'Colossal figure' in Oswego history
For the past 10 months, Oswego Heritage Council board member and archival manager Mark Browne has poured over hundreds of documents, photos, literature, artworks, plays, sheet music and other materials that tell the life story of Theresa Truchot, one of Oswego's biggest cultural icons.
"She may have been small in stature, but she was a colossal figure when it came to influencing the community in the areas of history, art, literature, poetry, music and even playwriting," Browne says.
On Wednesday, the Oswego Heritage Council unveiled a new exhibit called "Theresa Truchot: A Jewel of Many Facets" that's dedicated to Truchot and her love of history and the arts. The exhibit will be on display in three venues — the Oswego Heritage House (398 Tenth St.), the Lake Oswego Public Library (706 Fourth St.) and the Lakewood Center for the Arts (368 S. State St.) — through the end of September.
Truchot, who was born in 1891 and died in 1980, moved to what is now Lake Oswego in 1922 and produced a wealth of written material. But perhaps one of her biggest contributions to the community was a project she spearheaded in the mid-1970s to document the history of the area.
The project, known as "In Their Own Words," took interviews from the children and grandchildren of the town's earliest settlers and immortalized their stories in a series of audio recordings that serve as a living history of Lake Oswego.
"She interviewed a lot of the children of those pioneer families, people like Lucy Pollard, Clara Meyer and the last of the Bickners, Stones and Kruses," Browne says. "She did a good job of it, too. It's marvelous, all the information that came from that."
The Truchot collection includes dozens of boxes filled with diaries, plays, sheet music, poems, photographs, manuscripts and even ceramics she made from clay taken out of Tryon Creek. Letters between Truchot and publishers detail the early days of her 1952 book "Charcoal Wagon Boy," considered by far her most famous work.
The massive collection of Lake Oswego's artistic and intellectual history was donated by Truchot's granddaughters: Carol Richard, Katherine Smith and Patricia Koss.
The three are united in their desire to preserve their grandmother's legacy as one of the pre-eminent women of Lake Oswego's past.
"It means a lot to us because we always felt our grandmother deserved recognition for all she did," Richard says. "We thought the Heritage House would be the perfect place to preserve those belongings."
Richard, Smith and Koss took part in a panel discussion of their grandmother's legacy Wednesday evening at a kickoff event for the new exhibit, where they were able to provide personal insight into Truchot's life and passion for the arts.
For Browne, a collection this complete and this well preserved is not only an opportunity to tell the story of one of Lake Oswego's pre-eminent women, but also a chance to sustain the family's emotional attachment to Truchot's belongings by making sure they're preserved properly and given the thoughtful academic and curatorial consideration they deserve.
"This is very emotional for them to give this stuff up," Browne says. "But it will stay intact for a long time. This stuff will be here for a couple hundred years now. I just want to highlight the generosity of this family for giving us part of the heart and soul of Lake Oswego."
The Oswego Heritage House is open to the public from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, call 503-635-6373.