Adopted by NOW and Chaer Roberts
Clara Brown was born a slave in Virginia in 1800. At nine years
of age, she and her mother were sent to Kentucky. By the age of
eighteen she married and subsequently gave birth to four children.
At 35 years of age, she was sold by her owner at auction and separated
from her husband and children. Freed by her third owner in 1859,
she came to Denver by working as a cook on a wagon train in exchange
for her transportation. Brown is reportedly the first black woman
to cross the plains during the Gold Rush.
Once in Colorado, she lived in Central City and established the
first laundry. By 1866, she had accumulated $10,000 and began to
actively search for her family; and, in the process helped newly
freed slaves to relocate to Colorado. As "Aunt" Clara Brown's profits
in mines and real estate grew, she became more charitable, never
turning away anyone in need.
With the death of two of her four children, and having lost track
of her son, Brown returned to Kentucky in an attempt to locate
her surviving daughter, Liza Jane. When Brown returned to Colorado,
she brought with her sixteen freed women and men but she was unable
to locate her lost daughter at this time. Sometime between 1866
and 1885, when Brown died, she was reunited with Liza Jane and
a granddaughter, Cindy.
Clara Brown was honored by the Denver community and made a member
of the Society of Colorado Pioneers. In her honor, a memorial chair
was placed in Central City's Opera House and a stained glass window
can be found in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol.