In the later years of his life, famous American author and satirist Samuel Langhorne Clemens — better known as Mark Twain — savored the tranquil days spent at his Italianate mansion in Redding, Connecticut. Initially named “Innocents at Home” as an homage to his novel Innocents Abroad, Twain soon renamed his new home “Stormfield.”This was likely as a nod to the profits from his book Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven which helped fund its construction, and perhaps also in acknowledgement of the blustery winds that often enveloped it.
Twain’s treasured peace and quiet was shattered in the early hours of September 18, 1908, when two burglars entered Stormfield through a window and stole a satchel full of the Clemens’ family silverware. Twain’s secretary was awakened by the ruckus and immediately summoned local deputy sheriff George Banks, who promptly began a search for the thieves. Banks followed a set of distinctive footprints to a local train station, and on boarding the next outbound train, discovered the two culprits onboard. Banks apprehended them after a dramatic scuffle that resulted in his leg being grazed by a bullet.
The thieves were escorted to Redding’s Town Hall, where they appeared for arraignment before a judge that same morning. After hearing testimony from the accused, the sheriff, and Twain’s secretary — while being stared down by Twain himself, who sat in the audience — the two were formally charged with burglary and placed aboard a train which would transport them to a jail in Bridgeport.
The very next day, a reporter visiting Stormfield found the following sign tacked to the mansion’s front door:
NOTICE TO THE NEXT BURGLARS
There is nothing but plated ware in the house now and henceforth. You will find it in that brass thing in the dining room over in the corner by the basket of kittens. If you want the basket, put the kittens in the brass thing. Do not make any noise, it disturbs the family. You will find rubbers in the front hall by that thing that has the umbrellas in it. Chiffonier I think they call it, a pegola, or something like that. Please close the door.
– Yours truly, S.L. Clemens.
Brent Colley, “The Burglary at Stormfield, September 18, 1908,” Mark Twain Stormfield Project blog
“Video: Mark Twain at Stormfield,” connecticuthistory.org