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).

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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.

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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.

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“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.