statue in front of

Chloe Clark Elem. School

in DuPont, Washington

Chloe Aurelia Clarke Willson

Chloe Aurelia Clarke was born April 16,1818 at East Windsor, Connecticut.  She was educated at the Wilbraham Academy, Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where Jason Lee had attended 10 years earlier.  Chloe was a young woman of deep piety, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, possessed of a winning personality, sterling character, and highly capable.

 

At 21 she responded to the call to missionary service and joined the Oregon Mission.  Not long thereafter she sailed for Oregon from New York on October 9, 1839, with 51 others.  Among this group were six ministers and their wives, eight lay workers and their wives, five single women, and one Indian youth whom Jason Lee had taken east in 1838.  Chloe was one of four teachers sent to assist with the educational program among the Indian children.  She kept a 10-year diary, beginning with her voyage on the Lausanne.

 

On June 1, 1840, she reached Fort Vancouver, having rounded Cape Horn and visiting Hawaii on the way.  She was assigned to the Nisqually Mission along with the Richmonds and William Holden Willson.

Chloe was married to William Holden Willson on August 16,1840 – the first wedding of U.S. citizens in Western Washington.  She began teaching Indian children – often as many as 50, though the Indian population had greatly dwindled because of disease.  Possibly due to poor health after the birth and death of her premature child, Chloe, with her husband William, was transferred to Willamette in early June 1841, both leaving the Mission due to ill health.  They stated that they were not leaving the mission field, merely changing departments and hoping to continue to be useful.

Chloe began to teach Sunday school in April 1843, formed a temperance society July 5, 1843, and opened the Oregon Institute (later Willamette University) as a teacher of five students July 10, 1844.  After a long and influential ministry, she gave up this teaching in June 1847.  The Willson’s had three surviving children.  Their first child, Frances, (who later became Mrs. Joseph K. Gill) was born in 1847. William Holden Willson died April 17,1856.

After the death of her husband, Chloe, along with her daughters, returned to Connecticut for several years.  However, she later came back to Salem and became associated again with the Willamette University Women’s School as the Dean of Women.  She continued in the role until 1871.  She died in Portland Oregon on July 2,1874, at the age of 56.

— By Dr. James A  Edgren

Postscript: With a unanimous vote in 1998, Steilacoom Historical School District Board of Directors approved naming its new DuPont elementary school in honor of pioneer teacher

Chloe Aurelia Clarke Willson.

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207 Barksdale Avenue, DuPont, Washington 98327
Tel. (253) 964-2399  |  DuPontHistoricalMuseum@gmail.com
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