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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Marcus Parsons <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 11 Apr 1996 09:13:55 -0500
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Repost of the material on SLC meeting Alexander Campbell.

    Mark Twain's Autobiography contains a yarn which he told on 29
March, 1906.  It concerns his apprenticeship to Mr. Ament
immediately after his fathers death.  The "Cambellites" with
Alexander Campbell eventually formed an alliance with Barton W.
Stone to form the "Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ)."  It is
a matter of coincidence that Barton Stone died at the home of his
daughter, Amanda Bowen, in Hannibal, MO.  He had ridden to Hannibal
from the Ozark region where he was preaching.  He became ill and
went to his daughter's home to rest.  He died of pneumonia.  The
Bowen boys, who were Stone's grandchildren, were childhood playmates
of Mark Twain.  Will Bowen is mentioned by Twain several times and
was one of the models for the neighborhood boys in his writings.
The "Disciples Historical Society" newsletter "The Harbinger and
Discipliana," September, 1953, carries the following article by
Claude E. Spencer (curator) which discusses the autobiography and
adds to the documentation which disclaims any truth for it.  No
pamphlet example exists that we know.  Mr. Spencer spends the first
part of his article giving the reader an abstract of the biography
portion relating directly to Campbell.  This extract follows that
introduction . . .

  Extract from:  Mark Twain Meets Alexander Campbell . . . ?    By
Claude E. Spencer

  . . . The correcting of the page with the extra, for good measure,
that was thrown in by the mischievous foreman forms the punch line
to a yarn as only Mark Twain could tell it.  The story should be
read aloud to get the complete savour of it.  A few years ago The
South African Sentinel gave part of the story under the title "Mark
Twain Meets Alexander Campbell."  This was later reprinted by The
Scroll of the Campbell Institute.  Perhaps after some research the
conclusion might be reached that The Sentinel should have used the
title "Mark Twain Meets Alexander Campbell."  Mark Twain's father
died early in 1847 and  Mark was immediately apprenticed to Mr.
Ament, the editor and proprietor of the Hannibal  Courier, with whom
he remained until 1849 or 1850 when his brother Orion bought the
Hannibal Journal and Mark went to work for him.  The episode of the
printing of the Campbell sermon occurred while Mark was with Mr.
Ament.  An exact date is not given, although it must have been in
1847, 1848, or 1849.  Alexander Campbell did a lot of travelling and
he liked to write about his travels.  Nearly every year of the
Millennial  Harbinger which he edited, 1830-1863, contains some
account of his goings and comings.  And he told where he went, who
he stayed with, and what was said, and he gave the dates of these
     By his own account in the Millennial Harbinger, Mr. Campbell
was in Hannibal twice from 1845 through 1852.  The first time was in
1845 when he arrived from Palmyra, Mo., Tuesday afternoon, November
4, and left early  Thursday morning for Pittsfield, Ill.  Since
there was no meeting house owned by the Disciples, Mr. Campbell
"spoke twice to the citizens and strangers in the Methodist meeting
house."  Certainly he did not tarry long enough to read proof on a
Saturday afternoon; nor did he return to read proof any of the
following Saturday  afternoons for they are all accounted for.
    Then, too, Mr. Twain was not yet a printer's apprentice in 1845.
The next trip made to Hannibal by Alexander Campbell was in
November, l852 when he opened there his Missouri campaign for
endowment for Bethany College.  He arrived Saturday, the 13th, at
one o'clock in the afternoon and departed for Paris, Mo., Monday
evening, the 15th.  Mr. Campbell wrote, "This town has greatly
improved and grown since my first visit in 1845. . . Our brethren
have erected a very convenient and comfortable meeting  house . . .
I delivered two discourses at Hannibal, one on the Lord's day, . .
and one on Monday."  He commented on the generosity of the church in
pledging five hundred dollars for the Bethany College fund.  Again
Mr. Campbell's Saturdays are all accounted for and one cannot see
how or when the pamphlet could have been printed.  Then, too, Mr.
Twain was passed being a printer's apprentice for Mr. Ament in 1852.

    Mark Twain's story and Mr. Campbell's accounts do not agree at
any point.  Some questions can be asked with the hope that further
research will give the answers.  Did Alexander Campbell make a trip
to Missouri without recording it in the Harbinger?  Have we missed
an obscure reference?  Was Mark Twain mistaken as to whom he was
working for when the incident occurred?  Could he have been working
for his brother Orion?  If the latter is true, did Campbell get
mixed-up in his reporting?  Or did Twain simply tell a good yarn?
In any event, our interest is bibliographical.  We want a copy of
this yellow backed, sixteen page  pamphlet, slightly smaller than
six by nine inches in size, with a Hannibal, Mo., imprint.  We
would even be satisfied with the proof sheets of the page with its
missing words or the one with its J. C. initials, or the one as
corrected by the mischievous foreman, or the final one with the O.K.
by Mr. Campbell!

  1.  Mark Twain's Autobiography, 1924, vol. 2, pp. 279-282.
  2.  The South African Sentinel, January, 1949, pp 6-7.
  3.  The Scroll,  March, 1949, pp. 413-415.
  4.  The Millennial  Harbinger, February, 1846, pp. 61-72.
      "Our Tour to the Far West."
  5.  The  Millennial Harbinger, January and February, 1853, pp.
      6-9, 64-74.  "Notes of Incidents in a Tour Through Illinois
      and Missouri."

Marc Parsons, [log in to unmask], St. Charles, MO