National Geographic : 1956 Jul
134 Gerald R. Massie Judge Clemens's Law Office Recalls Frontier Days Townspeople last year moved the structure to this site on Hill Street to spare it from repeated flood damage. wash giving a last quick swash to a garden wall. I could hear the juicy swipes and see a fishpole leaning against the porch. A moment later the fishpole was gone-and the boy. The small frame law office where Judge Clemens carried on his prac tice and presided as justice of the peace during Hannibal's frontier days was moved last year from its original site on Bird Street. Age and the recurrent high waters of the Missis sippi had weakened the dark decay ing courtroom that Mark Twain re called in Innocents Abroad, the court room where he, a schoolboy, came upon the corpse of a stabbed man lying on the moonlit floor. Volunteers Saved Landmark The precarious slant of the water logged 1840 building gave warning to Hannibal in the spring of 1955. The town speedily set about saving it; some people gave their labor, some donated land, and many contributed money. It was taken down in sections and rebuilt on a donated lot beside the Becky Thatcher house. Today its restored courtroom appears as it was when the stern father of Mark Twain climbed on his three-legged stool and rapped for order and a jury of pioneers sat on a puncheon bench before him. The printing office where Mark Twain learned his original trade of setting type was pulled down in 1954. In that building on Main Street he was, at 12, a printer's devil on the Missouri Courier. His pay for a seven-day week was room and skimpy board, plus a suit of hand-me-down clothes each year. His older brother Orion started a rival paper, the Western Union, and Mark Twain moved over to it. A skilled printer and shop foreman at the age of 15, he began his writing career on that paper and at that age. The parlor of the home on Hill Street, now so severely neat, was for a time the printing office of the merged Western Union and Journal, where the three Clemens boys ran their paper through the press.