Thos Olney appointed interpreter of Chinook Jargon

Jefferson County courthouse

Jefferson County courthouse, W.T., built 1890 and therefore not for gambling purposes (image credit: HistoryLink)

This says it all…

Thos Olney

— from “District Court Proceedings” in the Port Townsend (Washington Territory) Weekly Puget Sound Argus of November 10, 1886, page 3, column 5

Is this Thomas Olney, about whom I know little, any relation to the interpreter(/Indian agent/Wasco County sheriff/brother-in-law of Warm Springs chief Old Stock Whitley) Nathan Olney (1824-1866) of Oregon, mentioned by Theodore Winthrop in his memoir of 1850s travels, “The Canoe and the Saddle“?

If so, it’s interesting to think he might have spoken Chinuk Wawa as a mother tongue.

Anyhow, what we can strongly conclude from today’s snippet is that the need for a Jargon legal translator remained quite strong in the late frontier period.

FYI, the photo of the courthouse above may or may not reflect where the District Court was held, so don’t bet on it.

What do you think?

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