Local history comes alive at cemetery tour

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Students from Mountain Home High School's Encore Company played the roles of more than a dozen historical figures buried at Mountain View Cemetery during this year's tour.

A chapter of Elmore County's past returned to life Nov. 2 as the Mountain Home Historical Museum hosted its annual tour at Mountain View Cemetery.

During the evening, guests walked through the cemetery where they heard the stories of some of the famous people buried in the cemetery.

Telling those stories were students from Mountain Home High School's Encore Company, who dressed up in era-specific attire to reenact the roles of these local pioneers.

"There are so many people buried there that had such an impact on our community, and it's important to recognize their accomplishments," said museum director Deb Shoemaker.

Many of these men and women came to Elmore County with nothing more than the shirt on their backs and helped build this community to where it is today, Shoemaker said. It's important for others in this community to know their stories and their place in local history.

Among those individuals buried at the cemetery is Domingo Aguirre Sr., who emigrated to the United States in 1905 from the Basque homeland. He later moved from Boise to Mountain Home where he became a foreman for a sheep outfit.

"I homesteaded in Prairie and purchased 21 homesteads to form the present Basque ranges," said Nick Parkinson, who portrayed the local Basque during last week's tour. "My convictions and beliefs drove me to plan and grow the Basque ranches from the Mountain Hom ranges to the colorful mountain ranches at Prairie."

Others buried at the cemetery are George Anchustegui, a former soldier with the Spanish army who moved to Mountain Home in 1948. For a time, the Bengochea Hotel became home for his family. The Basque hotel was owned by his older brother, Pedro.

"The hotel was more like a community center where the Basque people would get together and eat, sing and dance and tell stories of the Basque land and out at the Prairie," said Christopher Leavitt, who portrayed the noteworthy individual.

In addition, the local Basques would come together to celebrate a number of holidays from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6 each year, which led to one memorable story.

"One time, the law informed Pedro he must close his public dance at 12 (midnight)," Leavitt said. "So 'ole Pedro told everyone to put on their coats and go outside. Then he stood at the door and invited them back in, shook their hands and told them they were his guests."

The local high school students also brought to life the memory of Royal Prince Daniel, whose father built the Canyon Creek Station northwest of Mountain Home. In 1872, he and his family joined a wagon train of more than 100 wagons and soldiers fleeing from the Confederate army, who were making the trek to Oregon.

"Before we could get to Oregon, our wagon teams began to 'die,' " said student Caleb Schneider, who portrayed the Oregon Trail pioneer. "Thirty other families and ours quit the trail and formed the community of Dixie. My father moved us to Canyon Creek, and we built our home and stage stop there out of lava rock."

In addition to serving as a place of rest for those traveling on the Oregon Trail, it was also a fortress against hostile Indian tribes. However, Schneider highlighted through the character he portrayed that not all tribes in the region acted aggressively toward the pioneers.

"The local Indians were friendly people," he said "My great grandmother would bake huge pans of biscuits for them in return for their killing hundreds of 'whistle pigs' that ate the hay and grain."

One of the other prominent individuals buried at the cemetery is Katie Brady Smith, who became the first woman elected to public office in Elmore County.

Born in 1881, her family moved to Mountain Home five years later. In 1903, she graduated from Lewis and Clark College and returned to Mountain Home to teach. It was a few years later that she chose to run for county school superintendent and ran on the Democratic ticket. In 1910, having a woman win an election was no small feat, said Tori Bartlett, who brought the Irish native to life that evening.