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Add to My Citations To Jane Lampton Clemens and Family
24 and 25 August 1868 • Elmira, N.Y.
(MS: NPV, UCCL 02747)
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Elmira, N.Y. Aug. 24.

Dear Folks—

You see I am progressing—though slowly.1 I shall be here a week yet—maybe two—for Charley Langdon cannot get away until his father’s chief business man2 returns from a journey—& a visit to Mrs Fairbanks, at Cleveland, would lose half its pleasure if Charley were not along. Moulton, of St. Louis ought to be there, too. We three were Mrs. F.’s’ “cubs,” in the Quaker City. She took good care that we were at church regularly on Sundays; at the 8-bells prayer meeting every night; & she kept our buttons sewed on & our clothing in order—&, in a word, was as busy, & considerate & as watchful over her family of uncouth & unruly cubs, & as patient & as long-suffering, withal, as a natural mother. So we expect


Aug 25th

Didn’t finish yesterday. Something called me away. I am most comfortably situated here. This is the pleasantest family I ever knew.3 I only have one trouble, & that is that they give too much thought & too much time & invention to the object of making my visit pass delightfully. It needs


. . . .


Explanatory Notes

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1 Clemens intended to visit his family in St. Louis after his stay in Elmira and his trip to Cleveland with Charles Langdon.

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2 Unidentified, but see note 3.

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3 Jervis and Olivia Lewis Langdon were both natives of New York State. They were married in 1832, and settled in Elmira in 1845. Langdon soon became prosperous in the lumber business and then quite wealthy in the coal trade, which he entered in 1855. His extensive operations included mines in Pennsylvania and Nova Scotia, and a huge rail and shipping network that enabled him to become a pioneer supplier of anthracite coal to western New York State, Chicago, and the Far West. In 1865 he dissolved his old partnerships, and from 1866 operated independently as “J. Langdon, Miner & Dealer in Anthracite & Bituminous Coal.” His principal business associates were Theodore W. Crane, the husband of Susan Langdon Crane, his adopted daughter; Charles, his only son; and John D. F. Slee. These four men formally became partners in J. Langdon and Company in May 1870. Langdon was known to be a man of great integrity with a strong social conscience. An ardent abolitionist, he had served as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, and counted Frederick Douglass, whom he had helped escape from slavery, among his friends (Towner, 610–17; “In Memoriam,” Elmira Saturday Evening Review, 13 Aug 70, 5; 3 Sept 68 to Crane; Siebert, 414; Douglass to Olivia Lewis Langdon, 9 Nov 70, CtHMTH). The Langdons had been founding members of Elmira’s antislavery Park Congregational Church, whose pastor, Thomas K. Beecher, testified in his eulogy of Jervis Langdon:

At a time when opposition to slavery was costly ... Mr. Langdon was a pronounced and determined anti-slavery man.

Very few fugitives from slavery have passed through this region without receiving a benefit from him.... And when at last, by the costly compulsions of civil war, the system of slavery was abolished, Mr. Langdon’s redoubled exertions in behalf of the now freed men were sufficient testimony that his previous zeal had not been a cheap destructiveness, ... but a true and tender-hearted philanthropy. (Thomas K. Beecher, 27–28)

See also the Langdon family genealogy.



glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Jean Webster McKinney Family Papers, Vassar College Library (NPV). The MS, which now consists of a single torn half-sheet, inscribed on both sides but unsigned, is almost certainly incomplete.

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L2, 243–244; MTL, 1:154–55.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphsee McKinney Family Papers, pp. 512–14. The missing part of the MS had been lost by 1917 at the latest, for MTL’s text is equally incomplete.