Jesusa Guridi Saval
At a glance:
Born: April 19, 1890, Vizcaya, Spain
(Editor’s Note: First person autobiographical format. Reproduced with permission of Jesusa Saval’s granddaughter, Mikie Bartorelli Gottschalk from article submitted to Nevada Cattlewomen Association by Lourinda Wines in 1973.)
On a June day in 1916, I was filled with such excitement thinking about the journey I was about to take. I was sad to be leaving my family and home in Ea, where we had moved from Gallarta, Vizcaya, Spain, where I was born on April 19, 1890. My mother was ill which made leaving that much more difficult, but financially it was necessary for me to join my father and three brothers in McDermitt, Nevada.
I sailed from Bordeaux, France, on the “Lafeyette” in June of 1916. The crossing from France to New York took about ten days. I was sent almost like an express package, with all of the instructions pinned to my coat. Soon after arriving in New York, I was placed on a train for the hot, dusty trip across the United States. My fare included a Pullman berth. The kindly conductor took me to the car where I was to sleep – he made gestures to inform me that I was to go to bed there. However, I sat in the chair car where I felt more comfortable until we arrived in Omaha, Nebraska. Here a kindly matron took me by the arm into the restaurant in the railroad station. I had coffee and a sweet roll. The roll I did not like as I was used to the sour bread rolls we had in Spain.
Once again, I was on the train going west. In Denver, I had to change trains and was taken to the famed Brown Palace Hotel to spend the night. I will never forget the welcome feeling of a bath and a good bed. The next day I continued my trip from Denver to Winnemucca, Nevada. As I climbed down from the train my heart sank to the bottom of my shoes. No one I recognized was there to meet me! However, I noticed the conductor pointing at me and another gentleman signing some papers. Like a special delivery package, I was delivered into the hands of Mr. Ignacio Arrascada who took me to his home. These people spoke my language and this helped my disappointment some. However, had I had the money for my fare back, I would have turned right around and returned to Spain without seeing my father or brothers. After a few days rest, I was taken to McDermitt, Nevada.
At McDermitt I went to work as a cook on the Sullivan Ranch. I worked for $30.00 a month, and of this I sent my mother $25.00. One day I needed some oil for cooking and asked Mrs. Sullivan to get it for me. She did not understand what I wanted so she went after Mr. Sullivan who spoke some Spanish. He knew what I wanted but was very irritated to be called away from his work, so he decided that I should go to the store and get what I might need. One of the clerks spoke Basque so I would have no difficulty. Also, about this time, they decided that I should learn some English. I was sent to get some cheese. I had been taught to say, “Five pounds of cheese.” This I kept repeating all the way to the store, but the clerk that I depended on was nowhere in sight. “Hello, Jesusa,” said the young man behind the counter. “Hello, George,” I replied. And with that I forgot my lesson. After a few moments, I remembered what I needed and very confidently asked the clerk, “Give me a five pound kiss.” This kind man never cracked a smile, but understood what I wanted and gave me the cheese. I returned with my purchase, very proud. Time went on and I did notice that the men at the table would laugh when they saw me. One day I cornered one of the Basque boys and asked, “Why do you all laugh so much?” He replied, “We understand you like heavy kisses, not light ones.” Then I realized my blunder at the store – how embarrassed I was!
After five or six months, I left the Sullivans and went to work at the Pick Anderson Ranch near Golconda, Nevada. Here I received $40.00 a month and could send my mother $30.00. I worked there about a year. One day, a handsome man came to visit the Andersons. I thought that he must be a banker or a senator at least; he was so well dressed. I lost my heart then and there. So, on December 6, 1917, the handsome man and I were married. I was now Mrs. Joseph Saval.
After our marriage in San Jose, California, and a two-month honeymoon, we returned to one of the ranches he owned south of Battle Mountain, Nevada, in Buffalo Valley. The house was not very grand. One could lie in bed and look out the cracks and see the stars. I took over the cooking and all the duties of a good wife and helpmate to my husband.
As time went on we had three daughters, and we knew that we would have to find a home in town so they could go to school. In 1920 we bought a home in Battle Mountain, as this was the center of the ranching and livestock operation which encompassed parts of Elko, Lander, Humboldt, Pershing, and Churchill Counties. When I saw our Battle Mountain home, it took me back to my arrival in the United States. While on the train going through Buffalo, New York, I looked out and saw a lovely house. I never thought I would ever have anything so grand, and suddenly here I was in a house much like that one in Buffalo, New York.
My three daughters attended elementary school in Battle Mountain. When they reached high school, I was busy with the operation of the ranch and had to be away from home much of the time. Josephine and Dolores went to St. Teresa’s Academy in Boise, Idaho, and Marian went to St. Mary of the Wasatch in Salt Lake City, Utah. After graduation Dolores went to business college in Sacramento, California, and to St. Mary of the Wasatch College in Salt Lake City. Marian is a graduate of the University of Colorado.
The ranching and livestock operation was not always profitable. In 1930 we had a severe drought followed by a bitter winter. The snow was three to four feet deep, and the livestock were without forage of any kind. There was no hay to be bought. That year we lost 8,000 sheep from starvation. It was indeed a great loss. In the spring of 1931 we had an offer of 12 and ½ cents a pound for the wool from sheep that were left, but we were advised to put the wool clip into a pool that would bring better returns. In May of 1932, when the clip was sold, we received $85.00 - a check which we never cashed. Again, in the fall of 1931 we were offered $4.00 a head for our lambs, but again put them on a pool at Twin Falls, Idaho. The following spring they brought $.75 per head.
Little did I know at the time that I was to have a much greater disaster in my life. My deepest loss came on July 5, 1938, when my husband Joe died. Here I was with three daughters to raise and educate and a vast ranching and livestock operation to run. How was I to cope with all of this?
My husband was always willing to help his fellow man. He had countersigned notes for some of his friends for many thousands of dollars. When he passed away the banks immediately started to call in these notes. It was necessary for me to pay all of the notes as I would not let the banks in any way discredit my husband and his good name. This made it necessary to liquidate, at a sacrifice, much of which we had built together. As I did not know much about the northern part of these holdings, I liquidated this and tried to keep the southern end of the business.
When everything was finally settled, I ended up with the southern end of our ranching operation and approximately 200 head of cows. Good advice had been given me not to sign my life insurance money over to the bank. With this money I bought back 700 head of our cattle and started to build what we once had. As time went on, I was able to add to the holdings and increase the number of cattle. I had one blessing. I had good men working for me – without their help I could not have gone on.
Although I had good help, most of the burden was on my shoulders. I was the one who had to find the money for the operation, I was the one who had to know when to sell and for how much. I now had to wrestle with government controls and the like that had entered into the livestock and ranching business. My limited command of the English language compounded every problem, and the results would have been devastating had it not been for the help of my three daughters. In 1952, Josephine and her husband Tedo came home to help and are still with me.
It took much courage to go on. I had lived a sheltered life, and to be plunged into the jungle of the business world is not easy. However, with God’s help, good friends, and good help, I did come through. I feel I have something to leave my children and their children. The thing I hope they inherit most is the courage to face whatever hardships and adversities they may encounter.
It may be remarkable that at the age of 83, I am still very active in the ranching business, and I am consulted about many of the decisions and I still have a final say. The journey has been long and it is still exciting. I can say quite truthfully, I am glad I came.
Researched and written in 1973 by Lourinda R. Wines, from an article for the Nevada Cattlewomen Association. Chosen as winner of their National Contest. Edited by Mikie Bartorelli Gottschalk, the granddaughter of Jesusa Saval, and Kay Sanders.
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