“A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”
– Mark Twain

April 21, 2010 marks the Centennial of Mark Twain’s passing and provides the residents of Connecticut with a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate Twain’s life in Connecticut and encourage a re-awakening of interest in Twain related research and tourism here in Connecticut.

For the past year, we have been uncovering Connecticut towns/cities connected with Mark Twain to celebrate his life and promote future tourism in Connecticut.

Our project involves online and offline exhibits designed to increase awareness of Mark Twain’s time in Connecticut by showcasing the people and places connected to him across the State. This project is timed to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of his passing in 2010.

Project Prototype. We’re using Illinois’ Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition as prototype, especially in the brochure aspect of the project.

To-date, one town – Norwalk, Connecticut – has embraced the concept and showcased their local connection with Mark Twain…I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about that and hope that the trend continues across the State.

The specific problem our offline Twain Connections exhibits address is the dismal funding environment our local libraries, museums, and historical societies are facing in the current economic downturn. Connecticut has allotted $1 for state tourism marketing in 2010. Our offline exhibits provide a means for Connecticut’s libraries, museums, and historical societies to not only increase foot traffic to their buildings, via this historic Twain Centennial, but to also showcase their own offerings and talents to an audience they may otherwise have missed. This is important as the ultimate goal of this project is to make Connecticut a destination for Mark Twain tourism and research in the future. We feel that merging information about Twain with information about the “Friends of Twain” in the many towns and cities that have a Twain Connection is a great way to promote town pride and Connecticut tourism in the future.

Bridgeport’s P.T. Barnum Museum would be a perfect example of a museum that would benefit from this “friends of Twain” marketing concept, another is Keeler Tavern in Ridgefield. In the present day people visit Keeler Tavern to learn about a colonial tavern. We hope in the future they’ll visit to learn more about Architect Cass Gilbert and his friendship with Mark Twain. By simply collaborating with us to provide the public with a location specific exhibit that sheds light not only on Twain but their local individual as well, these historic and cultural museums/centers can expand their audience and attract future visitors.

To date we have made connections in 56 towns here in Connecticut.

Full story about our efforts are posted here: http://www.marktwainlibrary.org/centennial/


Next Tuesday March 30th on Cablevision’s Channel 88 at 9:30pm. The show is called “Christina”. Brent Colley, Susan B. Durkee and Heather Morgan discuss their efforts to promote Mark Twain’s time in Connecticut during the Twain Centennial year of 2010.

It will also play on channel 88 in April at 8:30pm April 6th, April 13, and and April 20th.

In an effort to raise awareness of Mark Twain’s time in Redding, Connecticut I have put together a slideshow presentation that highlights his final home, Stormfield, and the library he founded for the people of Redding.


The Credits:

A special Thank You to all those that made this PowerPoint Presentation possible.

Thank you to Barbara Schmidt and her amazing Twain resource site.

Thank you to David Thompson and his collection of Twain photos and montages.
http://www.twainquotes.com/DaveThomson.html & http://steamboats.com/museum/davet.html

Thank you to Kevin Mac Donnell for his knowledge, insights, rare photos and books. http://www.MacDonnellRareBooks.com

Thank you to Susan Boone Durkee for her knowledge, photos, artwork and parties. Two of Susan’s portraits appear in the slideshow- Jean and Sam in his Oxford Gown. http://www.SusanDurkee.com

Thank you to The Mark Twain House, for their truly amazing museum, and priceless photos. Thank you to Patti Phillippon for access and usage. http://www.MarkTwainHouse.org

Thank you to Heather Morgan and her staff at the Mark Twain Library for access and usage. The MTL is a treasure trove of new information on Twain’s Final years. http://www.MarkTwainLibrary.org

Thank you to The Mark Twain Forum and all its members for sharing their knowledge and bringing Twainiacs together.

Thank you to The Mark Twain Journal, for promoting Stormfield and Redding in Volume 44. http://www.MarkTwainJournal.com

Thank you to The Mark Twain Project, for access to Sam’s letters. Your work has allowed for the research that fuels us all to keep searching and sharing. http://www.MarkTwainProject.org

Just a posting to note that I have added information on the Burglary at Stormfield to the Stormfield Project blog.

This Friday is the 101st Anniversary of the burglary:

September 18th 1908 burglary at Stormfield

Redding Remembered Article by:
Cathy Laning, Katie Tkach

In August of 1912, Charles Ives and his wife *Harmony came to West Redding and bought land on Umpawaug Hill, across the road from the site of General Putnam’s headquarters in the Revolutionary War (corner of Umpawaug and Topstone Rd). They had the house and barn built, and moved in a year later. This was their country home for the rest of their lives. They would come out from New York City in the early spring, and stay until late in the fall. Ives commuted each morning by train to his insurance office in the city, and he did much of his music writing on this train.

For many years they had a horse named “Rocket” who was very much a member of the family. Ives would ride “Rocket” down the hill to Sanford General Store near the train station. They also had a Model T Ford. Umpawaug Road in those days was just a dirt country road, filled with “thank you ma’am’s, as Ives’s nephew Bigelow describes it. It wasn’t paved until 1928, and when it was, Ives got quite upset. He was also outraged when the first airplanes began flying over, and whenever he heard one he would come out and shake his fist at it and shout “Get off my property!” He didn’t want anything to disrupt the peaceful country world of Umpawaug Hill which he loved so much.

In our quest to capture the essence of Charles Ives- revered classical composer, interpreter of the American scene, and the man- we talked with John Kirkpatrick, Paul Winter and Luemily Ryder. The synthesis of their recollections provides a composite sketch of this muscian.

John Kirkpatrick is the curator of the Ives Collection at Yale. He is a well known Ives authority and has come to know Ives’s music well.

In 1937 Kirkpatrick met Charles Ives. He had been corresponding with him for ten years, but had never met him.

“I can see him right there. I knew him during the last 17 years of his life, and I saw him a few times each year. In a way he was the most paradoxical man I’ve ever known. As a musician he was both traditional and experimental. You could describe his music best by saying there’s no simple way to describe it. That’s part of the paradoxical nature he had.

“When Ives first began to compose, his music was comparatively simple. Many of his early pieces were influenced greatly by the church, since he played the organ in church during his grammar school years. At fourteen he was a salaried organist, the youngest professional organist in the state.

“His father was a musical “jack-of-all-trades”. He was even more versatile than his son.

“Ives received his earliest muscial training from his father and later from Horatio Parker at Yale. He attended Yale from 1894-1898. From this time through his twenties he used both styles, experimental and traditional, but he hardly ever showed his experiments to Parker. At that period the simpler traditional style was more acceptable than the complicated, experimental style. Ives’s music was different from itself all the time. It could be very simple, or it could be very, very complex. There were pieces that could be read and played with no effort, they were the simple. And there were pieces that were so complicated they are challenging, even today.

“You know how you can look at a page of music and feel instinctively if there is somthing real there or not? Well, there’s something real to Ives’s music. There’s always a core of something very direct. and no matter how complicated it is, it hangs together and communicates.”

When Charles Ives reached the peak of his experimental period, he did not receive the recognition he deserved. The public did not like being put to the inconvenience of having to try hard to understand and play his music. “He knew exactly how good a composer he was, and he knew exactly how far ahead of his own time he was. It didn’t bother him. Someone once asked him why he didn’t write music that people would like, and he said ‘I can’t hear something else.’ He anticipated all the tricks of modern music in the first part of the 20th century. Even though he was so far ahead of his time he still deeply admired some of the classical composers- Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. He also admired the popular composers of the Civil War Period. Although he enjoyed their styles, he had ideas and opinions of his own.

“It would be impossible to describe his music because it was so paradoxical. You could never put your finger on it. You could rarely get a definite answer to a question our of him. He usually used your question as a springboard to other thoughts. He was a genius. He was used to improvising and filling in; he was much more of a musician than anybody realized.

“Charles Ives knew that the kind of music he wanted to compose would have no relation to his own times. Ives knew he would never be able to support a family on it, so he deliberately financed his composing through his insurance business. Many people regard him as an insurance man doing music on the side. However, he was a composer first and foremost, financing his non-conformist composing through insurance, and showing the same genius in both. There was a constant pressure living two lives a once. Most people who come home from business want to relax. If a composer finishes a symphony he naturally wants to relax and perhaps celebrate. When Ives finished a symphony, most likely late at night, he probably had time for only a little sleep, before going downtown the next day for business. When he got home from a day’s business he would roll up his shirt sleeves and start right into composing where he had left off the previous night.

“Charles Ives literally lived a double life. He was an insurance man by day and a composer by night, on weekends, and during vacations. Many of his business associates had no idea that he was even interested in music. His musical friends never saw any trace of his business life. He kept to himself a great deal, partly because he treasured the time he wasn’t actually engaged in business, so he could compose. But he was both gregarious and shy; like his music, Ives himself was a paradox.”

At Home with the Iveses
Luemily Ryder became a close friend of Charles Ives during his years in Redding. She and her husband, Bill, lived next door to Ives on Umpawaug Hill.

“Well he was, shall I say, gentle, first; he was also a rebel and he could be quite explosive. I think he was a religious person and I think he was very understanding and considerate of the downtrodden and the outcast. He was a great person.

“The Iveses were people who often showed their kindness and generosity. They were always doing something for other people. One family’s house was burned down and they offered their cottage. Here the family stayed until a new house could be built.

“The Iveses often lent their cottage out to poor people from the city. It was similar to the Fresh-Air Organization (Branchville, CT) that brings city children into the country for a vacation. One summer the Iveses lent their cottage to the Osborne family. the youngest Osborne child, Edith, was very ill. Mrs. Ives graciously offered to take care of her. Edith gradually improved in health under Mrs. Ives’s care. The Ives grew immensely fond of her and near the end of Edith’s stay they approached the Osbornes about adopting Edith. After much thought the Osbornes consented.

“Children loved Charles Ives. He would come out with his cane and shake it in their facesm or he’d grab a child around the neck with it and pull him toward him. The children would either be so scared or so tickled that they’d giggle all over.

“Mrs. Ives was just as loving as her husband. When she came down to visit you could hear he whistling all the way down the driveway.

“We visited them in NYC many times and after dinner at their house we would go into the living room. Mr. Ives would stretch out on the couch. The room was dimly lit to rest his eyes so Mrs. Ives would sit directly under the light to read the classics. He liked that so much, just to listen to her read. That’s one of the nicest things I remember about them.”

Mrs. Ryder, herself a pianist and organist, went on to say, “His music is beautiful. I really love it, even though it would clash. I know he had all these sounds in his head that he kept hearing and he would just bring them all together in a composition. At first people did not accept it. There were only a few that would play it. Most said it couldn’t be played because it was so difficult. That would make him mad because he was so sure it could be played.

*Harmony Twichell, was the daughter of Rev. Joseph Twichell, a close friend of Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) for over 40 years.

If you are headed to the Mark Twain Library’s Annual Book Fair this Labor Day Weekend, be sure to save some time to tour Redding as it relates to Mark Twain’s time here.

1. The Mark Twain Library. The library officially opened at its present location on February 18, 1911 and has been renovated several times over the years. Upstairs is a part of the original building. Location- Corner of Diamond Hill Road and Route 53. You will find many items and a good amount of information on Mark Twain in and around the library…be sure to call ahead if you wish to see the archives or books from his private collection.

2. Theodore Adams’ House. Mr. Adams donated the land where the Mark Twain Library sits today at the corner of Diamond Hill Rd. and Route 53. Of course, he needed a little coaxing from the founder himself. The Adams’ house is on Great Pasture Road.

3. Dan Beard’s House. Dan Beard was Twain’s illustrator and devoted friend. Among the many books and stories he illustrated for Twain included: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Following the Equator, American Claimant, Tom Sawyer Abroad. He designed the wreath for Twain’s funeral and published a eulogy to him in the American Review of Reviews. Located on Great Pasture Road.

4. A.H. Lounsbury House. Lounsbury was Twain’s caretaker and livery man at Stormfield. Lounsbury along with Sheriff Banks, helped capture the two burglars who robbed Stormfield on September 18, 1908. Twain always gave credit for the success of their capture to Lounsbury. The burglars and Banks were “fixed up” by the local doctor on the front lawn. Location- Diamond Hill Road, next to the waterfall.

5. Markland. Twain gave his biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine a seven acre parcel of land upon which to build a studio, yet insisted that Paine adapt the studio to accommodate a billiards table; “then when I want exercise. I can walk down and play billiards with you, and when you want exercise you can walk up and play billiards with me.” Location- Second driveway on left of Mark Twain Lane. Markland is a private residence and rarely available for viewing.

6. The Lobster Pot. A circa 1720 saltbox located on Mark Twain Lane, a part of Twain’s Stormfield property. He called the house the “Lobster Pot” as it reminded him of lobster pots he had seen in Maine…the name may also tie-in to Twain’s Aquarium as Isabel Lyon lived in this house and it’s possible Twain or one of his Angelfish may have playfully referred to Isabel’s house as the Lobster Pot. Original house was lost to fire in 1953, but the gardens and patios remain. Location- 23 Mark Twain Lane. Artist Susan Durkee owns the Lobster Pot and with advanced notice is available for a tour of the grounds.

7. Stormfield. Mark Twain’s last home. Twain, encouraged by his biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, bought the property in 1906, sight unseen. A year later, he hired John Mead Howells to design an 18 room, two story Italianate Villa. Lyon, Paine and Mark Twain’s daughter, Clara Clemens, selected the location for the house; Lyon, his secretary, supervise its construction. Stormfield is a private residence and rarely available for viewing. Location- end of Mark Twain Lane. There are hiking trails the surround the property that you can access.

8. Stormfield Barns and Two Family House. The only original buildings remaining at Stormfield- a two-family house, large stable, chicken coop and outbuildings. Private residence. There are hiking trails the surround the property that you can access.

9. W.E. Grumman’s House. Grumman was Twain’s stenographer, he was also the first librarian of the Mark Twain Library. Location- across from Mark Twain Lane on Diamond Hill Road. Current owner is very active at the Mark Twain Library.

10. Albert Bigelow Paine’s house. It was through Paine that Twain discovered Redding. During the last four years of Twain’s life, Paine became a virtual member of the family. Paine’s house was an an antique saltbox, which burned down in *1972, one original wing remains on Diamond Hill Rd…the Billiard Addition.

(*A Redding landmark, the house in which Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain’s biographer, had lived, burned in an early morning fire in February. No one was hurt in the fire. The two-century old home had been the subject of a book, Dwellers in Arcady, by Paine.)

BMC 2009: The Billiard Room never made it to Markland, however, it did make it to Bigelow Paine’s House. The Billiard Addition is the only part of Albert Bigelow Paine’s house still standing in 2009. It is showing some roof damage and will likely be lost in the near future.

11. Fox Run Road. The entrance to the Stormfield Hiking Trails. The trail system is at the corner of the sharp curve in the road. In the fall some of the Stormfield estate is visable. Raccoon Lane is a former cross road that Twain notes traveling on in his letters to his Angelfish.

12. Umpawaug Chapel. On October, 28, 1908, Twain dedicated a nearby chapel as the temporary location for the Mark Twain Library. He donated thousands of books from his personal collection. The library was actively used, and a librarian was on hand Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Location- Corner of Diamond Hill Road and Umpawaug Road. Private Residence, chapel entry is now enclosed and integrated into the house. The chapel entrance faced the Umpawaug Cemetery.

13. West Redding Train Station. On June 18, 1908, just before 6pm, the Berkshire Express out of NYC made a special stop for Mark Twain’s first visit to Redding, Connecticut. The railroad continued to make this special stop from that day on in order to accommodate Twain and his many visitors to Stormfield. The original train station was in front of the Baptist Church building.

West Redding Station is where the *gun battle took place as Sherrif Banks and the burglar Henry Williams wrestled inside atrain heading south out of Danbury on the morning of September 18, 1908.

(*The burglar, finding himself no match for the strength of the Deputy Sheriff, drew his revolver and began firing at him. Train Conductor, John Dyas, entered the smoking car as the struggle was in progress and pulled the signal cord which stopped the train at a point just south of the little stream that runs beside the tracks. The passengers then came to Banks’ aid, one of them clubbing the burglar over the head which stunned him and allowed Banks to get the better of him. Four shots in all were fired.)

West Redding Station is also where Twain’s body departed from April 23, 1910:

Bouton & Son Funeral Home
West Church Street, Georgetown, Connecticut
April 23, 1910

Mahogany Casket $450.00
Mahogany Box $100.00
Professional Services $50.00
Embalming $50.00
Hearse at Redding $8.00 [likely Zalmon Read Livery. BMC]
Hearse at New York Grand Central Depot to 37th Street $6.00
Hearse from 37th Street to Delaware, Lackawanna & Western $7.00
Transferring Box to Hoboken $3.50
Four Porters at $3.50 each $14.00
Coach from 37th Street to 22nd Street $4.00
Conveyor for Flowers $3.50
Corpse Ticket Redding to New York City $1.20
Corpse Ticket New York City to Elmira, NY $6.10

Total: $703.30

14. Jean’s Farm. Twain purchased this farm, which abutted his own property, for his daughter Jean Clemens. Jean joyfully filled the farm with a collection of poultry and domestic animals during her time in Redding. Tragically, she died on Christmas eve, 1909 and Twain promptly had the property sold to build a wing in her honor at the new Library. Location- Route 107 across from Lee Lane. Private Residence.

15. Banks Homestead & Glen Hill Lane. Location- Route 107 across from Glen Hill Lane. Members of the Banks family have deep connections to Twain’s time in Redding. Coley Taylor notes in his article “Our Neighbor Mark Twain” that:

“His (Mark Twain) land had been the sheep pasture of my great-great-grandfather Banks and was approached by an ancient stone bridge over the brook and below a steep road that no horse cared to climb. The entrance road to his mansion was on the other side, accessible from Redding Center, West Redding, and Umpawaug.

The Ancient Stone Bridge Coley Taylor references is no longer standing but you can see where it once was in the present day, approx. 100 yards east of the entrance to Glen Hill Lane on the right-hand-side of Rt. 107 before it heads down to meet Rt. 53.

Be sure to note that the annual Redding Antique Car Show is September 12th from 10AM to 4PM. Get there early this year…the Fairfield County Concours are making a stop between 10AM and 11AM.


The years the famous writer spent in their town were magical to a young boy and his sister. The memories of Coley Taylor

A year after our arrival in Redding, Connecticut, Mark Twain came there to live. Everybody in town had watched the building of his great house on a wide, more or less level plain, which, on our side of it, rose above a cliff that ran along Knob Crook Brook and its lovely glen. His land had been the sheep pasture of my great-great-grandfather Banks and was approached by an ancient stone bridge over the brook and below a steep road that no horse cared to climb. The entrance road to his mansion was on the other side, accessible from Redding Center, West Redding, and Umpawaug.


For months everyone knew that the great man was coming. Several friends of his had come before him, Albert Bigelow Paine, his biographer, Mrs. Kate V. St. Maur, a writer and former actress, and the artist and outdoorsman Dan Beard. My father, an architect and builder, had remodeled (modernized) the houses of Mr. Paine and Mrs. St. Maur and was then remodeling the big house that Dan beard had bought. I remember going to Mr. Beard’s with him one day. Mr. Beard invited me to join the Boy Scout troop he was then forming in Redding.

Twain’s great house, in the process of being built, had been a mighty curiosity. Families drove in from miles around on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon to look at it in its scaffolding and to check on its progress. It was the chief topic of conversation. In the first place, it was designed by a famous New York architect in the style of an Italian Villa, which, to us, meant palace. There were no other palaces round about.

Everyone wondered why the famous old man wanted to build a great mansion in such a lonely, isolated place; the land wasn’t good for anything but grazing, and it had hundreds of red cedar trees trees to prove it was useless. Then there were rumors that a daughter, Jean, was a victim of epilepsy and had to live in the country in a quiet place.

Mark Twain came to Redding on June 18, 1908. The New Haven Railroad stopped its afternoon express for the first time to let him off, and moreover, the express would continue to stop every day to accommodate him and his friends- proof of his importance.

A few people in town had bought some of Mark Twain’s books, and these were carefully read, loaned, or borrowed and discussed. Children were not supposed to read them, but I discovered Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and took each to the barn to read unobserved: the best haymow reading I had come across.

The doings at the Mark Twain house were excitedly talked about, especially by telephone. The telephone in those days was rather exasperating- a large oak box on the wall. You took down the receiver and turned the crank to call a number on the line. Everybody on the party line who wasn’t rushed to death (nearly everybody) listened in as a matter of course. All his servants except the cook were local people, great sources of news, news that became more fabulous with each relay.

The great man did not get up early. He sometimes had breakfast- in bed! at ten o’clock or even later. He smoked the cheapest cigars, long Cuban stogies that smelled to heaven. He always had wine with dinner and ate all sorts of strange foods- calf brains and lamb kidneys, for instance. Supper, especially when he had guests from New York, which was most of the time, was at eleven o’clock at night. He played billiards with Mr. Paine every day and with some of his New York friends. Billiards (pool, to the village loafers) was rather frowned upon by the solid citizens of Redding. But one of the biggest rooms in the house was the billiards room!

We soon saw Mark Twain about in his famous white suit, the great man who was a friend of all the famous people in the world, even emperors, kings, and presidents. The remarks he made to some neighbor or an other went through the town like wildfire. He was against all wars. He said that the female sex was the only valuable one, that all men were liars. A remark that shocked everybody was: “Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.” And another was: “If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but it would deteriorate the cat.” A piece of advice that shocked many and ticked others was: “Never refuse to do a kindness unless it would damage you, and never refuse to take a drink under any circumstances.” (The town was legally dry under local option and strongly under the influence of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was not bone-dry; there was a barrel of hard cider in nearly every cellar.)

I cannot remember when I first met Mark Twain. It might have been when some other children and I were investigating the treasures of his dump. There were all kinds of empty liquor bottles in several colors, shapes and sizes. The Italian Chianti bottles in their varicolored raffia baskets were special prizes. I remember his catching us one day, and when we started to run, he called out to us to wait. We feared the worst, but he gave us permission to take anything there we wanted. We asked if he had any more pretty bottles in hanging baskets, and he said he thought not but that he would attend to it.

I may have met him first with his daughter, Miss Jean, on the old stone bridge at the edge of the glen. They were often there, either alone of together. If Miss Jean was alone, she would explain the mysteries of nature to us: the size of the earth, the distance of the sun and moon from us, and how ancient the different colored layers of stone in the ledges of the glen were. When she came to the bridge, her Russian wolfhound came with her. He was a marvel to us. He couldn’t understand English! Miss Jean had to talk to him in German.

Mark Twain gave an occasional luncheon party to which he invited some of his neighbors. I suppose because Father was a friend of Mr. Paine, Mrs. St. Maur, and Dan Beard, our family was included, and we children were especially invited. On the first such occasion he took us on a tour of his house, which he had named Stormfield after his latest fictional character (from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven) and because he could see the storms coming from every direction. First he took us to the great cellar, where there was a big coal-burning furnace with great, flat tubes to carry the hot air to all parts of the house. It was a novelty; at home we had wood stoves. We toured the main floor, first the big entrance lobby that finished up as the dining room, opening out onto a terrace, and then the big library- living room with a huge fireplace and a mantel that was too tall for the room. It was centuries old and had been given to Mark Twain by a Scottish duke or earl. Next was the billiard room, with another fireplace of blonde wood with the word Aloha carved in great letters in the wood of the mantel. In all the rooms there were other new marvels to be seen, such as the wall lights in silver brackets- he explained they were gaslights. The gas tanks were in the attic.

Then came the second floor with its bedrooms. His was the largest. He had an immense bed with a long table alongside it on which was a tray of pens, pencils, and erasers and a box of long, thin cigars that he called cheroots- a wonderful word. Miss Clara’s room was also large and very luxurious, and it had a bay window with small diamond shaped panes of glass. It didn’t have any foundation and was called a penthouse. Why it didn’t fall off bothered me. Miss Jean’s room was severely plain, like her father’s. And (a great marvel) each bedroom had its own bathroom with a great tub, tile floors, and other unfamiliar furnishings that he explained. We had a bathroom in the city but not in Redding as yet. Baths were taken in the warm kitchen in a big, round laundry tub; for other purposes one went to the little house at the end of the grape arbor, where one could enjoy looking through the Sears and Roebuck catalog at leisure.

He said he couldn’t take us into the kitchen because the cook was a wonderful cook, but she couldn’t tolerate visitors. He didn’t dare to go there himself.

On other occasions he would take us to the billiard room, where he had a favorite chair. Beside it was a clothes basket in which a mother cat lived with several kittens. I remember one afternoon when he devoted a great deal of time to us: my two sisters and me, Mr. Paine’s two youngest daughters Frances and Joy, Barabara Beard, and Marjorie Lounsbury, a neighbor. He related some of the Arabian Nights tales by picking up a kitten and telling its story: Ali Baba, Aladdin, and Sinbad. He gave me one of the prettiest kittens, a Persian calico cat with black, yellow, and white fur. Her nose was half- velvety black, half-golden, precisely divided. She was my pet many years.

Miss I.V. Lyon, Mark Twain’s secretary, stopped in several times to urge him to return to his other guests; he said he’d come pretty soon; anyway, they had come to hear Clara sing. We heard music in the distance, a piano and two voices, Miss Clara’s and that of David Bispham, then a star of the Metropolitan Opera. (The pianist was Ossip Gabrilowitsch, famous as soloist and as orchestra director, later director of the Detroit Symphony, and the future husband of Miss Clara.) Finally Clara Clemens came out and scolded her father for neglecting his other guests. He then turned us over to the butler in the dining room and left us.

He gave several parties for the benefit of the library he was founding. Perhaps the biggest party I remember was given to publicize Helen Keller’s The World I Live In. He showed the book to everyone and urged his guests to buy it. On that occasion there were people from Danbury, Ridgefield, and elsewhere, and some newspaper reporters.

He presented us to Miss Keller. It seemed unbelievable that a beautiful young woman could be blind, deaf, almost dumb- and charming. She touched our mouths gently to “hear” what we said, as her nurse-companion, Mrs. Annie Sullivan Macy, explained.

Mark Twain donated a large number of books from his own collection to the library. They were housed in the seldom used old chapel facing the ancient but still used Umpawaug Cemetery. A librarian was on hand Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Twain secured donations from many friends, including Andrew Carnegie, and publishers. At a meeting to promote the library on October 7, 1908, he read a statement that he had composed for the occasion.

There was a woman’s group that met fairly often to sew clean strips of rags of all colors and fabrics for making braided rugs to sell at an annual fair for the library building fund. We children went to the meetings too; there were no baby-sitters then; we could roll the long strips into balls. It was my job to turn the ice-cream freezer for the cake-and-ice cream binge later.

The annual fair was held in August to attract the summer people, who would leave for their homes by Labor Day. There were not many in Redding but the lake resorts near Danbury and a noted summer colony in nearby Ridgefield provided the necessary crowds, together with local residents. All kinds of things were sold at the fair: cakes, pies, jellies, pickles, canned fruits in glass jars, salads, the rag rugs, and second hand furniture, which was grabbed up as antiques. A long picnic table under a tent was loaded with food, provided luncheon for the guests- at a price, of course.

I do not remember meeting Jean Clemens at any of her father’s parties. She was the sick daughter, and I believe she avoided all exciting situations. After her mother’s death in 1904, the family had returned from Italy and lived in the charming old brick Gothic mansion at 21 Fifth Avenue. But New York life was hazardous for Jean Clemens; she had to live much of the time in a nursing home until her father built Stormfield.

We children were devoted to her. My sisters and I had a big goat, Billy; we drove up and down the road by the hour, one of us in the wagon and the others impatiently waiting their turn. Father commanded us to turn out to the side of the road when a team of horses or a horse and buggy (or, most unlikely, an automobile) came along. The first time we saw Jean Clemens coming, on horseback, we hurried into the ditch, and exciting matter since Billy had no love of ditches. His was a strict middle-of-the-road temperament. The strange lady drew up and introduced herself and asked our names and where we lived. Then she told us that we must never turn out for her. “The carriage always has the right of way, and you have the carriage, so I must take to the side of the road.” She said.

We talked for some time. When she rode away we were firm friends. Whenever she saw us, she stopped to talk. Somewhat later she told us that she had bought the farm across the road from us, gave us permission to roam all over it, and asked us to visit her. In the autumn she asked us to drive off any hunters we caught there. We exchanged information, in season, about the best berry patches or where to find the best hazelnuts, butternuts, and hickory nuts.

The most significant meeting that I had with Mark Twain was on the old stone bridge one afternoon. He was alone; it is likely, however, that Miss Jean was nearby in the glen. I was glad that he was alone. I had wanted to tell him how much I had enjoyed Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He listened to me and then, to my surprise, he bent over and shook his finger at me and scolded: “You shouldn’t read those books about bad boys! Why, the librarian won’t allow them in the children’s rooms in the libraries! Now don’t you go and imitate those rascals Tom and Huck.” He continued to shake his finger in my face. “Now listen to what an old man tells you. My best book is my Recollections of Joan of Arc. You are too young to understand and enjoy it now, but read it when you are older. Remember then what I tell you now. Joan of Arc is my very best book.” I had never seen him so cross. I can see him yet, shaking that long forefinger at me.

I went to the Umpawaug Chapel as soon as I could and borrowed Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. At first I thought that Mr. Grumman, the librarian, had made a mistake. The title page stated that the book was by the Sieur Louis de Conte, Joan of Arc’s page and secretary, and that it was a translation from the French. But it was not a mistake. Mr. Grumman explained that the Sieur Louis de Conte was another pen name for Mark Twain. But the secret was soon out. A few literary notables, including William Dean Howells, the Harper’s staff, and Andrew Lang in England, were “in the know”, and besides, the character of Paladin was a French incarnation of Tom Sawyer.

The book had puzzled critics and readers alike. What had happened to Mark Twain? Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc was not a satiric spoof of the Middle Ages. His medieval France was sufficiently accurate as history, and he had canonized the Maid of Orleans a quarter of a century before her liturgical canonization. He had “come to comprehend and recognize her for what she was- the most noble life that was ever born into this world to save only one,” to quote the fictional Sieur Louis de Conte, Mark Twain’s mask.

I enjoyed Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc as a boy. It was high romance, far more dramatic and interesting than The Last of the Mohicans, The Deer Slayer, or Huckleberry Finn, which I also enjoyed. I have read it several times since and greatly enjoy it still. It was the only one of his books dedicated to his adored wife- in honor of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

On June 26, 1907, Oxford University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature. Henry James had to wait several years for a like distinction. Mark Twain was immensely proud of the honor and frequently wore his gown and cap (at Clara’s wedding, for instance) and often enough when only sitting on his terrace or in the loggia, smoking and thinking up savage things to say about the human race- to be published fifty years after his death.

One day in 1909 my little sister Adelaide, who claimed full ownership of our goat, disappeared with the beast for several hours. Mother was frantic, imagining an accident. When Adelaide reappeared, she was greatly excited. “Mama, I went to see Mr. Mark Twain to give him a ride with Billy and he had on a black nightgown over his clothes and was wearing a square black hat with a gold tassel.”

“You must have interrupted him when he was doing something important,” my mother chided.

“No, Mama, he was just sitting there on his porch, smoking. He was very glad to see me and he had a long ride on Billy’s wagon, almost down to Miss Lyon’s house and back. He said he enjoyed it very much and had his butler bring out some carrots for Billy and a chocolate candy for me.”

“I would have loved to have seen that, he must have been miserable, cramped up in that goat wagon.” said my mother.

“No, he wasn’t, he laughed and laughed and said he wished he had a picture of it.” Adelaide replied.

He told my father that the goat ride with Adelaide’s Billy had pleased him more than anything since is Oxford degree, surely a gross exaggeration.

Early in the morning of December 24, 1909, Jean Clemens died in her bathtub after her usual morning ride to West Redding for the mail. The family doctor attributed her sudden death to heart failure. It was a great blow to all of us who loved her. We heard the news that evening en route to Georgetown in Ben Banks’ carryall to perform in a Nativity cantata in the Congregational Church. We cried all the way but had to sing, nevertheless. I had the role of the herald angel and had to sing a long aria that went up and down the soprano scale. I loved to sing, but not that night.

Mark Twain did not recover from that blow. After writing The Death of Jean, a beautiful tribute and threnody, he went to Bermuda for several weeks. Suffering from a heart condition, he soon returned to Redding, but we never saw him again. He died the 21st day of April 1910 in his home, Stormfield. He left all his books to the library he had promoted except those that Clara might want to keep. She chose only a few, those she and her sister had studied or enjoyed, and a collection of her father’s first editions. All the rest are in the Mark Twain Library, dedicated to the memory of Jean.

We in Redding were somewhat prepared for Mark Twain’s death. He had predicted that he would “go out with Halley’s Comet” since he had been born with it. The great comet appeared shortly after his death, remaining for many months. We children used to watch the beautiful new thing in the heavens with its long tail filling the evening sky. For us it was Mark Twain’s star.

This article was published in 1985, the author of this article was Coley Taylor, publisher was American Heritage.

Visit the Stormfield Blog for more on Mark Twain’s time in Redding, Connecticut.

Visit Mark Twain’s Lobster Pot to view information and photos of the property known as the Lobster Pot. The Lobster Pot, in Redding, Connecticut, is the original property that Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, purchased in 1906.

View Stormfield Photos at my website History of Redding.com