1867: Earliest known “Old Man House”

In a book search, 1867is the earliest occurrence I find of “Old Man House” / “Ole Man House” / “Oleman House”:

pillar ole man house

“Last pillar of Ole Man House, Port Madison Reservation” photographed in 1903 by Edmond Meany (image credit: University of Washington Libraries).
Note Meany’s explicitly Chinook Jargon-style spelling of the name.

post madison

POST [i.e. Port]  MADISON,

or Old Man House reservation, as the Indians term it, is situated near the Post [Port] Madison mills, the proprietor of which is Captain [George Anson] Meigs (1816-1897). This gentleman has been a warm friend to the Indians on this reserve; he has been always ready to aid in adjusting any difficulty that might arise between themselves or the whites; is a strict temperance man; will not allow any man to bring liquor about his mills or upon his premises. His influence has had a very beneficial effect upon this tribe in the absence of an employé to reside among them. Their chief, Old Seattle, died last year; he was a man of fine natural ability, and exerted a great influence among his people, morally and religiously, for he was a strict Catholic, held morning and evening services…

— pages 38-39 of “Washington Superintendency: 2. Office Puyallup Indian Agency” report, July 28, 1867, in  the federal publication “Annual Report on Indian Affairs” (Report of the Secretary of the Interior)

This 1867 passage tells us quite a lot in only a few words:

It reports that it’s the Native tribe who refer to the place as Old Man House, thus giving pretty clear evidence that this is in Chinuk Wawa (úl-màn-hàws), not English. This was still early in the history of Native & Settler contact in the Seattle, Washington area, so CW was in very frequent use. Over and above this, it strikes me as unlikely that mother-tongue speakers of English would come up with a phrase “Old Man House” as opposed to the much more natural “The Old Man’s House”. And in Chinook Jargon, it’s normal to find this Inalienable Possession form, i.e. omitting the word yaka ‘his’.

From the above quotation, we also glean some of the likely origins of the Indian Shaker Church that was founded in the 1880s on Puget Sound by another Lushootseed Salish speaker. Catholic-style rituals being performed in the absence of any formally ordained priest are a phenomenon known even a generation earlier, circa 1840, following quickly after the first visits by missionaries Modeste Demers and/or Francis Norbert Blanchet, who preached in the Jargon and also gave the tribes copies of their newly invented learning aid, the sáx̣ali-stìk a.k.a. the Catholic Ladder.

Not surprising in light of the late arrival of printing presses out here, the earliest occurrence I’ve noticed for this place name in a Pacific Northwest periodicals search is in an 1878 newspaper (and this too involves a Catholic missionary) —


INDIAN PROGRESS. — A few days ago Father [Eugene Casimir] Chirouse [1821-1892] was in the city to purchase an outfit for two new Indian schools which have lately been built, one at Lummi reservation and the other at the “Old Man House” settlement near Port Madison. Both these schools are taught by Indian teachers from whose pens contributions have occasionally appeared in the INTELLIGENCER. The reverend missionary, we understand, has since departed for a new field of pioneer labor among the Indians of British Columbia.

— from the Seattle (WA) Daily Intelligencer of May 18, 1878, page 3, column 1

This father Chirouse was “The Elder” of two priests from France having the exact same name in our frontier era, “The Younger” being his nephew. Both were known as good Chinuk Wawa speakers, the elder due to his early work with Walla Walla and Yakima tribes and then at the new Tulalip Reservation, and the younger in southern BC at the same time period as his colleague JMR Le Jeune of Kamloops Wawa fame.

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