Tales from Basques in the United States: Isidro Madarieta, some “royal scale” bootlegging, and collective Basque gambling fever

Isidro Madarieta Erquiaga was born on Apr. 4, 1883, in Ispaster, Bizkaia. He arrived in New York City on Mar. 4, 1901 and went to Boise. He started working as a sheepherder and, in partnership with Antonio Ocamica (b. 1887 in Ispaster, d. 1975), became a sheep owner.

BIZ_Ispaster_82

Isidro Madarieta and his wife, Isidora Osa.

In the 1910s he went on to manage a Basque hotel on Main Street, Boise. In Jul. 1916 he was detained, along with Vicente Bilbao and R. B. Howard, accused of bootlegging liquor on a “royal scale.” They were ambushed near Orchard, ID with almost 1900 quarts of whiskey (Idaho Statesman, Sep. 1, 1916). In Dec. 1922 the sheriff searched his hotel and found drinks in the kitchen and bottles of scotch hidden under the snow on the roof of the building. He was very popular in the Basque community.

In the summer of 1917 he bet against Elías Gabica of Nampa in a horse race. Not being sure of victory, he had 2 racehorses brought in from Aguascalientes in Mexico. Madarieta won, due to the fact that, among other things, Gabica, seeing all the money in play, lost his nerve and at the last moment changed the jockey.

This was not the only race. In Oct. of that same year Madarieta was back competing, this time against Tomás Muruaga of Nampa. For the occasion he hired a horse named Little Fanny. Muruaga did the same with a horse by the name of Jupiter. The betting started 90 to 100 for Muruaga but it ended 1000 to 900 in Madarieta’s favor. In the Basque communities of Boise and Nampa there emerged what amounted to collective betting fever, so much so that the locals drained the banks, which were left without any bills, according to the local press.

BIZ_Ispaster_83

There were many Basque women among those who bet, hoping to buy a silk dress. In the end, Little Fanny won. One reporter emphasized that a certain Basque lady with her son in her arms was screaming herself hoarse “Gora Boise!” (Long live Boise!) (Idaho Statesman, Oct. 1917).

In 1930 Isidro was living in Boise (9th St., and before that he lived in Idaho St.). In Boise he married Isidora Osa (born in Ibarrangelua) on Jun. 25, 1910 and they had 5 children: Juana “Susy,” Luis, Regina, Margarita, and Ángel. In 1927 he applied for US citizenship. He died in Boise Jun. 25, 1946.

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.

2 Comments

  1. marjory mon wilson

    June 17, 2016 at 8:41 am

    love the stories thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*