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Clara Brown (1800–1885) was a former slave from Virginia who became a community leader in Gold Rush Colorado.



Clara Brown was born in 1800 in Virginia. She was immediately sold as a slave to Ambrose Smith. In 1835, Clara’s family was one by one sold to different slave owners. In 1857, Clara received her freedom papers. She decided to move out west because she had heard rumors that her daughter, Eliza Jane had been brought to the west. Clara was hired by Colonel Wadsworth in Leavenworth, Kansas, 1859, so that she could receive a free journey out west. The journey was easy for Clara because she had been used to the harsh life as a slave. When Clara made it to Denver she worked at the City Bakery until she earned enough money to start a laundry business for miners. She made a fortune from that business. In 1882, Clara finally met up with her daughter Eliza Jane. They lived a happy life until Clara's death. Debra Conner,Marteisha Harrison

Early life

Brown was born at virginia at 1800. At a young age she and her mother were separated from her father when they were bought by a tobacco farmer named Ambrose Smith. As a child, she worked primarily in the fields, until the family moved from Virginia to Kentucky. At the age of 18 Brown met and married another slave named Richard. They would go on to have four children of their own: Richard, Margaret, Paulina Ann, and Eliza Jane. lioneshia simpson the 4

In 1835 their owner died and the family split up, being sold at auction. This event would eventually become the focus of Brown’s life.

Free life

In her fifties her owner died, and his daughters gave Brown her freedom and a job within a laundry business if she wanted it. She stayed for a short while and then decided to pursue her lost family. She traveled west looking for them, hoping that some of them had been caught up in the gold rush. She earned her passage by signing on as a cook for a group of gold rushers. It is believed that Brown was the first African American woman to make it to Colorado’s gold rush.

Once there she began looking for her family as well as any economic opportunity she could. Moving from town to town she finally settled in Central City and opened a laundry business of her own, using the proceeds to invest in mines in the area. Clara also opened the first Sunday school in Colorado in 1859. During this she began to use her time to benefit the people around her as best she could, hosting religious services at her house and helping people down on their luck. She managed to help sixteen former slaves find work in Central City.

Brown died in 1885 and shortly before her death she was inducted into the Society of Colorado Pioneers for her work in the gold rush.[citation needed] She was buried in Denver's Riverside Cemetery, with various Colorado state dignitaries in attendance, including James Benton Grant and John Long Routt.[1]


  1. ^ Wishart, David J. (2004). "Brown, "Aunt" Clara". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 12. ISBN 0-8032-4787-7. 




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