Home > History > Famous People

Famous People of the Finger Lakes

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)

Samuel Langhorne Clemens is considered to be one of America's best and best-known authors. Writing under the name Mark Twain, he published more than 50 books, mostly works of fiction. Two of theSamuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910) most read are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).


Clemens had strong ties to the Finger Lakes. While a reporter, Clemens met Charles H. Langdon of Elmira on a ship to Egypt. They became friends and in 1868, Langdon invited Clemens to his family home on the corner of Main and Church streets. There Clemens met Langdon's younger sister Olivia with whom he fell in love. They were married on 2 February 1870 by the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher. Beecher was an abolitionist and the half-brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe lived in Hartford, Connecticut, right next door to mansion Clemens built for his family.


Olivia's sister Susan and her husband Theodore Crane bought a farm on a hill overlooking the City of Elmira and the Chemung River valley. It was at this farm, called Quarry Farm, that Clemens and his family spent their summers for more than 20 years.


In 1874 Susan and her husband gave Clemens an octagonal one-room study in which he could write his books. The study was situated on a knoll not far from the house with a view of the river. It was here that Clemens wrote in longhand such works as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), A Tramp Abroad (1880, The Prince and the Pauper (1882), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). The study is now the property of Elmira College and has been moved from its site near the farmhouse to the Elmira College campus. The study is open to the public.


Clemens was a regular fixture in everyday life in Elmira. As a friend of Thomas Beecher, Clemens met others in the abolitionist movement such as Frederick Douglass. Beecher and Clemens enjoyed playing billiards and would play at Park Church where Beecher was the minister. It is likely that Clemens knew, if only briefly, John Jones, a former slave who lived in Elmira and was responsible for Woodlawn becoming a national cemetery. Jones died in 1877 and is buried at the cemetery.


In 1871, when convicted murderer Edward Rulloff was sentenced in Elmira to be hanged, it's possible that Clemens was in the courtroom as Clemens wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor of the New York Tribune suggesting that someone else should hang in Rulloff's stead.


The Clemens' family grave is located in Woodlawn Cemetery (1200 Walnut St.) and is open to the public. Quarry Farm (131 Crane Rd.) is now the property of Elmira College. It is open to the public only on special occasions. The College has a large collection of Clemens works, however, his literary archives are owned by the University of California at Berkeley.


Created 7 July 2010








Your ad could go here!


Your ad could go here!


Your ad could go here!