Sarah Ruhamah De Bell Frost Beggs, last survivor of the Oregon Mission of 1840
While working with legendary photographer Edward S. Curtis, the important early historian of the Pacific Northwest, Edmond S. Meany, had a chance encounter in South Dakota with a very old woman who spoke fluent Chinuk Wawa…
…and she turned out to be the widow of a very important figure from early pioneering days:
“Glory be to God! He was my husband!”
This valuable clue was seized upon, and the interviewer plied ihe questions that brought forth a flood of information and gossip about those historic days of early Oregon. The chance dropping of a word of the Chinook jargon was like an elixir. The old lady’s face brightened and she proceeded with a lengthy discourse in that language, though probably half a century had passed since she had heard it used. In those early days she and her husband had used the Chinook in their home at Clatsop, as well as in religious services among the natives.
Sarah Ruhamah De Bell was born in Colchester, January 1st, 1816, and on the same day in 1834 she was united in marriage to Rev. J. H. Frost, and sailed with him and their little son for mission work in Oregon late in 1839.
— from page 13 of “Last Survivor of the Oregon Mission of 1840” by Edmond S. Meany
What an amazing encounter. Wouldn’t it be great if Curtis and Meany had documented it with photos and more detailed notes on her Jargon?