Photo Details

A photo of Clarissa Gurnett (1832-1903) American actress who used the stage names of "Mrs. Clara Walters" and "Jean Clara Walters" was most likely born in Troy, New York to shoemaker John Gurnett (1809-). In 1849 she married Henry Van Warren "Jack" Masten (1828-1859). He died in 1859 from injuries sustained after being run over by a wagon at Fort Defiance, New Mexico. Much to the displeasure of her relatives she turned to the stage as a form of employment and married comedian Charles F. Walters (-1876) in about 1860. She was particularly popular in the provincial theaters of Leavenworth, Kansas and San Francisco, California. Her second husband Mr. Walters was at one time a popular "burnt cork" comedian, though his 1876 Colorado epitaph says that "whiskey became his master".

Jean Clara Walters continued to perform with various stock theater and touring companies from 1860 until 1900 when illness put an end to her long career. While appearing earlier in San Francisco, Clara discovered that she had a daughter, Mary Ann Masten (1850-1917) whom she was told had died in childhood. The daughter was now married to Dr. Andrew Fine (1841-1906) and had two sons. Mother and daughter eventually became estranged during Clara's final illness and she was cared for until her death by a friend, Mrs. Missouri T. Shumate (1847-1921). Clara died in Oakland, California 1903 aged 71.

additional information:

These photographs were taken by the Mathew Brady Studio in about 1860. If anyone has or can find other photographs of "Jean Clara Walters" it may help to provide further evidence regards her identity.

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