March 20, 1911, Ellis Island

On March 20, 1911, the Ellis Island immigration processing center got all gummed up, causing hours of delay. The reason? Aboard the French steamship Touraine there had arrived, according to the New York Times, “the strangest lot of aliens that has passed through this port in years. It consisted of about 150 members of the Basque race from Northern Spain…all bound for points in Idaho, Montana, and Nevada… All attempts to question them were in vain. French, Spanish, German and English were tried without success. A man on the vessel, who said he knew something of Basque, was pressed into service. He could not make the inspectors understand the meaning of the few words he professed to know, and could not make the Basques grasp the meaning of the questions the Inspectors desired to ask. He explained that the hardy mountaineers were probably going West to become sheep herders…” Click here for more on Spanish immigrants in Nevada.