I met Lois in a local grocery store parking lot (one neither of us generally frequents). She was talking to Karen, a friend I had met through Mom: Patty and Karen had attended a writing class together for several years. When they first connected in class, Karen realized Patty was the instructor of an empowering class she had taken at Marylhurst University in the early 1990’s. As I walked through the parking lot that day, I stopped to greet Karen who introduced me to Lois, mentioning to her friend how much she had enjoyed reading my memoir, My Music Man. Lois asked about it, and as I had recently learned to do, I boldly recited my website and grabbed a business card out of my purse. For I had – by this point – understood. Little known authors darn well better tout themselves, if we hope anyone to notice.
A month later I heard from Lois. She had fully enjoyed my memoir, and pitched it to her book club. Could I join them at their September meeting, she wondered? And that meeting was yesterday. I felt honored to be able to receive feedback about my book from this interesting group. I find it fascinating the different topics or views book groups express.
As I first entered the room and met my new friends, one of the members, Nancy, let me know not just how much she enjoyed the book, but how much history we share. She added that her family’s history in Oregon is even longer than mine! I have rarely (ever?) heard that and was excited, immediately responding, ” Hmm, must be French Canadian or Native American descent?” Later, during our discussion I learned, yes: both.
Nancy’s great great(s) grandfather was Etienne Lucier. Certainly, this man wasn’t just better known than my own great great great grandfather William Willson, but he had also arrived in Oregon much earlier. Etienne lived from 1793 to 1853, coming to the Oregon (Country) in 1810, first with the Canadian Pacific Fur Company, followed by the North West Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Etienne, in fact, had been part of Astor’s famous and difficult overland expedition to Oregon. It was in 1828 that he retired from his life as a fur trapper, settling into Oregon with his Native wife, Josette Nouette. (Learn more about Etienne from the Oregon Encyclopedia.) Yet it might be the fact that this French Canadian joined another to vote along with the other Americans on that famous May 2, 1843 vote at today’s Champoeg (see: What’s happening on February 14?) that makes him best known of so many who voted “yes” that day.
As Nancy and I chatted, we recognized that our great greats would have known each other during that time so long ago. And, as it turns out, she and I live merely a few blocks from each other, today. Rather than rewrite what others have done so well, I quote below from the Oregon Encyclopedia:
Lucier and his French Canadian compatriots later assisted the Methodist and Catholic missionaries who established missions in French Prairie in the mid to late 1830s. In 1843, following the arrival of more Americans in 1842, Lucier voted to support the organization of a provisional government. Lucier, like the small group of French Canadians who supported the provisional government initiative, sought to give French Canadian settlers a voice in community affairs. He and others wanted to protect the economic interests of their French-Indian families in the Willamette Valley, which many believed would eventually come under American jurisdiction. Today, Lucier is recognized as one of the founding fathers of the Oregon Provisional Government.From Etienne Lucier (1793-1853) in the Oregon Encyclopedia, a product of the Oregon Historical Society.
As I now realize, I will continue to repeat as if my mantra, my meeting Nancy was a surprising and unexpected connection that adds great richness to my life. And so I ask, what happened to you today?