Sculptor John Jewell of Vaughn began his preliminary sculpting from clay last fall for the bronze more than life size statue of Chloe Clarke. He was featured on “My Home Town,” which aired in November on cable television.
Chloe Clarke became the first schoolteacher in the Pacific Northwest at Fort Nisqually in 1841. Now that Jewell has finished the sculpture, her commemoration, set for July 10, has been postponed one year due to a delay in the groundwork at the school in DuPont where she taught.
Jewell’s historic sculptures have been displayed as far East as Virginia and South to Georgia. His favorite is “Balancing the Books” which is located in front of the Key Center Library. He relishes in taking clay and shaping it into something that express an emotion and shares a feeling with the observer and his objective is ‘to create sculptors that reflect our humanity and history, he said.
Jewell has studied under many internationally know sculptors and when approached by Maj. Gen. John Hemphill with the idea of doing a statue to commemorate Clarke, Jewell agreed with great enthusiasm, he said. He created the design then worked with an architect and a committee in developing the environment for the sculpture.
Most people, including teachers, don’t know anything about the first Puget Sound and Northwest schoolteacher, he said. Chloe was born April 16, 1818 in Connecticut and sailed to Fort Vancouver in 1839 with a 50-member reinforcement group for the Methodist missionary colony.
During the 235-day voyage she taught school for the 10 youngest children. Upon arriving at Fort Vancouver she was assigned Nisqually Mission Station teacher in June 1840 and arrived at Hudson Bay’s Fort Nisqually July 10 of that year. A month later she married her carpenter, William Willson. This was the first marriage of an American couple in today’s Puget Sound region.
School was open five days a week for 50 Nisqually Indian students but attendance was sporadic. Chloe wrote in her diary, “The task of instructing the youthful minds in the principles of science and religion is as pleasant to me as ever.”
The facilities they lived in at the Mission Station consisted of two joined 9-foot high buildings with a stockade and space for a vegetable garden and school area. When Clarke is commemorated next year she will be portrayed under a four-log frame representing the stockade entrance.
The Willsons left the Nisqually Mission a year later as William was transferred to Willamette Falls. Chloe continued to teach school to 10 white and 12 Indian students. Rum was being sold in the area so she started a Temperance Society for children. Between the years 1844 and 1856 when her husband died she taught school at the Oregon Institute, again as the first teacher, with five students and bore three children. Returning to Conn. she and her children eventually settled in Mass. where she boarded students, among them being Joseph K. Gill who later became the founder of the J.K. Gill Book Company in the northwest.
Returning to Portland in 1863 Clarke became the first Dean of Women for the Willamette University. For health reasons she left the university in 1871 and died in Portland, Oregon on June 2, 1874 at the age of 56.
Chloe Clarke Willson lived for and did a lot for humanity and is recognized as a leader of history in the school industry thus her commemoration in bronze for observers to recognize and appreciate.