Since I moved to New York from Arizona in 1990, I had always
planned to visit Elmira. With Easter weekend off from my second
job, I finally got the chance. We had called ahead to the Center
for Mark Twain Studies earlier in the week to gain access to the
Mark Twain study on the campus of Elmira College. It turns out
that the whole place was shut down for spring break, so we didn't
get to go into the study - but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I've heard that Hannibal is somewhat ambivalent about their
connection with Twain. This is not the case with Elmira. As
soon as you enter town from the highway, you see a giant
billboard saying "WELCOME TO ELMIRA - MARK TWAIN COUNTRY." As
you proceed through the main road, there are numerous signs
leading to the major Mark Twain sites. Using these, we found the
Elmira College campus within minutes, and the octagonal study was
plainly visible from the road.
As it turned out, the building had windows on all sides, so it
was easy to see everything inside without entering.
A mile or so past the campus, we easily found the graveyard
with the Clemens family plot. Even within the cemetary, there
were clearly marked signs leading to the right place. As we
walked up to the grave, somebody else was leaving. The main
attraction was a row of four rather simple gravestones marking
Jean, Susie, Olivia, and Twain. We put flowers on Twain's grave,
and looked around the rest of the area. Just behind the four
were the graves of Clara and her husband. The grave of Clemens'
infant son was found nearby next to the graves of the Langdons.
We left Elmira feeling quite satisfied with the experience.
Hopefully someday we can go back and see Quarry Farm and the
Center for Mark Twain Studies.