Bagley, “The Acquisition and Pioneering of Old Oregon”

I acquired a little book by Clarence Bagley, “The Acquisition and Pioneering of Old Oregon: In the Beginning / Pioneer Reminiscences” (Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, undated].

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Clarence Bagley at the grave of Chief  siʔaɬ a.k.a. Seattle a.k.a. Sealth (Image credit: University of Washington Digital Collections)

This volume is actually a reprinting of 3 previous publications by this 1852 pioneer:

  • “In the Beginning” (1905)
  • “The Acquisition and Pioneering of Old Oregon” (1924)
  • “Pioneer Seattle and Its Founders”

Because Bagley’s family, as members of the group that formed the first nucleus of Alki/New York/Seattle, first settled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, he knew the classic southern dialect of Chinook Jargon, what I call the “early-creolized” variety.

It was Settlers who we can say played a primary role in bringing CJ north to Puget Sound. That’s the same story that generally shows you why the northern dialect of Chinuk Wawa is newer, and more English-language-influenced (among other characteristics) than the southern one that went on to give us Grand Ronde CW.


Image credit: Chaparral Books

This book is like so many items of Pacific Northwestiana, in that its Index points you to just one occurrence of the Jargon in its pages — whereas, in reading through it, I tallied easily half a dozen more!

Let’s have a look:

Page 21 about Fort Nisqually (1833+) — Dr William Fraser Tolmie’s diary:

Today, the Indians assembled in front of the house to the number of seventy or eighty, male and female. With Brown as interpreter who spoke in Chinook, [Francis] Heron and I explained the Creation of the world the reason why Christians and Jews abstained from work on Sunday, and had got as far as the Deluge in sacred history, when we were requested to stop, as the Indians could not comprehend things clearly.

I’m not yet quite sure who this interpreter Brown was.

Page 60, about the first Settlers in 1851:

Low and Terry entertained the sincere conviction that their embryo city was bound to become a flourishing metropolis and named it New York…Some facetious individual soon afterward added the Chinook word Alki (New York-Alki), meaning that it might become New York by-and-by. Not long afterward New York was dropped, but Alki was perpetuated. 

Page 63, about early Settler David T. Denny, the only one among the first arrivals who actually stayed around for the long term:

He soon gained the confidence of the local Indians. He learned to speak their native tongue — not the Chinook Jargon — and his services as interpreter were often in demand.

Pages 64-65, about early Settler Charles C. Terry:

Early in April, 1853, the Columbian gave the following announcement:

“Our enterprising friend, C.C. Terry, has made an excellent change of name of his flourishing town at hte entrance of Duwamish Bay, hitherto called New York. It is henceforth to be known by the name of ‘Alki’. We never fancied the name of New York on account of its inappropriateness; but Alki we subscribe to instanter. It is a pretty word, convenient, not borrowed or stolen from any other town or city, and is in its meaning expressive even unto prophecy. The interpretation of the word Alki being ‘by-and-by’, ‘in a little while’, or ‘hereafter’, we must approve itsapplication to a growing and hopeful place. Well done, friend Terry, success to thee and thy Alki…”

Page 88, about William Fraser Tolmie’s involvement in instructing Native people about Christianity via Chinook Jargon:

Miss Jennie W. Tolmie wrote a few days ago…”I remember driving to Nisqually from Tacoma, many years ago, and stopping at a farm house where an old, white-haired man was leaning over the gate. When my aunt, Mrs. Edward Huggins, told him who we were, he said ‘your father taught my wife the Lord’s Prayer.’ “

Pages 104-111 quote extremely detailed historical details of the introduction of the Sa-ha-le Stick (Catholic Ladder) by Catholic priest Modeste Demers, and how it was used in practice. With this information, we can “back-translate” much that was never written down of the Chinuk Wawa that was spoken in this work! A few isolated CW words are mentioned, including Wapeto Lake, le plete, and Tyees.

Page 116, about Cornelius Holgate, a youthful pioneer of 1847:

One night he, with a party of others who were looking for Indians that had carried away the horses of settlers, found the Indians in a position where it was dangerous to attack them as a body. Young Holgate volunteered to go into the Indian ambush alone and cut the fastenings of the horses so they could run out to the Hudson’s bay men who were with him. He told them he was the youngest and of the least value to the party, and if he was killed few would miss him. The Indians saw him and were very much surprised to see “tenas” boy go alone, and they reserved their fire, expecting to see the entire party follow him.

Pages 118-119 describe the funeral of Jim Seattle at “Old Man House” near Port Madison, Washington. The oration for this son of Chief Seattle, spoken by Louchy a.k.a. Jacob, may have been in Chinuk Wawa, so we can consider “back-translating” it.

Bonus fact:

I’ve found an eyewitness account of Chief Seattle’s funeral, too. I’ll share it here soon.

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