A Rebel Before Her Time
In 2013, with the generous contributions from over 80 individuals, the Mattatuck Museum was able to conserve and frame the painting Miss Caroline Welton, by Abraham Archibald Anderson (1847-1940.) The 72” x 36” oil painting was gifted to the Museum in 1940 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and had been in storage for many years before its much needed conservation. It is currently on view in the Museum’s Early American Art gallery.
Caroline (Carrie) Josephine Welton (1842-1884) was the daughter of Joseph Chauncey Welton and Jane E. (Porter) Welton. An only child she was educated at Miss Edwards School in New Haven and the Mears-Burkhardt School in New York. She also studied drawing and painting with Hudson River School painters James and William Hart. Carrie was an artist, animal advocate, mountain climber, and philanthropist. Throughout her life she donated funds to the ASPCA and the Connecticut Humane Society. Carrie should be recognized as a generous supporter of organizations devoted to animal rights and welfare and one of the earliest people to ascend Longs and Pikes Peaks in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
The founder of the ASPCA, Henry Bergh (1813-1888) was a longtime friend of the Welton family and visited them annually at Rose Hill cottage. Throughout Carrie’s life she donated $250,000 to the organization. Always a lover of animals, Carrie often would ride her beloved black horse Knight of the Forest (Knight) throughout Waterbury, even in the worst weather. After the death of her father, when she was thirty years old, Carrie sought consolation through travel and between 1875 and 1876 ventured to California with her mother. By 1878 the two became estranged for reasons unknown. Carrie, who never married, would continue to travel out west alone, often meeting with other adventurous women travelers from New England. Carrie was competitive and determined to climb as many high peaks in the Rockies as she could. On September 23, 1884 she died from exhaustion and frigid temperatures descending Longs Peak, the first recorded death of a white woman climber on that mountain.
In her will she left her fortune, jewelry, furniture and other personal valuable items to family members and asked that the remaining amount be given to the ASPCA. After legal fees, the amount was $73,000. She also left $7,000 to the City of Waterbury for a water fountain (for people and horses) and bronze life-size sculpture depicting her horse Knight.