Oldham County Honorees

OCHS to honor its 2014 ‘Living Treasures’ at January program

Re-enactor Brock to portray Mark Twain

LA GRANGE, Ky. (January 2015) – One always associates Mark Twain with the south, but one does not always associate him with Kentucky. This literary icon had ties with the Bluegrass state even before he was born.
Twain’s mother, Jane Lampton, “was born and raised in Columbia, Adair County, Ky. She met his father in Columbia, and they were married and lived there a few years,” said Robert Brock, 59. Brock portrays Mark Twain for the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautauqua Program.
Brock will portray Twain for the Oldham County History Center’s Living Treasures reception, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17.
This free Kentucky Humanities Council sponsored program will be held in the Rob Morris Education-al Building on the Oldham County History Center’s campus located at 106 N. Second Ave. in La Grange.

Robert Brock
Robert Brock as
Mark Twain.

Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. His father was John Marshall Clemens, and his parents lived in Kentucky for two years before moving to Tennessee and on to Missouri, where Twain was born in Florida, Mo., on Nov. 30, 1835.
Twain was raised in the town of Hannibal, Mo., 35 miles from Florida, Mo. Lying along the banks of the Mississippi River, Hannibal was a frequent stop for steamboats arriving day and night from St. Louis and New Orleans.
Twain’s great grandfather was Col. William Casey of Revolutionary War fame, after whom Casey County, Ky., is named, said Brock, who teaches theatre full-time at Lindsey Wilson College.
“His life was filled with fascinating friendships, much sadness and wonderful stories,” said Brock. “Many things about him are fascinating to me, but most of all his determination to follow his own inclination.”
Twain’s father died of pneumonia when he was 12 years old. At age 13, he left school to become a printer’s apprentice. Two years later he joined his brother’s newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant.

Oldham County Living Treasures

February: Herbert Hendron
March: Brad Clifford
April: James Lewis
May: Eugene Earnst
June: Bob Arvin
July: Howard Griffin
August: Claudine Finn
September: Harold Smith
October: Jean Hall
November: Robert Young
December: Noralee Moock

He took a printers job in St. Louis at age 17. While in St. Louis, he became a river pilot’s apprentice. In 1858 he became a licensed river pilot. By 1861, river travel was brought to a stand still by the Civil War, so Twain took a job as a newspaper reporter.
Twain began to gain much attention as a writer with the publication of his story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County.” It appeared in the New York Saturday Press on Nov. 18, 1865.
Twain became best known as the author of such American classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Prince and the Pauper” and “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.” He died on April 21, 1910.
The Living Treasures Oral History program was begun in 2007 by Nancy Stearns Theiss, executive director of the Oldham County History Center. She thought it would be a good way to honor Oldham County’s elders.
“The Living Treasures program recognizes people who have generously served our community with kind hearts and good deeds,” said Theiss. Eleven Living Treasures are recognized each month throughout the year in a column Theiss writes for The Oldham Era weekly newspaper.
A reception is held each January to honor the past year’s recipients as well as previous Living Treasures, with refreshments provided by the Project Guild of La Grange.
These oral histories are recorded, archived and made available to the public at the Oldham County History Center and The Oldham Era website. The tapes are also archived in the Louie B. Nunn Oral History Library at the University of Kentucky.
Like many of the Living Treasures, Twain was well known for his storytelling. “All of the words I speak as Mark Twain are his,” said Brock. He referred to Twain’s books and autobiographical materials for background material for his performance. Brock, originally from Lexington, Ky., has been performing as Twain since 2007.
Brock also gives a Chautauqua performance as Billy Herndon, Abraham Lincoln’s law partner of 18 years. When Brock performed as Herndon for a group of seventh-graders in Campton, Ky., “They were glued to the stories. It brings history to life.”

• For more information about the Living Treasures reception, call the Oldham County History Center at (502) 222-0826 or email: info@oldhamcountyhistoricalsociety.org.

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