MRS. CLARA BROWN. – As space was allowed in the Denver volume of Colorado's history for the biographical sketch of one distinguished lady – Miss Alida C. Avery, M. D., it seems but fair that this volume should give space to another. Clara Brown, better known as Aunt Clara, the first colored woman that ever crossed the plains for Pike's Peak, deserves at least a passing notice. Aunt Clara was born Jan. 1, 1800, near Fredericksburg, Va., a slave of one Ambrose Smith, who removed with his family and slaves to Russellville, Logan Co., Ky., in 1809. Aunt Clara was married in her eighteenth year, and was the mother of four children — three girls and one boy, viz., Margaret, Eliza, Palina and Richard. At the death of her master, Ambrose Smith, in 1835, she, with her husband and children, were sold to different purchasers, and they forever parted. Aunt Clara was purchased by George Brown, of Russellville, who died in 1856. She was again sold and purchased by the heirs of Mr. Brown, and emancipated. The laws of Kentucky then requiring that all emancipated slaves should leave the State within one year, Aunt Clara, then in her fifty-seventh year, went to St. Louis, Mo., and thence to Leavenworth, Kan., spending the year 1858, in Leavenworth. Early in 1859, she joined the gold-hunting army for Auraria, Cherry Creek, now Denver, she agreeing to cook for a mess of twenty-five men, out of a party of sixty, the conditions being that they transport her stoves, wash-tubs, wash-board and clothes-box, for her services as cook during the trip. She rode with her things in one of the ox-wagons, there being thirty in the train, drawn by six yoke of oxen each, and, after eight weeks, landed in Auraria, now West Denver. After a few weeks' rest, she again packed up her earthly goods and removed to Gregory Point, thence to Mountain City, now Central City. She soon founded the first laundry ever started in Gilpin Co. The prices being paid her were for blue and red flannel shirts, 50 cents, and other clothes in proportion. In a few years she had accumulated property valued at about $10,000. At the close of the war, she went to her old Kentucky home, and hunted up all her relatives that could be found, thirty-four in number, and brought them to Leavenworth by steamboat, and then purchased a train, crossed the plains, and settled her relatives in Denver, Central City and Georgetown. Feeling the approach of old age, she has recently removed from Central City to Denver, and built herself a little cottage home near the corner of Twenty-third and Arapahoe streets. She is now doing all she can in dispensing charity to all the needy. She is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and has been for the last fifty years. Many interesting incidents might be added of her long and useful life, would space allow.
SOURCE: O. L. Baskin & Co., Publisher, History of Clear Creek and Boulder Valleys, Colorado, p. 443