Clara Barton

Clara Barton

Contributed by Janice Vinson

Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821. She was the daughter of Stephen Barton and Sally Stone and the youngest of five children, having older two brothers and two older sisters. Being born ten years after the youngest of her siblings made it seem like she was an only child.

Clara entered the work force first as a teacher - starting at fifteen years of age by establishing a school for the children of the workers at her father's sawmill. This small success encouraged her and she took another teaching position in New Jersey. As luck would have it, Clara eventually resigned that position and turned her attention to the American Civil War.

Clara became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield, caring for the wounded on both sides - an unheard of thing for that time period. After becoming familiar with the work of the International Red Cross in Europe, she organized a similar group in the United States in 1881 - the American Red Cross - and servied as its first president. She was also rewarded for her hospital work during the France-Prussian War with the Iron Cross of Germany.

After the war she helped staff a missing soldier's bureau in Washington D.C. which helped gather identification records for the missing and the dead.

Clara died in Echo Glen, Maryland on April 12, 1912. She was buried in the family plot in Oxford, MA. Although both brothers and one of her sisters married, there is no proof that Clara ever did.

I am proud to be related on both sides of my family tree to this remarkable woman.

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Barton Family

Stephen Barton (18 Aug 1774- 21 Mar 1862)
Sally Stone (13 Nov 1783-1851)

  • Dorothy Barton (1804-1846)
  • Stephen Barton (1806-1865) sp Elizabeth Rich
  • David Barton (1808-?) sp Julia Ann Porter
  • Sarah Barton (1811-1874) sp Vester Vasssall
  • Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton (1821-1912)

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Note from Sam Behling, owner of Notable Women Ancestors

The June, 1998 issue of the Civil War Times carries an article describing the recent discovery of Clara Barton's office in a Washington, D.C. building that had been scheduled for demolition. The findings in a 3rd story attic included "enough newspapers, government documents, letters, books, and clothing to fill more than 20 boxes, and none of the items dates later than 1868. A tin sign that hung on one of the oak doors in the apartment below reads Missing Soldiers Office. 3rd Story, Room 9. Miss Clara Barton. Based on the find, historians have deduced that Barton conducted her postwar search for the Union's missing soldiers from the apartment below the attic."

The article recaps some of the history also, stating that at the war's end, President Abraham Lincoln authorized Barton to search for the missing Union soldiers. "Barton quickly converted her two-room apartment, her home for three years, into a make-shift office and gave it the unwieldy name 'Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army.' Thus Barton, in this newly discovered apartment 11 blocks from the White House, became the first American woman ever to run a government office. In three years of searching, she and her staff identified 22,000 of the roughly 62,000 missing Union soldiers, including 13,000 prisoners buried at Georgia's Andersonville Prison."

Needless to say, this building will NOT be demolished. The 3rd floor will be preserved and the first 2 floors renovated. Final plans have not yet been determined, but Barton's former office may be opened to the public when the renovation is complete.

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