Vol 1 Section 0012


St. Louis – Letters to the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal

Orion & Mollie Moved to Keokuk; Sam Followed – Visit back home

 Oh! to be a Cub Pilot – Worked for Orion in Keokuk – Warsaw, Illinois – Back in Keokuk



February 13 Tuesday Sam was once more in St. Louis, back at his former job at the Evening News. Sam lived during this period with the Pavey family [See also MTNJ 1: 37n45].


He attended a play, The Merchant of Venice, put on by the Thespian Society. Sam wrote on Feb. 16: “I had always thought that this was a comedy, until they made a farce of it” [MTL 1: 48n8].


February 15 Thursday –Sam was awakened by a fire a block and a half away from his rooming house, one that destroyed some valuable horses [MTL 1: 47].

February 16 Friday –Sam dated his letter this day to the editors of the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal (his brother Orion and Charles E. H. Wilson) [MTL 1:46-9]. He related the fire and a list of other happenings in St. Louis, including a play of Merchant of Venice. Later that night, Sam awoke to a man beating a woman with a stave in the street, raving she had broken his heart.

“I felt sorry for the poor heart-broken creature, and wished with all my heart it might please Providence to remove him from his troubles by putting it into the Sheriff’s head to hang the scoundrel before morning” [MTL 1: 48].

February 2426 Monday In St. Louis, Sam dated a letter to the Muscatine Journal and summarized St. Louis news, including the new route for St. Louis mail west—it would no longer go to New York first. He also related massacres by Indians in New Mexico. Though progressive beyond his time on racial matters, Sam didn’t care much for Indians. The letter ran on Mar. 9 [MTL 1: 50-51].

February 28 Wednesday Sam’s letter of Feb. 16 ran in the Muscatine Journal [MTL 1: 46].


March 1 Thursday Sam dated a letter from St. Louis to the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal [MTL 1: 54].


March 5 Monday Sam dated another letter from St. Louis to the Tri-Weekly Journal [MTL 1: 54].


March 9 Friday Sam’s letter dated Feb. 24 from St. Louis ran on page 2 of the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal [Branch, “Three New Letters” 4].

March 12 Monday – Sam’s letter of Mar. 1 ran in the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal as a featured article, “Special Correspondence.” Sam wrote about the killing of Benjamin Brand, Deputy Marshall, by Bob O’Blennis, a wealthy gambler and livery-stable owner.

Bob O’Blennis has long been celebrated as the most abandoned and reckless outlaw in St. Louis—and but for his money, would have been roasting in the infernal regions long before this. Mr. Brand is not the first man he ever killed. If all the curses I have heard heaped up on his head to-day were to go into effect, I almost doubt if a place could be invented hot enough for him [MTL 1: 54].

 Note: No letters are known to survive for the next fourteen and a half months [MTL 1: 58].

March 14 Wednesday Sam’s letter of Mar. 5 ran in the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal.

The examination of witnesses in the O’Blennis murder case will be concluded to-night. The excitement which this tragedy created has subsided, but the people are till anxious to know how the trial will terminate—though, to tell the truth, few expect justice to be done. I doubt if there are a hundred people in St. Louis that do not think O’Blennis ought to be hung, and the number is still less that expect him to be punished at all. Since Jackson and Ward escaped hanging, people seem to have very little confidence in courts of justice [MTL 1: 55].


Mid 1855late 1856 Sam wrote a sketch titled, “Jul’us Caesar” that remained unpublished. Branch puts the date in this period [ET&S 1: 110].


JuneJuly Forty-nine of Sam’s notebooks survive, and the first notebook was from this period. It holds random entries on important and trivial matters, interspersed with information on phrenology, French lessons, and chess lessons. There were also entries relating to family business, a theological controversy, and laundry lists. Entries were first made in St. Louis, then in Keokuk, Iowa, and later during a trip to the villages of Hannibal, Florida, and Paris, Missouri [MTNJ 1: 11].

June, earlyOrion sold his interest in the Muscatine Journal to James W. Logan [MTL 1: 58].


June 9 SaturdayOrion and Mollie moved to Keokuk, Iowa [MTL 1: 58]. Powers says this move took place “around the end of March 1855” [MT A Life 69].


June 11 MondayOrion became the new owner of the Ben Franklin Book and Job Office printers [MTL 1: 58]. Selby writes that Orion “took possession” this day [6].


June, mid – Sam left St. Louis for Keokuk, Iowa, two hundred miles away [MTL 1: 58]. The town had a population of 6,500. Sam was nineteen and had already lived in quite a few places.


June 16 Saturday – Sam’s name appeared in a list of unclaimed letters in St. Louis, indicating he had left the city by this date [MTL 1: 58].


June 27 Wednesday From Sam’s notebook:

“ …sent out to wash the following: 1 pair heavy Pants; 1 ‘ light do; 4 white Shirts; 4 ’ collars; 2 pair white cotton Socks; 1 summer cravat; 2 white Handkerchiefs; 1 pair twilled Drawers; 1 linen summer Coat/17 [x]. 6/102” [MTNJ 1: 35].


Note: Sam used semicolons in a laundry list! He was a printer. He also loved semicolons.


June 29 Friday – The Keokuk Dispatch described a man believed by the MTP editors to be Sam:

      We know a man in this city who would make a prime editor, and we believe that if he has any “genius” at all, it runs in that direction, “ ‘cos” he says there is not a single paper published in town worth reading—and he says that not one of them has any news—and if he published a paper, he says he would make news, and lots of it, and spirited news, too.

      We propose to have all the papers in the city to club together and secure the services of this chap, and have spirited news; it will pay—we bet on it. What do you all say about hiring this editorial genius? He will save us the expense of a telegraph. Everybody in the morning will be up at four to get the spirited news, and everybody will take the paper” [MTL 1: 58].

July, mid Sam visited Hannibal and traveled to the villages of Paris and Florida to provide care and dispose of family property. In Florida he visited his uncle John Quarles, who had sold the old Quarles Farm. He then continued down river to St. Louis, where he tried to become a Mississippi River cub pilot. Orion had supplied Sam with a letter of introduction to their wealthy cousin, James Clemens, Jr. Sam hoped that James might help him secure an apprenticeship as a cub. Sam had no luck. He returned to Keokuk, where he was in his brother’s employ, which meant little, if any, salary, although officially he was offered five dollars per week plus board [MTL 1: 59; MTB 104].


In 1906, Sam remembered Dick Higham, a coworker at his Orion’s office in Keokuk:

Dick, a good-natured, simple-minded, winning lad of seventeen, was an apprentice in my brother’s small printing office in Keokuk, Iowa. He had an old musket and he used to parade up and down with it in the office, and he said he would rather be a soldier than anything else. The rest of us laughed at him and said he was nothing but a disguised girl, and that if he were confronted by the enemy he would drop his gun and run.

      But we were not good prophets [MTA 2: 251]. Note: Higham died a hero in Ed Marsh’s company during the war, shot in the forehead at Ft. Donelson.

July 16 Monday – From Sam’s notebook:

“Florida, Mo., 16 July, 55:—Introduced to Miss Jule Violett, Miss Em Tandy, and Miss Em Young”

These three young ladies, 16, 17 and 19 years of age respectively, were residents of Florida, Mo.. Emily G. Young’s older sister, Sarah, married Benjamin Quarles, oldest son of Sam’s uncle John Quarles [MTNJ 1: 34n37]. From the same day in his notebook: “ ‘Reading Room’ on door of Hotel, Paris – reading variety consists of Jayne’s Med. Almanac and a pamphlet copy of “Lives of Beaumont & Fletcher” [MTNJ 1: 37]. Even in the small Hannibal town library, Sam had enjoyed four or five hundred volumes, and Sam had used a free printer’s library in New York with four thousand volumes, so it is likely Sam was dumbfounded by the paucity of reading material in Paris, Mo., and thus made this entry.

September 14 Friday – Sam became an uncle for the second time with the birth of Jennie Clemens to Orion and Mollie Clemens [MTL 1: 383].

November Sam’s uncle John Quarles freed his slave, Uncle Daniel, age 50 [Rasmussen 106].


November 30 Friday Sam’s twentieth birthday.


End of year – Sam probably left Orion’s employ late in the year to set type across the river in Warsaw, Illinois [MTL 1: 59]. Powers claims that “Sam blew up over phantom wages and quit.” Either it was temporary employment or Sam regretted the move, because he was back in Keokuk in the New Year [Powers, MT A Life 70]. After the birth of his daughter, Orion took on the compiling of Keokuk’s first city directory, leaving the rest of the business operations to Sam.