How often have you passed Chloe Clark Elementary School and thought to yourself: “Hmmm. Why doesn’t anyone do something with that overgrown strip of school property at the corner of Palisade and Haskell?”
Similar thoughts have occurred to a group of citizens, and they’re in the progress of just that: “doing something” about that piece of property in front of the school.
That “something” is to place a bronze statue to the memory of the school’s namesake, Chloe A. Clark.
“Who’s Chloe Clark, and what’s she done to merit such recognition? ”
Aside from the inscription on the monument outside the DuPont Historical Society building in the Village, many area residents aren’t familiar with the story about this young woman who came to the area in 1841.
Clark, who became Chloe Clark Willson shortly after arriving at the Methodist Mission, has long been recognized as a pioneer educator who came to Oregon Territory in the early 1840s with a group of fellow missionaries. Chloe, along with Rev. and Mrs. Richmond, was at the American mission site at Ft. Nisqually to help educate Native American children.
The story of the Methodist Missionaries and their efforts in the Northwest has been dramatized several times during the past decade at the DuPont Methodist Church. When the new elementary school in DuPont was dedicated in 2001, Mrs. Robbie Edgren portrayed the woman, sparking further interest in her history.
After leaving her mission work in this area, Chloe and her husband relocated to Willamette where she eventually became Governess of Girls (Dean of Women) at the newly founded Willamette University. Willson, meanwhile, is credited with platting the city of Salem, Oregon’s state capital.
“The story about this 22-year-old woman, who was so moved by the words of missionary Jason Lee, that she left her home in Connecticut to join their efforts-braving a 13,000 mile sea voyage-is most inspiring,” said sculpture committee chairman MG John Hemphill (USA-ret.).
“Naming of our elementary school for her was definitely appropriate, but that’s just one aspect of her larger, educational legacy. It is hoped that when district students have an opportunity to “see” Chloe standing outside the school, they’ll be able to put a face with the name, and hopefully, better identify with her long-ago efforts.”
One aspect of this project is the participation of Chloe Clark Willson’s descendents, including the 5th generation, who are enthusiastic about the sculpture’s dedication, set for July 2009.
Dr. John P. Jewell, retired Steilacoom Historical School District educator, has been commissioned to create the statue of Chloe. A maquette (a miniature clay model of the planned statue) has been designed and can be viewed at the sculpture website. Jewell recently created sculptures of Capt. Meriwether Lewis, his dog, Seaman, and Sgt. John Ordway that are displayed at the Captain Meriwether Lewis’ Memorial Park, just outside the main post gate at Interstate I-5 Exit 120.
Plans at Chloe Clark Elementary include creating a sculpture park that will include the sculpture, a representation of the original mission building, and memorial plaques telling Chloe’s story. The statue will be cast at The Bronze Works in Tacoma.
Hemphill chairs the sculpture volunteer committee that was officially launched this past October. Dozens of community volunteers have signed up to help with the sculpture fundraising efforts. Donations toward the sculpture project, which includes a park area, are most welcome, stresses Hemphill.
If you are interested in being a part of this piece of local history, check the web site at www.chloeclarkstatue.com. You may donate by credit card through the web site or by mail to Chloe Clark Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 722, DuPont, WA 98327. Donations are deductible from Federal Income Tax under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. For further information, you may call (253) 588-5915.
Submitted by Nancy Covert