Four feet of greatness


Chloe Aurelia Clarke Willson (1818-1874)

For Chloe Clarke – George Gill Montgomery’s grandmother; my great-great-great grandmother; Emily’s great-great-great-great grandmother – music provided a simple but serious pleasure on her arduous journey aboard the Lausanne. At twenty-one years old, Chloe left her hometown of East Windsor, Connecticut to join the Jason Lee missionary expedition of 1839; sailing around the horn of South America to reach the Oregon Territory.

From Heart Strings
My Music Man

In my upcoming events tied to My Music Man, I will focus much more on Chloe Clarke than in previous readings. Few living today in the Pacific Northwest know of this great-great-great-grandmother of mine: first “American” teacher in the Puget Sound and at the Oregon Institute, today’s Willamette University. That is, unless your child happens to attend Chloe Clark elementary school in Dupont, Washington, or reside in Willamette University’s Lausanne Hall.

Chloe married William Willson after 31 days based at the Nisqually Mission – located within today’s Puget Sound, back then within the Oregon Territory –  soon relocating to the Walamet (Willamette) Falls prior to it being recognized as the end of the trail. A few years later William and Chloe claimed land, eventually sealed in the delivered document signed by President Lincoln, owning land where our Capitol and Willamette University sit today in Salem. William, the Jason Lee Missionary carpenter, was a secretary at the famed provisional government 1843 vote at Champoeg, and is considered the founder of Salem.

I am beyond excited to share and hear stories early next month with six classes of third-graders who attend Chloe Clark Elementary, a school that celebrates their namesake’s birthday each year with song and cake. I am feeling equally sentimental to share stories, readings from my memoir, and sign books at the Dupont Historical Society on Sunday, October 7. Both of those events will prepare and inspire me to speak about both William and Chloe as “Salem’s First Power Couple” as the Salem Capitol Foundation speaker at our State Capitol on February 14, 2019 in honor of Oregon’s birthday. Learn more details about my upcoming events.

Read previous Musing blogs about Chloe: Women of the past; The Falls: History, stories and lamprey; Ode to Sybil.

Are you a bookseller or librarian attending the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Tradeshow next weekend in Tacoma and interested in carrying My Music Man? Stop by Bedazzled Ink Publisher’s Table #8 in the exhibit hall to receive a signed copy.

As my dad’s cousin shared with me the other day, all our ancestral ladies are beaming.

chloe journal

Screen shot of Chloe’s diary preserved online by Willamette University.


Statue of Chloe at Chloe Clark Elementary School in Dupont, Washington, close to original Nisqually Mission.


3 thoughts on “Four feet of greatness

  1. Pingback: About that marble table (or what about all that stuff?) | Dede's Books and blog

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