I recently received some great photos from Susan Durkee. They are photos from a March 1915 trip to Stormfield.
The first photo was a mystery for sometime that Susan and I worked on together. Via the Stormfield Guestbook I believe I found out where it was and who lived there...Angelfish Majorie Breckinridge lived "over on the hilltop, the cabin in the Glen." according to Sam's note next to her name in July 1909.
Clemens 1910 Redding, CT Estate Tax Assessment:
Grand List: $36,480:
Dwellings and Buildings: (2) Value $26,500; Acres: 270, Value $6,750; Horses (3) $200; Cattle (1) $30; Coaches,Carriages, Wagons, Autos and Bikes $100; Musical Instruments $100; House Furnishings/Library $300; All stocks liable to taxation: $2,500.
Thursday, December 18
I recently received some great photos from Susan Durkee. They are photos from a March 1915 trip to Stormfield.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 8:18 AM
Friday, December 5
A month of silence has not been due to lacking interest, I promise!! It has been due to a poorly planned kitchen renovation...I mean, who plans a kitchen renovation in the middle of an economic downturn? Answer- me.
The good news is I'm not broke...yet. Okay, okay enough about me, I know you all tune in for Stormfield news. The Stormfield project is having a very positive impact in 2008. Kevin MacDonnell came to town last month and really was a huge boost to the 100th anniversary celebrations. I met with Kevin,his wife and Heather Morgan the day of his slideshow and had an amazing day exploring the grounds of Stormfield. Stormfield has changed quite a bit but there is something about being on those grounds that really make you appreciate nature and its ability to re-establish itself so quickly. Reviewing Kevin's historic photos and visiting Stormfield in the present day is a real eye-opener. It looks nothing like the Stormfield Sam knew, not even close.
This view is walking East on Mark Twain Lane. The house ahead is Isabel Lyon's Lobster Pot... you can't even see the rebuilt house on the grounds of the Lobster Pot today. Too many trees!
As we head into the new year I'm gearing up toward a grant writing frenzy...grants are going to be scarce in 2009 but I am confident this is a worthy
effort. If you'd like to help, all I need is comments that state this is a project the World needs...send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 5:52 PM
Thursday, October 30
On Tuesday, November 11th, from 7PM to 9PM
Kevin MacDonnell will share his knowledge and photos of Stormfield at the Mark Twain Library. This is an event you don't want to miss!
The Mark Twain Library is located at 439 Redding Road *Route 53* in Redding, CT
The event is free and refreshments will be served.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 4:20 PM
Tuesday, September 30
October 11, 1908, Mark Twain gave a library to Redding. A century later - to the day - plans are underway to celebrate this momentous gift with a town-wide 100th Birthday celebration.
On Saturday, October 11, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, the Library will host a birthday party for preschool and elementary school aged children.
Children are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite story book character. "I know we'll see some Harry Potters and perhaps a Jack and Annie from the Magic Tree House series," offered Heather Morgan, Library Director. 'But I also hope to see Little Red Riding Hood, Dorothy Gale, maybe Peter Rabbit or one of the Little Women, too. There is a century of colorful children's book characters to choose from!" Activities for the young guests will include face painting, party games and, of course, birthday cupcakes. There will also be a Time Capsule activity, as well as an ongoing story time.
That afternoon beginning at 2:00 pm, there will be a second event, suited for teens and adults. First, the Library will receive three extraordinary birthday gifts. The Historical Society has been hard at work on a commemorative quilt which will hang permanently in the Library. Redding Garden Club member Katherine Streit has created a one-of-a-kind celebratory presentation highlighting Mark Twain's life and favorite characters, which will go on display that day. And the Commission on Aging is putting the finishing touches on a collection of oral histories about the Library which they intend to present to the Library as well.
After the presentations of these three gifts, historian Dan Cruson will give a lecture entitled "The Impact of Mark Twain in Connecticut" Mr. Cruson, teacher and President of the Archaeology Society of Connecticut, will give an illustrated presentation on the two periods of Twain's life showing the effect that Connecticut had on him as a writer, and the impact that he had on the communities in which he lived -- Hartford and Redding -- including his unique architectural contributions. A reception will follow the talk.
Admission to both is free; parking for the morning celebration will be at the John Read Middle School with a shuttle bus running to and from the library.
Reservations are encouraged for the afternoon event, as space is limited. To register, call the library at 938-2545 or sign up at the front desk.
For more information on the 100th birthday events at the library, visit the Mark Twain Library website (www.marktwainlibrary.org ) or call (938-2545). The celebration on October 11th is part of the Mark Twain Library's Centennial Celebration, commemorating 100 years of learning and literature in Redding. The Mark Twain Library is owned by the Mark Twain Library Association. It was founded in 1908 by Samuel Clemens - Mark Twain himself - one of Redding's most celebrated residents. For more information on Clemens' final home and his time in Redding please visit the History of Redding website (www.historyofredding.com).
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 10:24 AM
Friday, September 12
Thursday, September 18th is the 100th Anniversary of the Burglary at Stormfield.
Danbury Evening News, Friday, September 18th, 1908:
"Crooks carry off Humorist's Silverware. Caught while fleeing by train. One jumps from car while other uses revolver."
The Following Account of the Burglary comes from a July 19th, 1958 edition of the Redding Times. It is entitled "Sheriff Banks Apprehends a Burglar". This version differs slightly from the burglars own account so be sure to check out that link following this story.
A little past midnight on September 18th two burglars (Charles Hoffman & Henry Williams) entered Twain's Redding house via a window in the kitchen that had been left unfastened. In the process of locating and carrying out a table filled with silverware they awakened Twain's secretary Isabel Lyon. Miss Lyon hearing the commotion downstairs, ran to the stairs, and upon seeing the intermittent flashing of lights below she awakened Claude Beuchotte (Twain's butler) and a house guest (Will Wark).
A search of the house was made and it was found that an English serving table that stood in the dining room was missing. Following a trail of discarted plateware, a short distance from the terrace the serving table was found, the drawer broken and its silverware gone.
The Hunt Begins
Harry Lounsbury, who lived on Diamond Hill Road, was awakened and informed of the burglary. Mr. Lounsbury phoned Deputy Sheriff George Banks and the hunt for Twain's burglars began. By the aid of lanterns the grounds outside the windows of the dining room were examined and a number of footprints with peculiar patterns were found. One of the prints was made with a rubber heel, the other was that of a long pointed shoe. Next the footprints were followed down the roadway leading to Twain's villa, and along the country roads leading to the Simpaug crossing of the N.Y.N.H. and Hartford Railroad. At that point the tracks left the highway and went in the direction of Bethel.
The Search Party Splits Up
Deputy Sheriff Banks left the search party and returned to Redding for the purpose of preventing the burglar's possible escape by train via West Redding station.
Mr. Lounsbury and Claude Beuchotte followed the footprints toward Bethel, which led them to the Bethel train depot, they arrived about 5:50AM. Feeling certain that the burglars would attempt to escape by train they boarded a southbound train from Danbury at approximately 6:01AM.
High Drama on the 6:01 out of Bethel
Searching the train they found two men in the smoking car whose appearance seemed suspicious. The men were seated separately, one behind the other. Mr. Lounsbury engaged one of them in conversation and noticed that his shoes had rubber heels.
At West Redding station Deputy Sheriff Banks boarded the train and was alerted of Lounsbury's suspicions. Banks accosted the man in question and asked to see the heels of his shoes. Muttering some thing unintelligible the man raced from his seat and jumped from the train, which by this time had left the station. Banks turned immediately to the second man and a fierce struggle ensued. The other passengers in the car, of whom there were seven or eight, looked on in amazement as they had no knowledge of what occurred the night before.
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.
The Satchel is Found
Following the struggle, Harry Lounsbury searched for and found a *satchel beneath the seat occupied by one of the burglars. The satchel was filled with the silverware stolen from Mr. Clemens' residence. [*According to a letter in John Cooley's Mark Twain's Aquarium dated September 30th, 1908- Clemens writes Dorothy Sturges that "Mr. Lounsbury has just this minute been in, with a 'find'. It is the stolen plated ware. The burglars hid it behind a rock almost in front of that farm house which he says you called beautiful...The finding was an accident & happened early this morning."]
The Second Burglar Captured
Several men who were standing on the platform at West Redding station and witnessed the first burglar jump from the train followed him to Brookside Park (behind present day West Redding Post Office building). There they prevented him from escaping and alerted Banks of his location (under a bridge) and he was arrested without resistance.
Somebody Call the Doctor!
When Deputy Sheriff Banks left the train it was found that he had been wounded in the leg by one of the bullets fired during the struggle. The bullet entered between his knee and his ankle making an ugly flesh wound. In addition, while handling the revolver taken from the burglar Banks accidently shot himself in the hand.
Banks and the prisoners arrived at Harry Lounsbury house at approximately 7:15AM and the prisoners were placed under armed guard in Lounsbury's front yard. The second burglar's head, face and clothing were smeared with blood and the Deputy Sheriff's wounds also bled freely. Local physician, Earnest H. Smith, was alerted of the situation and came down from Redding Center to attend to the wounds of both Deputy Sheriff Banks and the burglar.
The physician found that the wounds of neither man were serious.
At 9:00AM the prisoners were escorted to Town Hall in Redding Center where they were arraigned before Justice John Nickerson and Grand Juror Henry Duncan.
Just before the court opened Mr. Clemens arrived at the Town House in a little open wagonette. Dressed in a white flannel suit and white fedora hat, he was accompanied by his Daughter Clara and his secretary Isabel Lyon. The ladies were attired in bright gowns and their costumes with that of Mr. Clemens, gave a touch of brightness to the otherwise gloomy scene.
When the prisoners were called before the Justice they took seats so near Mr. Clemens that they almost touched him. Hoffman was the first to be arraigned. He spoke with a foreign accent and his English was broken. He looked to be an Austrian but he declined to state his nationality. When Lloyd Blackman, who was one of the State's witnesses, testified that early Thursday evening Hoffman called at his house which is on the road from Redding Station to Mr. Clemens' place asking the way to Redding, the prisoner broke in with a remark that the statement wasn't true!
Hoffman declined at first to plead to the charge of burglary made by Grand Juror Duncan, and John B. Sanford was assigned by the court to act as his counsel. Hoffman, acting on the advice of Mr. Sanford, entered a plea of not guilty.
The other prisoner, Williams, also spoke in broken English and looked the part of a hardened criminal.
Deputy Sheriff Banks, Harry Lounsbury, Claude Beuchotte, and Miss Lyon testified to various facts in connection to the burglary. Justice Nickerson found probable cause in each case. Hoffman, who was accused of burglary only, was held on $1,000 bail and Williams, who was charged with burglary, assault, resisting arrest, and carrying concealed weapons, was held on $2,000 bond.
The prisoners were taken to the Bridgeport jail on the noon train.
Notice to the Next Burglars
There is nothing but plated ware in the house now and henceforth. You will find it in that brass thing in the dining room over in the corner by the basket of kittens. If you want the basket, put the kittens in the brass thing. Do not make any noise, it disturbs the family. You will find rubbers in the front hall by that thing that has the umbrellas in it. Chiffonier I think they call it, a pegola, or something like that. Please close the door. -Yours truly, S.L. Clemens.
This notice was tacked up on the front door of Mark Twain's beautiful country home in Redding the day after the burglary and an unscrupulous reporter, who thought it too delightful a bit of humor to remain unpublished, carried it off.
View the Burglar's Version via the link below:
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 10:36 AM
Monday, August 25
The Annual Mark Twain Book Fair is August 29 - September 1. Daily from 9am to 5pm. Redding Community Center, Lonetown Road (Route 107) Redding CT. Free parking, no admission fee, bargains abound, air-conditioned comfort, handicapped accessible, refreshments sold.
This is "officially" the 48th Annual Fair but the fund raising concept of the fair dates way back to the very beginnning. Coley Taylor described the early days of the fair in his recollections published by American Heritage in 1985 "Our Neighbor, Mark Twain":
"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."
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 7:15 AM
Friday, August 22
I can explain...one man, three business interests, two children under four. Between all three businesses ( 2 non-profit, 1 for-profit) and the kids it's been quite a summer but I'm still a Twainiac at heart.
New material is on the horizon I promise! The Mark Twain Library website is close to launch with a new, improved look and the Mark Twain Library's 100th Anniversary Celebrations continue. There are a number of exciting events at the Library this fall - an Open House Birthday Celebration at the Library on Saturday 10/11, Huck Finn Discussion groups on 10/2, 10/9. 10/16 and 10/23, the "Hurray For Huck!" Finale on 11/2, and a past & present Board of Trustees and staff reunion on 11/1.
As I've mentioned, if you do not have a copy of the most recent Mark Twain Journal get one. Kevin Mac Donnell has done an amazing job of both explaining and showcasing Stormfield through photos, maps, blueprints and text. A must have for those interested in Sam's time in Redding.
My efforts to shed further light on "Twain's Redding" are still a work in progress, funding is non-existant so I'm in the process of grant writing (yet again) while continuing to gather information, promote local efforts and flesh out new sources of data.
"The lack of money is the root of all evil."
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 7:00 PM
Wednesday, August 20
Bispham, David. A Quaker Singer's Recollections. New York: MacMillan, 1920.
Clemens, Clara. My Father Mark Twain. New York: Harper, 1931.
Cooley, John. Mark Twain's Aquarium, the Samuel Clemens Angelfish Correspondence, 1905-1910. Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1991.
Harnsberger, Caroline. Mark Twain's Clara or What Became of the Clemens Family. Evanston: The Press of Ward Schori, 1982.
Henderson, Archibald. Mark Twain. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1910.
Hill, Hamlin. Mark Twain, God's Fool. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
Howells, William Dean. My Mark Twain, Reminiscences and Criticisms. New York: Harper, 1910.
Lawton, Mary. A Lifetime with Mark Twain, the Memories of Katy Leary, for Thirty Years His Faithful and Devoted Servant. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925.
"The Lounger" Putnam Magazine, December 1909, 369-70
Lystra, Karen. Dangerous Intimacy, the Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2004.
"Mark Twain's House at Redding, Connecticut." The American Architect, February 10, 1909, p.51.
"Mark Twain's New Home at Redding." Harper's Weekly, July 4, 1908, p. 24, 29.
Paine, Albert Bigelow Paine. Mark Twain, a Biography. New York: Harper, 1912. 3 volumes.
"Stormfield, Mark Twain's New Country Home." Country Life in America, April 1909, p. 607-11 & 650-51.
Taylor, Coley B. Mark Twain's Margins on Thackeray's "Swift" New York: Gotham House, 1935.
Taylor, Coley B. "Our Neighbor Mark Twain" American Heritage, February-March, 1985. p. 102-107.
Williams, Henry. In the Clutch of Circumstance, My Own Story, by a Burglar. New York: Appleton. 1922.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 7:33 AM
Monday, June 30
The Mark Twain Library's 100th Anniversary is just around the corner and in celebration a new sculpture recently arrived on the grounds of the library. It's a very fitting sculpture because as John Cooley notes in his introduction to Mark Twain's Aquarium: "Clemens devoted his career to writing about children, including important childhood characters and themes in novels, several novelettes, and a host of stories, essays and sketches. For Clemens, childhood was the most important time -the central experience- of life."
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 7:07 PM
Thursday, June 26
This summer's Mark Twain Journal is now available and it showcases Stormfield! Kevin MacDonnell's amazing collection of Stormfield photos are the highlight of the journal, it also contains a great deal of information on the house and house events. Kevin explained in a recent Mark Twain Forum post:
"You will indeed get a good sense of the interior, and I describe the concert as well. There were 525 people there, but only 160 got inside the house. Ticket prices varied according to the room, from $1.50 down to 50 cents. I list about 40 sources on Stormfield (book, newspaper and magazine articles) including Bispham's 1920 memoir."
"I hope my article makes for fun and informative reading for thoseexcited by the 100th anniversay of Stormfield. It's a "virtual tour" created by using forty-one photos from my own archives (most of them previously unpublished), as well as the original floorplans and plate map of the house and grounds. I also include a guessing game at the end using twelve more photos (some previosuly unpublished) from the Mark Twain Papers at Berkeley.
I plotted the location and field of vision for each photo on the original architect's floorplans and plat maps so that the reader can trace them in sequence and gain a sense of the physical feel of Stormfield. I also describe the physical structure and construction of Stormfield in more detail than ever before, as part of my effort to create the physical presence of the place. My goal was not to retell the story of events that took place at Stormfield but instead to present the physical presence of this home now long lost, so that readers of Ham Hill and Karen Lystra can now visualize where all of those events at the end of Twain's life actually took place. I am extremely grateful to the ever-helpful folks at the Mark
Twain Papers, Hartford, Hannibal, and elsewhere who assisted me in my research, and special thanks to Tom Tenney who will happily sell anyone a copy of the MTJ to anyone who contacts him."
The journal is available by subscription. http://www.marktwainjournal.com/mtj_personal_order_form.html
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 6:36 PM
Monday, June 23
The Mark Twain Library's 100th anniversary party was quite a success. There was standing room only in the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building for the 100th annual meeting. After a short but eventful meeting, the 2008 Wit and Wisdom Award was a awarded for "Mark Twain as a Young Playwright" (which was amazing) and then the floor was turned over to me to present (gulp) 100 years of Redding history.
Just as a side story, as I'm sitting in the entry way (that was the only place left to sit) and awaiting my turn at the podium my mind began to wander a bit as I thought about how Mr. Clemens must have felt as he made his way to the new house. I thought of Louise Paine and her excitment, imagine being a young girl and experiencing such a grand occasion first hand. I also thought of Isabelle Lyon, his private secretary, and the anxiety she much have been feeling- hoping and praying (perhaps) that the decisions she had made would meet Sam's approval. Just then a thunder clap sounded outside and I thought "how fitting... a storm for Stormfield's 100th anniversary...now I just hope its not too big of a storm and we keep power!"
We kept power and I kept my composure weaving through a short history of Twain's time in Redding, the founding of the library and onto 100 years of Redding history. 100 years is extensive and a lot happened so I didn't get to cover everything but I highlighted the important areas and focused quite a bit on what makes Redding special...open space. Redding's rural character is a huge asset and we all need to continue to work to keep it. In the coming weeks I'll be adding photos and information to the HistoryofRedding.com that highlights Redding's history from 1908 to 2008, I'll also be adding more photos of Twain, his house and the library.
So stay tuned...oh, almost forgot...the 100th anniversary vodka has arrived. Jay Harmon of Nantucket's Cisco Brewers shipped it out last week, it's his cranberry vodka which I'm told is mighty tasty. I only ordered a case (6 bottles) so at the moment I'm trying to decide if they will go up for auction or be used to thank volunteers.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 12:36 PM
Friday, June 13
It's almost here, June 18th is the 100th anniversary of Twain's arrival in Redding. This is a date I've been looking forward to for quite sometime and it's now less than a week away. In celebration of the anniversary the library has invited me to present a slideshow on 100 years of Redding history. I'm thrilled to be a part of their historic 100th annual meeting and have been working on my presentation for weeks. The task of consolidating 100 years of town history and Twain's time on Redding into a 30-40 minute slideshow is daunting but I have complete confidence that a mixture of wit & wisdom, not to mention some pretty amazing photos will buy me an extra 15 minutes or so...at least that's the plan at the moment!
If you live in Fairfield County or close to it, come on down to Redding on Wednesday night. The Annual Meeting begins at 7pm and the slideshow will start around 7:30pm. I have never presented my photos of Redding and I'm not sure when I'll get the chance to show them again so if you love history and Mark Twain this is an event you'll want to attend. Hope to see you there!
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 6:17 PM
Monday, May 5
It's been far too long since my last post, I've been writing grants for the last month so the blog has been neglected...but not forgotten. Below is one of the gems in the MTL collection. If I ever get funding I'll share each and every notation in this very personal collection.
300 books remain from the several thousands Clemens originally donated to the Mark Twain Library. A good number of them contain notes Clemens wrote himself, some of them are critical, some offer praise, others are simply a glimpse of a man who seems to have realized he was a legend in his own time & that others would be reading his notes at some point in the future.
The note above reads: "To Jean Clemens with her Father's love. Sept. 1903"
This is from the Guestbook it reads: "The Guestbook of Dear Uncle Mark. From his most affectionate niece. -Mary Rogers"
Reply: "Mary, you are just a dear! This the opinion of your oldest and best uncle-Mark. December 26, 1908."
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 7:28 PM
Thursday, April 3
The years the famous writer spent in their town were magic 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.
I believe this to be the stone bridge Coley Taylor refers to.
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.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 7:46 AM
Saturday, March 29
Excerpts from: IN THE CLUTCH OF CIRCUMSTANCE, My Own Story by a Burglar; D. Appleton & Co., 1922 pp. 168-182
CHAPTER XIV: THE MARK TWAIN BURGLARY
The idea of settling down and having a home of my own had never appealed to me very strongly until now. A real new interest in life and its future, however, made a great difference. I felt that the time had come to go straight; but to make a home for the girl I wanted to marry called for money, and lots of it. One more big haul, I still thought, was needed to make things even so far as myself and society were concerned, and also to give me my start. Thrusting aside all other thoughts, I started to work out various plans for the next and last "job."
A day or two after our unsuccessful invasion of the oil magnate's house, I picked up a Sunday newspaper and read an account and saw some pictures of the fine villa which the late Mark Twain had built somewhere in the country. He was going to move "all his earthly possessions" up there and "make it his permanent residence." The great author and humorist called his place "Innocents at Home," which he later changed to "Stormfield." Nat rally, my interest and curiosity were aroused, not so much by the description of the beautiful home as by that of the portable "earthly possessions." They appealed to me very strongly.
It was September 16, 1908, when I called on my partner and put the Mark Twain house proposition up to him. Like myself, he was "broke." We were in the same boat. The Mark Twain house possibilities lured him as powerfully as they did me. The following afternoon we boarded a train out of New York for Redding, Connecticut, where "Stormfield" stood.
It was quite dark when we arrived at the Redding Station. There was not a sound to be heard or a person to be seen on the roads. Only the sharp bark of a dog broke the stillness of the night as we passed by a farmhouse. Since we had never been in that part of the country before, we were not quite sure of our way. So, in order to make certain, I went back to the farmhouse and inquired about the road to Redding. This was the first mistake which I made that night. The farmer, seeing that we were strangers, came out and directed us on our way, lantern in hand.
After he left us, we kept on walking along the dusty country road until we came to a sharp turn, when the bright lights of a large house situated on the top of a hill arrested our attention. We concluded that this must be the Mark Twain residence, and accordingly walked in its direction. Arriving at "Stormfield," we found the house lights still burning brightly. The family had not yet retired. In order to give the occupants time to go to sleep, we picked out a secluded place behind some bushes and indulged in a quiet smoke during a period of watching and waiting.
It was getting well on toward midnight when one by one the lights were extinguished and the house was enshrouded in complete darkness except for one dim light upstairs. Experience told us that this was nothing unusual. My partner went on a tour of inspection around the house. He returned presently with the word that the coast was clear and that one of the kitchen windows had been left partly open. I helped my partner to climb in through it; and he then went and opened the big French double doors leading out from the dining room on the great veranda. I entered by the front door, like a gentleman.
By the rays of our flashlights, we first made a careful inspection of the dining room. The heavy, old-fashioned, oak sideboard near the door leading into the hall commanded our attention. We knew that it contained the family silver, which it was our object to secure first, as usual. We tried to open the drawers of the sideboard, but found them locked. To break them open would make a noise, of course, and disturb the family if done inside the house. We did not wish to be guilty of such carelessness, so we took hold of the sideboard and carried it out of the house and some five hundred feet down the road. There we broke the locks of the drawers and emptied their contents into a black bag which we had brought for the purpose. Then we went back into the house to see what else we could find.
Before proceeding, it is necessary to mention a brass bowl which had stood as an ornament on top of the sideboard, and which played such an important and fatal part on that night. Since a brass bowl was of no value to us I took it and placed it noiselessly on the dining-room floor - without my partner's knowledge, however. This was my second mistake on that night. When we entered the dining room the second time, my partner, walking rather carelessly, stumbled and fell heavily over that brass bowl.
In the stillness of the night it seemed to me as if an earthquake had suddenly struck the house. Such a noise that rolling brass thing made! With every nerve tense, we silently watched and waited for the result.
Presently a woman, dressed in bathrobe and slippers, appeared at the head of the stairs. Then a soft clear voice called: "Hello!" It was Miss Lyons, Mark Twain's social secretary, as we afterwards learned, who, awakened by the noise, had courageously come to investigate. A moment we hesitated. Then we turned and silently and swiftly left the house.
Running down the road, we picked up our bag with the silver, and continued running till we arrived at the foot of the hill. There we slackened speed and started to walk back in the direction of Bethel, some seven miles from "Stormfield."
Naturally, the discovery of our presence created a sensation in the Mark Twain household. It is said that the butler, who had been aroused, fired several shots after us, "to hasten our departure," as Mr. Albert Bigelow Paine puts it in his biography of Mark Twain. For this, however, I cannot vouch, as we must have been considerably out of pistol shot by the time the gun went off. The shots, however, did awaken the aged author of "Huckleberry Finn" who, says Mr. Paine in his account, imagining that a champagne party was in progress below, rolled over and went to sleep again.
By the time we reached Bethel, the deputy sheriff had been notified and a posse of farmers, hastily organized, had started in pursuit of us. Had we continued our walk some two miles farther to Danbury, however, the probability is that we might never have been caught and that this story would never have been told. We decided to take a chance and to wait at Bethel for the early train to New York. This proved to be the third and the biggest mistake of that night.
We boarded the train at seven o'clock with out interference. After we were comfortably seated in the smoker, a man came up to us and inquired where we had got on the train. We told him Danbury. The interrogator happened to be a neighbor of Mark Twain, who suspected us as the culprits. He notified the sheriff in charge of the posse waiting for this train when it pulled into the Redding station. A dozen men, armed with pitchforks, shot guns, clubs, and other weapons, boarded the train just as it was pulling away from the plat form. After a survey of the other coaches, they entered the smoker by the rear door. My partner, seeing the armed men entering and that we were greatly outnumbered, jumped up from his seat and ran quickly to the front platform, where he succeeded in dropping off from the rapidly moving train. One of the posse fired several shots after him, but without hitting him.
My partner having successfully "flown the coop," the entire posse turned upon me. An automatic pistol was shoved in front of my face and I was commanded to surrender. In stead of obeying the command, I pulled out my own revolver and began to blaze away at the ceiling of the car to cause a panic if possible. I did not want to kill any one; and they did not want to shoot me. The sheriff, from behind me, seized me by the right wrist and tried to twist my gun out of my hand. The others now attacked me, and a free-for-all fight ensued. Showers of blows fell upon me from all sides. Then I was struck several times on the head with a blackjack and, partly conscious, sank to the floor still grappling with the sheriff. In the furious struggle for possession of the revolver, which I still gripped securely, it went off. I became unconscious.
When I came to myself, I was lying hand cuffed out on the tracks, with my captors standing over me. I felt a heavy stream of blood pouring down over my face from wounds in my head. A sickening sense of despair came over me. I was in for it again; and all my dreams of marriage and of happiness in a home of my own were blown to shreds.
When my gun was accidentally discharged in the fight with the sheriff, the bullet had entered the flesh just back of the sheriff's thigh. He was enraged; and now, after I had regained consciousness and attempted to rise, he seized me by the throat and struck me a severe blow savagely in the face. I staggered under the unexpected attack. Then several other members of the crowd jumped at me, raining further blows on my head and body as I stood defenseless. Then I was dragged back to the station, some distance away, where I found that my partner was also being held as a prisoner.
We were handcuffed together and marched to the farm near the station, where the night before I had made inquiries concerning the way to Redding Center. The old farmer came out of the house and, recognizing us as we drew near, greeted us with a sneer and snicker, saying: "Wall, boys, glad t'see yer ag'in!"
As I was weakened by the loss of much blood, they summoned a physician to dress my wounds and to bandage the sheriff's leg. We were then placed in a carriage and taken to the town hall in Redding Center for a preliminary hearing. After we had been seated in the dingy room which served as the court room, a carriage in which were Mark Twain, his daughter, Miss Clara Clemens, and Miss Lyons, his secretary, drew up before the building. The party entered; and passing close by, the humorist, dressed in his famous white clothes, turned upon me and delivered a scathing verbal castigation and lecture on morality, ending by denouncing me as "a disgrace to the human race." Apparently satisfied with the mental punishment which he had inflicted upon me, he took a seat alongside of the justice of the peace.
After being placed under heavy bail, we were remanded to the Fairfield County jail at Bridgeport for safe-keeping.
When Mark Twain returned to "Stormfield," he caused the following notice to be placed over his dining-room door:
To the Next Burglar
There is only plated ware in this house now and henceforth.
You will find it in that brass thing in the dining room over in the corner by the basket of kittens. If you want the basket, put the kittens in the brass thing.
Do not make a noise - it disturbs the family.
You will find rubbers in the front hall by that thing which has the umbrellas in it, - chiffonier, I think they call it, or pergola, or something like that. Please close the door when you go away !
VERY TRULY YOURS,
S. L. CLEMENS.
The three months during which we lay in the county jail awaiting trial seemed a very long time. We were locked in separate corridors and not allowed to talk or even to see each other. Neither were any outside visitors, with the exception of our lawyer, permitted to see us. Twice each week our cells were care fully searched for contraband articles, and while the rest of the prisoners were allowed free exercise in the corridor we had to stay in our cells. Not even the weekly bath was I permitted to take with the rest of the prisoners. I was taken into the bathroom separately and always under a guard of two armed keepers. Since I did not make any attempt to escape, this treatment received at the hands of the county sheriff struck me then as very unjust. However, there was no one to listen to complaint; and I can see now that they regarded me as dangerous.
At last the day arrived for our trial. Securely chained to a number of other offenders, we were taken to Danbury. It was the first time in fifty years that the Supreme Court had sat in that particular Connecticut town. After spending a restless night in the ancient and dingy Danbury jail, we were led, heavily guarded by a large force of deputy sheriffs, across the street and up into the court room. The small room was crowded with spectators and with witnesses for the state. The most noticeable and distinguished person in the room, naturally, was neither the judge nor the sheriff, but the humorist, Mark Twain, wearing a dark suit instead of his customary light-colored clothes for this serious occasion.
After the usual formalities in starting the trial, the witnesses for the state were called to testify against us. The most serious charge against me was not that of burglary, but a far more important, and an unjust charge, conviction for which would have meant a sentence of thirty years in state prison - the charge of assault with intent to murder. I am inclined to think that my story and the realization of the hard years of suffering which I had undergone impressed Mark Twain and that he was responsible or influential in having the charged changed to a less serious one, thus probably saving me from twenty years of imprisonment which I should still be undergoing. As it was, upon conviction under the charge finally brought against me, I was sentenced to serve a term of ten years in the Connecticut State Prison at Wethersfield.
Perhaps it may not be amiss to mention that our visit to his house furnished a new subject to Mark Twain, to which he not infrequently referred in later lectures. Thus, while dedicating the little new library which he had founded for the residents of the town of Redding, Mark Twain took occasion to make characteristic fun of the affair as follows:
"I am going to help build this library with contributions - from my visitors. Every male guest who comes to my house will have to con tribute a dollar or go away without his baggage. If those burglars who broke into my house recently had done that, they would have been happier now; or if they had broken into this library, they might have read a few good books and led a better life. Now they are in jail, and if they keep on they will go to Congress. When a person starts down hill, you can never tell where he is going to stop. I am sorry for those burglars. They got nothing that they wanted, and scared away most of my servants. Now we are putting in a burglar alarm instead of a dog. Some advised the dog, but it costs even more to entertain a dog than a burglar. I am having the ground electrified, so that for a mile around any one who puts foot across the line will set off an alarm that will be heard in Europe."
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 11:10 AM
Saturday, March 15
To Charles T. Lark, in New York:
HAMILTON, BERMUDA. April 6, 1910.
DEAR MR. LARK,--I have told Paine that I want the money derived from the sale of the farm, which I had given, but not conveyed, to my daughter Jean, to be used to erect a building for the Mark Twain Library of Redding, the building to be called the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building.
I wish to place the money $6,000.00 in the hands of three trustees,-- Paine and two others: H. A. Lounsbury and William E. Hazen, all of Redding, these trustees to form a building Committee to decide on the size and plan of the building needed and to arrange for and supervise the work in such a manner that the fund shall amply provide for the building complete, with necessary furnishings, leaving, if possible, a balance remaining, sufficient for such repairs and additional furnishings as may be required for two years from the time of completion.
Will you please draw a document covering these requirements and have it ready by the time I reach New York (April 14th).
Very sincerely, S. L. CLEMENS.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 2:34 PM
Sunday, March 2
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 5:39 AM
Saturday, March 1
In the years since the death, in 1910, of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whom we all knew and loved as Mark Twain, many people have asked me, "You actually knew him, didn't you?" What do you remember best about him?"
Yes, our family had the wonderful privilege of knowing him because father, Albert Bigelow Paine, was his biographer and was closely associated with him for many years. After Mr. Clemens moved to Redding, we frequently stayed at his hilltop home, Stormfield. On his afternoon drives- the old Redding Glen was one of his favorites- he often invited my sisters or myself to accompany him. He liked the companionship of young people and was especially understanding with little girls. Perhaps they reminded him of his own three daughters, whose long-ago games and make-believe he had shared and helped to invent. What do I remember of those years? A good many things, but two of the highlights are the Sunday morning he took me for a stroll and a bus ride on Fifth Aveneue, and the afternoon in June 1908, when he came to Redding for the first time, and I was fortunate enough to be in the small group that traveled with him.
To make these events more understandable, it might be well to give a brief picture of the background which made them possible. In 1906 my father was busy with the extensive preliminary work, preceding the writing of Mark Twain's biography. His subject was co-operating with enthusiasm. Mr. Clemens was then living in an impressive corner house at 21 Fifth Avenue. It was luxurious and lonely. His wife had died and his two surviving daughters were elsewhere. Father found himself being encouraged to spend more and more time in the big house. Mornings, accompanied by a stenographer, he would arrive for the daily interviewing, ready to encourage with questions, if need be, and alert for the fascinating stream of reminiscences, or philosophy, or occassional violent outbursts over burning subjects that followed. Father said of these mornings: "He was in bed when we arrived, and he remained there during almost all of these earlier dictations, clad in a handsome silk dressing gown of rich Persian pattern, propped against great snowy pillows. He loved this loose luxury and ease and found it conducive to thought. On the little table beside him, where he lay his cigars, papers, pipes, and various knick knacks, shone a reading lamp, making more brilliant the coloring of his complexion and the gleam of his shining hair." After these richly productive mornings, father often spent the afternoons working in the study adjoining Mr. Clemens' bedroom. At least that was the procedure until the Christmas when a handsome billiard table proved to be a history-making gift. From then on no day was complete without a spirited session around the great green table. Often the play would last for hours and then be resumed again in the evening. For all Mr. Clemens had passed his 70th birthday, he seemed tireless when engaged in his favorite game, and would twit my father- who was still in his 40's- when he seemed to falter. As their official relationship rippened into friendship, that friendship was extended to the rest of our family. The first time I saw this extraordinary man was at dinner in his home in New York in 1906. Under my father's guidance I had made the delighted acquiantance of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and the Connecticut Yankee. The worldwide fame of the author had been explained to me. Now, he had become a friend of the family, and during my stay in New York at Thanksgiving time, on vacation from boarding school, we were all to have dinner with him!! He was a charming host. He looked just like the pictures and he was as gracious to us three little girls as to my mother and father. Moreover, there was a dinner to delight children, topped off with a fairy-like mousse, piled high in a crystal bowl and accompanied by a sauce of big, red strawberries. Had he remembered that, at our age, dessert was at least as impressive as fame? After dinner, he played the orchestrelle, the first time I had ever heard the full, warm tones of an organ except for church music. Years afterward this orchestrelle was presented to us and we added a special room for it to our Redding house. I used to run it by the hour, playing over and over again the selections that Mark Twain had preferred. I believe it was the next spring that I was invited to return for the weekend, to be spent under the kindly supervision of Mr. Clemens' housekeeper and his secretary. What a story-book experience for a little girl! On Saturday we had a box for the Weber and Fields matinee, and I loved every minute of it, although once I was conscious of whispering concern behind me as to whether some of the humor was a trifle "adult" for my ears. But, like most children, I was blissfully unconscious of any lurking innundoes, and thought the whole show enchanting. Sunday my breakfast was brought to me on a tray by a uniformed maid. I knew then that I was "living like a princess," even though this was long before the movies had familiarized every schoolgirl with the details of luxury living. Then Sunday morning, came the memorable walk and bus ride. In those days the upper decks of Fifth Avenue buses were uncovered so that passengers could bask in the sun as they rode. Mr. Clemens enjoyed this and on a bright, mild Sunday he liked to ride from his home on lower Fifth Avenue up toward Central Park, and watch the gay crowds, returning from church or on the way to luncheon. Hatless, with his dramatic white hair and his famous white flannel suit, he was a unique figure. As we rode, people turned to look up at him and point him out. Afterwards, when we walked a few blocks, more than one person came up and spoke a brief word to him about the joy some particular book had given him. In the St. Regis, where we paused to leave a message, one bell boy was quite overcome. Eagerly, he started "You are Mark Twain, aren't you?" and then, on being reassured could hardly continue his sentence of appreciation. Mr. Clemens encouraged him gently and I don't suppose that young man ever forgot the encounter. Before I returned to school he gave me his photograph, inscribed with my name and "with love from Mark Twain." He had a little group of schoolgirl friends whom he called his "Angel Fish." Each one of us was given a small enamel angel fish pin from Bermuda, and each was assigned one of the charming collection of fish pictures which used to hang on the walls of his billiard room. He inscribed each name carefully on the picture. Collectively, we were referred to by him as "Members of the Aquarium." One of the obligations of the membership was to write regularly to the "Curator of the Aquarium." His replies were prompt, and in longhand. One of these cherished letters to me begins with a well-deserved reproof. Here it is: Dear Louise, I don't expect this to reach you, for your habit is to violate the first law of correspondence, which is, repeat your address in every letter. Tammany is dead. I am very sorry. She was the most beautiful cat on this western bulge of the globe, and perhaps the most gifted. She leaves behind her, inconsolable, two children by her first marriage-Billiards and Babylon; and three grandchildren by her second-Amanda, Annanci, and Sindbad. She met her death by violence, at the hands of a dog. She was found dead in the early dawn, under my windows, whither she had apparently dragged herself from a predacious excursion, for she had with her a field mouse that had suffered death by murder. She was buried by Miss Lyon with the honors due her official rank- for by appointment she was Mascot to the Aquarium, and brought it good luck as long as she lived. She took great interest in the M.A.'s and went to the billiard room every day to look at their pictures. As a token of respect and regret, it is requested that each M.A. wear black head ribbons during one hour on the 30th of this month- Tammany's birthday. Lovingly, S.L.C. At this time our family home was in Redding, in a simple old saltbox house at the foot of Diamond Hill Road. Father's enthusiasm for this unspoiled bit of country communicated itself to Mr. Clemens. He decided to buy some nearby property. He did not plan to build immediately, if at all, but perhaps he was wearier of the city life than he realized for it was not long before he began to dream of a home on the hilltop he had never seen. It was is daughter Clara who first saw the property, liked it, and selected the location for the house. Of the building of Mark Twain's Redding home, father says, in the Biography: "Innocence at Home" as the place was originally named, was to be ready for its occupant in June, with every detail in place, as he desired. He had never visited Redding; he had scarcely even glanced at the plans or discussed any of the decorations of the new home. He had required only that there should be one great living room for the orchestrelle, and another big room for the billiard table, with plenty of accommodations for guests. He had required that the billiard room be red, for something in his nature answered to the warm luxury of that color, particularly in moments of diversion...His one other requirement was that the place should be complete. "I don't want to see it, until the cat is purring on the hearth." He wanted the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been conjured into existence as with a word." And that is exactly how it was. On the 18th of June, 1908, at about four in the afternoon he left New York City by an express train that was to make its first stop in Redding that day. With him were my father, a reporter or two, a photographer and that most fortunate little girl, myself, whose boarding school closed that day so that I, too, was homeward bound to Redding. It was exciting to be going with Mr. Clemens when he was about to get his first glimpse of his new house. Moreover, he generously provided me with a large box of candy to enjoy on the way, although when we were about to leave the train, he suggested that we leave it behind, "because the porters sometimes like candy, and we can get some more." Waiting for us at the Redding station was a proud array of carriages, flower trimmed, and filled with smiling people who waved warmly. I knew I would never forget it. Mr. Clemens waved in return, then stepped into his own carriage and drove toward the beautiful house that was t be his last home. What a lovely place he made of it, and how we used to enjoy visiting him there. We lived nearby so my sisters and I could walk there easily, but other "Members of the Aquarium" came with there parents or governesses to stay for the week-ends or longer, and he taight us all to play Hearts and, with infinite patience, to manage billiard cues. He never made us feel that he was elderly man whose good manners included being kind to children. On the contrary, he seemed to be having such a genuinely good time himself that age differences were forgotten. Another question I am asked is "Was he always joking?" No. His tender, pervasive humor was far removed from ordinary joking. For me, it is summed up with his lovability and his philosophy- in the inscription he wrote in my autograph book: "Dear Louise: Consider well the proportion of things: it is better to be a young June-bug than an old bird of paradise. Affectionately yours, Mark Twain."
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 12:48 PM
Friday, February 22
The Mark Twain Trail is a map of people and places connected to Mark Twain's years in Redding, Connecticut that Susan Durkee prepared in 2006. Susan Durkee is a very talented portrait artist and a huge fan of Twain that just happens to live in a house that sits on the foundation of the Lobster Pot (which was lost to fire in 1953). Susan's artwork, shown to the left, appeared on the Clemens Centennial Vodka Bottles I gave away in 2008. While discussing the bottle artwork we ventured off on a number of topics but most importantly her trail map of Twain's time in Redding.
Creating a full featured Online Twain Trail Map with photos has been a goal finally realized earlier this week.
Susan's map is available at the Mark Twain Library and contains the stops along the Tour de Twain. If you would like to come to Redding for a personal tour, call me at 860-364-7475 or email me at email@example.com.
1. 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. Access to Stormfield is rare. If you are coming to Redding and wish to see it, please keep in mind that it is a private residence. With advanced notice we can contact the owners and request a viewing...not guarantee it. Location- Mark Twain Lane.
2. 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- Mark Twain Lane. Portrait Artist Susan Durkee owns the Lobster Pot and with advanced notice is available for a tour of the grounds.
3. 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- Mark Twain Lane. Markland is a private residence and rarely available for viewing.
4. 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.
5. Umpawaug Chapel. It opened on October 11th, 1908. 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.
6. W.E. Grumman's House. Grumman was Twain's last 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.
7. H.A. Lounsbury House. Lounsbury was Twain's caretaker and livery man at Stormfield. Lounsbury along with Deputy Sheriff Banks, helped capture the two burglars who robbed Stormfield in 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.
8. The Mark Twain Library. The library officially opened at its present location on February 18, 1911. Upstairs is a part of the original building. Location- Corner of Diamond Hill Road and Route 53.
9. 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.
10. 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. This property aided the library a second time just several years ago when it was deeded to the Mark Twain Library by Helen and Allen Hermes. The library in turn sold the property to raise much needed operational funding. Location- Route 107 across from Lee Lane. Private Residence.
11. 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, Adams needed a little coaxing from Twain himself. The Adams' house is on Great Pasture Road.
12. 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.
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 building you see there today that houses the Baptist Church. This building, though altered over the years, is original and existed during Twain's time in Redding.
14. Old Town House. The Old Town House in the Historic District of Redding Center is where the Stormfield Burglars were arraigned just 10 hours after the robbery. Twain's house was robbed at midnight and by 12 noon the next day the burglars were off to jail in Bridgeport, CT. Ya don't mess with Twain!
15. The Saugatuck Reservoir. Back in 1910 this was a glen and both Sam and Jean enjoyed taking walks and nature watching down there.
View the Online Twain Trail Map with photos
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 1:12 PM
Friday, February 8
The artwork for the bottle labels has been sent to Cisco Brewers of Nantucket. Jay Harman is the CFO of Cisco Brewers and a former Reddingite. His Vodka- Triple Eight  Vodka is an ultra-premium vodka, triple distilled from the highest quality organically grown grain. It is then blended with exceptionally clean and soft water drawn from well #888 in Nantucket. Triple Eight outscored Ketel One in the 2003 and 2004 World Spirit Championships.
I knew the vodka would be the perfect match for our fundraising efforts when I saw the three 8 balls on the label. Billiards and Twain seemed to go hand and hand here in Redding.
For our own purposes Mr. Clemens will appear in place of the 8 balls. The artwork comes from Susan Durkee who lives on the Lobster Pot property on Mark Twain Lane in Redding. To view the artwork click here.
At the moment I have an order in for three (3) cases, six (6) bottles per case. We will auction some, sell some and use the rest to reward volunteer efforts. If there is an interest out there to purchase more cases, I'm willing to listen...email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 2:46 PM
Monday, February 4
September 12th: Irving Batchelle + 3 friends
September 14th: Mrs. Knox + 2 Masters Bronson
September 18th: Anniversary. A year ago the burglars broke into the house at midnight. They were condemned to terms of 4 and 9 years. Persons of their sort had been plying this trade in the house for a long time, but we were not aware of it. This 18th close all relations with them. [The word "this" is underlined]
September 21st: Concert 3pm. In aid of the village library building fund.
+525 other guests
September 25th: Announcement!!
September 26th: Final + Total extinction of the Sandhogs! Many Thanks!
September 29th: I came back from the Hudson-Fulton celebration, N.Y.
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 2:24 PM
Saturday, February 2
Bouton & Son Funeral Home
West Church Street, Georgetown, Connecticut
April 23, 1910
Mahogany Casket $450.00
Mahogany Box $100.00
Professional Services $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
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 2:53 PM
Sam explains the M.A. notations in the Stormfield Guestbook with the following:
"The Aquarium is a club of 12 school girls. I appointed them. I am curator [otherwise Autocrat] and the only male member."
Clara Clemens, Mother Superior
Miss Lyon, Chatelaine [meaning-Woman who owns or controls a large house. BMC]
Daniel Fishman, Legal Staff
R.W. Ashcroft, Legal Staff
"The Aquarium's official device is an Angel-Fish"
Angelfish appearing in the Stormfield Guestbook [in the order they visited] -
Dorothy Harvey, M.A. from Deal Beach, New Jersey. First week of July 1908 [8 days]
Louise Paine, M.A. Redding, Connecticut. First week of July 1908 [8 days]
Majorie S. Breckinridge, M.A. Redding Glen, Connecticut. Sept. 8-9, 1908
Frances Nunnally, M.A. Peachtree Road, Georgia. Sept. 27-29, 1908
SLC: "Francesca" the year before aged 16- while I was on the other side to receive an Oxford degree, she helped me pay calls in London every day for two weeks. Her picture is in the billiard room with the other M.A.'s [Members of the Aquarium]"
Margaret Blackmer, M.A. Briarcliff, New York. October 2-5, 1908
SLC: "Margaret of the Shell"
Margaret visited Stormfield three times. Sam notes after one of the visits "In 3 more days she will be 13 yrs. old. A New Year's Gift was Margaret, a pretty rare one too."
On April 10, 1909 at Noon, SLC writes: "Margaret is due to arrive here with her mother at 5:45 this evening. It is an event: an event like the advent of spring after winter. The scamp will be welcome. Also her mother."
Helen Schuyler Allen, M.A. Bermuda. October 16-17, 1909
Posted by Brent M. Colley at 2:32 PM
Guestbook's Opening Pages-
I bought this farm of 200 acres three years ago, on the suggestion of Albert Bigelow Paine, who said its situation and surroundings would content me- a prophecy which came true 3 years later, when I arrived on the ground. John Howells, architect and Clara Clemens and Miss Lyon planned the house without help from me, and began to build it in June 1907. When I arrived a year later it was all finished and furnished and swept and garnished and it was as homey and cozy and comfortable as if it had been occupied a generation. This was the 18th of June in the present year  I only came to spend the summer, but I shan't go away anymore.
We installed a guest-book June 27th and used it until four days ago, when this new and more satisfactory one arrived from the hand of my niece Mary Rogers and put it out of commission. I have transferred the names from that one to this one. The autographing of signatures will now be resumed. Has been resumed, I should say: that charming Billie Burke was the first guest to arrive after the coming of the book, and she inaugurated the resuming, her signature heads the page under the date of December 27.
Dec. 29, 1908
In peace and honor rest you here, my guest; repose you here,
Secure from worldly chances and mishaps!
Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells,
Here grows no damned grudges; here are no storms,
No noise, but silence and eternal sleep:
In peace and honor rest you here, my guest!
Titus Andronicus, Act I, Scene I
Helen Keller's entry January 11, 1909:
"I have been in Eden three days and I saw a King. I knew he was a King the minute I touched him though I had never touched a King before."
-A daughter of Eve.
Helen Keller Jan. 11
The guestbook at the Mark Twain Library is in fair shape and it is a copy. It is noted as being given to the library in 1935. The original is with UC Berkeley.
He [Sam] notes and writes about Angelfish in the book. He notes them with an M.A. for Members of the Aquarium. More on them will come in the next post...the dog wants a walk.