jan. 2, 1915 he married Paula Erquiaga (native of Natxitua) in Winnemucca. In 1917 he was a rancher and a stockman and worked the 9 Mile Ranch in Kings River. He was living there with his wife and his first 2 children. In 1930 he was living in Summit Lake. He died Nov. 3, 1933.