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by Ken Jorgenson

Picturesque Latourell Falls plunges 176 feet over the south rim of the Columbia Gorge in Rooster Park, which is located about fifteen miles east of Portland. (Exit 25 on US 84)

The falls is named after Joseph Latourell who homesteaded the site over a hundred and forty years ago. It was there he raised a family and established a small settlement. Fifty years ago some of the family still lived at or near the falls, but now all Joseph's descendants have scattered. The falls and land are part of a state park.

In an old photo it is spelled LATOURELLE; but, in news clippings, family records, and correspondence it is LATOURELL. My Mother was a Latterell, her family was strong on family ties and history. Branches of our Latterell families spell the name both ways so a number of both families tried to trace the family tie. It was done mostly in the 1950's when Joseph's descendants were still living by the falls. My Mother and Aunt were in contact with some of Joseph's descendent but now the addresses and all contact is lost.

From this correspondence, memories and news clippings I have compiled this story of Latourell Falls.



Richard Howe was born 1790 in St Cleare, Cromwell, England. He went to sea a young man and later enlisted in the navy to become a boatswain on a British man-of-war. He quit the sea and cast his lot with Dr. McLoughlin and the Hudson Bay Company at Astoria. He probably had the cockney way of dropping the "h", which led some clerk to write his name the way it sounded, and it comes down to us in the records, Richard Ough.

(The following was taken from an article by Sharon Nesbit, staff writer, who wrote of the 56th annual meeting of the East Multnomah Pioneer Association where the Ough-Latourell families were honored.)

In the early 1800s Chief Schly-housh (Sly Horse) was leader of the Indians who held the Cascades and the salmon fisheries on the Columbia River. Running Fawn, his wife, was from the tribe who had lived at the present site of Washougal, Washington "for as long as any Indian could remember".

When interviewed in 1910, their daughter White Wing, estimated to be 105 (in memoirs 90) years old, told the following story of her courtship and marriage to the Englishman, Richard Ough.

One day "Betsey", the name Richard called her and she was known as until she died in 1911, and her father were on the river catching salmon. She was about eighteen. "I was paddling and father was spearing them when all at once we looked up and, oh, so many canoes coming and lots of white men in them. My father and all the Indians paddled to shore as quick as they could and the chiefs say, "Maybe we better kill those men."

"Then one great, big man, they call McLoughlin, he come and say, 'No fight. We want to trade. You go and bring plenty good skins and see all the nice things I will give you for them. I got all pretty things what Indians like.' "

"Then is the time I saw Richard. He was standing beside Dr. McLoughlin and was almost as big as him - six feet, two inches and weighed 240 pounds, and oh, he looked so nice!"

"I looked at him and he looked at me and when I looked back again he was still looking at me. Then I started to go away with my father I look back once more and Richard and Douglass and Dr. McLoughlin was all looking after me and Richard started to follow me but Dr. McLoughlin put his hand on his shoulder and said "No! Do you want to lose your scalp?"

A month later Richard came alone to White Wing's village prompting her to comment "Maybe some Indian cut 'en hair."

Richard met the Indians head on. He informed them he was afraid of no man and finished with a flowery speech about his inability to keep White Wing from his thoughts. "Oh, he talked so nice." remembered Betsey, "I can mind every word he say."

After haggling for eight days the Indian father agreed to give his daughter to the persistent suitor provided that Richard build a house on the river and stay there for all time.

Richard, a man of action leaped into his canoe saying, "I build a house tomorrow; you come day after tomorrow and I got house ready."

A hundred Indian canoes arrived at Fort Vancouver on the appointed day. Richard, true to his word, had erected a "little bit of log house".

McLoughlin used the ceremony and resulting party to seal a peace with the Indians.

Said Betsey, "Then he (McLoughlin) say to me, 'White Wing, this man is a big warrior and a good man. When I make you marry him, the red man and the white man will be brothers. They must live all the time in peace and never never fight each other. The Indian must catch plenty salmon and get lots of good furs and trade them to the white man. The white man must get plenty things the Indian like and always trade fair and never cheat the Indian.'"

After many fine gifts, much singing, dancing and eating Richard and Betsey moved into their tiny log home. McLoughlin, diplomat, trader, magistrate and company man, found himself in another role as marriage counselor. "When I first get married I don't know how to cook white man's cooking," recalled Betsey. "I go tell Dr. McLoughlin I am afraid my husband won't love me if I cook Indian's cooking all the time. He laugh and tell Douglass and they say, 'Girl, you just feed him plenty all the time and he will love you, never fear. It is only a hungry man that hates his wife.'"

Betsey smiled recalling the night out-jigging McLoughlin at a dance and won two pounds and a new dress in the bargain. That was the same night the Indians stumbled onto the Fort's whiskey supply and the resulting war whoops drew a crowd of armed Englishmen. McLoughlin and Richard avoided any real bloodshed by punching two of the red offenders in the noses.

After eight, or so, years at Vancouver McLoughlin saw a different future and urged Richard and Betsey to get a farm. Betsey quote him as saying, "Some day all the beaver gone, no more elk, nothing for people to eat. You take land, make house, raise cattle and by lots of people come here, all wanting something to eat." They bought their farm from a discouraged Englishman eager to head for California for $45, a saddle horse, and a baking of bread. (One day the land would be within the city of Washougal)

They worked hard clearing the land and gave most of their produce away to starving homesteaders who came rafting down the Columbia.

On one occasion a family came with two baby girls. The mother was too ill and worn out to feed them. The Oughs took the family in for a week and saw them on their way to Yamhill.

"When they about ready to start," said Betsey, "I see Richard thinking about them girl babies. Pretty soon he come in and tell me, 'Betsey, you think them babies gone die?' I say, 'Think so, Richard, their mother too sick.' "Then I give them cow,' he say."

" 'What you do now?,' I asked him, 'No more milk, no cattle, all gone now.' 'Oh, never mind, Betsey, 'he say, "there is lots of elk in the woods.' "

" 'But,' I say, 'I can't milk elk. He jump over my head, kick me in the river.' "

The family got the cow. The Oughs lived on elk. The girl babies grew to womanhood known as Betsey's "cow girls." ...

The Oughs had ten children. At Betsey's death in 1911 there were five surviving children, 18 grand children, 28 great grand children and four great-great grandchildren. Richard died in 1884



Grace Marie, a daughter of Richard and Betsey Ough was born in 1842 near the Cascades on the Columbia. (near Tualatin, Or.) February 14,1859, she and Joseph Latourell were married. Joseph took his bride to his farm and they raised their family at the falls that bears the family name.

According to tradition in their family, Joseph Latourell was born 1831, son of Joseph and Dorothy Latourell. He had two brothers, they lived in Keesville, N.Y. He was orphaned when seven (1838) and went to live with his grandparents in Montreal for three years. He returned to Keesville and lived with a Colonel Barton and family until he was fourteen, when he ran away from home and worked on the Eire Canal as a boatman.

At the age of 20, he signed on the whaling ship "Falcon" at New Bedford, Massachusetts. After three seasons of whaling in the arctic he stopped at Hawaii. From there, he went to San Francisco, then in 1855 to Astoria, Oregon Territory.

Only a few years earlier, Portland was just five houses in a swamp and the first steamboat made its appearance on the river. Joseph found work on the Columbia River boating freight between Vancouver, Astoria and the Cascades. He was the first white man to take a barge over the Cascade Rapids. In business for himself, he plied the river for about two years with his two barges.

1856-1857, Joseph took a claim on the south shore of the Columbia River on a point of land called Rooster Rock. It included the falls. He cleared land, brought in live stock, and made a farm on the lowlands between the falls and the river. February 14,1859 he married Grace Marie Ough. She was born in Tualatin County in 1843.

Soil on the farm was productive. The bottom land furnished splendid pasturage and Joseph raised stock. Many an ox team used used for logging and hauling came from the Latourell farm. They prospered and the log cabin gave way to a big farm house where they raised eight children.

Before the CWR&N Railroad was built on the south side of the river their home became the abode of many a traveler and they always spoke of Latourells as being very friendly.

The hospitality of the Latourell home was well known. It was always a house full and popular with the young folks. They had the first piano in the district and several of the family played instruments. Joseph was a popular entertainer with his violin playing, jig dancing and singing of French songs. They counted on his fiddle at dances held at homes and the school house.

Grace was well known for her cooking and readiness to nurse the neighborhood sick when called day or night.

Joseph opened a mercantile business and operated it for over twenty years, though the building burned once. The boat landing at Rooster Rock was just one mile from the farm. He was the first postmaster at Rooster Rock and the Post Office was in the general store on the Latourell farm. Before the railroad came he would meet the boats at Rooster Rock for the mail.

The children's first school was on the hill to the south, up at the top of that steep, old Latourell road about a mile and a quarter. Later, a new school house was built at the edge of town. It had two big schoolrooms on the first floor and on the second floor a hall used for dancing, skating, basketball and meetings.

After the Union Pacific was built in 1888, the name was changed to Latourell Falls and Joseph was the first telegraph operator at Rooster Rock, the only telegraph office between Portland and the Cascades.

He was also hired by the old Oregon and Washington navigation Company. They had large squares of canvass numbered from one to ten. The telegraph office at Cascade's would Morse code to Joseph the number of passengers waiting for the steamer that was coming up the Columbia River and scheduled to arrive there at dinner time. Joseph would signal the steamer with these canvass figures the number of people to prepare dinner for. For years the Latourell General Merchandise Store was the only one of its kind for miles east or west.

Others were attracted to the land along the river, they came and settled to become the thriving little town of LATOURELL FALLS with a population of sixty or more.

Portland people found the same land now designated as Lower Park a favorite picnic ground long before the highway was built. To reach the place they went by river steamer from Portland to the vicinity of Latourell, then followed up the slough to where a landing was located. After the railroad was built it was popular to go to the scene by rail. Sometimes they took the tiresome journey by horseback or horse drawn coach over the mountain road to Latourell.

Granddaughter Lorena wrote: " .... There was a brass band at one time, several business places, a dozen or more two-story buildings and many houses on both sides of Falls Creek. About 1900 the Latourells moved from the ranch to a big town house in Latourell Falls. They saw many changes along the Columbia. We of the younger generation shared many of them.

I remember when the stern wheel river boats with shallow draft brought excursionists from Portland to picnic at Latourell Park. Grandpa would meet them at Rooster Rock and pilot them up the slough channel so they wouldn't land up on a fence post or sand bar. The brass band could be heard as they came. There was dancing on board and in the park where there was a good dance platform. The town would turn out to see them dock. Sometimes there were two boats at a time. They would arrive here about noon and leave about 4:00 P.M. A loud blast of the whistle was the half-hour warning of sailing. The Latourell Falls park became Guy W. Talbot private park in later years and is now a State Park, again public.

There was an early planer mill by the railroad east of Falls Creek where sawed lumber was flumed down from Brewer and Thompson Mill at Brewer for planing and shipping. The logging camp was Donahue and Kelly. Several years later Maffet and George Joseph sawmill on Upper Mountain used the same flume for the same purpose. After the mill closed here, there was the Bridal Veil Lumber Company, two and a half miles east, with the same operation from Palmer Logging camp. There was always a mill that provided employment.

I remember when the Palmer mill and the surrounding country burned. After the fire the young Puckett girls, Annie and Maud, were brought down to Grandma. They had lain in Brewer Creek near their home for hours while the fire passed through and left them weak from exposure and nearly blind from smoke. They were with us for weeks while Grandma nursed them back to health.

In the early '90s there was a big fire which swept up from the railroad to Dad's (Mason) timber claim at Latourell Prairie, where mother sat out all night alone, a twin in each arm. Dad was out for provisions. He hurried home to find the barn burned but not the house.

As we grew older we enjoyed the hunting and berry picking there. Those days we went over March Mountain to get there. There was a great flood in 1894 with the railroad tracks flooded for weeks. Alice Latourell floated through the Corbett railroad tunnel on a raft during the flood. ..."

"March 24,1929 ... the village of Latourell remains to this day, with a population of sixty persons ..."

Joseph and Grace reared a family of eight children and through the years gave shelter and temporary care to numerous others in times of need. When their son Mason's wife died they brought up his three small children.

Joseph died at Latourell Falls in November 8,1911 and Grace died March 6,1917.

Family records leave no males living now that carry the Latourell name. (only one slim possibility: see(6-2)

Their children were:

(1) Henry Albert, born Nov.3,1860. Married Elizabeth Heiny Sept. 7,1879. They lived at Gresham and had the Ford Agency. They celebrated their 77th Wedding Anniversary. Henry died Feb. 2, 1958 and Elizabeth died Sept.10,1958. Their children are:

(1-1) Charles, born 1881+/-, married Zula Bell, had the Maxwell Car dealership in Gresham, died 1952. No children.

(1-2) Eva, born 1882+/-, married __ Larsson lived in San Francisco. No children.

(2) Joseph Charles, born 1862, married Matilda, lived in Troutdale, no children, died 1924

(3) Richard James, born 1864, married Anna, no children, died 1908

(4) Mason Edward, born 1865, married Anna J. they had three children. Anna died when twins were seven, children were raised by Grandmother Grace at Latourell Falls. Mason died 1905.

(4-1) Lorena J., born 1888 (a twin), married Herbert Courter in 1910, they lived at Latourell Falls, no children.

(4-2) Marie, born 1888 (a twin), married ___ Craig, 1908, lived in Los Angeles, had one son.

(4-3) Clifford, born 1895, married ____, lived at Latourell Falls, no children. (Clifford's wife) studied sculpturing at the Univ. of Oregon and taught in New York. She was working on an eight foot high statue of a pioneer family in 1959. They lived on the Alex Barr Road, Latourell Falls.

(5) Alice Julia, born Dec 21,1871, married Newton Courter, no children, Newton died 1917 and Alice Dec 28,1958.

(6) William Andrew, born 1871, married Clara Larsson, lived at Latourell Falls, had three children:

(6-1) Irene, born about 1900

(6-2) Lucian, born about 1900 (if he had a son and if he survived, a possible descendent to carry the Latourell name.

(6-3) Jackie, born about 1900

William died 1916. Family summary dated 1955 notes that all his children are deceased and there is no mention of surviving grandchildren.

(7) Clara Elizabeth, born 1875, married John A. Larsson, Clara became the first woman mayor of Troutdale, John had livery stable at Troutdale. They had one son, Louis who died of pneumonia while he was still in high school. Clara died 1939, John died 1940.

(8) Malcomb Benjiman, born 1877, no children, died 1914


Guy Talbot, a Portland businessman bought land that included the falls in 1911. Three years later he gave the falls to the State of Oregon for a park and recreation area. A March 24,1924 newspaper clipping features the story of Latourell Falls and the Guy W. Talbot Park, Oregon's newest State Park.


A Latterell genealogy book has been printed wherein the family is traced back to Guillien Dubord dit Lafontaine, a French soldier that came to Canada in 1665 with the Carignan-Salieres Regiment. When the Regiment returned to France, he stayed in Canada and married Catherine Guerard. Descendants took various names, one son Jean Baptiste Dubord added the sobriquet, dit Latourelle. A hundred and more years later when his descendants immigrated to the U.S. English ideas of how the name was spelled resulted in several variations, Latourell is one.

We have a number of Josephs in the Latterell Family tree but Joseph of the falls is not one of them. The only known tie between Joseph and our Latterells is the copy of a letter acquired in 1990 from a Stephan _________ who was living in Troutdale and had bought a trunk of papers and pictures that had belonged to the Joseph Latourell Family. (See copy of letter in Latterell Falls file.) It is to Clara (daughter of Joseph) from Alex Latourelle of Keeseville, N.Y. and dated 1933.

Names and dates in the letter firmly establish the writer as Alexander Latourelle (1855-1936), son of Henri and Emily Latourelle (1-6-6-4-4-7-2 in our Latterell Family Genealogy Book). Contents of the letter leaves little doubt of a family tie. BUT WHERE?

Joseph of the falls is not a descendent of our Alexis Latourelle (1786-1867) by either Victoire Rinfret or Julie Cheverette (1-6-6-4-4). He is possibly descendent of one of Alexis' brothers or is of the line of Joseph Dubord dit Latourelle (1760- ) (1-4-11-2).

Ken Jorgenson

8322 66th Ave. NW

Gig Harbor, WA 98332