In Search of Lash LaRue - Page 2, the long version
September 20, 2018 - added death certificate info which is in Box 9., near the bottom of this webpage.
|1. My search for Lash began with these records, sources, and dates.|
Over the years, I collected many magazine and newspaper articles, movie pressbook clippings, book biographies, etc. on Lash.
The source data for the California Death Index is the death certificate. The Index has a record for Alfred Lash LaRue, mother's maiden name of BUSSELLE, father's last name was WILSON. His birth date and location are June 14, 1917 and MICHIGAN and he passed away on May 21, 1996 in California: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VPZD-FDX
|2. Family Trees on ancestry.com|
And where is Watervliet, Michigan?
Subscribers to Ancestry.com can build family trees and include additional items such as photos and comments. Several family trees on ancestry identify Lash as "Alfred Larue Wilson", born June 14, 1917 in Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan.
Lash's father: Charles Alfred Wilson (1885 or 1887 - 1957) ... he was born Charles Wilson John / Johns and his parents were Ezra John / Johns and Melinda / Malinda / Linda Troy.
In box 4 below, there are many details on Lash and family. Soon after their 1913 marriage, Charles Wilson and Louise Busselle Wilson moved from Ohio to the Martin farm in Watervliet, Michigan. They had two children - daughter Leora A. Wilson was born July, 1914 and son Reu Alfred Wilson was born June 14 or 15, 1917. The marriage was short-lived - Louise filed for divorce from Charles A. Wilson on July 30, 1918. The divorce was granted on May 13, 1919, and she received alimony and custody of the children.
Watervliet, Michigan is located about 90 miles north of South Bend, Indiana and about 350 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio and Clermont County, Ohio. This link to Google maps will open in a separate window/tab: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Watervliet,+MI/Clermont,+Ohiofirstname.lastname@example.org,-86.8640521,8z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x8810b54cc6c1b4a9:0xfa655d1c9b247f4d!2m2!1d-86.2605776!2d42.1867052!1m5!1m1!1s0x8840e4b121e3d8b7:0x24865fe63393aade!2m2!1d-84.1857115!2d39.0928449?hl=en
|3. Lash's first wife was Wilda Cruthers (1918 - 1989) and married in 1937.|
Son Ronald Alfred Wilson / LaRue was born in 1937.
And did Lash work as a hairdresser?
1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - living in Carbon County, Montana are 29 year old William Cruthers (born Pennsylvania; occupation "foreman - coal mine"), 23 year old wife Louis [sic] (born Alabama, no occupation), and 2 year old Wilma [sic] (born Montana): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M83F-PHT
California Birth Index: Ronald Alfred Wilson (Lash's son) was born October 24, 1937 in San Francisco, California and his Mother's maiden name was Cruthers: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VLNR-YRX
In that same 1939 Stockton, California City Directory is Mrs. Maude J. Reveal and her beauty shop at 38 E. Acacia, and this confirms Lash's early work as a hairdresser ... or employed at her beauty shop:
1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - Alfred Wilson and wife Wilda Wilson were lodgers residing with the Garibaldi family at 4069 Oakwood, Los Angeles. But they moved before the census taker could record details. The census taker added the following notation next to Alfred and Wilda's names: "(Moved and took Individual Form; address unknown)": https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9CZ-9X7
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. After high school graduation, Ron and his first wife traveled the carnival circuit with Lash for about three years.: https://bobbiholmes.com/ron_larue/
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."
May 13, 1957 California marriage license of 19 year old Ronald Alfred Wilson, AKA Ronald Alfred Larue, to 19 year old Marleen Beth McPherson. This is the first marriage for both. Ron's parents were Alfred 'Lash' La Rue (born Louisiana) and Wilda J. Cruthers (born Montana): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L93W-XPR4?mode=g&i=2784&wc=96PJ-K66%3A147738401%3Fcc%3D1804002&cc=1804002
|4. There's many records and newspaper accounts of father Charles, mother Louise and daughter Leora ... as well as Lash.|
Early family ties were in Missouri, Ohio, and Michigan. But by the late 1920s, most of the family members were in California.
Searching old records is difficult because of missing data as well as spelling variations and issues with birth dates and birth locations. Lash's father Charles left a confusing trail:
Charles Wilson John / Johns was born December 17, 1885, and his birth location is either Ohio or at sea. Circa early 1900s - and before he married Lash's mother - Charles Wilson John / Johns dropped the Johns last name and became plain ol' Charles A. Wilson. My research indicates that he was married four times - marriage number two was to Sarah Louise Busselle, the mother of Lash. By the 1930s, he and fourth wife Dollie Ellis Wilson were in Chicago, and Charles had his own business. Charles and Dollie moved back to Michigan sometime in the 1950s. He passed away in 1957 and Dollie passed in 1967.
Clermont County, Ohio birth register (not the birth certificate) for Charles Wilson John, born December 17, 1885 in Clermont, Ohio to Ezra John and Linda Troy. Their home is Locust Corner, Ohio, an unincorporated community in Pierce Township, Clermont County, Ohio: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X6F5-GXV
January 16, 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan: 5 year old female Leora Wilson and 3 9/12 year old male Rur [sic] Wilson were listed as "inmates" at the Michigan Childrens Home in St. Joseph. Both were born in Michigan; their father's birth location was unknown; their mother was born in Canada. Assuming that 3 9/12 was his real age, his birth year would be 1916: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MZSD-S1S
April 2, 1920 issue of the Watervliet (Michigan) Record newspaper: "Mr. and Mrs. Scott Busselle arrived from Dayton, Ohio ... They are enroute to Los Angeles, California. Mr. and Mrs. Busselle are spending the week visiting friends in Watervliet and vicinity."
"We went to see Scott Busselle and family. What was our suprise to learn that our dear old friend, Louise Wilson, was in Los Angeles. We were invited to a Halloween party at Scott's and Louise's sister's home. The entire Busselle and Tewell family are here so there were 12 people at the party whom we had known."
1930 census summary and census takers worksheet for Leora Wilson, about 15 years old, born in Michigan, and her mother was born in Canada. Leora is a roomer living with the George and Selma Dorner family in Long Beach, California: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCJP-ZTK
1930 census summary and census takers worksheet for Virginia who has re-married. 28 year old Menard Harp (born Michigan; occupation "Fireman"), 30 year old wife Virginia (born Iowa), a son and stepson were living in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XC89-TZ9
Louise's brother Scott Busselle, his wife and son were also living in Long Beach, California at the time of the 1930 and 1940 census:
1930 census summary and census takers worksheet for 36 year old Scot [sic] W. Busselle (born Wisconsin), 36 year old wife Harriet B. (born Kansas), and 7 year old son Scot W. (born California). They own their home at 5917 Cerritos Avenue, Long Beach, California. His occupation was "Head-light Adjuster - Automobile", and he was a World War I veteran: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCJP-YPG
As noted in the 1928 newspaper article above, the three Busselle siblings had moved to California. Also re-locating to California were Louise's mother and step-father, Jennie Clark Doggett Tewell (1876 - 1940) and C. L. Tewell (1873 - 1944):
1940 census for the widowed C. L. Tewell (about 66 years old; born Kentucky) who was renting in Downey Township, Los Angeles County, California: https://familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=75&query=%2Bsurname%3Atewell&collection_id=2000219&residence_place1=10%2CCalifornia
By the time of the 1930 census, Lash's father Charles Wilson Johns / Charles Wilson was in Chicago and was re-married to a woman named Dolly / Dollie:
1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 42 year old Charles Wilson (born United States) and his 42 year old wife Dolly (born Tennessee) were renting at 5809 Hermitage Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. His occupation was "Erector - Steel Goods", and he was a World War I veteran: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSL2-VH5
Lash's sister Leora re-married - August 3, 1941 marriage license in Duval, Florida for 25 year old Carl E. Gill (born Iowa) to 27 year old Lee Hughlett (born July 14, 1914 in Watervliet, Michigan). His address was the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida and she was divorced and lived in St. Augustine, Florida: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-MJ9C-LV?mode=g&i=326&wc=32KP-YWL%3A145392901%3Fcc%3D1803936&cc=1803936
"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.
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.
Link to the Coloma, Michigan Library and their 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: http://188.8.131.52/colomas.html
|5. Wasn't Lash born in Gretna, Louisiana? Nope!|
What about Lash playing guitar and singing at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans? Doubtful!
Most sources have Lash's birth location as Gretna, Louisiana and death notices on Lash mention Gretna (along with other misinformation). Am unsure when and how that came about. Excerpt from the May 31, 1996 death notice on Lash from the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper:
"... known as Alfred LaRue, the son of Charles and Sarah Louise LaRue of Gretna. After his father was killed in World War I, his mother moved the 10-year-old boy and an older sister to Ohio, then to California, where he began working in pictures."
I checked both Family Search and Ancestry.com for any trace of the following:
Charles Larue with a wife named Sarah or Louise; residing somewhere in Louisiana in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census; and with a son named Al, Alfred, Reu, Rue, etc. born circa 1910-1920.
And I found nothing.
"Lash Larue" and "Dew Drop" during the years 1950 - 1990.
And nothing was found based on those search combinations.
Some Lash biographies (such as Wikipedia) have our western movie hero as a guitar playing wizard. That reference is due to drummer Earl Palmer, who played on 1950s recordings in New Orleans. In his autobiography titled Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story by Tony Scherman, there's mention of Lash performing at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans:
"Lots of white people wanted to come to the Dew Drop. Most were turned away, but they let a few in. Every time the cowboy actor Lash La Rue came in town, he came by. He played a hell of a guitar and was a regular guy."
However, there's a different take about Lash in an interview with Red Tyler and Earl Palmer - quote from that:
"I remember a time the cowboy singer and guitar player Lash LaRue came in here one time and I don't know why they didn't bust him because maybe they didn't know whether he was black or white, but they sure should have seen them boots. No blacks around here were wearing boots and he was bombed out of his bird, man. I mean he sat over at the bar and listened to the music all night long and wanted to play his guitar and we wouldn't let him."
Regardless of those claims, Lash being a singer and musician doesn't ring true. He attended many nostalgia / film conventions in the 1970s and 1980s so I sent off e-mails to folks who coordinated or attended those conventions. Heard back from Ray Nielson, Tommy Hildreth, Minard Coons and Bill Sasser. In summary - none recalled Lash singing ... or playing a guitar ... or playing any musical instrument. Couple comments in their e-mails: "I saw his stage show 2 or 3 times and he never sang or attempted to play any instrument." and "I saw Lash at least 10 plus times at festivals, gatherings, etc. He always was quick with a poem but I never saw him play any musical instruments or sing."
5B. Gretna, Louisiana, Part II
Sevilla Finley was a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper. She began a friendship with Lash LaRue in the 1980s when she wrote several articles on him for the paper. Sevilla and ye Old Corral webmeister connected in early 2019 and I asked for her remembrances of Lash ... and his ties to Gretna, Louisiana. Sevilla writes:
"It was in the 1950s, and I was a young girl of 12 or so, when I attended Lash's stage appearance at the Tower Theater on Huey P. Long Ave. in Gretna. The theater was filled with Gretna youth and Lash advertised that he was one of us - a Gretna native son. Wow - a cowboy movie star from our home town! He entered the theater from the back thru the middle isle dressed all in black leading his white horse and cracking a long bull whip. His old sidekick cowboy joined him on the stage. I was stunned, thunder-struck, as they say; it was love at first sight. I had never witnessed anyone so handsome. His image became indelible in my memory.
(Courtesy of Sevilla Finley)
Above - Sevilla Finley and Lash ... and Lash's Caddy convertible in the background.
6. Wasn't Lash born and/or raised in Ohio? Nope!
But he spent time in Ohio with the family of mother Louise after her divorce.
Circa 2000, I was contacted by a friend of Lash who said that Lash was raised with a family in Ohio (in the 1920s) after his parents split. He mentioned that Lash's real name was Rhew Alfred Wilson and he had a sister named Lee.
|7. Lash arrives in Hollywood circa 1944 ... and a few more tidbits.|
(From Old Corral collection)
Pressbook bio is mostly fiction.
|Above is LaRue doing an early movie role in the thirteen episode serial THE MASTER KEY (Universal, 1945) which was released in April, 1945. From left to right are Milburn Stone (who later portrayed 'Doc' in TV's GUNSMOKE), LaRue, and Dennis Moore. In this, he is billed as Alfred La Rue and plays "Migsy", the street smart leader of a group of teenagers helping Stone, Moore and heroine Jan Wiley outwit Addison Richards.
Universal signed Al to a (brief) term players contract. He had a minor role in the Deanna Durbin LADY ON A TRAIN (Universal, 1945) which was released in August, 1945. By then, he was gone from Universal and playing "The Cheyenne Kid" in the Eddie Dean Cinecolor SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).
The "Hollywood - The news roundup" piece in the November 20, 1944 issue of Film Daily has tidbits on various people including Al: "... "U" has handed a termer to Alfred LaRue ..." (meaning Universal has given LaRue a term contract). That Universal contract was brief, and Al's next Film Daily mention is an August 22, 1945 review of SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).
Left is an Al LaRue biography from the pressbook for SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945) and is more hype than truth. Note the mention of him doing radio, writing and producing amateur plays, and his father was a real estate broker. Great piece of fiction from some creative writer.
He gets more coverage (as Lash LaRue) in 1946 Film Daily issues as the star of a new eight film series at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) with Al 'Fuzzy' St. John.
Rick Albright did some detective work and found A. Larue, age 20, in the 1937 class roster for Pasadena Junior College. No gender given, but the age works for Lash.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Lash LaRue: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0479017/
In the 1980s, Jerry Whittington was working with Sunset Carson on a possible TV series. Jerry filmed Sunset chatting with many B western performers, including Lash. This link will open in a separate window/tab and Lash has positive comments on his mother ... and notes that she was a widow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPk4gx0MCbE
|8. How many times was Lash married? Some sources speculate that he had a dozen or more wives. Unsure of the real number, but there's magazine, online references, and other info sources on many marriages / divorces.|
The January, 1953 issue of Screenland Plus TV-Land magazine had a "Hollywood Facts of Life" article about 1952 romances, divorces, etc. There was a mention that in June, 1952, "Barbara Fuller (Claudia of radio's 'One Man's Family') divorced Western star Lash LaRue."
Ancestry.com had 1960 and 1961 Long Beach, California City Directories - Lash LaRue (actor) and wife Pattie are living at 857 Lime Avenue, Long Beach, California.
Family Search and Ancestry had a marriage index record (not the marriage license) - 40 year old Alfred W. LaRue married 37 year old Josephine R. Clarke (this is actress Reno Browne/Blair) on January 10, 1962 in Placer, California: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/V66V-Y2L
Family Search and Ancestry had the California Divorce Index - Lash Larue divorced wife Alice B. Larue on March 20, 1979 in Orange County, California: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VPP7-95K
The Gaffney (South Carolina) Ledger newspaper has the 2010 funeral notice/obituary on Frances Ida Coyle Bramlett La Rue: https://www.gaffneyledger.com/articles/frances-la-rue/
Marion Larue was Lash's last wife and was the informant on his death certificate. (She was Marion Carney, the wife of B western bad guy Terry Frost through his death in 1993.)
(Courtesy of Bill Sasser)
Above - Lash was re-united with ex-wife Reno Browne (Reno Blair) at the 1987 Charlotte Film Fest. Her real name was Josephine Ruth Clarke and she is suffering from cancer that would claim her life in 1991.
She was a great rider and made a batch of films at Monogram in the 1940s with Johnny Mack Brown, Whip Wilson, others.
On January 10, 1962, she married Lash LaRue. They resided in Reno, Nevada and ran the Clarke family owned El Ruth Court motel which was re-named to "Lash LaRue's Lodge". January, 1964 newspaper want ad above.
9. Lash's death, cremation, death certificate, and amended death certificate.
78 year old Alfred Lash LaRue was born June 14, 1917 in Michigan to Charles A. Wilson (birth location unknown) and Sara Louise Busselle (born Michigan). 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 the 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.
Amended (corrected) death certificate:
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:
If anyone wants copies of the original and amended death certificates, e-mail the Old Corral webmeister.
|10. Lash's World War II draft registration, his birth certificate ... and a 1966 interview in which Lash confirms he was born Reu Alfred Wilson on June 15, 1917 in Watervliet, Michigan.|
|In June, 2019, I sent for Lash's Michigan birth certificate, and below is a crop from the full page document. If you'd like the full page birth certificate, shoot ye Old Corral webmeister an e-mail.
Lash 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).
"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.' "
Link to that January 11, 1966 Tampa, Florida Tribune newspaper interview of Lash: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86350463/the-tampa-tribune/