America's Greatest Funny Man Spends a Day
With Keokuk Relatives -- Mark Twain and His Mother -- Some Reminiscences
of Sam Clemens' Early Life in This City
Following the Twain-Cable entertainment Wednesday evening there was a bit of recitation of which only a few who were straggling in the rear of the out surging crowds were the auditors. As he had arrived in the city on the evening train from Hannibal only a few moments before the hour of going upon the stage, Mark Twain had not met his kinfolks living in the city. At the conclusion of the entertainment and after the usual hand-shaking with his old friends the great humorist began stretching his neck toward the box his mother had occupied during the evening, but she had withdrawn and his eyes caught sight of the silver-haired old lady in the rear of the opera house sitting among a circle of relatives and friends awaiting his coming. He came, and quickly.
"Why, Sam, I didn't know you," was the mother's greeting as he gave her a kiss and a hug.
"That's because I'm getting so good-looking," was the reply as he re-performed the bear act.
Following this there was an attempt at an interchange of family talk but Mark crowded it all out. He is an incessant talker and as he lead his mother toward the carriage awaiting them kept the old lady busy with listening and recovering herself from his hugs.
Mrs. Clemens is now in her eighty-second year, and was yesterday one of the happiest women in Keokuk. "Sam," who is now forty-nine, was also in his happiest mood and met many of his friends of his early days in Keokuk at his brother's home at No. 628 High street. There were any number of callers and all were entertained by the humorist in his most jolly way.
Mark Twain is claimed as a "former resident" by innumerable cities, especially by those along the banks on the Mississippi, on whose waters he for years guided many a steamboat as its pilot. The Mississippi is associated with his earliest recollections, as those who have read Tom Sawyer have learned. Hannibal was the town of his boyhood, and Hannibal has received great recognition at his hands as an artist of funny things in book making. But during the days when he was feeling his oats Sam Clemens was a resident of Keokuk as many were well aware at the time. An old printer yesterday produced a Keokuk city directory of 1856. It was published and printed by Orion Clemens, the humorist's older brother, who had his office in the third story of the building on Main next west of the State National Bank. The younger brother was an employee in the establishment, and this is how his name, business and address appear in the directory:
Clemens, Samuel L., Antiquarian, 52 Main street, bds at Ivins House.
Mark was a joker from his youth up. Numerous were the anecdotes told of him yesterday. At one time he made a speech on Main street in which he "took off" all the lawyers in Keokuk.
The Ivins House where Sam Clemens boarded is now the Eagle Hotel, corner of First and Johnson. The printers in those days observed Ben Franklin's birthday. One year they got up a feast and toasted their patron saint at the boards of this hostelry. Sam Clemens was sitting in the room and was called upon toward the close. It is said by old printers to have been his first speech, and the way the boys laughed may be known to those who almost fell from their seats at the opera house Wednesday night.
Mark Twain has not been in Keokuk, with the exception of a few hours one day almost three years ago, since 1866. He "roughed it" out west, told about it, and has since been a man that people delight to hear of and honor, hence the reminiscences.