HANNIBAL, MO. —There's a special chair in the parlor of Garth Mansion, an 1871 Victorian masterpiece turned into an upscale bed-and-breakfast on the outskirts of Hannibal.
John Garth and his wife, Helen Kercheval Garth, were students at Mrs. Elizabeth Horr's school along with Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. "One of the prettiest of the schoolgirls was Helen Kercheval," Twain later wrote. The three became lifelong friends, and Clemens often visited their home.
John Garth died in 1899, and Clemens stayed at the home during a stop at Hannibal in 1902. That's when the red velvet chair in the parlor achieved its fame.
"It was John Garth's chair," said Julie Rolsen, owner of the B&B with her husband, John. "After John's death, Clemens stayed here for several days visiting Helen. He would have sat in that chair."
Twain lovers come to Hannibal from as far away as Japan to "dip their toes" in his mighty Mississippi, Rolsen said. "And they're just ecstatic that they can sit in that chair."
Garth Mansion, at 11069 New London Road (garthmansion.com and 1-888-427-8409), is a historic place to stay during the Year of Mark Twain. Other businesses in Hannibal also plan special products or events, including: