Albert Bigelow Paine: Dwellers in Arcady (NOTES)

Rough Draft

Segment: Albert Bigelow Paine.

Without meeting Paine, Clemens would not have lived in Redding.

In 1919, 9 years after Twain’s death, Paine published a fictional account of a families journey to the Connecticut country side to begin a new life. He called the book Dwellers in Arcady: The Story of an Abandoned Farm House. The notes that follow are based on this fictional account. From early 1906, when Twain hired him to write his biography, until Twain’s death in April 1910, Albert Bigelow Paine seemed to shape the events he was part of.

In the summer of 1905 Albert Bigelow Pain and his wife Dora took a train to Redding Connecticut to look at property and in particular a farmhouse on what is now Diamond Hill Road. How did they find out about the farmhouse?  A listing in a New York Newspaper? Why Redding? What was Paine’s connection?  A visit to a real-estate agent? It was a two hour journey by train from New York City so they had a good idea of what they wanted and where. They wanted a summer home, to raise there young family in the clean country air. They decided to move to the Connecticut hills after falling in love with the house and town.

“People dead or gone away, and city folks not begun to come yet”.

“…he came through the trees, a youngish, capable looking person who said he was the one we had written…”

” the telephone had not then reached the country side….”

“But then all at once we were pulling up abreast of two massive maple-trees and some stone steps”  (steps are still there and I think the big maple to the right could be one of them).

Last note: It’s difficult to tell fact from fiction, but the physical part of the story is based on a real farmhouse in Redding (less than a mile from Twain’s estate). A place Paine bought in the summer of 1905 (five months before he meet Twain who then hired him to write his biography). The purchase of the farm, filed with the county clerk, is proof of the timeline. A photographer early in his career, Paine provided the illustrator photographs of the countryside and interior and exterior of the house.

“We agreed readily with this view; we were passing, just then, along a deep gorge that had a romantic, even dangerous, aspect; we descended to a pretty valley by a road so crooked that twice it nearly crossed itself; followed up a clear, foaming little river to a place where there was a mill and a waterfall, also an old-fashioned white house Surrounded by trees. Just there we crossed a bridge and our driver pulled up.”

The crooked road is now part of the Saugatuck trail, the foaming brook, the Saugatuck River and that old-fashioned house is still their behind waterfall that flows over the stone dam (part of the mill) at the base of Diamond Hill Road.

The character William C Westbury is the real life Harry A Lounsbury, related to the Meekers, he lived the house as the bottom of the hill next to the mill dam. He would help with the construction of Stormfield and work for Twain on occasion.

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