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Special Feature

By Barbara Schmidt

A version of this paper was first presented at the
Fifth International Conference On the State of Mark Twain Studies
Elmira, New York
August 4, 2005

LIVY, WILL YOU BUY ME A HOME IN TEXAS?

Olivia Clemens
Olivia Langdon Clemens
wife of Samuel Clemens
(Mark Twain)


The
Story Behind Mark Twain's
Ranch
in
Archer
County,
Texas

Texas Map

 

Louisa Mussina Baird
Louisa Mussina Baird
Photo courtesy of
Willa Hunter.

Samuel Clemens never set foot in the state of Texas. He never lectured there. He never crossed Texas on his way to somewhere else. He mentions Texas twice in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and once in Innocents Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, Following the Equator, "What is Man?," and "The Canvasser's Tale." However, an entry in Clemens's personal notebook written while traveling in South Africa in May 1896 indicates the African landscape led him to imagine what Texas looked like. As he crossed South Africa Clemens framed the landscape by holding up his hands and taking mental snapshots, recording these visual images in his mind as well as notebook. He wrote:

Again, the road would be like a prairie road--sandy, deep-rutted, the grassy expanses like their like in the prairie, couples & groups of negro men & women strolling along, dressed exactly like our darkies & with exactly the same faces--& I could imagine myself in Texas.(1)

When he returned to the United States four years later, Clemens made a speech on October 17, 1900 at a fundraising appearance in New York to benefit survivors of a Galveston, Texas hurricane which killed 8,000. The hurricane was the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history at the time.

Given the lack of commercial interest or personal connection Clemens had with the state of Texas, it is surprising to read the following passage in a letter he wrote on November 25, 1882 to Charles Webster who was married to his niece:

Here is a letter from the County Clerk in Texas, whereby it appears that that pauper Baird has allowed the land to be sold for taxes while we have been supporting him. If I shall meet him in a place some day, where he shall beg for brimstone he will beg in vain. His wife is a nice person but he is manifestly a fool.

You can take charge of this tax business for the future, I wash my hands of it. There is a post-script, you observe, in which the County Clerk proposes to lease the land. I have written him that such matters belong in your hands not mine, and that you would write him presently. You can make arrangement with him, or not, just as seems best. (2)

Enclosed in the letter to Webster was the following letter dated November 14, 1882 written to S. L. Clemens (Mark Twain) from W. W. Duren, County Clerk and Clerk of the District Court of Archer County, Texas. Duren wrote:

I received a communication from E. B. Baird Beaumont Tex enquiring after 320 acres of Land owned by you - The Land is Situated in this (Archer County) It was Sold for Taxes last year You can redeem the Same by paying double the amount for which it was Sold viz:

State Tax $1.28
County do .80
Costs of Sale $5.25
TOTAL $7.33

It will take double the amount or $14.66 to redeem the Same. That is all the back taxes due on the Land for years back of 1882.

For this year (1882) the amount of Tax due is $2.40 making in all a total of $17.06.

Yours Truly
W. W. Duren Co Clk Archer co Tex

P. S.
Will you sell your land? If so what will you take for it ____ cash the bal 12 month after date with the vendors Lien retainer to secure the deferred payment?

If you don't wish to sell it-will you lease it for 5 years at 5 cents per acre rent payable in advance--This is nothing but a Stock Country-and only want it for grazing purposes only want it for the grass.

Yours &c
W. W. Duren (3)

The tax bill of $17.06, the equivalent of about $325 today was inconsequential compared to the taxes Clemens was accustomed to paying on his Hartford property. His tax bill for 1877 for the Hartford property totaled $1,100.38 (4) -- approximately $19,000 today.

How did Clemens come into possession of 320 acres in Archer County, Texas--a piece of property that apparently held little interest for him? Until 1875 that part of rolling rangeland had been home to Indians and few settlers. By 1880, the year Archer County was officially organized and barbed wire introduced, the population hovered at a meager 596 people. W. W. Duren was correct in describing Clemens's property as "nothing but a Stock Country" and Clemens's land was probably unfenced and was being grazed whether or not Clemens had ever previously received compensation for those grazing rights.

Clues to the how and why of the property acquisition can be found in a letter dated September 1877 in the files of the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California at Berkeley. The letter is from Louisa Baird (who often signed her letters "Loui") of Austin, Texas, wife of Ebenezer Buckingham Baird, to Olivia Clemens. In a rambling six-page letter written on legal size sheets, Louisa Baird wrote:

Austin, Sept. 1877

Dear Livy,

You may be surprised at my writing to you again, but I beg that you will feel kindly and consider my letter carefully. I write in confidence to you & will tell you honestly in every particular why I write, which is necessary.

To come to the point at once I want to ask you to assist me in getting a home. When I borrowed $100.00 from you two years ago, you wrote to me & asked me pointedly, "What my husband could do?" and I replied to you then as best I could thinking you had a reason for asking me & I have thought of it many times of late, and write this letter on the strength of your question & on the friendship which I believe you bear towards me.

Although it is a very delicate thing to ask such a favor, still it is nothing to be ashamed of. I know you are wealthy & thought perhaps you would accommodate me although not having any possible claim upon you; I simply mean business Livy, I want no gifts & nothing of the kind in any such way from any one & would not accept any such, but if you will do what I ask you, will tell you how & why I ask it.

My husband owned a good farm when we were married, but mainly through my influence he sold out thinking he could do as well by going into business. I was foolish enough then not to like farming & my limited knowledge of practical life led me to allow my feelings to overcome any judgment, thinking he could do as well in business which I still think he could have done if it had not been for subsequent misfortunes;

When I wrote to you I did not mention farming then because I had not got over the terrible shock of my sister's death on a farm & I could not bear to think of it. I am a little older in years & a good deal older in experience since then & would consider it a great blessing now if we owned a good farm.

Well: as I said the farm was sold & he took a mortgage which was nearly due on some other land in part payment, the title of which appeared perfect in every particular. When the mortgage became due he found much to his surprise that through some entangled process of law he could not get his money which he expected to use in business. The parties were willing to do what they could & the upshot of it was that instead of receiving the money in bulk it came in little driblets which having lost his situation through his cousin's term in the Circuit Court expiring, we were obliged to use up as it came, leaving us finally with nothing at all. I wrote you before all the in's & out's of our life & it is not necessary to repeat it. It was a terrible misfortune to us which we have realized more & more each year & which has ground us down to the very dust.

Another reason why he yielded to me & sold his farm was that my father always said he had large interests & expectations in the South & we were foolish enough to think that whatever we did we should never come to want as he said there would be enough for all & more too.

Last Summer my husband obtained work for the season only in the Diamond Jo boat store on a salary of $35.00 per month. My father wrote late in the Summer saying he had a farm here & if we could manage to get to St. Louis he would try & help us the rest of the way; As we had saved up a little money my husband found he could get a pass part of the way as far as Burlington, so we thought but to strike out while we had the opportunity; We telegraphed from different points that we were coming, but when we arrived in St. Louis received a letter from father, saying he could not send the money then; there we were in a strange city without money & without friends & in a streak of desperation I wrote to Andrew for help;

We finally got here & went to work supposing as I said to Andrew & honestly believed that our troubles were at an end & that we were in the way of doing better. Here let me interrupt by speaking of my husband & what I say is aside from all feeling as a wife & only said form cool judgment as I would judge another man did I know him as well;

He drank in times past, drank hard & been soundly censured & condemned for it, much was said & people talked more than they had any right to, but Livy I know he drank from desperation & not for the love if it; Some men do one thing & some another in life's darkest hours; men judge but God knows the heart; People in their comfortable homes & doing well with a small proportion or perhaps no care at all know not the aging of a man bereft of everything with either no employment or a precarious one & a family on his hands in an almost starving condition; Our friends right around us even did not know the worst for we did no talking; When people condemn, I feel like saying, "Just yourself in his place." I do not exonerate his drinking, but I excuse it and he feels & sees himself now that it was very foolish to give way to his feelings by drinking; He has stopped it entirely since we came here & has worked hard & faithfully & raised a splendid crop mainly by his own labor, expecting to get half the proceeds, as we understood.

He is a thorough, practical farmer & has done splendidly here, the crop amounting to about $800.00 off of only 35 acres of cultivated land which is doing well considering too the disadvantages labored against the first year. We have lived this year on an average of $20.00 per month, my father & brother included, & many times on less than that in a shanty with one room for everything my husband laboring outside & I inside.

My father has told us that he is $2000.00 in debt for this place with an annual interest of $300.00 to be paid quarterly, besides, within a very short time he has learned of a judgment against the former owner for $1500.00 of which he had no knowledge & the place was advertised at public sale on Sept. 4th, but the man who holds the mortgage on the place stepped in & paid the $1500.00 to save himself making my father's debt with back unpaid interest about $4,000.00 which cannot be paid; he had been given until the 1st Dec. to get the crop off, all of which will be swallowed up & of which we get nothing not even clothing;

These are strange, hard facts but true; He has become impoverished & completely broken up by life long law suits which are still pending; having wealthy parties against him there now seems to be little hope of his ever gaining them.

I have not told you all this because I thought you would be interested but simply to show you my object in writing & the weighty reasons I had in asking this favor of you. I thought of you as one remaining hope; And now I ask you Livy will you assist me to the extent of $1000.00 to buy us a home; If you will, I will deed it over to you to secure you; For all implements & stock I will make out a bill of sale for each & send all papers to you until paid for; I will take $100.00 out for living until crop comes in & $25.00 for necessary clothing which I cannot give security for, but will pledge my word of honor to pay with the rest. Furthermore, I again pledge myself to pay that & what I now owe you within five years;

My husband will be ready to carry out these plans & work steadily to pay off the debt; We will work together with one object in view to obtain a home for our children; If you feel that I have asked too much will you make it $500.00; I asked $1000.00 because the larger the capital the more facilities for working & making money; I ask this with perfect faith & knowledge in my husband's ability to carry it through & we will abide by what I say to the letter; you will see that if he could make an $800.00 crop on 35 acres here he could do well on more with proper facilities; he says he can work from 80 to 100 acres himself with very little help only at certain times in press of harvest etc.;

There are splendid opportunities in this state now for a man to make money if he as a little start; good lands are cheap at from $1.00 to $2.00 per acre & plenty of them now; Emigrants are pouring into the state & of course in time land will be much higher; Our plan is if we had $1,000.00 we could buy land, cultivate a portion, buy some stock & use the reset of land for pasturage; with $500 we could buy less land & pre-empt 160 acres adjoining, still reserving part for pasturage intending to combine farming and stock raising; The trouble is with pre-empting land it is hard to find a desirable locality; the best localities are mostly taken up, but you can buy the best lands for very small figures & with $1,000.00 we could stock up on a small scale & get a fair start.

I feel perfectly sure that we could be well off in a very few years & if you will do this I will bless you to the end of my days. I will enclose a list of items & cost which is as near accurate as can be given without actual purchase; Help of this kind will be substantial & will enable us to repay it all with interest. If you do what I ask please state what rate of interest you will require. I will send this by registered letter for I feel it is too precious to be lost through the mail should its contents meet with your approval. Livy, dear friend I again ask you to read my letter kindly & thoughtfully & I leave the rest with God, for it has been a subject of much prayer with me.

Please answer me as soon as possible & be sure & address my letter to the care of Raymond House Austin, Texas. I am particular about that address because my husband can only go to town at certain times & the post office is apt to be closed & often times h e does not get in at all during the week & can go to the Raymond House on Sundays & get our mail. Please remember me kindly with love to all. Affec your friend.

Loui Baird signature

Perhaps Livy you would prefer to buy a farm yourself somewhere else than in Texas & start us on it, either renting it to us or giving us a chance to pay for it.

You may think it strange that we do not get any of the crop here, but father has told us that he would be obliged to use it & it is already actually swallowed up in his expenses; he has also lately as much as told us that we would have to look out for ourselves & that he would be obliged to get employment himself.

Prices of horses & cattle may seem low to you but stock is very cheap here & we could buy very economically having cows, pigs & chickens & a garden. (5)


The amount of $1,000 would be approximately $17,000 today. Livy's response to this letter is currently lost. And there is but the merest evidence that Sam may have mentioned the request to anyone. In a letter Clemens received from P. T. Barnum dated 10 October 1877, Barnum writes, "You can't well have more begging letters than I do, & you have, I hope, learned to say no pretty often." (6)

Who was Louisa Baird (born January 14, 1845 in New Orleans, Louisiana - died January 31, 1900 in Beaumont, Texas) and how did she know Olivia Clemens? From Louisa's letter, we can surmise that she knew Olivia Clemens well enough to address her as "Livy"; that Livy had provided financial assistance to Louisa Baird at least once in the past; that Louisa Baird had grown up with limited knowledge of the "practical life" -- indications that at one time her family may have been wealthy; that her sister had been killed in a tragedy on a farm; and that her father had lost everything in long, drawn-out legal battles. Research into Louisa Baird's life bears out all of the above.

Louisa Mussina Baird, was a lovely dark-haired beauty, was born January 14, 1845 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the third of five children. Her father was Jacob Mussina (born in 1807 or 1808 in Ohio - died January 1892 in Austin, Texas) and her mother has been identified by family genealogists as Louisa Blunt Mussina (born in 1820 in New Hampshire - died April 12, 1860 in New York). Jacob Mussina and his older brother Simon, were of European Jewish heritage and had arrived in Texas in the 1830s. Simon's business career in Texas included publishing newspapers at Matagorda, Texas; Galveston, Texas and Matamoras, Mexico; he eventually became a lawyer specializing in disputed land title cases. His influential friends included Sam Houston, victor over Santa Anna after the Alamo fell and later first president of the Republic of Texas. However, Simon Mussina is most noted, or notorious, for his Texas land speculation investments in which he often involved his younger brother Jacob, Louisa's father. Louisa's mother and father were married in 1839 in Matagorda, Texas and later resided in the Garden District of New Orleans. Her father Jacob was involved in an extensive brokerage business and with the cotton industry. The family owned slaves.

Louisa's uncle Isaac J. Henderson was pastor of Prytania Street Church in New Orleans and George Washington Cable was a suitor to Caroline Henderson, Louisa's cousin. And in a curious twist of fate, Clemens and Cable would visit Caroline and her husband naval Lieutenant Albion Wadhams in Washington, D.C. in March 1885 during their lecture tour. Whether or not Clemens was aware of the connection to Louisa Baird is open to speculation. (Sue Hertz Howard, a fourteen-year-old niece of Caroline Henderson Wadhams was present during the visit and in later years wrote about the Cable and Twain visit in her memoirs.) On August 13, 1895 -- ten years later -- during his North American Lecture Tour, Clemens, along with Olivia, their daughter Clara, and his nephew Samuel Moffett dined with Lt. Commander Wadhams aboard the U.S.S. Mohican which was stationed in Seattle, Washington. In an interview that appeared in Seattle Post-Intelligencer on August 14, 1895, Wadhams was described as "an old acquaintance."

The story of land grants and land acquisitions in Texas is a long and complex one -- complicated because of the numbers of different governments that once laid claim to the state. Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas each granted free land to their citizens as well as foreigner colonists and settlers. Titles to Texas land could be bought, sold, traded, forged, contested and fought over in long legal battles during the Mussina brothers' lifetime. To make a very, very long and complicated contentious legal battle short, Louisa's father Jacob had come out on the losing end of a lifelong battle to establish his rights to his most lucrative Texas land claims. One such land battle that had traveled all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Simon Mussina also attempted to have the first federal judge of the state of Texas John C. Watrous impeached because Watrous did not decide disputed land cases in Mussina's favor. In 1876 a small city directory of Waco and McLennan County Texas contained the comment that the Watrous impeachment proceedings "with its voluminous records, has passed into history, and is second in importance only to the impeachment of President Johnson."(7)

Did Sam Clemens ever read about the lawsuits regarding land in Texas and was he familiar with the Mussina name before Livy began her financial assistance to Louisa Mussina Baird? It seems that a case with as much notoriety as the Watrous case, second in volume of records to a presidential impeachment, would have caught his attention. The question arises whether or not publicity regarding Texas land deals was in Clemens's mind in the summer of 1876 when he penned "The Canvasser's Tale." The story features a door to door salesman who peddles land that produces echoes:

Now, sir, if you will be so kind as to look at these maps and plans in my portfolio, I am sure I can sell you an echo for less money than any man in the trade. Now this one, which cost my uncle ten dollars thirty years ago, is one of the sweetest things in Texas, I will let you have for -- (8)

The Civil War stalled progress in the Mussina land lawsuits and effectively caused the disintegration of the family's life in New Orleans. During the Civil War, Louisa's brother Edwin served in the Confederate army. Louisa and at her sister Adelia relocated to Liverpool, England--a European city sympathetic to the Confederacy and dependent on New Orleans cotton for their textile mills. Family genealogists record that Jacob ventured for a time to Alexandria, Egypt where he established a cotton press.

After the Civil War, Louisa and her sister returned to the States and for a time were in New York and later Illinois. In 1869 Louisa married Ebenezer Buckingham Baird (born in 1843 in Sandy Springs, Ohio - died 1923 in Beaumont, Texas) in Fulton, Illinois. Ebenezer Baird was a farmer who had served in the Union army. In 1871 Louisa's older sister Adelia also married a farmer. Adelia was viciously raped and murdered by one of her husband's hired men eight months after her marriage. Her killer later claimed the motive for her murder was to prevent her from testifying for her father in a disputed land title lawsuit. It was a charge that was without merit and one that Ebenezer and Louisa Baird vigorously disputed in the Illinois newspapers. E. B. Baird
Ebenezer Buckingham Baird
Samuel Clemens referred to him
in anger as
"manifestly a fool."
Photo courtesy of Marleen Covington.

After her sister's murder, Louisa begged Baird to sell their farm. He did and later worked briefly as a Deputy Clerk of the Circuit Court at Morrison, Illinois. When he lost this position through a change in political office holders, he worked as a clerk on the Diamond Jo steamship line on the upper Mississippi River. By the fall of 1877 when Louisa appealed to Livy Clemens for financial aid for at least the second time, the family was impoverished. Louisa was now the mother of three young children, ages six, three, and one year old. She and Ebenezer struggled for travel expenses to leave the Midwest and relocate to Texas where they were living with her father at the time she wrote her appeal to Livy.

The question arises as to what was it about Louisa Mussina Baird, a daughter of southern slave owners and land speculators, that caught Livy Clemens's attention -- so much so that she had provided financial assistance in the past and would consider doing so again. This question was posed to today's descendents of Louisa and Ebenezer Baird -- descendants who now live in different parts of the United States. The same answer was forthcoming from all descendants who were asked: Louisa Baird and Livy Clemens were cousins through their maternal lineage. Family historians believe they met in Chicago prior to Livy's marriage to Sam Clemens. It is a story deeply ingrained in the family's oral and written history.

June 2011 Update

Until June 2011, the mystery of the family connection between Louisa Mussina Baird and Olivia Langdon Clemens remained a mystery. As a result of her diligent research, family genealogy researcher Willa Hunter was finally able to solve the riddle of the family ties. The simple equation is that Louisa Mussina Baird's maternal first cousin (Alice Blunt Woodward, b. 1844 - d. 1896) married Olivia Langdon Clemens's paternal first cousin (Andrew Langdon, b. 1835 - d. 1919). Louisa Mussina Baird and Olivia Langdon Clemens were not blood related, but would have known each other because each had first cousins who were married to one another.

A second, more complex equation exists because Andrew Langdon's sister Ellen (also Olivia's first cousin) became the stepmother of Alice Blunt Woodward after Alice's own mother died and her father remarried.

Alice Blunt Woodward was the daughter of George Wheelock Woodward and his first wife Adelia Blunt (aunt to Louisa Mussina Baird). After his wife Adelia's death in 1854, George Wheelock Woodward remarried to Ellen Eunice Langdon (b. 1832), sister of Andrew Langdon. Andrew, in turn, married his sister Ellen's stepdaughter Alice Blunt Woodward. Andrew was the son of John LeDroict Langdon, Olivia's uncle. It is possible that Olivia attended the family weddings for both Ellen and Andrew Langdon where Louisa Mussina may have also been present. For those wishing to pursue the tangled family connections further, see the family tree at ancestry.com.

With the benefit of knowing the family ties, it is now possible to identify the "Andrew" mentioned in Louisa Mussina Baird's 1877 letter to Olivia Clemens as Andrew Langdon. Langdon was a wealthy New York capitalist and coal dealer who would have been able to provide his wife's cousin with financial assistance.

While Livy's response to the plea for money in September 1877 does not exist, evidence of what happened can be found in the deed files in Archer County, Texas. In 1875 Jacob Mussina had filed for patent with the State of Texas a deed for 320 acres of land in Archer County. This was one parcel of land from his various land investments wherein title was clear and uncontested. In August 1877, Jacob sold this parcel of land to Samuel Friedberger, an Austin, Texas merchant for $300. On November 28, 1877, two months after Louisa wrote her letter to Livy, Ebenezer Baird purchased the same parcel of land back from Samuel Friedberger for $300. One month later, on December 24, 1877 Ebenezer and Louisa Baird sold to Olivia L. Clemens the 320 acres of land for $320--realizing a $20 profit for themselves. However, a special clause inserted into the deed indicates that Livy would, in effect, hold a mortgage on the property and that the Bairds would be able to repurchase it within five years. The special clause in the deed read:

It is herein expressly provided that the said Ebenezer B. Baird and Louisa M. Baird their heirs, administrators, and assigns shall well and truly pay to Mrs. Olivia L. Clemens her heirs, administrators, and assigns the sum of (500) five hundred dollars within five years from this date then and in that case the said above described land is to be reconveyed to the said Ebenezer B. Baird or Louisa M. Baird his wife their heirs or administrators or assigns in full warrantee deed otherwise this deed to be in full force and effect.(9)

A reading of the deed indicates that all parties considered Livy's purchase of the land a loan that could be repaid at the end of five years--one that represented a possible 66% return on her investment over a five year period. It is also interesting to note that the deed is made out to Olivia Clemens alone and not jointly to Olivia and Samuel Clemens. However, the fact that Sam was accustomed to and expected Livy to own property solely in her name is evidenced by a letter he wrote to his attorney Charles E. Perkins a few months earlier in July 1877. Regarding the Hartford property, he wrote:

I am astounded to learn that the Hartford property, all bought with Livy's money, still stands in my name. I supposed I had deeded it to her long ago, but she & Mr. Crane say it ain't so. Therefore please send me the necessary documents to sign in order to deed the whole thing to her...(10)

There is no indication as to which party would be responsible for taxes on the Texas land. The Bairds never moved to Archer County. In 1879 Ebenezer Baird was employed in Beaumont, Texas. The 1880 Texas census shows his occupation as a raftsman. In November 1882, toward the end of the five year period in which he might repurchase the Texas property from Olivia Clemens, he wrote his letter of inquiry to the County Clerk of Archer County. That letter, in turn, brought to light the issue of the unpaid taxes and a storm of wrath from Sam Clemens. Whether the Bairds had worked and saved money to repurchase the property is unknown. What is known is that the tax issue was resolved and the land remained in Olivia Clemens's name until her death. The Baird family relocated to the small town of Hooks Switch, Texas near Beaumont where Ebenezer was employed by a lumber company and Louisa started a boarding house. In 1899 the family returned to Beaumont.

June 2011 Update

As the saga of the Texas land and Olivia Clemens's ownership of it dragged on through the years, Sam Clemens himself may have harbored resentments against Andrew Langdon, Olivia's cousin, for not doing more to help Louisa Mussina Baird. After all, Louisa was cousin to Andrew's wife and no real blood kin to Olivia Clemens. In 1887 Clemens wrote a scathing satire aimed at Andrew Langdon that has puzzled scholars who have tried to determine the roots of the hostility. The manuscript, known as "Letter from the Recording Angel" was not published during Clemens's lifetime. In it, Clemens writes:

Years ago, when you were worth only $100,000, and sent $2 to your impoverished cousin the widow, when she appealed to you for help, there were many in heaven who were not able to believe it, and many more who believed that the money was counterfeit (10a).

The essay continues with Clemens chiding Andrew Langdon for many things, including not helping his cousin more when he would have been able to afford it.

In March 1900, writing from London, England, Olivia Clemens apparently responded to another request from Louisa Baird regarding the Texas property. Olivia wrote that she was referring Louisa's letter to the family attorney Franklin Whitmore. She wrote:

Regarding the main point in your letter I cannot answer you. The letter must go to Hartford & there it will be seen what can be done. I am not aware that we have gained any money through the Texas land, if so Mr. Whitmore will know of it. If I remember rightly we had to go to a good deal of trouble to get it back into our hands as I believe it was sold for taxes. I will send your letter to Mr. Whitmore & ask him to write you regarding it. Perhaps you know that we have met with reverses: that Mr. Clemens is now trying to pay off debts that he has not been responsible for, but which were incurred by his partner & then the firm was unable to meet them. So everything that we have must be turned to the best account. We must manage the Texas land in the way that will be most remunerative to us. If Mr. Whitmore is doing better with the Texas land than your offer he will have to continue that, if your offer is better than he is doing he will consider it. (11)

Louisa Baird died January 31, 1900 in Beaumont, Texas. She would have never received a letter from Livy penned in March of 1900. The letter to which Livy replied to does not survive in the Mark Twain Papers at Berkeley. Whether the Baird letter had been delayed by improper address, traveled around the world seeking the Clemenses, or whether it had even been penned by Louisa herself prior to her death is open to speculation.

Olivia Clemens held onto the property until her death in 1904. A year later in June 1905, a copy of her will was filed in Archer County and was copied into the deed book showing that Samuel Clemens was rightful heir to his deceased wife's property. On June 9, 1905, one year after his wife's death, Samuel Clemens signed a deed of sale conveying the land to Sanford Wilson of Archer County, Texas. The document was witnessed by Isabel Lyon and notarized by Milton Mason. Clemens agreed to sale the land for $950 (approximately $19,500 in today's dollars). Clemens agreed to receive $150 in cash and finance the remainder himself for a period of eight years with annual payments of $100. The land remained in the Sanford Wilson family for many years. An interview with a great granddaughter of Sanford Wilson revealed that arrangements were made to purchase the property when Wilson visited the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. The 1904 World's Fair was held for seven months in 1904 from April to December. Olivia Clemens died in Italy in June and Samuel never attended the 1904 World's Fair after her death. While the Wilson family oral history of how the sale was arranged may be true in some respects, the negotiations would have been made by someone other than Samuel Clemens if the deal was arranged at the World's Fair in St. Louis.

On the day Sam Clemens signed the legal papers selling Livy's Texas property, he was in Dublin, New Hampshire and his attention was focused on writing "Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes." He wrote the following about his character Catherine of Aragon. The same words could be applied to Livy:

Ah, Catherine, poor child, where art thou now? Where art thou, thou pretty creature, thou quaint sprite! Where is thy young bloom, thy tumultuous good heart, thy capricious ways, thine unexpectednesses, oh thou uncatchable globule of frisky quicksilver, thou summer-flurry of shower and sun-shine! You were an allegory! you were Life! just joyous, careless, sparkling, gracious, winning, worshipful Life! and now--thou art dust and ashes these thirty centuries!

This faded old paper brings her back. Her hand was the last that rested upon it. She was a dear child; and just a child--it is what she was; if I knew the place her fingers touched, I would kiss it.(12)

Although the financial arrangements regarding the purchase of the Texas land were written to provide a healthy return on Livy's investment should the Baird's have decided to repurchase the land, the Texas land transaction was part of a much larger tradition of charity and giving that Samuel and Olivia Clemens engaged in during the years they could afford to give.

Today Archer County is still rural ranchland. County population in 2000 was 8,854. The county seat is now named Archer City. To describe it as a courthouse with streets on each side and not much else is not a great understatement. Some residents and historians of Archer County know about the ranchland they refer to as the "Twain property." However, the most prominent author associated with Archer County is author Larry McMurtry. The small county seat does not capitalize on the town's connection to either famous author and unless you go to the courthouse and check the deed records and surveyor's maps, you will be unable to find the "Twain property" which lies just a few miles down a dirt road from the local courthouse.


Map of Archer City in Archer County, Texas showing route to the property once owned by Mark Twain -- highlighted in yellow.

_____

REFERENCE NOTES

(1) Notebook #38, Volume 33 of the Microfilm Edition of Mark Twain's Literary Manuscripts, ed. Anh Quyhn Bui, Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, Lin Salamo, and Harriet Elinor Smith. 42 vols. Berkeley: The Bancroft Library, 2001. Also in electronic file from Robert Hirst to Barbara Schmidt, 21 January 2004.

(2) SLC to Charles Webster, 25 November 1882. Reprinted in Mark Twain Businessman, edited by Samuel Charles Webster, Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 205.

(3) W. W. Duren to SLC, 14 November 1882. Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley.

(4) SLC to Charles Perkins, 7 July 1877. Mark Twain's Letters, 1876-1880, An Electronic Edition, Volume 2: 1877. The Mark Twain Foundation: 2001.

(5) Louisa Baird to Olivia Clemens, September 1877, Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley.

(6) P. T. Barnum to SLC, 10 October 1877. Selected Letters of P. T. Barnum, edited by A. H. Saxon. New York: Columbia University Press: 1983, p. 202.

(7) John Sleeper and J. C. Hutchins. Waco and McLennan County, Texas 1876. Reprint: Texian Press: 1966, p. 33.

(8) Mark Twain. "The Canvasser's Tale," The Stolen White Elephant and Other Detective Stories. New York: Oxford University Press: 1996, p. 233.

(9) Ebenezer B. Baird to Olivia L. Clemens. Deed Book B. Deed Records. Archer County Courthouse. Archer City, Texas, pp. 366-368.

(10) SLC to Charles Perkins, 7 July 1877. Mark Twain's Letters, 1876-1880, An Electronic Edition, Volume 2: 1877. The Mark Twain Foundation: 2001.

(10a) Mark Twain. "Letter from the Recording Angel." Reprinted in What is Man?, ed. Paul Baender, University of California Press, 1973, p. 69.

(11) Olivia Clemens to Louisa Baird. 30? March 1900. Mark Twain Papers. University of California, Berkeley.

(12) Mark Twain. "Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes." Reprinted in Which Was the Dream?, ed. John Tuckey, University of California Press, 1968, p. 529.


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