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Colorado: Angel of the Rockies with Jessica Malaty Rivera

states Aug 02, 2021

Settle in as Sharon tells the heartfelt story of Clara Brown, the “Angel of the Rockies” to Jessica Mataly Rivera.  Jessica is a friend and brilliant epidemiologist who may or may not have cried when she heard the touching details of Clara’s story. Sharon takes listeners back to the year 1800 when Clara Brown was born into slavery in Kentucky. When she was 56, Clara was granted her freedom, but her husband and children were abruptly sold off as slaves. With nowhere else to go, Clara set West for Colorado, traveling 700 miles on foot. In Colorado, Clara became a successful entrepreneur and gave away nearly all of her wealth to her community. This is the story of determination and success as well as compassion, family reunion and ultimate generosity. Listen to find out exactly why Clara is named the “Angel of the Rockies” and why Sharon and Jessica shed a few tears while recording this episode.


Link to Full Episode:


This Episode Will Teach You:

  • The story of the “The Angel of the Rockies”
  • The hardships Clara Brown overcame 
  • The strong bond between a mother and her children 
  • How Clara became a successful entrepreneur in a small mining town  
  • How Clara built her legacy and lovingly served her community 
  • Why Colorado citizens petitioned the government on Clara’s behalf 
  • How Clara was reunited with her daughter after 25 years of being separated


3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Born in Kentucky in 1800, Clara Brown lived in slavery for the majority of her life. When she was 56 years old, her husband and children were split up and sold as slaves but she was given her freedom. Because it was illegal to be a freed-person in Kentucky, she headed West to Colorado, traveling 700 miles on foot with a wagon train of miners. Though she was devastated by the loss of her family and in a completely foreign place as an almost 60-year-old woman, she was determined to make a life for herself and help others along the way. 
  • Clara quickly became a successful entrepreneur, accumulated wealth and invested in multiple estates, pieces of property and mines. She was extremely generous with everything she had, opening her house to anyone in need and donating to churches and community organizations. Word of Clara’s generosity and kindness spread, and she became known throughout Colorado as the “Angel of the Rockies.” Clara was beloved by all who knew her, and many became familiar with the story of her separation from her family. With the help of friends, Clara was reunited with her youngest child, Eliza after 25 years of being apart. 
  • When Clara applied to be an “Official Pioneer” in hopes of receiving a stipend from the Colorado government, she was denied because of her gender and race. Outraged because they believed Clara was a pillar in their community and more than worthy of the stipend, the town rallied around her and petitioned the government. She was eventually granted the title of Official Pioneer. After her death, Clara continued to be recognized, and to this day her portrait hangs in the Colorado state court. 


About the Guest: 

Jamie Mataly Rivera is an infectious disease epidemiologist, studying emerging infectious diseases. On her viral Instagram and Twitter accounts, she regularly debunks myths surrounding COVID-19 and vaccinations. When she is not studying the COVID-19 pandemic and how we can improve our response to pandemics in the future, Jessica enjoys spending time at home in San Francisco with her children.  


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