Vol 3 Section 0748



Louis harbor-boat, or rather the rechristening, for it had been decided to change its name from the St.

Louis—[Originally the Elon G. Smith, built in 1873]—to the Mark Twain. A short trip was made on it for

the ceremony. Governor Francis and Mayor Wells were of the party, and Count and Countess

Rochambeau and Marquis de Lafayette, with the rest of the French group that had come over for the

dedication of the World’s Fair grounds.

Mark Twain himself was invited to pilot the harbor boat, and so returned for the last time to his old

place at the wheel. They all collected in the pilot-house behind him, feeling that it was a memorable

occasion. They were going along well enough when he saw a little ripple running out from the shore

across the bow. In the old days he could have told whether it indicated a bar there or was only caused by

the wind, but he could not be sure any more. Turning to the pilot languidly, he said:

“I feel a little tired. I guess you had better take the wheel.”

Luncheon was served aboard, and Mayor Wells made the christening speech; then the Countess

Rochambeau took a bottle of champagne from the hand of Governor Francis and smashed it on the deck,

saying, “I christen thee, good boat, Mark Twain.” So it was, the Mississippi joined in according him

honors. In his speech of reply he paid tribute to those illustrious visitors from France and recounted

something of the story of French exploration along that great river.

“The name of La Salle will last as long as the river itself,” he said, “will last until commerce is dead.

We have allowed the commerce of the river to die, but it was to accommodate the railroads, and we must

be grateful.”

Carriages were waiting for them when the boat landed in the afternoon, and the party got in and were

driven to a house which had been identified as Eugene Field’s birthplace. A bronze tablet recording this

fact had been installed, and this was to be the unveiling. The place was not in an inviting quarter of the

town. It stood in what is known as Walsh’s Row—was fashionable enough once, perhaps, but long since

fallen into disrepute. Ragged children played in the doorways, and thirsty lodgers were making trips with

tin pails to convenient bar-rooms. A curious nondescript audience assembled around the little group of

dedicators, wondering what it was all about. The tablet was concealed by the American flag, which could

be easily pulled away by an attached cord. Governor Francis spoke a few words, to the effect that they

had gathered here to unveil a tablet to an American poet, and that it was fitting that Mark Twain should

do this. They removed their hats, and Clemens, his white hair blowing in the wind, said:

“My friends; we are here with reverence and respect to commemorate and enshrine in memory the

house where was born a man who, by his life, made bright the lives of all who knew him, and by his

literary efforts cheered the thoughts of thousands who never knew him. I take pleasure in unveiling the

tablet of Eugene Field.”

The flag fell and the bronze inscription was

revealed. By this time the crowd, generally, had

recognized  who  it  was  that  was  speaking.  A

working-man  proposed  three  cheers  for  Mark

Twain, and they were heartily given. Then the little

party drove away, while the neighborhood collected

to regard the old house with a new interest.

It was reported to Clemens later that there was

some  dispute  as  to  the  identity  of  the  Field

birthplace. He said:

“Never mind. It is of no real consequence

whether it is his birthplace or not. A rose in any

other garden will bloom as sweet” [MTB 1173-5].

Note: Rolla Wells (“Rollo”) (1856-1944), St. Louis Mayor (1901-1909).

The St. Louis Star, June 6, p.1 reported Sam at the wheel:



SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.