Born a slave in Virginia in 1800, Clara Brown married another slave named Richard and had four children, but they were separated at auction. When Brown was later freed, she went in search of her family and was eventually reunited with her daughter Eliza Jane.
Early Life Amid Hardship
Clara Brown was born a slave in Virginia in 1800. Brown and her mother were bought by tobacco farmer Ambrose Smith. From the time she was very young, she worked in the fields with some of Smith's other slaves. Brown and her mother eventually moved with the Smith family from Virginia to Kentucky.
While in her teens, Brown married another slave named Richard in 1818. Together they had four children: Richard, Margaret, Paulina Ann, and Eliza Jane. Tragedy struck Brown's family when daughter Paulina Ann died. The death of their owner, Ambrose Smith, also brought more sadness to Brown and her family in 1835. After Smith's death, Brown, her husband, and her surviving children were sold at an auction, breaking the family apart. She would spend much of her life searching for her loved ones.
In her 50s, Brown's life changed for the better after the death of her latest owner, George Brown. His daughters gave Brown her freedom, and she went to work for a St. Louis merchant. That family moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, and her boss helped her set a laundry business there. But she didn't stay long. At the time, many people were moving west in search of gold and other opportunities. She wanted to find something even more precious--her family.
Brown traveled west to look for them, working as a cook for a group of gold prospectors headed to Colorado. It is believed that she was the first African-American woman to make it to Colorado's gold rush region. Once she reached Colorado, she moved from town to town, seeking economic opportunities. Settling in Central City, she made money by running a laundry business and became quite a success.
Courtesy of biography.com
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