John Marshall Clemens

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John Marshall Clemens (August 11, 1798 – March 24, 1847) was the father of author Mark Twain.

Biography[edit]

Clemens was the scion of a Virginia family that owned both land and slaves in that state. The Clemenses were a Cornish American family originally from Looe in Cornwall, England.[1] He was born in Campbell County, Virginia, the eldest of five children, to Samuel B. and Pamela Goggin Clemens.[2] He was named after U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall.

His father died in 1805, whereupon the family moved to Kentucky. Pamela Clemens remarried in 1809, and John Clemens started working at age 11, as a clerk at an iron mine.[2] Later in his youth he undertook the study of law in a local law office and became a licensed attorney at the age of 21.[2] At that same age, he became legally responsible for financial obligations deemed to be owed to his Kentucky stepfather for the costs of supporting the Clemens children and family slaves. The burden of this debt left him without financial resources.[2]

He married Jane Lampton in 1823 moved to Fentress County, Tennessee, where he practiced law, operated a general store, and served as a county commissioner, county clerk, and acting attorney general. From 1832 to 1835 he was postmaster in Pall Mall.[2] He speculated unsuccessfully in land and opened four stores which were unsuccessful.

In 1835 the Clemens family, which by then included five children, moved to Missouri, initially to Florida, where his son Samuel, who was to become famous as the author Mark Twain, was born in November 1835. John Clemens practiced law and operated a general store in Florida for several years before moving to Hannibal in 1839. His retail business ventures were not successful, but he was active in civic affairs.[2] He served as a steamboat and railroad commissioner and became a county judge. He served in the Missouri militia but did not serve in the debacle of the Honey War.

John Clemens was the father of five sons and two daughters. He died in March 1847 from pleurisy and pneumonia.[2]

Cabin[edit]

The cabin in which the Clemens family is believed to have lived in Fentress County, Tennessee, is displayed as part of the collection of the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Payton, Philip. The Cornish Overseas, 2005
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Oliver and Goldena Howard (1993), The Mark Twain encyclopedia, pp. 153–4 
  3. ^ Information obtained from museum interpretive sign inside the cabin, 1 May 2009.