Vol 1 Section 0006

Sammy’s Idyllic Childhood – Summers at Quarles Farm – First Schooling

Brother Benjamin Died – Family Moved to Hill Street House – Murder Witnessed

Many Adventures – Cholera, Measles and Death – John Marshall Clemens Died

Sam the Printer’s Devil

Sam’s boyhood days in Hannibal, from ages four to eleven were filled with adventures, escapades and personalities many of which were to find their way into his many novels years later. Among those that might have taken place anytime during this decade were: The sale, beating and killings of slaves. Accidents on the river; Corpses washing up at Hannibal; Cave adventures, including the cadaver kept in McDowell’s Cave; Town drunks, including the Blankenship clan, Tom (b.1831?) being Sam’s model for Huck Finn. Injun Joe. Judge Clemens keeping the peace with a hammer on the head of two rowdies; Pranks at school. Sam’s claims of near drowning nine times; Rafting adventures; Hunting, fishing; Gang hangouts; Falling through the ice on the river; Steamboats arriving at the Hannibal docks; The swimming hole in Bear Creek; Jim Wolfe’s descent in his flying nightshirt into a candy pull; Sam dancing naked and “playing bear” in the moonlight while two girls watched in secret behind a shade, etc.

Most of these boyhood adventures cannot be pinned to a date, or even to a specific year. Wecter does a good job of identifying many of them, and Powers writes a powerful treatment of the psychological makeup of these boyhood years in Dangerous Waters. Some listings of Sam’s boyhood friends are found here and there. A picture taken in 1922 of Sam’s surviving childhood friends included Norval “Gull” Brady (1839-1929), Dr. B.Q. Stevens, John Ro Bards (1838-1925), Moses D. Bates Jr., Mrs. Laura Hawkins Frazer (1837-1928), and T.G. Dulaney; not pictured and deceased at that time: S.H. Honeyman, Jimmy McDaniel, B.O. Farthing, and Ed Pierce [The Fence Painter, Winter 1986/1987 Vol. VI No.4 Hannibal, Mo.]. Other friends are listed in various dated entries. See especially Feb. 6, 1870 to Will Bowen for several escapades remembered.

In his Nov. 30, 1906 A.D., Clemens recalled minstrel shows in Hannibal:

      I remember the first negro-minstrel show I ever saw. It must have been in the early ‘40s. It was a new institution. In our village of Hannibal, on the banks of the Mississippi, we had not heard of it before, and it burst upon us as a glad and stunning surprise.

      The show remained a week, and gave a performance every night. Church members did not attend these performances, but all the worldlings flocked to them, and were enchanted. …    

      The minstrels appeared with coal-black hands and faces, and their clothing was a loud and extravagant burlesque of the clothing worn by the plantation slave of the time….Standing collars were in fashion in that day, and the minstrel appeared in a collar which engulfed and hid the half of his head and projected so far forward that he could hardly see sideways over its points. His coat was sometimes made of curtain calico, with a swallow-tail that hung nearly to his heels and had buttons as big as a blacking box. His shoes were rusty, and clumsy, and cumbersome, and five or six sizes too large for him. There were many variations upon this costume, and they were all extravagant, and were by many believed to be funny.

      The minstrel used a very broad negro dialect; he used it competently, and with easy facility, and it was funny—delightfully and satisfyingly funny [AMT 2: 294]. Note: see source for more.

A later work by Clemens is “Villagers of 1840-3.” The MTP says this about it:

The most intriguing of the factual works, however, is “Villagers of 1840-3,” published here in its entirety for the first time [see MTPO]. This extended series of notes about life in ante-bellum Hannibal contains over one-hundred capsule biographies of the town’s residents, including Mark Twain’s own family. Written in 1897, forty-four years after Samuel Clemens left his boyhood home, it is a remarkable feat of memory, compelling both as a historical and a literary document. Evidently Mark Twain intended to use it as a master list of possible characters for any subsequent stories he might set in St. Petersburg or Dawson’s Landing, his imaginary re-creations of Hannibal [MTPO]. Note: Sam gave his father the name of “Judge Carpenter.”

The Aberdeen (S.D.) Daily News, 4 Jan. 1905, p. 2, “Mark Twain’s Pranks” reported reminiscences by Captain H. Lacy, who was born in Hannibal in 1839. Lacy claims it was not Jim Wolfe who was the victim of the famous skeleton-in-bed prank (sometime in the 1840s), but “a tramp printer named Snell,” who “blew into Hannibal one day and was given work on the paper.” Lacy claimed to be along on the prank; his account offers not only a different victim than has been imagined (see MTL 1: 18n4; also Ch. 23 TA) but a different outcome:

      He was an uncommunicative sort of fellow, but a good worker and obedient. Sam decided to bring him out of his reserve and to do it borrowed a skeleton from a doctor’s office and slipped it into the printer’s bed. Then we got around to a window about bedtime to see what was going to happen. The print pulled off his shoes, piled his clothes over on the floor and blew out the light. The next thing we supposed would be a yell and a printer shooting out of the window in his nightshirt. But there wasn’t anything of the sort. There was a sleepy yawn and:

      “Get over on your own side, darn you.”

      We heard the ghastly bedmate of Snell fall to the floor, and then everything was quiet except for the snoring of the sleeping printer. The joke had failed, and we went up to our rooms in disgust.

Next day Snell didn’t show up, and we began to feel a little hopeful that maybe the trick had worked after all. But we were again disappointed. Snell was in a gin mill, boiling drunk and having the time of his life.

      “Killed erm man deader’n a red Injun,” he yelled, “an shell corpsus fer dollar an’ sheventy-five! Wow!”

      He had rolled the skeleton up in a sheet and sold it to another doctor!


The Chapman Troupe came through Hannibal annually in the 1840s until 1847. For 35 years the troupe was perhaps the most celebrated theatrical family in the West. Mary Parks Chapman (1813-1880) was one of the seven children in the show and later had 20! children herself. Sammy Clemens undoubtedly saw one or all of the Hannibal performances as they were advertised as children welcome [MTP]. Note: see Dec. 16, 1865 for a letter from Mary to Clemens.

See “A Memory” a sketch which ran in the Galaxy for Aug. 1870, about Sammy’s relationship to his father.






U.S. Census reported 1,034 people living in Hannibal, up from the sixty families that were there in the Panic of 1837 [Wecter 57]. Hard times came to the Clemens family during the first years of the decade. Judge John Marshall Clemens was forced to sell Jennie, the slave girl brought from Virginia. “She was tall, well formed, nearly black, and brought a good price” [MTB 41]. For a time, things improved. John Marshall borrowed money from his wealthy cousin James Clemens, Jr. A wealthy Whig attorney in St. Louis, and from James A.H. Lampton (1824-1879), Jane’s half-brother who lived near Florida, Missouri. John Marshall opened another store with “already bookish, absent-minded, inept,” fifteen-year-old Orion behind the counter [Wecter 57].

Spring Sam started school at Mrs. Horr’s school in Hannibal, a small log cabin at the southern end of Main Street, near Bear Creek. Elizabeth Horr (ca.1790-1873) and daughter Miss Lizzie were the only teachers. On Sam’s first day of school he broke a rule twice and was told to go find a switch for his punishment. He kept looking for smaller and smaller switches until he came back with a cooper’s shaving (a cooper is a barrel maker). Later, Miss Mary Ann Newcomb (1809-1894) would help at the school [Wecter 54]. Sam, during his last visit to Hannibal in 1902, would say: “I owe a great deal to Mary Newcomb, she compelled me to learn to read” [Wecter 84]. McGuffey’s Readers were the new rage.

In his Aug. 15, 1906 A.D. Sam recalled his first school: “There were no public schools in Hannibal in those early years, but there were two private schools in Hannibal—terms twenty-five cents per week per pupil, and collect it if you can. Mrs. Horr taught the children, in a small log house…; Mr. Sam Cross taught the young people of larger growth in a frame schoolhouse on the hill” [AMT 2: 177].

July 28 and 29 Wednesday – The Log Cabin Campaign rally on Market Street in Hannibal would surely have included John Marshall, a devout Whig. Jane Lampton Clemens loved parades and funerals. Four and a half year old Sam no doubt witnessed the celebration [Wecter 58]. Note: For more about Jane Clemens as recalled by her granddaughter Annie Moffett Webster in Fredonia, see May 22, 1870 entry.

OctoberJohn Marshall sold on credit about $1,000 for merchandise bought wholesale to one Ira Stout, who then used the new bankruptcy laws to avoid payment. Ultimately this led to the loss of the Clemens home [Wecter 56].


November 30 Monday Sam’s fifth birthday.




Sam’s father traveled to Tennessee hoping to collect old debts and raise money on the infamous Tennessee Land, some 75,000 acres, which became a millstone to the family; the land was ultimately sold in the 1880s for not much more than John Marshall paid for it. John took a slave, Charlie, to sell, but did not get what he expected. In fact the trip was a total failure, costing Sam’s father about $200 [Powers, Dangerous 124-5]. Together, John Marshall and son Orion had a remarkable string of business failures. Sam would come to nearly support his older brother, mixing a sense of duty with exasperation.

February 7 Sunday – Sam’s sister Pamela joined the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal [Dempsey 55].

February 18 Thursday – Sam’s mother, Jane Clemens, joined the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal [Dempsey 55]. Note: Dempsey found no record that John Marshall Clemens or his sons ever joined the church.

February 22 Monday – Sam’s mother, Jane Clemens, was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal [Dempsey 55].

SeptemberJohn Marshall Clemens sat on a jury at Palmyra which condemned and sent to the penitentiary three abolitionists for a term of twelve years [Dempsey 42; Wecter 72]. Note: See Dempsey, chapters 5 & 6, for a full account of the “crime” and trial of James Burr, George Thompson, and Alanson Work, “the biggest criminal case in Marion County.”


October 13 Wednesday – The Clemenses were forced to transfer the title of their home property to James Kerr, a St. Louis dry-goods merchant to whom they were most indebted [Wecter 70]. Note: The indebtedness may have stemmed from funds John Marshall borrowed to buy the Tennessee Land, incurred before the family moved to Hannibal.

November 30 TuesdaySam’s sixth birthday.



January 5 or 7 Friday – Sam’s father wrote on his failed trip of being unable to collect debts or even to sell Charlie for $40 in Vicksburg [MTB 43]. Powers suggests he sold Charlie for ten barrels of tar [Powers, Dangerous 124]. Wecter cites the letter date as Jan. 5 and the sale for tar as Jan. 24 [74].

May 12 Thursday – Ten-year-old Benjamin L. Clemens died after a weeklong, unexplained illness. “Bilious fever” they sometimes called such illnesses. Sam was six. He remembered his parents’ grief; Orion recalled that his parents kissed—the only time the Clemens children had seen them do this [MTB 44]; Powers writes that it was Sam who remembered; it’s likely both recalled the event. In her grief, Sam’s mother made all the children approach the bedside of Benjamin and touch his dead cheek. For Sam, this act left an impression, and once again, Sam felt partly responsible for a family death.

Sam’s father, already a judge, was elected justice of the peace, but fees were few and far between. (Powers: “probably in 1842”; Paine [MTB 41] states this was in 1840, Wecter [103] also in 1842).

July 17 Sunday ca. – (After this day) – Sam’s brother, Orion, now seventeen and a “very good journeyman printer,” obtained a position in St. Louis, and was able to send support home for the family, three dollars out of ten per week [MTB 44]. (Powers characterizes it as Orion being “sent off.”) Orion wrote home that he was trying to imitate the life of Benjamin Franklin, even to the extent of living on bread and water. While in St. Louis until 1849, Orion made friends with attorney Edward Bates (1793-1869) and began studying law in his office. Bates would later secure Orion an appointment as secretary to the Nevada Territory, a connection that led Sam west and into history [170].

August 12 Friday – Though a boy of nearly seven, Sam probably was witness to the sinking of the side wheel steamboat Glaucus at Hannibal. Such an event would have brought the whole town out to gawk. Sam noted the sinking in his notebook in 1883 [MTNJ 3: 30n52].


October 13 Thursday – Exactly one year before, John Marshall and Jane Clemens lost their real estate in Hannibal, interest being transferred to James Kerr, St. Louis merchant and debt holder. On this day the property was auctioned but failed to meet the amount of the debt [Dempsey 49].


November 30 Wednesday Sam’s seventh birthday.



Sam’s father caught him in a lie. John Marshall Clemens did not often punish his children, for his stern mien often did the trick. The family had made one or two moves since coming to Hannibal, and Sam recalled his father’s punishment in a house they’d only been in a year. During 1843 Sam’s father was building the family a new house [MTB 44]. Some sources site 1844 for the move in.

Sam attended his second Sunday school in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. The first had been for two or three years prior in “a shabby little brick Methodist church on the public square called the Old Ship of Zion” [Wecter 86].

Summer – This was the first year of long summer visits to the Quarles Farm, about three and a half miles northwest of the old Clemens home in Florida, Mo.. These visits would continue until Sam was eleven or twelve (1847-8). Sam was seven on this first visit. He loved his uncle John Quarles, a warm, affable, hospitable, country man who told jolly jokes and played with the children. Quarles made hunting trips through the woods. His wife Aunt Patsy set a marvelous table; they had eight children and about thirty slaves (some sources say far fewer). These idyllic summers were grist for many of Sam’s later stories. Sam had a favorite playmate cousin a year younger than him, Tabitha Quarles (1836-1917), they called “Puss.” He loved cats (his mother had at one time nineteen felines about!). Puss recalled:

When he arrived at the farm father would lift his big carpet bag out of the wagon and then would come Sam with a basket in his hand. The basket he would allow no one except himself to carry. In the basket would be his pet cat. This he had trained to sit beside himself at the table. He would play contentedly with a cat for hours, and his cats were very fond of him and very patient when he tried to teach them tricks [Wecter 92].

Significant was Sam’s exposure and relationship with the Negroes, especially with Aunt Hanner, Uncle Dan’l (b.1805?) and Uncle Ned, the latter a slave of his father’s in the Florida days, and the source of the “Golden Arm” story [Wecter 46].

“It was on the farm that I got my strong liking for the race, and my appreciation of certain of its fine qualities” [Nieder 6].

Sam made a sketch of Uncle Dan’l, using that name in The Gilded Age. He later acknowledged that the Dan’l was the model for Huck’s friend Jim. Lorch writes “it was probably from John Quarles that Mark Twain first heard the Jumping Frog story, an ancestral version of the one he later heard in the barroom at Angel’s Camp in California” [Nieder 10].

September 4 Monday Sam played hooky from school and got home at night, so he climbed into his father’s first floor office, only to discover a corpse, James McFarland, a local farmer stabbed by Vincent Hudson in a drunken argument about a plow. Since John Marshall Clemens was a judge, the body was taken to his office to be embalmed the next day. This was the first recorded murder in Hannibal [Wecter 104].

October 27 FridayJames Kerr, as trustee, sold the Clemens home to James Clemens Jr., of St. Louis, a cousin of John Marshall Clemens. The price on the abstract was $300. The legal description: “the west 20 feet and 6 inches of the east 101 feet of lot 1 in block 9 in the original town of Hannibal” [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p10b].


Late Fall On Mar. 11, 1883 the N.Y. Times, p.4 ran an article, “Judge Clemens” and attributed it from “Communication to the St. Louis Missouri Republican.” The article described John Marshall Clemens as a “stern unbending man of splendid common-sense, and was, indeed, the autocrat of the little dingy room on Bird-street, where he held his court” [as Justice of the Peace]. An excerpt: 

Late in the Fall of 1843 the case of Allen B. McDonald against Jacob Smith was on trial. Judge Clemens was presiding with his usual dignity, and the court-room was filled with witnesses and friends of the parties to the suit. The Hon. R.F. Lakenan, still living and in political life, represented the plaintiff, and old “Horse” Allen, now dead, was counsel for defendant. Frank Snyder, a peaceable citizen, had given his testimony in favor of defendant Smith, and resumed his seat, when McDonald, with an exasperating air, made a face at him. As quick as thought Snyder whipped out an old pepper-box revolver and emptied every barrel at McDonald, slightly grazing Mc’s head with one shot, hurting no one else, but filling the room with smoke and consternation. In the confusion that followed, Judge Clemens, doubtless remembering McDonald’s many mean tricks, instantly concluded that he was the aggressor, and gathering up a hammer that lay near by, he dealt him a blow that sent him senseless and quivering to the floor. The irate court was complete master of the situation. 

Note: Wecter p.104-5 and notes, takes issue with some of the details of the Republican’s story, noting that “R.F. Lakenan did not come to Hannibal to practice law until two years after the date of the incident. Other versions appear in HMC, p.914 [Holcombe’s History of Marion County, Missouri] and Paine, Biography, p.45. In MTP, DV 47, ‘Villagers,’ Mark Twain writes: ‘Judge Carpenter [Clemens] knocked McDonald down with a mallet and saved Charley Schneider,’ and in another note refers to ‘McDonald the desperado (plasterer).’” 


November 30 Thursday Sam’s eighth birthday.

December – The Clemens family moved out of the Virginia House and into 206 Hill Street, which forever more would be considered Sam’s boyhood home. Sam shared a second-story bedroom with his brother Henry [Powers, MT A Life 34].



Hannibal by 1844 took pride in four general stores, three sawmills, two planing mills, three blacksmith shops, two hotels, three saloons, two churches, two schools, a tobacco factory, a hemp factory, and a tan yard, as well as a flourishing distillery up at the still house branch. West of the village lay “Stringtown,” so called because its cabins and stock pens were strung out along the road. Small industry was the lifeblood of the town [Wecter 60].

The Clemenses had moved into Sam’s boyhood home, built by his father on Hill Street in Hannibal. Across the street lived the Hawkins family. Laura Hawkins (Frazer) (1837-1928), a blonde daughter, was a romantic interest of young Sam’s. She later became the model for Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom Blankenship was a friend of Sam’s who lived up Hill Street. The Blankenships were infamous drunks and ne’er-do-wells; Sam based Huck on Tom Blankenship, a model for rebelliousness in the face of all authority [Powers, MT A life 34].

Summer A measles epidemic swept through Hannibal. Sam’s mother was obsessed with keeping her children from contracting the disease, but Sam decided to expose himself. Sam snuck into his friend Will Bowen’s house and bedroom. He was discovered and chased away, but tried again and slipped into bed with Will. Rediscovered by Will’s angry mother, Sam was taken home, but contracted measles. “I have never enjoyed anything in my life any more than I enjoyed dying that time” [Powers, Dangerous 85].

Will Bowen (1836-1893) later became a steamboat pilot with Sam, and the two would maintain a unique correspondence and relationship throughout their lives. Will had an older brother Barton (1830?-1868) and a younger brother Sam (1838?-1878).

October 22 Tuesday – Sam watched worshippers from the Millerite sect (led by William Miller) wrap themselves in robes and climb the steep hill to Lover’s Leap, expecting the world to end. In his visit back to Hannibal in 1902, Sam and pal John Briggs (1837-1907) went up Holliday’s Hill and pointed over the valley.

“There is where the Millerites put on their robes one night to go up to heaven. None of them went that night John but no doubt many of them have gone since” [Wecter 89].

September 14 SaturdayHenry, a Negro, was tried and convicted in Judge Clemens’ court of “menacing” with a knife. State law prohibited slaves from having weapons. John Marshall Clemens found Henry guilty and imposed punishment of 20 lashes to be given publicly. Dempsey writes, “Nine-year-old Sam liked to play about Hannibal on pretty fall days. A public whipping would have been high entertainment in 1844 Hannibal[54].

November 30 SaturdaySam’s ninth birthday (he didn’t want to be called “Sammy” any longer.) In his 1906 Autobiography, Sam claimed to be a private smoker from age nine, and a public one after his father’s death, in 1847 [Neider 43].




1845 – From Sam’s Autobiography:

I recall Mary Miller. She was not my first sweetheart, but I think she was the first one that furnished me with a broken heart. I fell in love with her when she was eighteen and I nine—but she scorned me, and I recognized this was a cold world….I soon transferred my worship to Artimisia Briggs, who was a year older than Mary Miller. When I revealed my passion to her she did not scoff at it. She did not make fun of it. She was very kind and gentle about it. But she was also firm, and said she did not want to be pestered by children.

And there was Mary Lacy. She was a schoolmate. But she was also out of my class because of her advanced age. She was pretty wild and determined and independent. She was ungovernable, and was considered incorrigible. But that was all a mistake. She married, and at once settled down and became in all ways a model matron…[AMT 2: 212-13].


January 24 Friday – Sam witnessed the premeditated murder of “Uncle” Samuel Smarr (1788?-1845), shot at close range by William P. Owsley. Smarr was carried into the drugstore of Dr. Orville Grant, the very house that poverty would soon force the Clemens to move into. Sam squeezed into the room where they laid the dying Smarr and watched [Wecter 106]. Note: The scene would be grist for Colonel Sherburn’s cold-blooded killing of Boggs, the town drunk, in chapters 21-22 of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


February 24 MondayHannibal, Mo. was granted a city charter [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p10b].


March 19 Wednesday – From the Hannibal, Mo. Library web site: “In 1840 many citizens of Hannibal, Missouri felt a need for a public library. Judge John Marshall Clemens (Mark Twain’s father), Zachariah Draper (1798-1856), Dr. Hugh Meredith, and Samuel Cross (1812-1886) took on the responsibility of this task. They organized the Hannibal Library Institute. On March 19, 1845 this library was chartered by the General Assembly of Missouri. The books were kept in Dr. Meredith’s office in a building at the corner of Main and Bird Streets. This was not a free library. Users paid a membership fee that entitled them access to the 425 books.” In the spring of 1849 Cross led a group of Hannibal citizens to California, settling in Sacramento; he then practiced law and later became a judge [AMT 2: 1906].



Summer Sam stowed away on a steamboat headed south. He was found by a crewmember and put ashore thirty miles down river, at the town of Louisiana, Mo. There he spent the night with Lampton relatives. The next day they returned him home.

August 24 Sunday In Hannibal, John Marshall Clemens wrote to Orion in St. Louis. He enclosed a course of twenty oral lectures on grammar by Professor Hull. John was taking Hull’s class and promised to outline the material and send it on to Orion, who might benefit in the printer’s trade from such lessons. Sam was nearly ten years old and probably received the same instruction at home [MTBus 9-10].


August 25-26 Tuesday – The Philadelphia North America reported on Aug. 26, “Affray at Hannibal, Mo.”—a fight between Dr. Orville R. Grant and a man named Railey, who stabbed Grant with a spear attached to his cane. In his Dec. 2, 1906 A.D. Sam recalled the man’s name as Dr. Reyburn [AMT 2: 590].

Fall – In either 1844 or 1845, Sam left the dame school for a “good common school” on Center Street near the town square, taught by a middle-aged Irishman, William O. Cross [Powers, D. Waters 93].

November 6 Thursday Record of Jimmy Finn’s death [MTP].

November 30 SundaySam’s tenth birthday.



Hard times forced the family to move in with Dr. Orville R. Grant’s family (above Grant’s Drug store; Grant 1815?-1854). Jane Clemens cooked for both families in exchange for rent. For more on the Grant family see AMT 2: 590].

John Marshall Clemens led a civic group organizing a rail line from Hannibal to St. Joseph. The line was chartered and completed twelve years after his death.

March 14 Saturday William P. Owsley, was acquitted of murdering Samuel Smarr by a Palmyra jury. [Wecter 108]. 

Text Box: May 13, 1846 - The United States Declared War on Mexico


Summer Cholera claimed 30 lives in Hannibal. Many fled the town [Wecter 213].

August Hannibal slave dealer William Beebe sued and gained a judgment against John Marshall Clemens for $126.50 stemming from debts for the store [Wecter 112]. 


September 10 Thursday John Marshall Clemens wrote to Buffum & Co., in New York concerning sale of the Tennessee Land. John had canceled the agency of Meredith & McCullough and gave “exclusive sale of my Tennessee lands for two years on the terms propose.—That you will be at the expense of agencies and advertising as in your letter mentioned; and will make sales as speedily and advantageously as possible” [MTBus 11]. Note: The Tennessee Land created a rift between Sam and Orion in later years, and hung around the family’s neck until the 1880s.

October 16 FridayJames Clemens, Jr. leased the Hill Street house to Orion Clemens for a period of 25 years at a rental of $28 per year [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p10b].

NovemberJohn Marshall Clemens chaired a citizens’ committee to promote a macadamized road between Hannibal and St. Joseph, Mo. [Wecter 110]. 

Henry La Cossitt, new to Hannibal, established the Democratic Gazette [Wecter 201]. Note: Wecter surmises that Sam Clemens was briefly an apprentice for the Gazette.

November 5 Thursday – Hannibal Gazette announced John Marshall Clemenscandidacy for clerk of the circuit court in 1847’s election.


November 6 Thursday – County records show $8.25 for coffin Jimmy Finn, pauper, town drunk and model for Huck Finn’s Pap [Wecter 150].


November 30 Monday Sam’s eleventh birthday.

Winter of 1846-7 – Now president of the Hannibal Library Institute, John Marshall Clemens worked for the establishment of a Masonic college in Hannibal [Wecter 111]. 


December 17 Thursday Hannibal slave dealer William Beebe was granted a writ of attachment ordering the sheriff to sell “the goods and chattels and real estate of the said John M. Clemens” [Wecter 112].





In his Dec. 2, 1906 A.D., Clemens recalled their house:

In 1847 we were living in a large white house on the corner of Hill and Main streets—a house that still stands, but isn’t large now, although it hasn’t lost a plank; I saw it a year ago and noticed that shrinkage. My father died in it in March of the year mentioned, but our family did not move out of it until some months afterward. Ours was not the only family in the house, there was another, Dr. Grant’s [AMT 2: 301].


March 11 Thursday John Marshall Clemens rode to the village of Palmyra (the county seat) to attend a judicial hearing that would clear him in a debt matter. Riding home he was chilled by a sleet storm. He became ill from the shock to his system. Judge Ezra Hunt of the Circuit Court at Palmyra “accepted John M. Clemens’ reasonable plea that his own unpaid claims against Beebe be considered as an offset to Beebe’s demands upon him—and with that decision the case fades from the records” [Wecter 112]. John Marshall may have traveled to Palmyra for this particular hearing [115].

March 24 WednesdayJohn Marshall Clemens died of pneumonia at the age of 49. Paine gives some of John’s last words: “Cling to the land,” he whispered. “Cling to the land, and wait. Let nothing beguile it away from you” [MTB 73].

Orion’s comments about his father were included in Sam’s Jan. 29, 1907 A.D. In part:

My father may have hastened the ending of his life by the use of too much medicine. He doctored himself from my earliest remembrance. During the latter part of his life he bought Cook’s pills by the box and took one or more daily [AMT 2: 409]. Note: Cook’s Pills were a combination of strong laxatives used to treat many ailments.

Sam recalled never having heard his father laugh, and seeing the only kiss his father had given in his presence, a deathbed kiss to Sam’s sister Pamela. The stern, hardworking aspect of Sam’s father underlined the influence he received from his mother. That night, through the keyhole, Sam and Orion witnessed an “autopsy” (or, some sort of post-mortem examination) of his father, a traumatizing event [Powers, MT A Life 43]. Fanning posits the exam took place due to Jane’s suspicions that John Marshall had contracted a venereal disease [14]. (See June 14, 1880 entry on Howell’s reaction to Orion’s lost autobiography.)

March 25 ThursdayJohn Marshall Clemens was buried in the Old Baptist Cemetery a mile and a half from Hannibal. Sam walked in his sleep this night and a few others. In 1876 John Marshall and Henry Clemens were later transferred to the newer Mount Olivet Cemetery, southwest of Hannibal [Wecter 118-9]. The following obituary ran in the Hannibal Gazette:

      Died in this city on yesterday, the 24th inst., after a protracted and painful illness, John M. Clemens, Esq., in the 49th year of his age.

      Unwelcome and awful the visits of death always are. But in this instance, he has not only overwhelmed a family in grief—he has filled a community with sorrow.

      Judge Clemens has been for many years a citizen of North Eastern Missouri and of Hannibal. He had been honored by several public stations which he filled with credit to himself and advantage to the community. He was noted for his good sense and a clear discriminating mind. These added to a high sense of justice and moral rectitude, made him a man of uncommon influence and usefulness. His public spirit was exercised zealously and with effect upon every proper occasion. His efforts to establish a library and institute of learning in our city were such as to entitle him to all commendation, and his untimely death is felt on this account as well as many others as a loss to the whole community….As a good and useful citizen, a lover of his kind, and an honest man, John M. Clemens will hold a place in the recollection of all who knew him [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p.13C].

April – A torchlight parade celebrated victories in the Mexican War. Sam no doubt was there, watching the pomp and a huge transparency showing “Old Zac at Buena Vista.” A band played and the streets were full of cheering townspeople [Wecter 123].


April 12 MondayOrion leased the house on Hill Street from James Clemens, Jr. , a wealthy St. Louis cousin, who bought some of John Marshall’s property [Wecter 102]. Jane and children moved back into the Hill Street house. Sister Pamela, (named for an aunt and sometimes spelled “Pamelia,” and always pronounced as such) now twenty, had been giving piano and guitar lessons in the villages of Florida and Paris, Mo. (Sam became proficient in both) She moved back to take care of her mother Jane.

April 14 Wednesday – The doors of J.D. Dawson’s school, later immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, opened in Hannibal. Dawson’s son, like Henry Clemens and Sid Sawyer, was a model boy, except that the Dawson boy added priggishness. It was in this school that Sam experienced many of the pranks and games that would fill the novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn [Wecter 132; Powers, D. Waters 93]. Note: John D. Dawson (b.1812?).

From Sam’s 1906 recollection of his schoolmates:

I remember Andy Fuqua, the oldest pupil—a man of twenty-five. I remember the youngest pupil, Nannie Owsley, a child of seven. I remember George RoBards, eighteen or twenty years old, the only student who studied Latin. I remember vaguely the rest of the twenty-five boys and girls. I remember Mr. Dawson very well. I remember his boy, Theodore, who was as good as he could be. In fact he was inordinately good, extravagantly good, offensively good, detestably good—and he had pop-eyes—and I would have drowned him if I had had a chance. In that school we were all about on an equality, and, so far as I remember, the passion of envy had no place in our hearts, except in the case of Arch Fuqua—the other one’s brother. Of course we all went barefoot in the summertime. Arch Fuqua was about my own age—ten or eleven…He was our envy, for he could double back his big toe and let it fly and you could hear it snap thirty yards. There was not another boy in the school that could approach this feat. He had not a rival as regards a physical distinction—except in Theodore Eddy, who could work his ears like a horse. But he was no rival, because you couldn’t hear him work his ears; so all the advantage lay with Arch Fuqua [MTA 2: 179-80]. Note: Archibald Fuqua (b.1833?).

April 23 Friday The Marion County Court appointed Orion administrator of John Marshall Clemens’ estate [Wecter 120]. 


Spring and Summer – Sam clerked in a grocery store until he was fired for eating too much sugar. He enrolled at Dawson’s School a few weeks after the death of his father. He worked many odd jobs during these months. He clerked for a bookstore, delivered newspapers, helped out at a blacksmith’s, and even studied law, but gave it up “because it was so prosy and tiresome” [Ch. 42 of Roughing It; Wecter131].

May 6 Thursday The Hannibal Gazette reported that Sparhawk & Layton were giving nightly lectures and demonstrations at Hawkins’ saloon on “human magnetism” (hypnosis). Such subjects as mesmerizing and phrenology excited the town when “experts” arrived. In a few years Sam would engage in outdoing another boy who’d been put in a trance. See AMT 2: 589.

May 21 Friday – An appraisal of John Marshall Clemens’ property was filed in Marion County. The most valuable item was “6 volumes Nicholsons Encyclopedia.” Orion inherited the volumes, which went to Sam’s library after Orion and Mollie’s deaths [Gribben 507].


August 13 Friday – One of Sam’s playmates, Clint Levering, age ten, drowned after falling out of an empty flatboat while playing with “a number of his playmates.” Sam was no doubt among these boys, as he remembered the tragedy in his notebook and wrote of it in Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 54, where Sam called him “Lem Hackett.” (See May 13, 1882 entry.)


August 19 Thursday Reported in the Hannibal Journal: While exploring on Sny Island and Bird Slough with pals John Briggs and Will Bowen, the boys went wading. Tom Blankenship’s older brother “Bence” Blankenship had discovered a runaway slave, Neriam Todd, hiding on the island weeks before, and had secreted food to him until a group of men chased the slave into the water and lost him. When the boys waded, “suddenly the negro rose before them, straight and terrible, about half the length out of the water.” Thinking the corpse was after them, the boys fled in terror [Wecter 148].


September – Sam’s memory wasn’t always accurate. He recalled being “taken from school at once upon my father’s death and placed in the office of the Hannibal Courier,” working for Joseph P. Ament. The Courier, however, was not established in Hannibal until 1848. Wecter says Sam no doubt delivered extras for Henry La Cossitt, owner of the Gazette, in particular after the victorious battle of Chapultepec in the Mexican War, in Sept. 1847 [Wecter 122-3].

November 30 Tuesday Sam’s twelfth birthday.




Text Box: January 24, 1848 – Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California


Text Box: February 2, 1848 - Mexico and the United States signed the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo





February 19 SaturdayOrion made a temperance speech in Hannibal [Wecter 294n5].


May 3 Wednesday – 24-year-old Joseph Ament purchased the Hannibal Gazette and moved his Missouri Courier to Hannibal. He established his newspaper in the second-floor Gazette offices on Main Street, over Brittingham’s Drugstore [Dempsey 155]. The merged papers went under the name of the Hannibal Gazette [Benson 2].


June – The family now in worse financial straits than ever, Sam landed his first full-time job as a printer’s devil for the Missouri Courier, owned by Joseph P. Ament. He worked only a half block from the family home. The journalism field has prepared many a great writer, and typesetting words is where Sam Clemens got his start. A printer’s devil made up pages one letter at a time. Sam was paid meals only and two suits of clothes a year, but got only one, a suit way too big for him. “I had to turn up his pants to my ears just to make them short enough.” Wecter gives the date as “the end of May or beginning of June” [202].

Sam would be an apprentice for two years. During this time he worked with Thomas P. “Pet” McMurry,  a journeyman printer in his twenties; and apprentices William T. League (1832-1870), Richard Rutter, and Wales R. McCormick, “a large lad of eighteen whose hilarious sense of humor, practical jokes, and stories amused and sometimes irritated Sam” [Lorch 11; Dempsey 155]. Note: see Sam’s 1906 remembrance of Wales, MTA 2: 276; also his Dec. 3, 1907 to W.H. Powell, which mentions these and others.

Summer – Either this summer or the prior was the last year of annual visits to Quarles Farm near Florida, Mo These visits to the farm where hunting was allowed (the Clemens boys were never allowed guns), food was bountiful, and Sam thought the slaves (who were never sold or split up from families) were the most joyous people in his boyhood [Wecter 91].


October 12 Thursday – The Hannibal Gazette, where Sam was apprenticing, changed its name to the Missouri Courier [Benson 2]


November 30 Thursday Sam’s thirteenth birthday.


December – The California gold rush was on. Hannibal felt the impact. Emigrants rushed to Hannibal and St. Joseph, eager to travel west. Some 300 Hannibal residents would head west. Sam later ran into a few of his townspeople in California. By the last week in December, Hannibal newspapers reported that the “gold dust of California” is “carrying away crowds of our citizens” [Wecter 216].




Sometime this year, Sam found a page in the street about Joan of Arc, which began his fascination with the figure. Younger brother Henry told Sam about the young maid’s life and fiery end (Wecter cites Isabel Van Kleek Lyon (1868-1958), Mark Twain’s secretary in his later years, as claiming Sam consulted his mother about Joan of Arc). Nevertheless, the chance find of a loose page sparked a desire to read and learn everything he could about medieval history [Wecter 211]. Note: It’s possible this find ultimately sparked Prince and the Pauper as well as Connecticut Yankee. Sam considered his book on Joan his best work.


A group of Hannibal citizens led by Samuel Cross left for California and the gold rush.

On October 3, 1902 Clemens wrote William Dean Howells that he “ran away twice; once at about 13, & once at 17. There is not much satisfaction in it, even as a recollection. It was a couple of disappointments, particularly the first one” [MTHL 2: 746]. Note: the runaway at age 13 would have been in 1849.

Sam assigns this year to an ice-skating episode with Tom Nash, the postmaster’s son. Tom fell in the river in a desperate attempt to regain the shore. Sam writes,

“He took to his bed, sick, and had a procession of diseases. The closing one was scarlet fever, and he came out if it stone deaf” [MTA 2: 97-8].

Text Box: March 5, 1849 - Zachary Taylor was sworn in as the 12th President of the United States






Summer, earlyHannibal suffered from a cholera epidemic.

Fall –Sam remembered in his Autobiography the scene of practicing for his part as a bear in his sister’s autumn party. He’d chosen a vacant house to try out moves for his part, and went there with a “little black boy, Sandy….” Not noticing a screen in the corner and costumes on a hook, Sam pranced about in his birthday suit until “a smothered burst of feminine snickers” came from the other side of the screen, which had enough holes to make it interesting for the voyeurs. After a clamorous escape, Sam avoided girls for several weeks. He would discover the identity of one of the peepers 47 years later, in Calcutta, India [MTA 1: 127-9].


September, first week – The telegraph came to Hannibal. Dempsey calls the event Hannibal’s “technological coming of age.” Before the telegraph, news came from boats from St. Louis or across the river in Quincy, Illinois. The intersection of Main and Hill Streets became known as “Telegraph Corner[Dempsey 125]. At the Courier, Sam was well regarded, and was put in charge of gathering telegraph information on the Mexican War and other news that came over the wire [Benson 6-7].

October 26 Friday – The U.S. Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) was an “occasional visitor to town,” and on this day gave a “large rally of Hannibalians in fiery vein.” Wecter notes that “Sam Clemens shared Tom Sawyer’s emotions when the ‘greatest man in the world…Mr. Benton, an actual United States Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment—for he was not twenty-five feet high’ ” [Wecter 195].


October 30 Tuesday – The date of the horrendous attack by a slave named Ben, owned by Thomas Glasscock (Glascock), a Marion County farmer, upon twelve-year-old Susan Bright, and her ten-year-old brother Thomas Bright, who were looking for walnuts in the woods. See Dempsey, chapter 13 for a full account [Dempsey 126].

November 8 Thursday “Glasscock’s Benwas accused of killing Thomas Bright with a rock, then raping his twelve-year-old sister, Susan Bright, and mutilating her. He was hanged early the next year.

Yellow fever hit Hannibal in early winter, as well as another siege of cholera [Wecter 214].

November 30 Friday Sam’s fourteenth birthday.


December 4 Tuesday“Glasscock’s Benwas convicted and sentenced to be hanged on Jan. 11, 1850 [Dempsey 130].

December 6 ThursdayJoseph P. Ament’s newspaper printed a long account of the Glasscock’s Ben trial. The Negro was found guilty and sentenced to death. Sam was a printer devil at Ament’s Missouri Courier. Two comic verses (“Amalgamation here we view,…” and “Abigail Brown, with a span new gown….”) ran with marriage announcements and a note that the printer was “duly remembered.” Branch attributes these to Sam [“Chronological” 113].