Mark Twain is one of the most well-known authors in American history. However, many don’t realize that he spent a fair bit of time in the Finger Lakes and is buried near his summer home in Elmira, New York.
To uncover this history, I decided to take a road trip through this corner of Chemung County to learn a bit about his legacy.
Mark Twain was born Samuel Clemens in Missouri in 1835. Twain is best known for his books that revolve around the Mississippi River, though he lived little of his adult life in that region of the United States.
Instead, Twain spent a good deal of his life in the northeast and spent 20 summers at the home of his wife’s sister in Elmira, New York. It was in Elmira that Twain wrote portions of some of his most famous books, including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” It is also where Twain was laid to rest.
If you are a fan of Mark Twain and his writing, there are a few spots around Elmira, New York that are worth taking a few minutes to check out.
Mark Twain’s Study
Mark Twain’s Study is a small outbuilding located at Elmira College. The study was originally on the grounds of his sister-in-law’s home but was moved to this site in 1952 due to the number of people that wanted to see it.
The study is octagonal shaped and is located adjacent to Cowles Hall in the college’s northern corner.
The study is incredibly bright and airy with a large window in seven of the study’s eight sides. It’s said that it was designed to look like a riverboat’s pilothouse, which harkens back to Twain’s younger life.
At only 12 feet across, the study isn’t very large but would be perfect for an afternoon of writing in the southern New York countryside. It even has a fireplace for the colder days.
Inside the study, it has been set up as it may have looked when Twin wrote here and also includes a bit of information about his life.
The study is open Memorial Day through Labor Day on Monday-Friday from 10am-4:30pm. It is free to visit.
If you visit outside of normal operating hours, as I did, you can still peer through the windows easily and see all of the study’s interior.
While at the study, look down the hill on the opposite side of the pond for the statues of Mark Twain and his wife, Olivia Langdon, that sit about 100 yards away.
The Mark Twain Exhibit
Located in Cowles Hall, a few steps away from the study, is the Mark Twain Exhibit. Unfortunately, this exhibit was closed during my visit, but it contains a bit of information about Mark Twain’s life in Elmira, as well as a few of his personal possessions.
The exhibit is open the same hours as the study, so make sure to visit during that time if you’d like to see this small, free museum.
Mark Twain’s Summer Home
Located a few miles from the cottage on the outskirts of Elmira is Quarry Farm. This was the home of Twain’s sister-in-law, Susan Crane, and her family. For the 20 years that Twain summered in Elmira, this was where they would stay.
In fact, Twain once called Quarry Farm “the quietest of all quiet places,” and it was in his study, when it was located here, that he wrote some of his most famous books.
Unfortunately, Quarry Farm is closed to the public and is currently used by Elmira College. However, it can be viewed from the road and is a nice spot to see if you are in the area and exploring the history of Twain’s time here.
There is also a virtual tour that you can take through the home that has been made by the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College.
Quarry Farm can be found at the following address: 131 Crane Rd, Elmira, NY 14901. As a reminder, this is private property, so please only observe the house from the road.
Mark Twain’s Gravesite
After Mark Twain died in Connecticut on April 21, 1910, he was interred in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery in his family’s plot. (Note: This cemetery shouldn’t be confused with the famous Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.)
In addition to Twain, the plot also includes the graves of his wife, Oliva, all four of his children (three of whom proceeded him in death), and his only grandchild. Twain’s grave is relatively simple and includes both his given name (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) as well as his pen name.
Given the popularity of this spot, there are markers that point the way to his grave from the entrance to the cemetery. There is also an information sign near the grave the tells more about Twain’s life and burial.
The grave of Mark Twain can be found in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery at the following coordinates: 42.106322, -76.825877.
Looking for more places to visit in the area? Check out Waverly Falls, Twinkle Town at Bradley Farms, the Corning Museum of Glass, and Eagle Cliff Falls.
4 thoughts on “Uncovering Mark Twain’s Life and Death in Elmira, New York”
This site is worth the trip if you love history and are a Twain fan. There are a few other sites worth seeing here. There is a section that homes are marked that can not be updated only to historical colors and of time period Elmira was first settled. I had a beautiful time here.
Hello. My grandmother told me stories of Mark Twain going to her parent home in Huntington, long Island NY. He would sit on the porch and tell stories to neighbors and friends. News would travel around the towns and they would come to listen. my Great grandfathers name was George Walker Smith. His wife’s name was Laura Hamilton Haviland Smith. Do you have any knowledge of these visits. I would love to know so much more, so that I can tell my Grandchildren. Thank you for your time!
Perhaps the researchers at this organization might help you with more info. https://marktwainstudies.com/ Good luck!
While I was a student at Elmira College 1960-1961, a friend and I babysat for a professor who was a caretaker. I recall sleeping in the living room and outside the windows was a tomb or two. I am trying to remember exactly whose house it was but I do recall that it had to do with Mark Twain. Can you please let me know whose house it might have been? Thank you.