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September 4, 2018
Hannibal, Missouri: Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home

When we first envisioned our steamboat cruise up the Mississippi River, there were two historical heroes that Gail was excited to connect with. She was able to walk in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps in yesterday’s port of Alton, Illinois. She hoped to connect with her second hero in today’s port of Hannibal, Missouri.

Hannibal was once the fourth largest lumbering center in the U.S. it was the largest rail center west of the Mississippi. It was the starting point for the Pony Express. And it was the hometown of Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name of Mark Twain.

Two nights ago, American Queen's Lewis Hankins performed a one-man show as Mark Twain. He even conducted an audience Q&A in character.

We only had half a day here, from noon until 4:30. There were two Mark Twain-related sites that Gail wanted to see: one was right next to the dock; the other was 2.5 miles outside of town. We aim for the farthest site first, and Gail decided she would rather ride bicycles than take the hop-on hop-off bus. Everyone told her that the route was flat. They were wrong.

They told us the bicycle route was flat. They were wrong.

Half the route was an excruciating uphill ride, but we arrived at the Mark Twain Cave by 12:30, beating the first tour bus. These mammoth, maze-like caves were first discovered in 1819. Clemens featured them prominently in his book Tom Sawyer. Tom tried to impress his crush Becky Thatcher with his knowledge of the caves. They ended up getting lost in them for days, but ultimately found a hidden treasure. We took a one-hour guided tour.


Mark Twain Cave

Norman Rockwell used this spot as the background for his painting of Tom and Becky trapped in the cave

The bicycle ride back into town was just as excruciating (this time the other half was uphill). We turned in the bicycles and walked through historic downtown, where you can visit re-creations of Sam Clemens’ boyhood home, as well as those of Tom Blankenship (the model for Huck Finn) and Laura Hawkins (the model for Becky Thatcher). We pretty much sped through the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum; it was a long, maze-like one-way route that ended up in a souvenir store.

Downtown Hannibal

Outside the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

Can you guess which of these is the Norman Rockwell painting?

More interesting to us was the Mark Twain Museum Gallery a block down the street, which had more family artifacts and a Norman Rockwell Gallery. Unfortunately, the Hannibal History Museum was closed due to “an electrical problem.”

Inside the Mark Twain Museum Gallery

We saw (but did not purchase) this rather appropriate shirt

One last statue of Mark Twain, right next to the American Queen

This morning we received some major news at a boat-wide “Town Hall” meeting with the captain. Due to rain further north, the water level of the Mississippi River is expected to rise to an unsatisfactory level over the next few days. Since we can’t pass under several bridges, we will not be able to advance further north than Hannibal. The remainder of our cruise – the entire last week – will need to be completely re-routed.

Stay tuned for further details!

Actually, we are not going to Clinton, Iowa, next. As Gail’s new shirt says, “Sometimes it is about the destination.”


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