Brown was born in Virginia in 1800. She married another slave when she was eighteen and together they had four children. In 1835, Brown’s family was broken apart when they were all sold to different slave owners; Clara was sold to a plantation owner in Kentucky. When Brown was 56 years-of-age, she received her freedom and required by law to leave the state worked her way west as a cook and laundress to Denver, Colorado.
Brown settled in the mining town now called Central City, Colorado where she worked as a laundress, cook and mid-wife. With the money she made, she invested in properties and mines in nearby towns. Known as “Aunt Clara” for her emotional and financial support, Brown was a founding member of a Sunday school, made her home available for prayer services and generously supported the community.
At the end of the Civil War, Brown could freely travel and liquidated all of her investments to travel to Kentucky to find her daughter. Although she was unsuccessful, she paid the way for 16 or more relatives and others who were former slaves to move to Colorado. Finally in 1882 she reunited with Eliza Jane and Eliza Jane’s daughter. In 1885, the last year of her life, Clara Brown was voted into the Society of Colorado Pioneers for her role in Colorado’s early history.
Clara Brown as Portrayed by Eleanor Nolan