It might have been mentioned earlier that Redding already had literary associations when Mark Twain arrived. As far back as Revolutionary days Joel Barlow, a poet of distinction, and once Minister to France, had been a resident of Redding, and there were still Barlow descendants in the township.
William Edgar Grumman, the librarian, had written the story of Redding’s share in the Revolutionary War—no small share, for Gen. Israel Putnam’s army had been quartered there during at least one long, trying winter. Charles Burr Todd, of one of the oldest Redding families, himself—still a resident, was also the author of a Redding history.
Of literary folk not native to Redding, Dora Reed Goodale and her sister Elaine, the wife of Dr. Charles A. Eastman, had, long been residents of Redding Center; Jeanette L. Gilder and Ida M. Tarbell had summer homes on Redding Ridge; Dan Beard, as already mentioned, owned a place near the banks of the Saugatuck, while Kate V. St. Maur, also two of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s granddaughters had recently located adjoining the Stormfield lands. By which it will be seen that Redding was in no way unsuitable as a home for Mark Twain.
A MANTEL AND A BABY ELEPHANT
Mark Twain was the receiver of two notable presents that year. The first of these, a mantel from Hawaii, presented to him by the Hawaiian Promotion Committee, was set in place in the billiard-room on the morning of his seventy-third birthday. This committee had written, proposing to build for his new home either a mantel or a chair, as he might prefer, the same to be carved from the native woods. Clemens decided on a billiard-room mantel, and John Howells forwarded the proper measurements. So, in due time, the mantel arrived, a beautiful piece of work and in fine condition, with the Hawaiian word, “Aloha,” one of the sweetest forms of greeting in any tongue, carved as its central ornament.
To the donors of the gift Clemens wrote:
The beautiful mantel was put in its place an hour ago, & its friendly “Aloha” was the first uttered greeting received on my 73d birthday. It is rich in color, rich in quality, & rich in decoration; therefore it exactly harmonized with the taste for such things which was born in me & which I have seldom been able to indulge to my content. It will be a great pleasure to me, daily renewed, to have under my eye this lovely reminder of the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean, & I beg to thank the committee for providing me that pleasure.
To F. N. Otremba, who had carved the mantel, he sent this word:
I am grateful to you for the
valued compliment to me in the labor of
heart and hand and brain which you have put upon it. It is worthy
of the choicest place in the house and it has it.
It was the second beautiful mantel in Stormfield—the Hartford library mantel, removed when that house was sold, having been installed in the Stormfield living-room.