IIn the 1830s Capt. Barton’s nephew Jeremiah Larned died after a long illness, leaving behind his widow and four young children. To ensure they would not lose their home, Capt. Barton co-purchased the farm and decided to move his family there as well. Many renovations were made to the house to accommodate both families. An inquisitive child, Clara spent many hours watching Mr. Sylvanus Harris paint and wallpaper the home.
“I was constantly reminded not to ‘get in the gentleman’s way.’ I gathered the courage to walk up in front and address him: ‘Will you teach me to paint sir?’ ‘With pleasure, little lady, if mama is willing, I should very much like your assistance.’ The consent was forthcoming, and so was a gown suited to my new work, and I reported to duty. I was taught how to hold my brushes, to take care of them, allowed to help grind my paints, shown how to mix and blend them, how to make putty and use it, to prepare oils and dryings, and learned from experience that boiling oil was a great deal hotter than boiling water…and even varnished the kitchen chairs to the entire satisfaction of my mother, which was triumph enough for one little girl. I never wearied of my work for a day, and at the end of a month looked on sadly as the utensils, brushes, buckets, and great marble slab were taken away. I went to my room, lonesome in spite of myself. I found a box containing a pretty little locket, neatly inscribed – ‘To a faithful worker’.” This was to be Clara’s first medal.