Sat, Sep. 18, 2010
Mark Twain may get his due in Nevada
By Martin Griffith
RENO, Nev. - Mark Twain is finally getting some recognition in the state where
he assumed his pen name as a newspaper reporter nearly 150 years ago.
The Nevada State Board on Geographic Names has voted to name a cove on Lake
Tahoe's northeast shore for Samuel Clemens, Twain's real name. The name now goes
to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for final action.
Nevada historians believe the site is where Twain accidentally started a
wildfire in 1861 while preparing to cook dinner over a campfire. He later
assumed his pen name as a reporter in nearby Virginia City.
Nevada Archivist Jeff Kintop, a board member, said there was no geographic
feature in the state named for Twain, whose book Roughing It put Nevada on the
"The name is fitting because he became Mark Twain here and developed his voice
here," Kintop said. "It's also fitting because his description of Lake Tahoe
in Roughing It is breathtaking."
Twain and a companion staked a timber claim in September 1861, weeks after he
arrived in Carson City with his brother, Orion, then secretary of the Nevada
That first trip to Lake Tahoe inspired Twain to write one of the most famous
lines ever about the lake: "As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains
brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the
fairest picture the whole earth affords."
In his writings, Twain provides only vague clues about the camp's location.
Nevada historians have embraced the research of retired U.S. Forest Service
hydrologist Larry Schmidt of Minden, who concluded that Twain walked from Carson
City to Glenbrook on the lake's east shore, then boated six miles north to the
David Antonucci of Homewood, Calif., a civil engineer and surveyor, told the
board Tuesday that Twain tramped to Incline Village, then boated six miles west.
"I plan to contact the national board and explain to them that by approving this
recommendation, it would just add to the confusion about where Mark Twain
camped," Antonucci said later.
The U.S. Forest Service also opposed naming the cove after Twain, saying that
his influence on Tahoe was minimal and that other historical figures were more
deserving of the honor.
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Posted on Sun, Aug. 15, 2010
Mark Twain's 'foretaste of heaven' in N.Y.
By Diane Stoneback
ALLENTOWN MORNING CALL
ELMIRA, N.Y. - Elmira is a long way from Mark Twain's birthplace of Hannibal,
Mo., and many miles from his grand Victorian home in Hartford, Conn. But this
town has its own story to tell about Samuel Langhorne Clemens, one of America's
greatest writers and storytellers.
Elmira's story explains its "Mark Twain Country" moniker and why Twain wrote
seven books, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of
Tom Sawyer, here.
Twain courted and married the love of his life, Olivia "Livy" Langdon, here. The
couple's three daughters were born here. Twain, Livy, and the girls stayed and
played here for 22 fun-filled summers, and Elmira's Woodlawn Cemetery is the
final resting place for Twain and his family.
Those summers in Chemung County, on New York's southern tier, probably were the
happiest times of Twain's life. He once said that being in Elmira was like
getting "a foretaste of heaven."
Elmirans finally have decided to let the world know about their town's deep
connections with Twain. They're moving full steam ahead on a raft of activities
for the rest of this year - celebrating Mark Twain's 175th birthday and the
125th anniversary of the release of Huckleberry Finn.
Visitors who want to learn more about Twain, his haunts, and recreational
pursuits are greeted by jaunty posters and banners containing Twain caricatures
and the town's new slogan: "Proud to be where Twain remains."
When the Clemens family packed for their summer escape, they settled at Quarry
Farm, which sits high on East Hill overlooking Elmira. It was the home of Livy's
brother-in-law and sister, Theodore and Susan Langdon Crane.
While Livy spent her days with the Cranes or visiting her parents at their home
in town, the girls spent time in their playhouse, enjoyed the outdoors, and
befriended the farm's animals, including a corps of cats whom Twain named and
Meanwhile, Twain put in full days writing at Quarry Farm. His mind danced with
ideas that poured onto paper at a furious pace.
The reason? The Cranes created a grand place for him to write - a study that was
far enough from their farmhouse to be quiet and high enough on East Hill to give
him a grand view of the Chemung River threading through the heart of town.
Although it wasn't as big as the Mississippi, it inspired him.
Twain, the former steamboat pilot, loved that study, which was shaped like the
pilothouse on the vessels he once steered on the Mississippi. Before his
peaceful summers here ended, he would write Roughing It, A Tramp Abroad, The
Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court within
Twainiacs should make the study one of their first stops - but it has been
Livy Langdon's descendants, who willed both the study and the farm to Elmira
College, decided to share these treasures in two ways.
The study was moved from East Hill to the Elmira College campus, to show
thousands of people the spot where Twain did his best work. Twain's words,
posted inside, explain his feelings for his cozy little "wordshop."
"It is octagonal, with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window,
and it sits perched in complete isolation. . . . It is a cozy nest and just room
in it for a sofa, table and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down
the remote valley and the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond, and the
rain beats upon the roof over my head, imagine the luxury of it."
Quarry Farm, meanwhile, has been carefully preserved and reserved for use by
Twain scholars researching and writing books.
Barbara Snedecor, director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira
College, says, "Truly devoted Twain fans can ask at the study for driving
directions to the farm. They can pull over to the side of East Hill's Pond Road
to see or take pictures of the farmhouse and its porch, where Clemens sat every
evening to read his day's work to the family."
Signing up for one of the center's evening programs in the barn at Quarry Farm
gives Twain devotees the chance to stroll the farmhouse grounds and pet the
cats. The barn also contains Twain-related displays, including the author's
There are many more Twain-related experiences in Elmira.
Take a ride on the Elmiran, the trolley that leaves from the Holiday Inn
Riverview. The trolley drivers treat passengers to a lively narrative about the
town, its history, Twain, and his pastimes. The trolley stops at Twain's study
on the campus, and drivers also point out statues of Mark Twain and Livy, who
was a member of Elmira College's class of 1864.
After the tour, return to the college's Hamilton Hall to see a free exhibition
about Twain's life in Elmira and explore its gift shop for Twain souvenirs.
The Chemung Valley History Museum's permanent Twain exhibit and temporary
gallery tell more about Twain's time here. It details the romantic story of how
Sam Clemens met and courted Livy - she turned him down three times.
Other exhibition highlights are the Langdons' role in Elmira society and the
good times at Quarry Farm. Along the way, visitors will see one of the pool
tables Twain used, Livy and Sam's marriage license, a desk Twain may have used
at Quarry Farm, one of his pipes, a favorite quill pen, and one of his
typewriters, which helps make his case that he was the first author to write a
full manuscript on one of the newfangled machines.
The Langdon family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery is the saddest point on a Twain
Country tour. But in Mark Twain-like style that makes most people smile,
visitors sometimes leave a gift on his gravestone - a cigar - recalling his
habit of smoking as many as 40 a day.
After hitting all the official Twain stops, allow time for some Twain-style fun.
Ride the beautiful (and fast) turn-of-the-century carousel at Eldridge Park. The
grand Victorian-era walking park that's being lovingly restored also offers
rides in a dragon boat and paddleboats on its central lake. But its newest and
biggest attraction opened Memorial Day weekend - the Mark Twain Miniature Golf
Course. Its ticket booth re-creates every detail of the Mark Twain study at
To conclude a visit to Twain Country, stop at Elmira's Starlite Room to sample
Twain-themed libations centered on Old Crow, Twain's favorite bourbon. Or take a
40-minute drive to Glenora Wine Cellars on Seneca Lake. There, you can savor
their Mark Twain Riesling with a dinner at Glenora's Veraisons Restaurant.
Either location will be appropriate for a few toasts to Mark Twain's luck at
finding Livy and her beloved Elmira.
Mark Twain's Elmira
A celebration of one of America's most famous authors, on the 175th anniversary
of his birth and 125th anniversary of Huckleberry Finn's release.
Where: Points throughout Elmira, N.Y., where Twain spent 22 summers.
When: Through December.
How much: Many sightseeing opportunities are free; others are at minimal cost.
Tip 1: Visit the Mark Twain study, Hamilton Hall exhibition, and statue on
the Elmira College campus (www.elmira.edu); take the Elmiran trolley tour; see
the Mark Twain in Elmira exhibition at the Chemung Valley Historical
Museum (www.chemungvalleymuseum.org); and stop atWoodlawn
Cemetery (www.friendsofwoodlawnelmira.org), where Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark
Twain) is buried.
Tip 2: For Twain-connected fun, Victorian-era Eldridge
Park (www.eldridgepark.us) offers its new Mark Twain Miniature Golf Course (its
ticket booth is a painstakingly accurate re-creation of the Mark Twain study)
and also offers rides on an amazingly fast carousel as well as on dragon and
Tip 3: Elmira chefs will offer their interpretations of Twain's favorite foods
on summer and fall weekends.
Stop at Charlie's Cafe (www.charliescafeelmira.com), Hill Top
Inn (www.hill-top-inn.com), Barb's Soup's On Cafe (www.barbssoupsoncafe.com),
and Sophie's Cafe (www.sophiescafeonline.com) to eat Twain-style. Also, sip
Twain-inspired drinks at the Starlite Room(www.thestarliteroomelmira.com) or pop
the cork on Glenora Wine Cellars' Mark Twain Riesling (www.glenora.com).
Tip 4: Serious Mark Twain enthusiasts should attend a public lecture in the barn
at Quarry Farm or a program such as the Oct. 15 and 16 seminar "En Route," which
will examine Twain's travel books, A Tramp Abroad and Following the Equator. All
are offered by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College.
Tip 5: Good places to stay in the heart of Elmira are the Holiday Inn
Riverview (607-734-4211, www.fingerlakeshotels.com) and the Painted Ladybed and
breakfast (607-846-3500, www.elmiraspaintedlady.com).
Chamber of Commerce
For a schedule of Twain lectures, call the Center for Mark Twain Studies at
Elmira College, 607-735-1941,
or e-mail [log in to unmask]
- Diane Stoneback