Life was often hard and unfair for women in the 1800’s. Cooking, cleaning, the loss of a child; women overcame much and kept on going. In thumbing through a collection of works I stumbled across one woman who led a long life and triumphed through patience and hard work. Meet Clara Brown:
Clara Brown was born a slave in 1803 Tennessee. At the age of 3, she and her mother were sold to another slave owner. Clara remained with this owner for twenty years. During this time, she married and had four children, but when her owner passed, she and her family were sold at auction. Clara was bought by a George Brown and taken to his home in Kentucky. Unable to read and write, Clara lost contact with her husband and children.
George Brown was a Kentucky planter, whose last name Clara adopted. He was a kind man who helped Clara gain her freedom in 1859 and move to Missouri where former slaves were protected by law. Clara went to work for a St. Louis merchant and moved with his family to Leavenworth, Kansas, where the merchant helped er establish a laundry. While in Kansas, Clara heard about the gold rush and joined a wagon train to Colorado. With no money to pay her way, she earned her passage by cooking, taking in laundry and nursing. She arrived in Denver in 1859 and was the first African-American woman in the gold fields.
While in Denver, Clara heard about George Jackson’s huge gold strike in Central City. She moved to the mining town, opened a laundry and invested in the mines and real estate. Being a devout Christian, she also organized a church complete with Sunday school. Little by little, her income and investments grew to where she could deposit money in the bank and helped other newly freed African-Americans come to Colorado to make a living. By 1866, she had saved an unheard amount of $10,000 and began searching for her family. Two of her children had died and she couldn’t find anything pertaining to her son or her husband.
Clara left Colorado for a spell to search for her daughter, Eliza Jane, in Kentucky. Like her son and husband, Clara couldn’t find any trace of her daughter and eventually returned to Colorado. In 1882, at the age of 79, Clara finally found Eliza Jane and her granddaughter, Cindy. They were living in Iowa. She enjoyed a few years with her daughter and was made a member of the Society of Colorado Pioneers for her role in the Colorado gold rush before passing away in 1885. Clara is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Denver.