ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Overlooking Elmira to the northeast on East Hill, just off Crane Road, sits Quarry Farm, the birthplace of many of Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens) most famous pieces of literature.
The farm on the hill sits alone, surrounded by nature, and has been used and maintained by Elmira College since it was donated to them by Clemens’ great-nephew, Jervis Langdon Jr. in 1982.
According to the Center for Mark Twain Studies, the home was bought in 1869 by Jervis Langdon but was willed to his eldest daughter Susan in 1870 following his death.
The home was used by the Langdon family for decades, with Clemens being a frequent guest as he was engaged to one of Langdon’s daughters.
Clemens had married Langdon’s youngest daughter Olivia, and from a span of 20 years, 1871 to 1895, Clemens and his family spent the summers here, away from the busy Elmira streets, which gave Clemens the perfect spot to write his most famous works.
The famed Mary Twain Study, now displayed on the campus of Elmira College, was built in 1874 and sat around 100 yards away from the house on Quarry Farm.
According to the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Clemens was able to complete a vast number of works during his time in the study. Works including three book-length travel narratives, two plays, dozens of stories and essays, and four novels, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
If you visit the site today and look around the farm you will find the main house overlooking a large field that cascades into a downward slope, giving anyone that stands on the front patio a wide view of the Chemung River Valley.
To the rear of the house is a large red barn with white shutters and trim along the windows, and across from that is a small wooden cabin. The barn now serves the purpose of being an exhibit space, and hosts the Trouble Begins Lectures every year.
The cabin was lived in by the farm’s cook, Mary Ann Cord, an African-American woman, and former slave.
She spoke about her time as a slave to Clemens while on the farm in 1874, those stories became “A True Story Repeated Word For Word As I Heard It,” and was the first story Clemens published in the Atlantic Monthly.
When it comes to getting inside the house, that’s a privilege only a select number of people can be granted each year.
Since the farm is owned and maintained by Elmira College, it continues to keep the objective first given by Jervis Langdon Jr. when he donated it in 1982.
That objective was that the farm would be a cultural humanities site and that the house would be used only as a place of work and inspiration for Mark Twain scholars.
Every year between 16 and 20 scholars are in residence and are allowed inside the home on the farm as either Quarry Farm Fellows or as contributors to the Trouble Begins Lectures.
2023’s Trouble Begins Lectures will begin on May 10 and will continue until the fall.