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Celebrating Twain’s Life in Redding Stormfield & The Mark Twain Library. June 18, 1908. April 21, 1910. Albert B. Paine.
April 21, 1910
It was through Paine that Twain discovered Redding. During the last four years of Twain's life, Paine became a virtual member of the family. Paine's house was an antique saltbox, which burned down in February 1972, one building remains at the base of Diamond Hill.
In the Stormfield Guestbook Sam wrote: “I bought this farm… 2 years ago, on the suggestion of Albert Bigelow Paine, who said its situation and surroundings would content me- a prophecy which came true…I only came to spend the summer, but I shan't go away anymore.”
used as his study.
“Mr. Paine spoke to me about a piece of land with an old farm house on it in Redding… $2,000.00 is the price- and when I told Mr. Clemens about it, he closed in with the idea as a good investment, and Mr. Paine has sent off the first $100.00 to bind the bargain.
I didn’t think he would want it, because I couldn’t think he would want anything that I want. With an aching heart I reached out for that farm for I don’t ever want to go back to Farmington again. “
~Isabel Lyon’s Journal
During the ground breaking ceremony, Isabel, John Howells, Paine, Lounsbury, and several others pour a bottle of whiskey down the first hole dug.
Clemens wanted no part in it, he refused even to discuss the subject of new construction.
“He won’t allow himself to be informed or consulted; he will pay the bills and that’s all he will do, but when the house is finished then he will go to it… He doesn’t want to see it, or hear anything about it.”
done and send me
Just before Sam’s departure to London, in appreciation for her services, Clemens deeded to Miss Lyon the Lobster Pot.
On June 13th, Isabel visited her “dear little home” and found it “Oh…so darling,” and planned to make it “beautiful” in the near future.But Stormfield was first priority and when she discovered it was being built on the wrong spot she quickly halted construction. *Clemens was in London to receive an Oxford degree.
By mid-July, Clemens returned from London with second thoughts about living so far away from the city.
In addition, the site had to be moved for the second time and building plans were in need of alteration to accommodate Clara’s wishes.
Architect John Howells advises Twain to continue the project noting: “Arresting work at Redding at this time would probably make you liable for between $10,000 to $15,000.”
Architect: John Mead Howells
Builders: W. W. Sunderland and his son Philip, of Danbury, Connecticut
Assistant Builder: Harry Lounsbury
Construction Management & Interior Decoration: Isabel Lyon
*Albert B. Paine and Clara Clemens played roles as well.
“The workmen were not slow in learning that the little woman who was likely to appear suddenly in their midst [on] any day, had knowledge, sympathy, tact, taste, and executive ability of a high order. Under her leadership they worked amazingly.”
Simultaneously, she was supervising Eugene Adams, who was renovating the Lobster Pot.
View from the Rear of the Lobster Pot after Renovation
“Twain's great house, in the process of being built, had been a mighty curiosity. Families drove in from miles around on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon to look at it... It was the chief topic of conversation… it was designed…in the style of an Italian Villa, which, to us, meant palace. There were no other palaces around.”
“Everyone wondered why the famous old man wanted to build a great mansion in such a lonely, isolated place; the land wasn't good for anything but grazing, and it had hundreds of red cedar trees to prove it was useless.” ~Coley Taylor
“Billiards (pool, to the village loafers) was rather frowned upon by the solid citizens of Redding. But one of the biggest rooms in the Twain house was the billiards room!” ~Coley Taylor
Population 1900: 1,426Population 1910: 1,617
180 Visited Twain in 1908 Alone
“On the 18th of June, 1908, at about four in the afternoon we left New York City by an express train that was to make its first stop in Redding that day. With Mr. Clemens were my father, a reporter or two, a photographer and that most fortunate little girl, myself, whose boarding school closed that day so that I, too, was homeward bound to Redding.
Waiting for us at the Redding station was a proud array of carriages, flower trimmed, and filled with smiling people who waved warmly. I knew I would never forget it. Mr. Clemens waved in return, then stepped into his own carriage and drove toward the beautiful house that was to be his last home. “
West Redding Station & General Store circa 1920(I used this photo because it included a view of the platform)
How West Redding General Store Looked in 1908
Park across the street from the station, likely where people lined up to view the arrival of Clemens.
“… as he entered the leafy way [Mark Twain Lane] he said, “This is just the kind of a lane I like,” thus completing his acceptance of everything but the house and the location.
Then came the house—simple and severe in its architecture—an Italian villa, such as he had known in Florence, adapted now to American climate and needs.
“How beautiful it all is? I did not think it could be as beautiful as this.”
Twain & Lounsbury
“He was taken through the rooms; the great living room- the splendid, glowing billiard-room. Then to the floor above, with its spacious apartments and a continuation of color. When he had seen it all—when he had completed the round and stood again in the billiard-room—his especial domain—once more he said, as a final verdict:
“It is a perfect house—perfect, so far as I can see, in every detail. It might have been here always.”
Bed oddly positioned
so he could look out
the window from
“I was never in this beautiful region until yesterday evening. Miss Lyon and the architect built and furnished the house without any help or advice from me, and the result is entirely to my satisfaction.
It is charmingly quiet here. The house stands alone, with nothing in sight but woodsy hills and rolling country.”
Samuel L. Clemens letter to Dorothy Quick dated June 19, 1908
newspapers and magazines Worldwide.
Stormfield had a 100 light system, below is the only other building in Redding that had modern lighting.
“Miss Lyon is going to put a couple powerful reflector-lamps in
there for night service- the glare will make the place look like
a light-house…the house already looks like a factory that’s
running overtime to fill rush-orders.” ~Twain letter to Frances Nunnally, Oct. 29, 1908
from the back terrace
Check out the size of the cigars!!
“There were guests that first evening—a small home dinner-party—and so perfect were the appointments and service, that one not knowing would scarcely have imagined it to be the first dinner served in that lovely room. A little later; at the foot of the garden of bay and cedar, neighbors, inspired by Dan Beard, who had recently located near by, set off some fireworks. Clemens stepped out on the terrace and saw rockets climbing through the summer sky to announce his arrival.”
“That first evening closed with billiards—boisterous, triumphant billiards—and when with midnight the day ended and the cues were set in the rack, there was none to say that Mark Twain’s first day in his new home had not been a happy one.”
After that- the visits from his friends & beloved Angel Fish begin and he could not have been more pleased as his letters below show:
“Two angel-fishes arrived this afternoon, to stay a week, and we shall have good times.”
“How Livy would love this place! How her very soul would steep itself thankfully in this peace, this tranquility, this deep stillness, this dreamy expanse of woodsy hill & valley!“
“It is the most satisfactory house I am acquainted with, & the most satisfactorily situated . . . I have dismissed my stenographer, & have entered upon a holiday whose other end is the cemetery.”
He had a little group of schoolgirl
friends whom he called his
"Angel Fish." Each one of us was
given a small enamel angel fish pin
from Bermuda, and each was
assigned one of the charming
collection of fish pictures which used
to hang on the walls of his billiard
room. He inscribed each name
carefully on the picture.
Collectively, we were referred to by
him as "Members of the Aquarium."
One of the obligations of the
membership was to write regularly
to the "Curator of the Aquarium."
His replies were prompt, and in
longhand.~Mark Twain As I Knew Him by Louise Paine Moore
Letter to Dorothy Quick
August 10, 1908
“…I only have Tammany & her kittens, Miss Lyon & Mr. Ashcroft. But they are all good company. Yesterday we played hearts several hours or at least 3 of us did…Ashcroft plays the orchestrelle for me a great deal; and he has improved so much that…if I don’t see him I think it is Miss Lyon. And he plays good billiards now.”
“Half a mile from the house there is a deep little gorge spanned by an antique stone bridge with a singe arch under it. I am going to stop up the arch & make water flow over the bridge & make a cataract, to be called the Aquarium cataract.”
“Miss Lyon and I walked down (by the way of the old bridge) to your house day before yesterday & climbed those cliffs that fence your clearing. It is to be repeated tomorrow.”
“Yesterday morning after the rainstorm I went down to the gorge to see the results. You can’t think what a cataract was raging past the Brushwood Boy’s seat!”
September 18th, 1908 letter to Margaret Blackmer
“…I have had the most pleasant 3 months here, with delightful guests coming & going, some staying a day or two & some a week…And as soon as we can arrange the date, you & your mother must come.”
Postscript: “Burglars in the house after midnight this morning. They are on their way to jail this afternoon. We are buying a couple of bulldogs & hoping they will call again.”
Danbury Evening News, Friday, September 18th, 1908: "Crooks carry off Humorist's Silverware. Caught while
fleeing by train. One jumps from car while other uses revolver."
12 midnight Burglary, 7:30am Captured, 9:00am Arraigned, 12 noon Off-to-Jail
That’s swift justice…moral of the story? Don’t mess with Twain!
October 11th, 1908 letter to Margaret Blackmer
“…We are all to help open the Mark Twain Library about an hour from now. It won’t be a very formidable ceremony.”
*Clemens gave a large collection of his surplus books to the Town of Redding to be used as the nucleus for a public library.
Opened to Public in 1908
Location- Corner of Umpawaug & Diamond Hill
Open Wednesdays & Saturdays, 4pm to 7pm
First librarian was Twain’s neighbor William Grumman
“I am keeping a hotel, and no train comes or goes without bringing me a guest or robbing me of one.”
“Mr. Howells is coming & he is a love (but you mustn’t flirt with him) and Colonel Harvey is coming; if there is a spare bed I hope your mother will come, too.”
“A week ago I drifted over the 73-year frontier safely & entered my second childhood in good shape. It was like passing a milestone in the dark- I couldn’t notice anything was happening. We have had a good many guests since the burglar days.”
On November 14, 1908 Clemens appoints Ashcroft and Lyon his “true and lawful attorneys…to exercise a general supervision over all my affairs and to take charge of and manage all my property both real and personal…”
Later, in 1909 this power would come into question, yet in the seven months that they had this power over all Sam owned there is no proof (to-date) that they exploited it.
Ashcroft did incorporated the Mark Twain Company on Dec. 22, 1908 with $5,000 capital stock but that was to Sam’s benefit.
Stormfield, December 26, 1908
Letter to Dorothy Sturgis-
“All the 12 were heard from yesterday except you and one other. The missing pair were heard from to-day & the tale is complete & I am glad.”
Stormfield, January 2, 1909
Letter to Dorothy Quick-
“We had a pleasant Christmas in spite of Robert Collier’s Elephant. Miss Lyon and Mr. Ashcroft were horribly worried…”
Hartford Courant December 28, 1908:‘Elephant’ for Mark TwainRedding- Just before Christmas Samuel L. Clemens at his place here got word from his friend Robert J. Collier of New York, that the latter would send him an elephant as a present. This caused much anxiety at the Clemens household, especially Miss Lyon who contacted Mr. Collier to explain there was simply no room for an elephant at Stormfield…Collier replied “oh, just put him in the garage.”The ‘elephant’ arrived on Christmas morning. It turned out to be a toy elephant about as large as a good sized calf and mounted on wheels.
Was a King the minute I touched him though I had never touched a
King before.” ~ A Daughter of Eve. Helen Keller Jan. 11
is in England, Paine is in the
Clara arrives &
pressure on Sam to review
With Ashcroft, Paine and Lyon away, day after day Clara followed Sam… from his bedroom to his billiard room, arguing that he needed an impartial review of his finances and reminding him of past ‘trusted’ aides that had swindled him.
Paine’s wife wrote to her distant husband that the “poor old man is being driven crazy by the accusations and told her until three weeks ago he thought he was happy and well off, but since then it has been Hell and that if things did not get better he would cut his own god damn throat.”
Until early April 1909 Ashcroft & Lyon remain two of Sam’s favorite people. Below are notes appearing in letters about them in 1909:
“Major General Sir Ralph Ashcroft, Lord Bishop of Benares, has gone to England on business for me & we do miss him so!”
“Miss Lyon has been sick in bed several weeks, and has gone to Hartford…indeed she needs it. We have had guests all the time & she has overworked herself.”
Howells visited in March and noted:
“the Ashcrofts watch over him with tender constancy.”
Recalling the Ashcroft-Lyon wedding, March 18, 1909, Sam stated:
“The Ashcrofts & I were soon very friendly and sociable again, and I hoped and believed these conditions would continue,” then he adds “Clara hoped the opposite.”
Ralph Ashcroft made three mistakes.
He challenged Clara. Before he left for England, Clara suggested to him that an objective person review her father’s books. He replied: “Are you sure you want to, since it will reveal your expenditures?”
He bragged about his power of attorney.“I can sell his house, over his head, for a thousand dollars, whenever I want to!”
He lied to Sam. In a move to make Clara look unreliable he lies about the butler being fired.
Ashcroft agreed to turn over the ledgers in April, 1909. Sam turned to Henry Rogers hoping he might find something less damning than Clara’s suspicions, a discovery that would relieve Sam of having to hate two people he had loved only six weeks before.
In mid-May, Sam went to NYC to meet with Rogers and discuss his ledgers. At Grand Central Clara met him with horrible news: Roger was dead.“The expression of grief in Father’s face was pitiful to behold” Clara wrote.
On April 26th Jean wrote her name in the Stormfield guestbook. Her Doctor had finally agreed, full of apprehension, to allow Jean to make a one-week trial visit to Redding.
She would never leave again.
An adjoining 125 acre farm became hers complete with barns and livestock.
Ironically, this property was purchased for Clemens by Ashcroft
in one of his final transactions as business manager.
“Whenever she saw us, she stopped to talk. Somewhat later she told us that she had bought the farm across the road from us, gave us permission to roam all over it, and asked us to visit her. In the autumn she asked us to drive off any hunters we caught there. We exchanged information, in season, about the best berry patches or where to find the best hazelnuts, butternuts, and hickory nuts…she would explain the mysteries of nature to us: the size of the earth, the distance of the sun and moon from us, and how ancient the different colored layers of stone in the ledges of the glen were. We children were devoted to her.”~Coley Taylor
“I can answer your question definitely, now, Francesca Dear. It is heart-disease…what I have termed- “tobacco” heart…it has taken 63 years to build this disease. I was immune that long anyway.
…it subjects you to many,
many,many inconveniences…you can make no journeys,
even short ones; you must spend about 20 of the 24 hours
in your room & and mainly in bed; you must smoke only
4 times a day instead of 40; and finally you must do very
little work. If you neglect anyone of these things, the blood
pressure increases and the pains come.”
“On September 21, 1909- Detachments and squads and groups came from everywhere; some in motor car, some in buggies and carriages, and a swarm of farmer-young-folk on foot from miles around.
The artists were received with great welcome and it woke them up, and I tell you they performed to the Queen’s taste! The program was an hour and three-quarters long and the encores added a half-hour to it. The enthusiasm in the house was hair-lifting.”-Twain’s recap of the event
Joe Twitchell officiated, Jean was the bridesmaid and Jervis Langdon was the groomsman.
Bride and groom leave in style
Clemens returned from Bermooda a few days before Christmas , where he watched Jean decorate the house, buy and wrap presents, and manage household affairs with her usual energy. On December 23, after a quite evening, they said good night to one another.
Up early to make the final preparations for Christmas, she entered the bathroom at 7am and never returned.
“Christmas Day- A snow-storm is raging. Clara is in Germany. She lies in her coffin at the other end of this room, beautiful in death.”
Clemens wrote in “The Death of Jean”:
“Possibly I know now what the soldier feels when a bullet crashes through his heart.”
“I lost Susy thirteen years ago; I lost her mother five and a half years ago; Clara has gone away to live in Europe; and now I have lost Jean. How poor I am, who was once so rich! Seven months ago Mr. Roger died--one of the best friends I ever had.. Jean lies yonder… She lies there, and I sit here--writing, busying myself, to keep my heart from breaking. How dazzlingly the sunshine is flooding the hills around! It is like a mockery.”
“The Boys' Life of Mark Twain by Albert Bigelow Paine Chapter LXIX. The Return to Redding:"As we turned into the lane that led to Stormfield he said:“Can we see where you have built your billiard-room?”The gable of the new study showed among the trees, and I pointed it out to him.“It looks quite imposing,” he said"
died in Redding, Connecticut at the age
The New York Times, April 22, 1910
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain,"
died at 22 minutes after 6 tonight. Beside him
on the bed lay a beloved book - it was Carlyle's
"French Revolution" - and near the book his glasses,
pushed away with a weary sigh a few hours before.
Too weak to speak clearly, "Give me my glasses,"
he had written on a piece of paper. He had received
them, put them down, and sunk into unconsciousness
from which he glided almost imperceptibly into death.
Mark Twain born, Nov. 30, 1835. Last perihelion of Halley's comet, Nov. 10, 1835. Mark Twain died, April 21, 1910. Perihelion of Halley's comet, April 20, 1910.
Bouton & Son Funeral HomeWest Church Street, Georgetown, CTApril 23, 1910Mahogany Casket $450.00Mahogany Box $100.00Professional Services $50.00Embalming $50.00Hearse at Redding $8.00 Hearse at New York
GCD to 37th Street $6.00Hearse from 37th Street to
D,L,W $7.00Transferring Box to Hoboken $3.50Four Porters at $3.50 each $14.00Coach from 37th Street to
22nd Street $4.00Conveyor for Flowers $3.50Corpse Ticket Redding to
New York City $1.20Corpse Ticket New York City
to Elmira, NY $6.10Total: $703.30
death have been
Library in Redding where we do our best to promote
his time here in Redding.
A personal favorite as it shows Stormfield and the Library
Margaret E. Givens had purchased Stormfield as a “summer home” …
At least she got to enjoy the 4th of July there.
Stormfield foundation in 1925.
This presentation is over for now, I thank you all for watching!! Someone please have a whiskey & a smoke for me.