Mark Twain was born in Florida, Missouri and lived in two other homes in Hannibal, Missouri. All are part of the author’s history as a youth in Missouri. I visited the three homes during the year 2008. I also took an afternoon narrated cruise on the Mississippi River.
Home in Florida Missouri
I found the town of Florida located within the Mark Twain State Park. It consisted of 5 or 6 homes in an area of 6 blocks. Beside a small stream, in a mowed lot, a plaque indicated this was his birthplace home location.
The house itself was approximately one mile away inside a building referred as Mark Twain Birthplace State Historical Site which overlooked Mark Twain Lake. The home was a ground floor two room house. It appeared to me the same as any other home in the Missouri countryside during 1835.
Two Homes in Hannibal
In Hannibal, Mark Twain’s characters Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn were emphasized. It’s assumed Mark Twain creating these characters from real persons living in the Hannibal area, during the 1840s.
Mark Twain’s home was a two story building without a front yard. The front entrance was from the sidewalk along the street. Behind this home was a visitor’s center, where paid tours were available. Behind this was a small two story house which, supposedly, was Huck Finn’s house.
Across the street from Mark Twain’s home was a house, recently moved, on cement blocks. I thought of Becky Thatcher’s house being moved as an afterthought of the tourist bureau. I have always viewed the character Becky Thatcher as an afterthought of Mark Twain’s.
One half block toward the river, at a downtown corner, was a drug store. Above this was Mark Twain’s second home in Hannibal. This was unexpected since I always presumed the owner of a store lived above the store during the mid 1800s.
Mississippi River cruise
The west bank of the Mississippi river was located two blocks east of the drug store. Between the store and river stood a large concrete wall. It had openings designed to be closed and keep back water during the yearly Mississippi River floods. I went through one opening and purchased a ticket for the narrated river cruise.
The cruise itself was a cruise to nowhere. It went downriver on the west side and upriver on the east side. The narrator indicated an area on the west side that had caves. He suggested these caves gave Mark Twain inspiration to use a cave for a setting. Also near the Illinois side of the river was an island. The narrator implied this island was Mark Twain’s inspiration to use an island for a setting.
I enjoyed visiting Florida and Hannibal because the sense of history during the mid 1800s was present. However, if I had gone to sense Mark Twain as an author, I would have been disappointed.