1912: “Tolneuch” by J. Chester Fox


“TOLNEUCH”: This piece in a very popular magazine takes its name from a word in James G. Swan’s bestselling 1857 memoir of life on Shoalwater Bay, Washington Territory.

Author J. Chester Fox was a circa-1900 alumnus of “Wazzu” (at the time, WAC) who made a name for himself as an illustrator and socially active Washingtonian, participating in the timber industry-related Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, for instance.


(Image credit: Wikipedia)

I should probably call him a socialite, as his name turns up in papers of the era associated with fancy do’s of “the Nesika [Club] set” and so forth.

Aside from membership in that Chinook-named club, it’s not clear to me how much firsthand exposure to Chinuk Wawa Fox had, but the dialogue lines in his story are definitely fictional.

  • There’s the out-of-place “Chinook” (actually Lower Chehalis) personal name Tolneuch for a Skagit man.
  • And the free conversational use of Jargon words that were actually very rare by the end of the 19th century (such as < tshikeh > for ‘soon’).
  • Not to mention the stereotypically inexpressive way the Indians and those in their stories speak (“Straight to Tolneuch he sped, and, gasping, ‘Siah! Siah!‘ (‘Far off! Far off!’) pointed away toward the sea…”)
  • Plus you’ve got the grammatical howlers, like the constant use of < mika > (‘you; your’) for “I” and “my”.

Nonetheless, I can recommend this story to readers who have a passion for Chinook Jargon, because there’s so much CJ vocabulary spicing up its ten pages. You’ll get a bit of practice there.

You’ll find it in the Overland Monthly LIX:1 (February 1912), pages 115-124.

What do you think?