[1850s:] “Memoirs of Orange Jacobs”

A major figure of Settler society in Washington Territory was Orange Jacobs (1827-1914).

o jacobs

Orange Jacobs (from the frontispiece)

Born in Geneseo, New York, OJ grew up in Michigan Territory, and moved to Jacksonville, Jackson County, southwest Oregon Territory in 1852, where he picked up Chinuk Wawa and edited a newspaper.

Some time after 1860 he moved to Washington Territory, building up an illustrious career as a judge, the Territorial representative in Congress, and a mayor of Seattle. 

In his book, “Memoirs of Orange Jacobs” (Seattle, WA: Lowman & Hanford, 1908), he tells a number of entertaining personal anecdotes that feature Chinook Jargon. All 3 in Oregon involve Native people; the one in northeast Washington spotlights a Euro-American man who has gone native in Jacobs’ view, in a “descent…to the level of an Indian”! 

1 of 4 (page 57), among northeast Oregon’s Umatilla tribes in 1852: 

arrived at the Indian village about 10 a. m. It was
stationed on the margin of the river in a beautiful
grove of timber. It consisted of a dozen or more coni-
cal shaped tents. We rode up to the front of the prin-
cipal one, dismounted, and hitched our horses by drop-
ping the trail rope to the ground. The chief came to
meet us, and his reception of the agent seemed to be
very cordial. I was introduced as his friend, and we
shook hands and said “Klahowa[ɬax̣áwya] to each other. We
entered the tent. There was no furniture, so we were
seated on a roll of bed-clothing next to the wall. An
animated conversation was kept up between the chief
and the agent. I did not understand the Indian dia-
lect, nor could I then speak the classic jargon; hence
I had plenty of time and opportunity for observation.

2 of 4 (page 94-97), in northwestern Oregon, in the capital city, Salem, near the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, with an Indian Agent or Superintendent called “R” who I haven’t yet identified: 

After I ceased to teach public school in Marion
County, I became the private tutor of the children of
R., who was at the time Superintendent of Indian Af-
fairs for Oregon and Washington. I also became to
some extent his literary secretary. R., though not a
learned man, had business capacity of a high order.
In religious matters he was an agnostic, and he read
more of Shakespeare than he did of the Bible. He
was a man of inflexible integrity, and a capable and
faithful administrative officer. He was much interested
in Indian civilization, and talked much of it. He was
of the opinion that the system of most of the churches
was wrong in principle, and not fruitful in good re-
sults. He maintained that the first move in this work
of civilization was to improve the physical condition of
the Indian, and that the moral improvement would
come as a slow, but necessary consequence. Being full
of the subject, he concluded to call a council of the
chiefs and the principal head men of the various tribes
under his jurisdiction, and to impart to them his ideas
in this behalf. The time was fixed, the place named


was the general council hall in the city of Salem, and
notices were sent out requesting their attendance. R.,
while he had a good residence in town, usually spent
most of his time upon his fine farm in the country.
At the appointed time he invited me to go with him
to the council and take notes of the proceedings. When
we arrived at the council chamber we found from fifty
to seventy-five Indians seated on the floor with their
backs to the wall. After a general salutation, R. took
a seat on the rostrum and requested an Indian whom
he knew to act as interpreter. As the interpreter could
not speak in the language of the various tribes repre-
sented, the [Chinook] jargon was adopted as the mode of com-
munication — all the Indians understanding that. R.
briefly stated to them the object of the council, and
then asked the question, “Did they desire fine houses,
fine horses and cattle, and plenty to eat and wear”:
R. was a very emphatic man and spoke in short and
positive sentences. The Indian is a stoic, and if any
emotion ever agitates him it is not betrayed in his
countenance. I was much interested in the interpreter.
He seemed to be full of his mission, and he imitated the
tone of voice and gestures of R. Having asked the
question, R. himself emphatically answered that all
these things that he had mentioned, and which they
desired, were obtained by “work.” He reminded them
that many of them had visited his fine house in the
city, and had seen his fine furniture and other things,
and he asked: “How did I get these things?” He
again answered, “By work.” Having concluded his
short, emphatic and impulsive speech, silence prevailed
for a short time. Finally a chief arose and with great
deliberation adjusted his blanket about him ; this being
accomplished, he spoke as follows: “We are very


thankful for the good talk of our father; we will con-
sider it; we cannot answer now.” He suggested that
one week from that time they would meet the good
father at that place and tell him their conclusions.

We afterwards learned that they appointed what
we would call a committee. That committee, in their
investigations, when they found a man engaged in some
menial employment and roughly clad, followed him to
his house, found that it was a very humble abode, and
was not filled with fine things ; then they followed up
the merchant, who had many fine things and wore good
clothes, to his home, and they found a fine house filled
with fine furniture; they also applied the same test to
the saloon keeper. Neither the merchant nor the saloon
keeper, according to their views, worked at all. On
our way home from the council chamber I ventured
to suggest to R. that most of the wealth of this world
was in the hands of men who organized, or directed
labor or work, and but a small pittance in the pos-
session of those who actually performed the labor. I
gave as my judgment that the Indian had no concep-
tion of this work of directing and organizing labor, and
that he would not consider it as work at all. At the
appointed time for the answer, the spokesman for the
Indians narrated what I have briefly stated above, and
announced very plainly and flatly as their conclusion,
that what the good father had said was not true. R.
was much disappointed at his failure to start a general
movement upward in the line of Indian civilization.
I am of the opinion that his feelings went farther and
impinged on the domain of actual disgust. The subject
of Indian civilization fell, henceforward, into innocuous

Looking at the surface manifestations only, and


not having the ability to look deeper into that com-
plex machine called society, we cannot be astonished
at the conclusion reached by the Indian committee.

3 of 4 (pages 99-100):

In a trip I made to Colville, Washington, in 1856
there came into our camp one day a person whom I
supposed at first to be an Indian. He was dressed in
buckskin, ornamented with fringes and beads, with a
blanket over his shoulders; his hair was long and un-
kept, with no hat on his head and his face bronzed
like that of an Indian; and he was besmeared across
the forehead with red ochre, or some other kind of
paint. I should judge that he was 36 years of age.
At first he refused to talk, except in jargon ; but after
a while, when we were alone, he became more com-
municative, and gave me something of his history. He
spoke good English. He claimed to be a graduate of
one of the Eastern Colleges, and I have no doubt his
claim was true. He had gotten into some difficulty
in the States and had been living as an Indian for
some eight years, or more. To all appearances he was
an Indian; he looked like an Indian and acted like
one. I was in his company for some three days, and
when alone he talked to me in good English; he said
he loved this wild and nomadic life, with its perfect
freedom from the shams and hypocrisy of so-called


civilization. He said that the hills, the mountains with
their snow-crowned culminations, the dark woods, the
silver thread of the stream viewed from an elevated
point and fringed with green as it went leaping and
rollicking to its ocean home, were to him an unwritten
poem, the rythm of which he enjoyed, and the lines of
which he was trying to interpret.

4 of 4 (160-161) in southern (I infer southwest) Oregon: 

I was appointed by
the Court, in the trial of a criminal case in Southern
Oregon, for the defense of three Indians on the charge
of grand larceny. They were indicted for horse-steal-
ing. The proof against them was clear and satisfac-
tory. I labored to reduce the offense from grand to
petit larceny, and I succeeded, for the jury brought
in a verdict of “guilty of petit larceny.” The Court
sentenced them to three months’ imprisonment each,
in the county jail. When their time expired, the
sheriff opened the doors and told them they might go ;
but, instead of going, they went to the further end


of a long, narrow hall, and two of them squatted in
the corners and the other between them against the
wall. The sheriff came to my office and said to me,
” Jacobs, I want you to go with me over to the jail.
I can’t make those clients of yours understand that
they may go.” I went over with him and found them
thus situated. I told them in the [Chinook] jargon, or Esperanto,
that they had paid the debt they owed to the whites
and that they were free to go to their homes to see
their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and
friends. The center man — the oldest of the three —
slowly arose and very emphatically spoke the follow-
ing: “Halo mammook, hiyu muck-a-muck, hyas close,
wake klatawa.” [hílu mámuk, háyú mə́kʰmək, hayas-ɬúsh, wík ɬátwa.] This being interpreted means : “We
have nothing to do, we have plenty to eat, we think it
very good, we will not go.” We had to drive them
out of the jail and into the road on their way home.
I walked slowly back to my office meditating on the
philosophy of such punishment for an Indian.

Orange Jacobs seems to have known fluent Chinuk Wawa, and even used it with Grand Ronde people.

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