This is my first post. I hope to contribute something of interest to
others interested in MT's life and times.
Mark Twain's Autobiograph 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 Cambell 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 on
November 9, 1844. His body was later removed from his farm near
Jacksonville, Ill, and after another reburial, the body was removed to the
Cane Ridge meeting house cemetery in Kentucky, the site of a famous camp
meeting in pioneer times. 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
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 re-
search 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 Carnpbell 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 visits.
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
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
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
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.
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]