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In Search of Lash LaRue - Page 1

Birth name: Reu Alfred Wilson
Born: June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan
Died: May 21, 1996 at St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, California

Updated: October 15, 2021

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
Off and on over the past fifteen years or so, I've documented family history and early years of Lash LaRue as his real life was an enigma (at least, to me). Books and biographies on our whip crackin', B western hero have him born in various states but the most prevalent birth place is Gretna, Louisiana. And he was a hairdresser before Hollywood ... and he sang and played guitar at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans ... more. All those stories rekindled my interest and I made a decision to devote a chunk of time for further research on our black-garbed movie cowboy.

Can't blame past researchers for misinformation as they didn't have access to all the info now available on the Internet in old newspapers, trade publications, fan magazines, census, marriage records, birth records, death certificate, etc.

A few years ago, I hit the proverbial mother lode with online information at the Coloma, Michigan Library. Coloma is a few miles from Watervliet, Michigan, the birthplace and childhood home of Lash. There's a dozen or so articles on Lash as a youngster as well as later articles with local citizens remembering him and his family. The library has free online access to the Coloma (Michigan) Courier and Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspapers. You'll find a link to the library below.

In 2018, I obtained a copy of Lash's 1996 California death certificate ... along with a surprise. There was a second document - an amended / corrected death certificate which was filed in 2002.

In 2019, I obtained Lash's birth certificate from the State of Michigan. "Reu Alfred Wilson" was born June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan. The birth certificate is below.

In September - October, 2021, I hit paydirt! Lash's World War II draft registration has him born on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan. Also found a January, 1966 interview with Lash in the Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper. In that interview, Lash confirms he was born Reu Alfred Wilson in Watervliet, Michigan in 1917. Link to that article is at the bottom of this webpage.

A brief summary of Lash's birth through 1940:

  • His parents were Sarah Louise Busselle and Charles Wilson Johns and they married in Ohio in May, 1913. At that time, Charles Wilson Johns dropped the Johns last name and was known as Charles Wilson. As to the spelling of Louise's last name being Bussell or Busselle: on her 1913 marriage license to Charles Wilson, she signed the license as "Louise Busselle".
  • In September, 1913, Louise and Charles moved to Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan and settled on the Martin Farm.
  • Daughter Leora A. Wilson was born July, 1914 on the Martin Farm in Watervliet. Her nickname was "Lee".
  • Son Reu Alfred Wilson was born June 15, 1917 on the Martin Farm in Watervliet. This is Lash and he got the "Reu" name from mother Louise's father (who was Reu Busselle).
  • Louise filed for divorce from Charles A. Wilson in 1918 and the divorce was granted on May 13, 1919. She got custody of the children.
  • In the 1920 census, both children are living with the Charwood family in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and then are "inmates" at the Michigan Childrens Home in St. Joseph, Michigan.
  • By the late 1920s, Lash's mother Louise and her two siblings - brother Scott Busselle and sister Virginia Ruth Busselle - had moved to California. Leora and Reu Wilson were also in California.
  • In the 1930 census, Lash's father Charles Wilson had re-married and lived in Chicago.
  • Lash, now using the name La Rue A. Wilson, married Wilda J. Cruthers on March 25, 1937 in San Francisco.
  • Son Ronald Alfred Wilson was born October 24, 1937 in San Francisco.
  • 1939 city directories have Alfred L. Wilson and Wilda J. Wilson living in Stockton, California ... and Alfred is employed at a beauty shop in Stockton, perhaps as a hairdresser.
  • In the 1940 census, Lash and wife Wilda were in Los Angeles, but moved before the census taker could record their info. And in 1940, mother Louise was in Long Beach, California, living with daughter Leora and her husband who was an electrician in the Navy.

There's a bunch of info on Lash, much of it relatively new. And coverage is on two separate webpages.

This page is a summary of the main findings on Lash and confirms that:

Lash LaRue was born Reu Alfred Wilson on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan.

Webpage number two is a comprehensive (very lengthy) list of facts, dates, records, et al. There, you will find more on Lash as a hairdresser ... his first wife was Wilda J. Cruthers ... most Lash bios incorrectly report his birth place as Gretna, Louisiana ... doubtful that he played guitar at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans ... there were lots of marriages ... his death certificate, amended death certificate, and cremation ... more.

The Coloma, Michigan Library has an online archive of the Coloma, Michigan Courier, Watervliet, Michigan Record, and Tri-City Record newspapers. There's a dozen or so articles on Lash as a youngster as well as later articles with local citizens remembering him and his family. Below are a few of those newspaper reports:

  • September 5, 1913 Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper: "Charles Wilson and wife have moved onto the Martin farm west of this village. They were formerly of Loveland, Ohio ..."
  • June 22, 1917 issue of the Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper: "A son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Wilson Thursday, June 14 (1917)." (Should be June 15, 1917.)
  • January 25, 1918 Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper: "The Cradle Roll mothers held their sock social ... Rue A. Wilson won the prize for being the youngest baby to take his first step. He is 7 months old." (Note: 7 months old would equate to a June, 1917 birth.)
  • January 20, 1966 Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper had an article on Lash which mentioned his childhood in Watervliet, Michigan. Excerpts:
    "Dark and evil days have come to a former resident of Watervliet, one Lash Rarue [sic]. If that name doesn't ring a bell to jog your memory, perhaps someone will remember Reu Alfred Wilson. (someone had) sent a clipping from the Tampa Tribune concerning him and his fallen fortunes. It seems that Reu, alias Lash, was born here ..." (The article continues with more on Lash being down on his luck. And that Tampa, Florida Tribune article is available for viewing. Link is further down this webpage.)
  • There was a follow-up in the February 24, 1966 issue of Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper. Excerpts:
    "More news of Reu Wilson from the Charles Wigents vacationing in Florida. Reu, better known as Lash LaRue, lived in the Martin house across from the Wigent farm on Red Arrow highway, just this side of the Midway Baptist Church, when he was a little boy and Mr. Wigent remembers him well. Some years ago his parents separated and his father made his home in Niles (Michigan) until his death about three years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wigent and Mr. and Mrs. Glen Nichols used to visit Mr. Wilson in Niles." (The article continues with more on Lash in Tampa, Florida, his visits to the local children's hospital, etc.)

Link to the Coloma, Michigan Library and their Coloma (Michigan) Courier and Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper archives:

If you go the library website, be aware that their search function requires EXACT text matching. Thus, you'll need to run searches on specific names, including:

Rue A. Wilson
Rue Wilson
Reu Wilson
Reu A. Wilson
Chas. Wilson
Charles Wilson
Charles A. Wilson
Leora Wilson
Leora A. Wilson
Louise Wilson
Lash Larue
Lash Rarue

Bobbi Ann Johnson Holmes was a friend of Lash's late son Ronald Alfred Wilson (1937 - 2007) who later changed his name to Ronald Alfred LaRue. She did an interview with Ron, and there's lots of details on Lash and Ron's mother Wilda J. Cruthers. Ron and his first wife Marleen traveled the carnival circuit with Lash for about three years.:

Following are excerpts from the article (I've capitalized several names to highlight them):

"Ron LaRue was born RONALD ALFRED WILSON on October 24, 1937, to parents ALFRED WILSON and WILDA CRUTHERS WILSON, in San Francisco California. Ron's parents were about 18 years old, in love, and Alfred, like Alfred's mother, was a hairdresser. Alfred had not yet become an entertainer, and hadn't yet changed his surname to LaRue."

"By the time World War II broke out Ron's parents separated, and Wilda moved to southern California with her young son. Wilda's parents were longtime residents of San Francisco, but Wilda thought Southern California of the 1940's would be a healthier environment for her son."

"Shortly after Ron and his mother moved to Southern California Alfred moved to the area. Yet, it was not for a reconciliation. After about eight years of marriage Alfred and Wilda officially divorced. Alfred pursued his career as an entertainer, creating the western persona known as Lash LaRue, with his trademark whip."

Question on Lash's birth year - " lists the birth year as 1917, which corresponds with the information given to me by Ronnie."

Lash's son Ronald Alfred Wilson / Ronald Alfred LaRue passed away in 2007 in Lake Havasu City, Arizona:

In June, 2019, I sent for Lash's Michigan birth certificate, and below is a crop from the full page document. He was born Reu Alfred Wilson on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan. Parents were 22 year old Sara Louise Bussell [sic] (born Canada) and 31 year old Charles A. Wilson (born High Seas).

As to the spelling of Louise's last name being Bussell or Busselle: on her 1913 marriage license to Charles Wilson, she signed the license as "Louise Busselle".

If you'd like a copy of the full page birth certificate, send an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmeister.

ProQuest Military records had the World War II draft registration dated October 16, 1940 for 23 year old La Rue Alfred Wilson. He was born June 15, 1917 in Watervalette [sic], Michigan; lives at 454 South Norton, Los Angeles; occupation is Self employed. His contact is uncle Menard E. Harp in the Wilmington neighborhood in Los Angeles County. (Menard E. Harp was the husband of Virginia Ruth Busselle, the sister of Lash's mother Louise Busselle.) The reverse side of the registration card (not shown) has Lash at 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 145 pounds.

His death certificate: 78 year old Alfred Lash LaRue was born June 14, 1917 in Michigan to Charles A. Wilson and Sara Louise Busselle. His residence was 10050 Toluca Lake Avenue, Toluca Lake, Los Angeles County, California; he was married; a self employed actor; and informant was wife Marion LaRue who resided with him at that Toluca Lake address.

Lash passed away May 21, 1996 at St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, California. Immediate cause of death was shock due to Ischemic Cardio Myopathy, Coronary Artery Disease, and Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease. His other medical conditions included Severe COPD and Renal Failure. Also listed is a March 1, 1996 coronary artery bypass operation. Funeral director was Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Plans were for Lash to be cremated followed by a funeral service. But there was an error at Forest Lawn and he was cremated early, prior to wife Marion viewing his remains. A lawyer for Forest Lawn confirmed their mistake. There was no funeral service for Lash ... Marion had questions about Lash's cremains ... and she threatened a lawsuit. The November 27, 1996 Napa Valley, California Register newspaper has an article and the headline is: "No rest yet for the remains of Lash Larue" :

About six years after Lash's death, there was an amended (corrected) death certificate. Dated February 22, 2002, the change was to box "40. Place of Final Disposition" of Lash's cremains:

from: Marion LaRue, 10050 Toluca Lake Avenue, Toluca Lake, California 91602
to: Pat LaRue - son, 23970 Via Bocina, Valencia, California 91355

If you'd like copies of the two death certificates, send an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmeister.

(Courtesy of Bill Sasser)

Lash's wife Marion Carney Callahan was married several times. Circa 1983, she married B western bad guy Terry Frost and they attended several western film festivals. Above are Marion, an unidentified young man, and Terry at the 1991 Charlotte Festival. Marion and Terry resided at that Toluca Lake, California address.

Terry passed away in 1993 and Marion tied the knot again ... with Lash LaRue.

Marion Carney passed away in 2012.
In the 1960s, Lash was battling various issues including depression and money problems. In January, 1966, he had 35 cents in his pocket and was jailed on a vagrancy charge in Miami, Florida. He had been working the carnival circuit and a carny employee bailed him out.

Soon after that incident, Lash did an interview which was published in the January 11, 1966 Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper. In that interview, Lash confirmed his birth name and birth location - quote:

"The former cowboy star admits his real name is Reu Alfred Wilson. He also admits to being 48 years old. According to Larue, publicity has always had it that he was born in Gretna, La. 'But I wasn't, I was born in Watervliet, Mich., he said.' "

(That "48 years old" is accurate. The duration between his June 15, 1917 birth date and this January 11, 1966 article is 48 years and about 7 months.)

Link to that January 11, 1966 Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper interview of Lash:

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