October 13, 2018
Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, is one of America’s iconic writers. But there’s always more to the famous man or woman than his or her fame.
Who was Samuel Clemens?
To learn about who he was we visited the Mark Twain Birthplace and State Historical Site near Florida, Missouri, where he was born.
The two-room cabin he was born in was moved from its original location to the site of the visitor center. The visitor center was built around the cabin.
Mark Twain was born November 30, 1835 as Halley’s comet sailed through the heavens.
In 1839 the family moved to Hannibal, Missouri. During the summer, he went back to the Florida area and spent time at his Uncle John Quarles’ farm where he listened to tales told by Uncle Dan’l, a slave. Uncle Dan’l would become the model for Jim in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After Mark Twain’s father died in 1847, he moved and worked all over the country trying to find his niche.
In 1867 he went on a boat tour to Europe and the Holy Land that became the basis of his first book, The Innocents Abroad. He had found his calling. It was on that tour that he “met” his future wife, Olivia Langdon. Mark Twain happened to be traveling with Oliva’s brother who carried a picture of her in a locket. When Mark saw it he was smitten.
When he returned from his voyage, he began courting her. She rejected his first marriage proposal, but persevered. On February 2, 1870 he and Olivia were married. They had four children.
Mark Twain knew grief and sadness as his wife and three of his four children died before he did.
His firstborn, a son, was born on November 7, 1870. When Langdon was 19 months old Mark took him on a carriage ride. Sometime during the ride a blanket slipped from the boy. Mark didn’t notice it until he saw that Landon’s lips had turned blue. Several months later Langdon developed diphtheria and died in June 1872. Although exposure to cold does not cause diphtheria, Mark wouldn’t have known that. So Mark blamed himself for his son’s death.
His first daughter, Susy, died from spinal meningitis in 1896 when she was 24 years old.
Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia, was in poor health for much of her life. Mark and Olivia were on a world tour when Susy died in their Hartford home. Olivia was grief-stricken, refused to return to the Hartford home, and never fully recovered from Susy’s death. On doctor’s orders, she went to Italy for her health but died there in 1904.
His youngest daughter, Jean, was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 15 years old. She died of a heart attack brought on by a seizure in 1909 when she was 29 years old.
As Halley’s comet again sailed through the heavens, Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910.
The visitor center is free and has a small museum and gift shop. There are displays of furnishings from his home, information on his wife and children, his time as a river boat captain, displays of his books in print in numerous languages and the original hand written manuscript for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Make sure you see the 22-minute film about Mark Twain’s life.