Frank Yparraguirre: An Oral History

A Contribution to a Survey of Life in Carson Valley from First Settlement through the 1950s

Interviewee: Frank Yparraguirre with Raymond Borda
Interviewed: 1984
Published: 1984
Interviewer: R. T. King
UNOHP Catalog #130

Americans of Basque ancestry figure prominently in the history of Nevada. Sheepherding and innkeeping are the activities most commonly associated with the state’s Basques in the mind of the general public, but that is an excessively narrow interpretation of their role, particularly in Carson Valley.

Frank Yparraguirre was born of Basque parents in San Francisco in 1903. His father was a Sweetwater rancher who had emigrated to America from Echelar, Spain, in 1877 and married a young immigrant from Cilveti in 1892. When only a few weeks old, Frank was taken by rail and stagecoach to the Sweetwater home of the family, where he lived the first ten years of his life. The period 1913 to 1921 was spent in San Francisco during school terms, and back on the ranch when school was out. While still a young man, Mr. Yparraguirre lost his enthusiasm for the life of a rancher, and in 1924 he moved to the Minden-Gardnerville area of Carson Valley.

In this volume, Yparraguirre takes the reader on an expansive journey through time and space. Beginning with family history handed down about mid-nineteenth century life in the Pyrenees villages of his grandparents, he continues with accounts of his father’s and mother’s early experiences in the New World, his father’s efforts to establish himself as a rancher, and his own observations on life in Minden and Gardnerville from the 1920s through the 1950s. Commentary on Basque family and social institutions is interspersed with firsthand accounts of topics that are important in the history of Carson Valley.

Mr. Yparraguirre was in the general store and dry goods business for sixty years, first as a clerk in Minden and then as owner of his own establishment in Gardnerville. He gives a detailed description of the operations of the Farmers Co-op and the Minden Mercantile in the 1920s and 1930s. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II Mr. Yparraguirre purchased his own store. The reader is provided with a valuable account of the changing economy and society of Carson Valley through the eyes of one who was at its oppidan, commercial center.

Frank Yparraguirre also gives attention to both the Basque and Washoe presence in Carson Valley. His testimony is augmented by the comments of Mr. Raymond Borda, which are appended to the interview. These are directed toward the related subjects of the French Hotel (a Basque inn), its attached handball court, and concentrations of Washoe Indians in the vicinity.

This introduction and oral history is reprinted with permission from the University of Nevada Oral History Archive, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno.

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