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Ramon “Dutch” Borda sitting and reading a book.

This week in our series of stories adapted from vol. 2 of  Basques in the United States we look at a man who had four names, about the same number of jobs, and, ultimately, seven kids. Welcome to the always lively world of Erramun “Dutch” Borda.

Erramun, aka Raymond, Ramon, or “Dutch” Borda was born Apr. 17, 1894 in Bidarrai, Lower Navarre. His mother, Marikita Etchelhar, had been born in Argentina. Besides Pierre, he had 2 other brothers, Guilen and Batita, who also came to Nevada to herd sheep. Their sister also came to the US. Borda was commonly known as “Dutch” (due to his affiliation with Minden, a German town, according to one source) but he wrote his name on aspen trees 3 different ways: Erramun, Ramon, and Raymond.

He emigrated to the US when he was 19, arriving in New York City and making his way across the country to Reno where his brother Pierre lived (in the Commercial Hotel). He began tending the sheep of his brother-in-law Uhalde, but soon had his own herd. In the next ten years he began many new adventures. He married Gorgonia Martinez from Iruñea-Pamplona and they had 4 children: Mary, Raymond, Helen, and Pete. He bought a ranch in Dayton, NV, and then he bought the East Fork Hotel in Gardnerville, NV from Charles Brown.

Those were the days of Prohibition and most Basque hotel owners in Nevada, more than 97 percent of them, ended up getting involved in Prohibition-related incidents at one time or another with the federal authorities. Some hotels were even shut down and their owners jailed. In April 1920 Raymond was arrested by federal agents when they discovered wort–the liquid extract from the mashing process involved in distilling beer and brandy–at his home. It was the second time that he had been caught breaking the law. He was released on bail and was tried in June of that year. In April 1921 he was arrested yet again for selling liquor to two clients in the hotel kitchen. He was brought before the magistrate who set bail at $500 with the obligation to report to the federal commissioner, Anna Warren, for preview. And on April 23, 1923 a federal judge ordered the closure of the hotel for 8 months. Two days later, in an event never clarified, someone fired 2 shots that hit the hotel office.

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Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a clandestine brewery during the Prohibition era. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In November of that year he was sentenced to 6 months for 3 counts related to the ban and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and a fine. While in prison in February 1924 he requested furlough to care for his lambs, and was granted permission. The costs of the probation officer were charged to Dutch’s account, and when the lambing season ended, he returned to the county jail to serve the rest of the sentence! Borda was a member of the Farmer’s Bank of Gardnerville, the Farm Bureau, and the Eagles Lodge. He had 7 children in total, and died on April 7, 1950.

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.