Karen Hunt, archaeologist and current owner of Mark Twain’s Uncle Quarles farm, hosted guests attending the Clemens Conference last Thursday in Florida, MO. The conference included approximately 60 scholars and professors from all over the world, who come to learn and experience the hands-on history Mark Twain.
Hunt shared, “This land is a pristine site, it has never been plowed and dates to the mid 1800’s. The land is a great place to discover artifacts from the time period.” Hunt explained to those attending the land was once owned by the Quarles family. Mr. Quarles was the uncle of Samuel Clemens, also known as the famous writer, Mark Twain. The author speaks of spending a lot of time on this farm as a young boy. Quarles lost his wife during childbirth and shortly after went bankrupt losing the farm.
Those touring were given the chance to walk through a preserved two-story log cabin, which dates back to the mid 1800’s and view artifacts which have been discovered through a technique known as electro-magnetic photo-field or what Hunts calls “Archaeology without a shovel”. There were volunteers present looking for artifacts, so those touring could see the technique Hunt uses at the site. Hunt gifted each tourists with a copy of her book while signing autographs and answering questions.
Of those visiting, Professor Virginia Maresca, of Queens, New York, stated, “It is just absolutely great here. The area is so rich with history, it is a bit like taking a step back in time.” Another scholar and play writer, Tammy Rose, of Boston, Massachusetts, shared her love for Mark Twain and the history, stating, “I wrote a play called Thoreau and Twain, Brothers on The River. Being here to experience this connects me with my writings.” Several others were seen admiring the land and were overheard stating, “This is quite a project,” and one gentleman from Japan was intrigued by the walnut trees, asking if he could take a walnut with him.
Hunt hosts an all-volunteer dig every September in recognition of Missouri Archaeology Month. She teaches newcomers how to use a trowel to remove soil. Individuals can learn how to use a ruler and graph, mapping objects recovered within the ground. Objects a guest may recover are brick, square nails, ceramic pieces, glass, flint rock and gun flint.
Hunt has been researching the entire plot of land for more than 30 years. She hopes to restore it to the lands original blueprint when the Quarles would have lived there. The land restored will include the log cabins, kitchen, water well and servant quarters. The restoration of this farm is funded by Hunt personally and excepts donations to help the vision of the restoration come to pass.