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The New York Times, March 11, 1883



Communication to the St. Louis Republican.

In 1843 at Hannibal, Mo., John Marshal Clemens, the father of Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain,) filled the ancient and honorable office known as Justice of the Peace. He was a stern unbending man of splendid common-sense, and was, indeed, the autocrat of the little dingy room on Bird street, where he held his court, meted out justice and general satisfaction to litigants, commanded peace, and preserved order as best he could in the village. This room fairly indicated the rustic simplicity of the people and the frugal and careful manner in which Judge Clemens lived and transacted business. Its furniture consisted of a dry goods box, which served the double purpose of a desk for the Judge and table for the lawyers, three or four rude stools, and a puncheon bench for the jury. And here on court days, when the Judge climbed upon his three-legged stool, rapped on the box with his knuckles and demanded "Silence in the court," it was fully expected that silence would reign supreme. As a general thing the "rough and ready" characters who had lounged in to see the "wheels of justice" move bowed submissively to the mandates of the Judge and observed the utmost respect for "his Honor." Allen B. McDonald, an overbearing, turbulent, and quarrelsome man, was an exception, and many a time he had violated the rules and been rebuked by the court.

Late in the Fall of 1843 the case of Allen B. McDonald against Jacob Smith was on trial. Judge Clemens was presiding with his usual dignity, and the court-room was filled with witnesses and friends of the parties to the suit. The Hon. R. F. Lakenan, still living and in political life, represented the plaintiff, and old "Horse" Allen, now dead, was counsel for defendant. Frank Snyder, a peaceable citizen, had given his testimony in favor of defendant Smith, and resumed is seat, when McDonald, with an exasperating air, made a face at him. As quick as thought Snyder whipped out an old pepper-box revolver and emptied every barrel at McDonald, slightly grazing Mc's head with one shot, hurting no one else, but filling the room with smoke and consternation. In the confusion that followed, Judge Clemens, doubtless remembering McDonald's many mean tricks, instantly concluded that he was the aggressor, and gathering up a hammer that lay near by, he dealt him a blow that sent him senseless and quivering to the floor. The irate court was complete master of the situation.

Judge Clemens was a kind hearted man, and was mortified when he learned that he had struck the wrong fellow, but the oldest inhabitants never heard him admit that it was "a lick amiss." He held his office for years afterward, and it is not recorded where any other disturbance ever occurred in his court-room. He died at a ripe old age, honored and respected by all who knew him, and now sleeps at a beautiful spot in Mount Olivet Cemetery, near Hannibal, a site selected and beautified by his son, "Mark Twain." The grave is marked by a pretty and tasteful monument, and many a traveler goes out of his way to view the last resting place of Judge Clemens, the father of the noted humorist.

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