Our time in St Louis came to an end and we left with great memories of a wonderful and historic city. We drove north to a Corps of Engineers park outside of Hannibal, crossing the Missouri River. The park was located on the Mark Twain Lake, a result of the construction of the Clarence Cannon Dam and Power Plant. The campground was full for the Memorial Day weekend and we were glad to be off the road and away from the holiday traffic.
Our main reason for coming to Hannibal was to see the Mark Twain locations. First we went to the tiny town of Florida, Missouri which was the birthplace of Samuel Clemens who became known as Mark Twain. The population of the tiny town has declined over the years and according to the ranger the current population is four. Yes, she said four!
The Mark Twain Birthplace and Museum, owned by the Missouri State Parks was quite impressive. Mark Twain’s parents moved here from Tennessee in 1835 and Twain was born later that same year in November, two weeks after the appearance of Halley’s Comet.
He died in 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet appeared once again. When Twain was four the family moved to Hannibal which was the inspiration for St Petersburg, the fictional home of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. His birthplace, a two room cabin, was moved to the current site at the museum and the museum was built around the small house.
There were many exhibits on Twain’s life including a handwritten manuscript of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and furnishings from his Hartford, Connecticut home.
Over the course of his life Twain was:
- an apprentice for a printer (after quitting school after fifth grade),
- riverboat pilot,
- and lecturer.
Twain’s personal life was tragic. Twain’s father died when he was eleven. His only son died at nineteen months, two of his three daughters and his wife Olivia predeceased him.
Twain lost a substantial amount of money on bad investments. His writings and lectures helped him recover financially, including a year long around the world tour in 1895 for the purpose of paying off his debts. We were surprised at the amount of time Twain and his family lived overseas in Europe, mainly England and Austria. Later in life Twain suffered from depression due to the deaths of his wife and children. There are no known descendants.
Afterwards we drove the short distance to the original location of the cabin where a red granite monument marks the spot.
We then drove to Hannibal, population 18,000. Here Mark Twain tourism is evident. There is the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum (privately owned), the Mark Twain Cave and the Mark Twain Riverboat to name a few. In the area were a number of buildings including Becky Thatcher’s house,
reconstructed Huckleberry Finn’s house
Hannibal is a pretty little riverboat town and we walked over for a glimpse of the Mississippi River.
Before leaving town we rode by the Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum. Molly was born in Hannibal and is best known as a survivor on the Titanic who helped with the ship’s evacuation and had to be persuaded to get into Lifeboat No. 6. She insisted the boat go back to look for survivors and threatened to throw the crew overboard if they didn’t. She became known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. I remember watching a movie by that name starring Debbie Reynolds in 1964 and there have been many movies and musicals about her life.
Next stop: Iowa