Pretty Good Beards of INW Pioneer History

Pretty Good Beards is a new regular column (more of a tidbit) in Nostalgia Magazine that features regional pioneers and their exceptional beards. The November-December 2018 issue of Nostalgia Magazine features the Reverend Cushing Eells and his excellent off-season Santa beard.

A pretty good companion song and music video performed by local band Hot Club of Spokane is available online for your mockery and edification. Check it out free of charge here, or at

The original song, “Pretty Good Beards,” was written by the Two Man Gentleman Band, and we’ve copied, changed, and re-purposed it with their kind permission.

Reverend Cushing Eells kicks off “Pretty Good Beards of Inland Northwest Pioneer History.” Public Domain photo.

Reverend Eells’s was snowy white: That was a pretty good beard!”

We reckon Cushing Eells grew his first beard around 1830, though we can’t be sure since we have no photographic evidence. At the tender age of 28, he married his life-long sweetheart, an unbearded but still quite lovely lady named Elizabeth Warner. The day after their wedding, they set off for a delightful frontier camping honeymoon at the winter lodge of the Cayuse on the Walla Walla River, a spot as favored today as it was back then for honeymooning.

Their original honeymoon plans were to evangelize to the Zulus in Africa, but tribal warfare broke out about the time they were scheduled to leave, and plans changed. Ironically, tragedy followed them to Walla Walla where a measles epidemic led to the Whitman Massacre of 1847.

Reverend Eells marched his family and his beard around Oregon for a while before he returned to Walla Walla in 1862. He started a seminary there that eventually became Whitman College, one of the best liberal arts schools in the country for bearded and unbearded students alike.

The mighty Reverend took his beard to the Great Beyond in February of 1893—but not before he made one last gift to the good people of the Northwest: a church bell that he ordered from New York. The bell arrived at the First Congregational Church of Chewelah just shortly after Cushing’s death, and over 50 years after he gave his first sermon there, back in 1838.

His tidy, off-season Santa beard is the perfect reminder of his giving spirit. Reverend Eells should be remembered, and his beard, too. That was a pretty good beard.

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