For Our Connecticut Readers: Twain Comes to Redding

From Mark Twain’s Margins On Thackeray’s Swift by Coley B. Taylor (Gotham House, New York, 1935)

Mark Twain came to Redding in June 1908. The New Haven railroad stopped its afternoon express for the first time to let him off, and moreover the express would continue to stop there every day t accomodate him and his friends. You can imagine how impressive a fact that was. Redding, in that far-off, pre-commuting day, was a quiet little town of farmers who were living on the places their forbears had won from the wilderness. Nothing much had happened there since the Civil War.

There were several New Yorkers who bought places in Redding about that time, all of them writers or artists. Albert Bigelow Paine was the first arrival, I believe, and it was through him that Mark Twain came, and Dan Beard, who had just organized the Boy Scouts. Mr. Paine’s Hollow Tree books became our favorites; we came to know them by heart. James Condé, who illustrated them so delightfully, lived near Mr. Paine. Kate V. St. Maur, another member of that circle, was an actress as well as a writer; she later did much to get the Library started, and later still became the librarian. All of these newcomers were to the Redding of that day a little like people from Mars—they lived in a strange world of books and magazines; the fact that they earned their livings by writing or drawing pictures was entirely new to us children, and extremely exciting. Their doings, harmless enough, I imagine, set the town on its ear.