The granite monument at Samuel Langhorne Clemens’s gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery stretches 12 feet into the air.
That’s two fathoms — or “mark twain,” if you’re using steamboat terminology. On the monument was a bronze likeness of the author, along with a similar plaque displaying the profile of his son-in-law, Ossip Gabrilowitsch.
“I don’t believe it was taken for its scrap value because it’s a specialty item that will be recognized around here,” cemetery superintendent Bryce Cuyle told the newspaper. “I think it was taken because of who it was.”
Clemens, the Missouri-born author of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” died on April 21, 1910, in Connecticut. He’s buried in New York with his wife and some other family members.
“Somebody had to bring in a ladder,” local history aficionado Jim Hare told the paper. “There has been vandalism in the cemetery over the years, but there has never been any at the Twain site, which is a revered site. Desecration of any grave is a horrible thing for people to do.”
Cuyle, the cemetery superintendent, told the AP on Monday that the 12-by-12-inch likeness of Twain was likely stolen between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“I guess we were lucky no one touched it for so long,” Elmira City Historian Diane Janowski told the Star-Gazette. “It was made and installed in 1937 by an artist who lived here locally, Ernfred Anderson. I have been watching eBay, and it hasn’t been on there.”
Cuyle told the paper that he expects “someone will start chirping about this on social media.” But if not, the Star-Gazette reports that Twain scholar Kevin MacDonnell, of Texas, has a backup plan.
According to the Star-Gazette:
“I’ve got a bunch of stuff related to Anderson, the fellow who designed that plaque. I have a plaster cast by Anderson of that plaque he did for the monument,” MacDonnell said. “If the time comes and someone wants to replace that plaque, if my plaque could be used, I’d be happy to lend it to someone.”
Replacing the plaque — if the original isn’t recovered — is something the community should get behind, with the approval of the Langdon family, Hare said.
“It means a lot to a lot of people,” he said. “They come a long way to visit Mark Twain’s grave.”