Diary of Chloe Clarke Willson


Diary of Chloe Clarke Willson


Willson, Chloe Aurelia Clarke, 1818-1874


The Chloe Clarke Willson diary is in two sections. The first section, her journey aboard the ship Lausanne, covers the time from late September, 1839 to early February, 1840. The second section begins in April, 1841 and details her experiences as a Methodist missionary teacher in the Puget Sound, Oregon City, Oregon, and at the Oregon Institute (later Willamette University) in Salem, Oregon. The diary also served as a prayer journal.


Oregon Institute

United Methodist Church

Methodist Episcopal Church

Wallamet University

Willamette University Oregon Territory

Sandwich Islands

Willson, Chloe Aurelia Clark, 1818-1874

Willson, William Holden, 1805-1856

Lee, Jason, 1803-1845

Leslie, David, 1797-1869

Waller, Alvan F., b. 1808

Whitman, Marcus, 1802-1847

Lausanne (Ship)

Salem, Oregon


Personal Names

Willson, Chloe Aurelia Clarke (1818-1874)

Willson, William Holden (1805-1856)

Lee, Jason (1803-1845)

Leslie, David (1797-1869)

Waller, Alvan F. (1808- )

Whitman, Marcus (1802-1847)




Browse Date




Source Format





For use information see: http://library.willamette.edu/external/commons/conditions_of_use/

Holding Institution

Willamette University Archives and Special Collections


Chloe Clarke Willson Collection


Page 1


Willson, Chloe Aurelia Clarke (1818-1874)


Very g( ) to flee the (wrath) to come & be? ( ) full redemption in the blood of? ( ) (t)hanks be to God for the assistance of ( ) in the performance of these duties I felt my (in)sufficiency to do any thing I can never accomplish any good of myself if there is any good done it must be God that does it O God since thou hast chosen to work by means if thou wilt condescend to use so unworthy a worm in so great a work as the salvation of the world I would s(t)ay here and work in and through me to do thine own will On our passage home we had a prayer meeting on board the boat the Lord was (hear ) to meet with us & make a time of salvation ( ) souls Eternity only can show the good whic(h) result from that meeting We arrived again a(t) Dr s yesterday fatigued in body but strong in the Lord giving glory to him for the fulness of his love Awoke this morning with a body invigorat ed in body & refreshed in spirit Went into sister Raymonds room this morning & held a prayermeeting was much blest my faith seemed to get hold of the promises of God & to claim them as mine I think I never -had- was enabled to exercise so much faith in praying for the salvation of the world as I had this morning O that God may still increase my faith & help me show it by my works I feel that I love God with all my my heart & my neighbor as myself Thanks to God for his great salvation O when shall the news of Gods love to man be known throughout the earth Sat Eve Been to green st church & was abundantly blest of God Thanks to God for full salvation O heaven sweet heaven Sabbath Morning A heavenly calm prevades my soul My peace is like a river which flows from a never ceasing fountain

File Format



For use information see: http://library.willamette.edu/projects/digital_collections/rights/

Holding Institution

Mark O. Hatfield Library;


Chloe Aurelia Clarke was born in Connecticut on April 16, 1818. She received her academic training at Wilbraham Academy, a seminary that specialized in training Methodist missionaries for service around the world. In 1839 she joined other Methodists on the ship “Lausanne” traveling to the Oregon Territory as part of the “Great Reinforcement” movement led by Jason Lee.

Following her arrival in Oregon in May, 1840, Clarke was sent to the Washington Territory to teach at the mission station in Nisqually, Puget Sound. There she met Dr. William Willson, whom she married in August, 1840. In June, 1841 the Willsons moved to the mission station at Wallamette Falls (Oregon City), Oregon, where they worked for three years. The Willsons moved to the Willamette Valley in 1844, where they contributed to the work of creating the educational and cultural community of Salem, Oregon.

One reason for their move was that Chloe Willson was asked to be the first teacher at the Oregon Institute, founded by Jason Lee and a board of dirctors in 1842. When the Oregon Institute opened in August 1844, Chloe Willson was both teacher and housemother for five primary grade students. Within two years the student body numbered twenty. In 1846, William was chosen by the Board of Trustees to serve, along with three other men, as a business agent and manage the Institute’s land holdings. In this position, under the direction of the board, William drew up the first plat for the town and gave the town the name Salem.

Chloe Willson taught at the Oregon Institute, which was subsequently named Willamette University, until 1847. William served on the University Board and ran a pharmacy in downtown Salem. After William’s death in 1856, Chloe Willson went back east, put her daughters in school, and opened her home to students to help with the costs.

In 1863 she returned to Willamette University where she served as the Governess of the Ladies Department for the next three years. In 1871 Chloe Willson moved to Portland, Oregon to live with her daughter, Frances and her son-in-law, Joseph Gill. Three years later Chloe died, July 2, 1874. She is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Salem, Oregon, next to her husband.

Collection Description

The journal retains original chronological order.

The Chloe Clarke Willson journal is in two sections. The journal begins in late September, 1839 as Chloe Clarke prepared to leave on the journey to the Oregon Territory aboard the ship “Lausanne." It covers in some detail the early stages of the trip. The first section of the journal ends in early February, 1840, three months before the end of the journey.

The journal begins again in April, 1841, after she is married to William Willson. Entries in this section of the journal are less frequent and focus on the work she and William are doing. There are comments about the native people in the Washington and Oregon territories and of her desire to share her faith. After the Willsons moved to the Willamette valley, Chloe Willson writes often about her teaching, her work with the youth of the area, including the founding of the Oregon Juvenile Temperance Society, and about how much she misses William when he is traveling.

As a devout Methodist, Chloe Willson also used the journal as a prayer journal. In this context she mentions attending “the first campmeeting held in Oregon,” and her desire for the “evil” of slavery to be "driven back to its native hell."

Image: Diary of Chloe Clarke Willson
Willson, Chloe Aurelia Clarke, 1818-1874