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Shelley Fisher Fishkin <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 17 Feb 2004 10:21:07 -0800
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I was saddened to learn of the death of Jervis Langdon, Jr.
yesterday, and wanted to take this opportunity to remember him as a
gracious, generous and public-spirited man. I had the pleasure of
meeting Jervis Langdon, Jr. and his wonderful wife, Irene, three
years ago in Elmira.  I was struck  by the way he embraced the
legacies of both his great grandfather, Jervis Langdon, and  of
Mark Twain,  with wisdom and sensitivity.   While Twain scholars will
always be indebted to him for having donated Quarry Farm to Elmira
College for use as a Center for Mark Twain Studies, I wanted to
recognize, as well, another institution--a younger institution--that
he also helped launch.  Jervis Langdon,Jr.,  who was in charge, at
various points in his career, of some of the nation's leading
railroads and was a member of the Railroad Hall of Fame,  also helped
sustain the legacies of  his great grandfather's commitment to
another railroad, the Underground Railroad, by helping to found the
John W. Jones Museum in Elmira.  With funds supplied by Jervis
Langdon,Sr. and others, John W. Jones, a  former slave himself,
helped make Elmira a key stop on the Underground Railroad,
shepherding hundreds of other fugitive slaves to freedom.  His "day
job" was  looking after the dead in Elmira's Civil War prison camp.
After the war, when a group of relatives of Confederate  soldiers who
had died in the  prison camp learned that a Black man, an
ex-slave--Jones-- had been in charge of burying their dead there,
they were outraged. They stormed up to Elmira in a fury, with an eye
towards removing their dead for proper   re-internment in the South.
But when they arrived, the meticulous records kept by  Jones (who had
been taught to read and write  by the same woman who taught Olivia
Langdon) stunned them into silence, as did the exemplary grave
markings and well-kept graves for which he was responsible. Jervis
Langdon, Jr. and Irene Langdon had the wisdom and the foresight to
recognize that if action were not taken to preserve a building and
other material culture artifacts associated with John W. Jones,  that
fascinating chapter of history might vanish. They helped found the
John W. Jones museum a couple of years ago, an institution that Twain
scholars should embrace and support.  It was a privilege and a
pleasure to have the chance to meet Jervis Langdon, Jr.,  and  I will
miss him.

Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Stanford University