Basque Fact of the Week: Ignacio Berriochoa, Stonemason of Shoshone, Idaho

The Basque men and women who came to the American West typically came because of the sheepherding industry. However, they often had other, even greater, impact on their local communities. One example is Ignacio Berriochoa who settled in southern Idaho. He was of course a sheepherder, and a farmer, but his more lasting contributions (besides his family) were the numerous stone buildings he crafted, several of which have been recognized as historic places worthy of preservation and remembrance.

The Galo Aramberri boarding house, built in 1914 by Ignacio Berriochoa. Photo by Tom Young and found on Wikipedia.
  • Ignacio Ygnatil Berriochoa was born on July 31, 1863, in Elorrio, Bizkaia to Jose Maria Berrio Ochoa Aretio-aurtena and Maria Victoriana Alcerreca Arreguia. In 1889, he married Antonia Capistain Uriol, who was also from Bizkaia (though one source says she was born in Zaragoza), born February 14, 1875. They immigrated to the United States in 1904, settling in Idaho.
  • In 1910, they moved to Shoshone, Idaho, which was an important stop for Basques making their way west across the United States. There was at least one boarding house, the Galo Arambarri boarding house, in Shoshone, built in 1913-1914 by Ignacio.
  • Though Ignacio was noted to be a farmer and sheepherder in his obituary, he was also a talented and prolific stonemason. Ignacio built several structures with local lava stone – basalt – that are now recognized for their historic importance, appearing on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the Jose and Gertrude Anasola House, built around 1913; two buildings on Ignacio’s own farm, built in 1920; the JC Penney Company Building in downtown Shoshone, built in 1918; the Denton J. Paul Water Tank, also built in 1918 perhaps with the help of Julian Pagoaga; and the Manuel Silva Barn, built in 1910.
  • Basalt was a common building material used in southern Idaho in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is a hard stone, formed from volcanic activity, and can be found in extrusions throughout the southern part of the state.
  • The buildings on Ignacio’s farm were built in about 1-2 years. He and Antonia had bought the property in 1919, after losing his previous ranch.
  • Together, Ignacio and Antonia had ten children. At the time of his death, on May 17, 1949, he had 32 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

Note: there are a lot of different dates online for the events in Ignacio and Antonia’s lives. It is hard to be sure what are the most accurate, but the birth and death dates listed here are those on their gravestone.

Primary sources: Ignacio Berriochoa, Wikipedia; Lava Rock Structures in South Central Idaho thematic group

4 thoughts on “Basque Fact of the Week: Ignacio Berriochoa, Stonemason of Shoshone, Idaho”

  1. Anasola, what a lovely house!!! and he built it with no computer and no Home Depot, Monique

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