Mary Carr (1838–1933) was a dedicated philanthropist, cofounder of Longmont’s first public school and one of its first teachers, charter member of the National Woman’s Relief Corps, and an activist for women’s suffrage and equality. She helped shape modern Colorado by aiding in the establishment of Longmont and playing an active and early role in many organizations that still exist today such as the Woman’s Relief Corps.
Mary Carr was born Mary Lord Pease on July 6, 1838, in Thorndike, Maine. She was the second of three children born to Lois H. Lord and Eliphalet Pease. Her father was a farmer. She received an education, which historians believe was more schooling than average children at that time received. Little else is known about Mary Pease’s childhood.
Marriage and Family
On October 3, 1867, Pease married Byron Leander Carr in Chicago. It is unclear how Pease and Carr became acquainted. Originally from New Hampshire, Carr grew up on his family’s farm and was educated at Newbury Academy in Vermont. In 1861 he enlisted in the Union Army and fought in the Civil War. He was captured in 1863 and held as a prisoner of war. After being released and reenlisting, he was wounded so severely that his right arm was amputated. He returned to Newbury Academy after the war and, upon finishing his studies, moved to Waukegan, Illinois, where he was appointed principal of the local high school. Soon he was named superintendent of Lake County schools.
Mary and Byron Carr had their first child, Susie, in 1868, in Mary’s hometown of Thorndike, Maine, before returning to Illinois. In 1870 Byron Carr was admitted to the bar of Illinois. A year later, he resigned from his position with the school system in Illinois, and the Carr family decided to relocate to Colorado with the Chicago-Colorado Colony. Byron Carr made the trip first before Mary and Susie joined him shortly thereafter.
The Carrs settled with the Chicago-Colorado Colony in Longmont, where they opened the town’s first public school. Byron taught the upper grades, and Mary taught the primary classes. In 1879 Mary gave birth to the couple’s second child, Gerome.
Byron soon started a law firm and became a busy civic leader. He was elected district attorney of the Second Judicial District in 1872, delegate to the Colorado Constitutional Convention in 1875–76, and attorney general of Colorado in 1894. He also founded, owned, and edited Longmont’s first newspaper, the Longmont Ledger. As Byron’s workload intensified, Mary did everything she could to support him. She entertained business associates and was known as a wonderful hostess and companion.
Women’s Relief Corps
In 1883 Mary Carr became a charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Civil War veterans’ organization. Previously, groups of women had established multiple organizations in different states to support the GAR. The Woman’s Relief Corps, founded in Colorado, unified these smaller organizations into a single national group. Following in the footsteps of former army nurses and emulating their service, the Woman’s Relief Corps promoted patriotism in education, aided the GAR in its large celebration of Memorial Day, and provided aid to Civil War veterans and their families.
Carr served as president of the local Longmont corps for two years, as president of the department of Colorado and Wyoming in 1892–93, and as national inspector in 1895. In 1900 the Woman’s Relief Corps of Colorado nominated her for president of the national organization, and she was elected to the position in 1901. After her term as president, she served on the national executive committee. In 1904 she secured Colorado as the next GAR encampment location and sat on a committee that compiled the organization’s laws.
Carr was also heavily involved in the Order of the Eastern Star in Colorado, a women’s masonic organization founded as a place for people to discuss new ideas and serve the community. She was a charter member of the Longmont chapter in 1892 and was later elected the right grand worthy matron in 1897.
Carr played a prominent role in the women’s suffrage movement. After being involved in the successful Colorado suffrage campaign of 1893, she became first vice president of the Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association the following year. In 1894 she became the first woman elected to the Longmont school board as well as the board’s first female president. She served in that position for three years before declining to run for reelection in 1897.
After Byron Carr died in 1899, Mary Carr continued to serve the Longmont community. She had an interest in politics and was a member of the Woman’s Democratic Club of Longmont. In 1902 she was elected first vice president of the organization. In 1904 she ran an unsuccessful campaign for state representative.
Later Life and Legacy
By 1910 Carr was living with her daughter, Susie, and her husband in a house across the street from the prior Carr residence. She continued to serve patriotic organizations, though she started to slow down in her later years. In 1924 the National Woman’s Relief Corps and the GAR recognized her for years of dedicated service. In 1925 she was elected vice chairman of the Longmont chapter of the Red Cross. In 1927 the Daughters of the American Revolution honored Mary and Byron Carr with a memorial plaque for their work as Longmont’s first teachers.
Mary Lord Pease Carr died on February 27, 1933, at the age of ninety-five. Although relatively few details survive about Carr’s many activities and her name is not well known, her service to national patriotic societies and local philanthropic organizations helped lay the foundation for today’s Colorado, particularly in Longmont, where she and her husband established the first school and played a large role in the city’s early development.