Clara Harriet Scott nee Jones was born in Elk Grove, Illinois to Abel Fiske and Sarah Searles (Rockwell) Jones. The Joneses were one of the earliest families to settle in Elk Grove (1838). After Abel sold their farm in 1856 the family moved into Chicago proper until 1870 when Able and Sarah moved to Lyons, Iowa.
Clara enrolled in the first Chicago Musical Institute after founders Chauncy Marvin (C. M.) Cady and William B. Bradbury opened its doors in May 1858. Following her graduation from the program Clara found employment at the new Lyons Girl’s Seminary (founded September 1858) in Lyons, Iowa. While working in Iowa, Clara met Henry Clay Scott, who worked for Scott & Ovington Bros. wholesale crockery company. The two were wed on 15 October 1861 in McGregor, Iowa.
Following the birth of their first child, Mary, the family moved back to Illinois, living in Austin just outside Chicago. The couple’s second child, Medora (M. J.), was born in 1877.
Through her music work, Clara befriended composers and publishers including Ella Emerson and Horatio R. Palmer, both of whom encouraged Clara to publish her own works. In 1882, Clara’s first volume of sacred music was published as “The Royal Anthem Book.” This publication by F. W. Helmick (Cincinnati, Ohio) was the first book of anthems ever published by a woman.
Two more volumes of Clara’s music were published in her lifetime, including “Truth in Song,” a volume of hymns. The best known of her works is the hymn, “Open My Eyes, That I May See” published in 1895. That year Clara and her husband, who had since become an invalid, moved into Chicago from Austin.
In June 1897 Clara had travelled to Dubuque, Iowa to attend a funeral. While returning to her friend’s house, Clara was driving a buggy with friends Martha Jones Hay and D. D. Myers. Suddenly, the buggy’s hold-back strap snapped, spooking the horse. The horse raced forward, colliding with a coping stone, causing the buggy to roll and Clara and Martha to be thrown out. The two women died instantly; D. D., who remained in the upturned buggy, was severely injured.
Clara’s body was rapidly transported to her sister’s house in Austin, Illinois the afternoon of the accident where the funeral was subsequently held. At the funeral two of Clara’s own compositions were sung by a quartet of her close friends. Her funeral was well-attended by music writers, teachers, professors, publishers, and friends. Clara’s body was transported to Forest Home Cemetery accompanied by her mourners and interred therein.
*Ancestry.com. “Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996” [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
*Cady, Jennifer, ed. “Chauncey Marvin Cady (1824 – 1889) Biography.” Updated 20 May 2017. Accessed via WikiTree website.
*Hawn, C. Michael. “History of Hymns: ‘Open My Eyes, That I May See.’” Accessed via United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries website.
*“Killed at Dubuque, Iowa.” Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, 23 June 1897, p. 7.
*“Main building, Our Lady of Angels Academy, Clinton, Iowa.” Accessed via Digital Grinnell Repository website.
* “Obituary Record: Funeral of Mrs. Clara H. Scott.” Chicago Tribune, Thursday, 24 June 1897, p. 2.
Clara's grave is unmarked, but can be found immediately west (behind) the monument for her brother, Mark Jones.
Mark Morse Jones