Talk strange language

The Jargon was being reminisced about already in 1904!

The Morning Oregonian (Portland, Or.), Thursday, June 21, 1904, page 12, columns 3-4 has this report of a typical pioneers’ get-together of the time, at Oregon Historical Society headquarters.  (The OHS secretary is named as  “Himes”–who published a well-known CJ dictionary.)

I’m enamored of this article for its quotation of pioneers’ Jargon, its idiosyncratic way of spelling it–which I’ve found usually implies firsthand learning of CJ–and its attempt to characterize the utter non-Englishness of Jargon sounds.

Oregonian 06 21 1904 cartoon

(OCR’ed Jargon text corrected by me–DDR)


Pioneers Gather in Historical Socie
ty’s Rooms to Tell Tales of Past.

“Okoke sun. hyu ankota tillicums
charco copa nisika illahee, ticka iskum
chum, klosh chum: pe yaka ticka clatawa
copa hyas stonehouse, pe muck-a-muck.
hyu klosh ictas, pe hyu he-he, wa-wa,
K’lahiya six ankota six.”
That’s the way old Captain Charlie
Frush wrote it down yesterday at the
headquarters of the Oregon Historical So-
ciety in the City Hall.  Then he trans-
lated it freely as follows:
“Today lots of oldtimers come to our
town to get their badges and meet friends
and gather at the Armory where they will
have something good to eat, and where
M. S.. Griswold, well-known old man
of letters. ‘
there will be laughter and talk and much
friendly greeting.”
All day yesterday venerable pioneers
sauntered slowly about the headquarters,
securing their badges, swapping old sto-
ries and commenting on the many odd,
but to them, more or less familiar objects
in the Museum.
Often the greetings were given jovially
in Chinook.
“Klah-hi-am?” (How do you do?);
“Koh mica chaco okoke illahee?” (When
did you come here?); “Hias ancutty”
(Long time ago), etc.
“There’s a lot of Chinook that you can’t
write,” remarked Captain Frush. “You
can’t spell It. Many years ago one Glbbs,
a learned professor, was sent out to this
region to study and gather samples of
the languages. He traveled about picking
up a few sentences here and there until
he came to old man Byrney [Birnie], who kept
the Hudson Bay Company post at Kath-
lamet [Cathlamet]. ” ‘I’ll give you some Chinook that you
can’t spell,’ said the old man. The pro-
fessor was incredulous, then Byrney gave
him this:”
(Mr. Frush emitted a few strange
“clucks” and “clicks,” that sound as
though he were trying to talk with a
Burbank potato in his mouth, then
screwed up his face in an awful contor-
tion, winding up with a whistle.)
“That reminds me of the dispatch Sher-
idan sent Senator Nesmith in ’61,” said
Secretary George H. Himes after the
laughter subsided. “It was dated from
the battlefield of City Point, Va., and
” ‘Nesmith: Mica Chaco copa Mema-
loose lllohee, momook hyu lum.
“Now Sheridan and the Oregon Senator
were both Democrats, and when that dis-
patch came through the War Office, old
Secretary Stanton, who was a suspicious
man, thought he smelled treason in a
cipher dispatch. It resisted all attempts
to unravel it until at last it was handed
to a certain clerk in one of the depart-
ments. That clerk was an Oregonian,
and when he read the dispatch he smiled.
Stanton and other officials crowded
around him as he repeated aloud the
” ‘Nesmith: You are invited to the bat-
tlefield. Bring plenty of ‘ good whisky.’ “
Two old gentlemen who had never met
before paused to read the date on the
other’s badge.
“Fifty-three,” ejaculated both in uni-
son. “You crossed in ’53.”
“So did I.”
“Where was you on the Fourth of
“I was at Fort Barony” (Laramie).
“So was I. I was on the north side of
the river.”
“Well, well, I was on the south side.”
“When did I come to Oregon?” shouted
sturdy old Captain Tom Mountain. “July
18, 1841, sir. 1841. I came barefoot, bare
headed, bare-backed and– [bare-assed, presumably–DDR]
“You must a been born here at that
rate; he! he!” chuckled a wrinkled and
gray bystander. Captain Tom straightened
up. bringing his heels together after the
fashion a man never forgets who has
“seen service.”
“No, sir; I was on the United States
sloop-o’-war Peacock, ‘n got wrecked, off
where the lighthouse is, below Astoria,
same place where that schooner-load o’
lumber went to pieces a while ago. I
landed at Astoria July 23, 1841, ‘n mighty
glad was I to get my feet on Oregon
terre flrma. I’m 82 years old and two
months and I’ve been in Oregon a long
time, though I was all through the wars.
Got that cut at the Battle of Palo Alto
In 18–”
“What’s that? No, I didn’t have to
cross the plains to get here I swum part
way ha! ha!”
“Yes, we were wrecked near the mouth
of the Columbia. After a while the Gov-
ernment got the ship Thomas Perkins
from the Hudson Bay Company and we
took her up to Vancouver and turned her
into a man-o’-war to sail home in. We
called her the Oregon, and to think of
her and then look at the new Oregon
helps me to realize how the world has
moved in half a century.
Then Captain Tom walked into the Mu-
seum of the Historical Society to show a
friend the beautiful model of the United
States steamship Corwin which he had
made and presented to the society.
Two pioneers who came in 1845 met in
the Historical Society rooms yesterday
for the first time in 50 years. One was
Captain James H. McMillen, of this city:
the other was Mrs. Elisabeth T’Vault
Kenney, of Jacksonville. One day in Ore-
gon City, about 1850, when Mrs. Kenney
was a sprightly, handsome young wo-
man, and was appareled in her best, she
started to call upon some young friends,
and accidentally slipped and fell prone to
the earth–no pavements in Oregon City
then–much to the damage of her best
garments. Up she sprang, and as Mr.
McMillen was the only gentleman near
by she said: “Please, sir, what will you
take to swear for me?” This was one of
the reminders. There were “others.”