Clara Latourell Larsson

History of Clara Latourell Larsson, Troutdale's first woman mayor (1914-1918). Depicted here with John Larsson in horse drawn buggy in the one-sided town of Troutdale, Oregon. 
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Family History

Clara Latourell Larsson’s parents were Grace Marie Ough, a half Native American woman, and Joseph Latourell (known as Frenchy for his French ancestry). They married in 1859, the year Oregon officially became a state. Clara Elizabeth Latourell was born 16 years later, January 12, 1875. She and her seven siblings grew up in the "wilds of the Columbia River Gorge" in the little community of Latourell Falls, named after their family.

Photo of Clara Latourell Larsson on a metal medallion, c1896

Joseph, Clara's father, first worked as a seaman but jumped ship at Fort Vancouver and established himself in the area of Rooster Rock, working various jobs in neighboring towns. Clara's mother, Grace, grew up on the Columbia River, was an honorary president of the East Multnomah Pioneer Association, and a renowned cook known for her hospitality. Together, the Latourell family, gifted musicians, entertained travelers who stayed overnight, then met the morning train to Portland after an evening of dancing, music, and food.

Clara was one-quarter Chinook Indian, allied with the Cascades People of the Columbia River with ancestry most aligned with Shahala, (Chinookian-Speaking First Peoples.(1) Her maternal great-grandparents, Running Fawn and Chief Schlyhoush (Slyhorse), both from families of tribal leaders, raised four children and resided in a fishing village in today's Washougal, Washington.

Their daughter, Betsy White Wing, Clara's maternal grandmother, was of high birth, given that she was born to a chief. Betsy, known as a pioneer doctor, married Richard Ough (It is possible Howe is his original last name), a navy petty officer and a fur trader who worked under John McLoughlin for Hudson Bay Company. Betsy and Richard raised several children, including Grace, Clara’s mother.(2)

As the story goes, it was love at first sight between Richard and Betsy, first seeing each other on the Columbia River. Richard returned to marry Betsy but only under the condition, as requested by Betsy's father, that they build a house in the area along the Columbia River. Richard's work in the fur trade business and his union with Betsy, was said to contribute to peace, between the First Peoples and the white fur traders.(3)

1 & 2: The Morning Oregonian Tuesday, July 18, 1911, page 12
3: A Bronze Clara, pg. 8 & 17

Grandparents

​Betsy White Wing Ough. Photo not dated. 

Richard Ough (possibly Howe). Photo not dated. 

Parents

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Joseph "Frenchy" Latourell, Photo not dated. 

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Joseph "Frenchy" & Grace Ough Latourell, c1906

Latourell Legacy

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Latourell is an unincorporated town in Multnomah County. Named after Joseph "Frenchy" Latourell who immigrated to this area in the 1850's. It is located on the Historic Columbia River Highway; 8 miles east of Troutdale, Oregon.

Latourell Falls (also named for Joseph "Frenchy" Latourell) borders the town of Latourell in the Guy W. Talbot State Park. Here's a view of Latourell Falls from top to base with pool visible, a 224' plunge. In the right foreground is a 1914 trail bridge with several people on it. This photo looks more directly and closely at the falls so that the cliffs on the right are more visible. Original photo by Ralph Gifford. 

Latourell Falls - Guy W. Talbot State Park. Photo not dated.

Marriage to John Larsson

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Clara Latourell Larsson and her husband John Larsson. They married in 1903.

Clara's Children

Louis J Young, son of Clara Latourell Larsson, from her first marriage to A G Young. Age at time of photograph is 3 years, 11 months. Photographed was Mesarvey, 165-1/2 3rd St., Portland Oregon. Date of photo:1896

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Rose Marie Young, daughter of Clara Latourell Larsson, from her first marriage to A G Young. Rose Marie passed away in 1892. It is believed that this photo of her before around the age of two was used to create this metal medallion, c1896. 

Clara's Family

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Marie and Lorena Latourell, twin daughters of Mason Edward Latourell, brother to Clara Latourell Larsson. The girls were raised by their grandparents, Joseph and Grace Latourell, at Latourell Falls, Oregon after the death of their mother, Anna Jane Dickson in 1897 and their father in 1905. Age about three years old in this photo. c1893

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Clara Latourell Larsson and her sister Alice Latourell Courter. Photo not dated. 

Joseph & Grace Latourell Family, c1906

Woman #1 - Possibilities: Clara Hoover Latourell, wife of William; Anna Wilson Latourell, wife of Richard; or Matilda Latourell, wife of Joseph.

Woman #2 - Possibilities: Zula Bell, married Charles Latourell in 1907 or Eva Latourell Larsson, wife of Bengt Carl Larsson. 

Interesting Family History Facts:     

  • Dr. John McLoughlin, the "Father of Oregon," officiated the marriage of Clara's maternal grand-parents, Richard Ough and Betsy White Wing. 

  • Joseph Latourell was known as a fiddler, singer, and jig-dancer 

Community Involvement

Clara was a well-regarded community leader in Troutdale but was not labeled a suffragette by her community. Though only whispered at the time, she had been abandoned by her first husband and later divorced him. Her two young children by that marriage died at early ages. 

At age 38 Clara, by then married to John Larsson, was elected in 1913 as Troutdale's first woman mayor and served in office from 1914 to 1918. Women had the right to vote for only two years in the state of Oregon. The 19th amendment would not be ratified for another six years, giving women the right to vote nationwide.

Clara’s husband, John Larsson was a local, successful saloon keeper in Troutdale. Ironically, as mayor she ultimately had to close the town’s saloons when local prohibition was voted in by growing numbers of female voters.  Although it was his wife who helped end his successful saloon due to prohibition, John joined Clara in supporting their local community. 

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Clara Latourell Larsson. riding a stuffed ostrich at the Pasadena, California ostrich farm. On her right is Alice Latourell Courter, her sister. c1915

Clara's efforts in supporting Troutdale did not end with being mayor. She remained on the city council most of the rest of her life. She used her musical talents at weddings and funerals, led parades, was a member of the Troutdale Community Presbyterian Church and a member of the Columbia Grange and Lodge. Most importantly she dedicated her life to the school system, she was on the school clerk board, a music teacher, taught local children to dance, was a PTA member, and formed a library. After her role as mayor, Clara worked the next 25 years to support Troutdale until her death, June 23, 1939 (age 64).

     "Larsson, despite the deaths of her own 2 children, put her stamp on almost every institution in the community and was mentioned as a guiding force and kind presence by nearly every child who knew her."

                                                        --Mildred Wooden Beeman's quote about Clara Latourell. It Could Have Been Carpdale, Edition 1, pg.63

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John and Clara Larsson are shown in a horse-drawn buggy in front of their home on Celestia Street (now Second Street) in Troutdale, Oregon. c1920-1930

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Clara Larsson standing in front of her home on Celestia Street (now Second Street) in Troutdale, Oregon. c1904-1918

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A 1930 panoramic view of Troutdale's east end. Clara & John Larsson is the two story white house uphill on the left. 

Interesting Troutdale Community Involvement Facts:      

  • ​Troutdale elected their second woman mayor in 1924, Laura Bullock Harlow, close friend and colleague of Clara Latourell and wife of Lou Harlow, son of Captain John Harlow. Gresham, Oregon (neighboring town, south to Troutdale) didn't elect their first woman mayor until 1982.

  • Even though Clara helped pass the prohibition when she first became mayor, her husband owned a liquor store in town. 

Creation of A Bronze Clara 

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A Bronze Clara is a collaboration that was made possible by funding from the City of Troutdale through a Troutdale Community Enhancement Program grant, Troutdale Historical Society, and the Troutdale Arts Council. It was completed by Lead Artist, Marlena Nielsen; Project Director Rip Caswell and his team at Firebird Bronze foundry, as well as several assistants and student volunteers who Marlena says,  "worked as hard as any adult."

The monument to Clara Latourell Larsson is located in Mayors Square on the corner of Dora Avenue and the Historic Columbia River Highway in downtown Troutdale, Oregon.  

"Lost Wax" Method 

Sculptor, Marlena Nielsen, describes this process:

  1. A live model is scanned for a 3-D printer which prints out a foam "skeleton" or armature. 

  2. Layers of clay are "painted" on to the armature adding fine details and texture. 

  3. Life-size sculptures, like Clara, are then cut into multiple sections that are each molded and cast in bronze.

  4. The molds are made by applying a liquid rubber on two sides of each section to create a negative of the sculpture. The rubber is then encased in a plaster mold. 

  5. After the clay is removed from the mold, wax is heated and poured into the mold; the cooled wax positives are pulled from the mold and "chased" to reveal the original details.  

  6. Gating systems are attached like freeways for the bronze to flow through. The gated wax sculpture is dipped into ceramic slurry, coating both in silica sand and the process is repeated 8-10 times to create shell.

  7. Once the ceramic mold has dried, it is heated to melt out the wax, hence the term "lost wax." The bronze bricks are melted at 2,000 degrees and then poured into the shell. When the bronze has cooled and the shell is removed, the pieces are soldered back together.

--Book, A Bronze Clara, pg. 7

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Life-size Clara sculpted in clay at Marlena's studio. 

Bronze Clara is on display at Mayors Square in Troutdale, Oregon on the corner of the Historic Columbia River Highway and Dora Avenue. Mural artists, Dwayne Harty and Tamara Callens depict Troutdale life at the time Clara was mayor. She can be seen in the mural riding in a horse drawn carriage. Bronze Clara shares the square with other bronze sculptures created by local artists.

More Images

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​A formal photograph of Clara Latourell as a young woman. Her black dress has leg o'mutton sleeves and a pansy bouquet pinned on her shoulder.. Photo not dated.

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Clara Latourell Larsson, as a young woman, is in a woodsy area standing in front of a wooden bridge. She is dressed in her best. Photo may have been taken in the vicinity of Latourell Falls. Photo not dated. 

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Clara Latourell Larsson apparently submitted to the press at the time she was elected mayor of Troutdale in 1913, taking office in 1914.  Photo date: November, 1913

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​John Larsson and his bicycle and Latourell Falls. Photo date: 1915
Photo was acquired by Steve Lehl from Viola Craig, a member of the family.

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Bicyclists at Latourell Falls, some of whom are Larsson Brothers.

John Larsson, tallest in center with cap. Photo date: 1915
​Photo was acquired by Steve Lehl from Viola Craig, a member of the family.

Sources

Nesbit, Sharon. It Could Have Been Carpdale. 1st ed., Pediment Publishing, 2007.
(Buy the book here for THS members and here for non-members

Guerrero, Katelynn Deleon, and Wendy J. Thompson. A Bronze Clara. Wahkeena Arts & Education, 2018.   
(Buy the book here)