Erquiaga, Thomas "Tom"

Joseba Chertudi
Interview Location: 
Boise, ID
Interview Date: 

Tomás was born in the Erquisa (or Erquiaga) baserri in Ispaster, Bizkaia.  Like his brother Andrés, he barely knew his mother, who passed away when he was only three years old, leaving his father to care for the 13 children.  As was the case for many rural families, farm work took priority over education, making it necessary for Tomás to miss school when his father needed help on the farm.  While he worked, the idea of coming to the United States took root in his mind. 

He made the decision to emigrate and boarded the "Niagara," a cargo ship, for a 16-day voyage to America.  He was awfully seasick, and the fact that he and other passengers were crammed "like piglets" in the ship made matters worse.  Despite the difficult journey, he arrived in New York and was directed to the train bound for Idaho.  This leg of the journey was shorter and smoother than the previous one, and Tomás arrived in good spirits.

He went to work pitching hay for Emmett Stuart in Kuna, Idaho, but the economic situation in the US during the Great Depression delayed his paychecks for three years.  He stayed at the Uberuaga boarding house in Boise while he worked in Kuna.  He herded sheep around Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, and remembers land disputes between sheep herders and cattle ranchers.  Tomás married Anita Echevarria and raised a family, and although he struggled with the English language, he greatly appreciated the freedom of speech that living in the US afforded him.

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