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Sonora, California

Mark Twain's Cabin

The place where Samuel Clemens first used his pen name, after writing a story about a jumping frog. 

The name “Mark Twain,” as most people know, is the pseudonym under which Samuel Langhorne Clemens published his novels, travelogues and other writings. Even alter egos have a point of origin, however, and this cabin in central California could be said to be Mark Twain’s birthplace.

On December 4, 1864, Clemens arrived at this small cabin on Jackass Hill Road near Angels Camp, California, to stay with local miners Jim and Bill Gillis. At the age of 30, he had already been first a riverboat pilot and then a miner himself, and having failed at the latter profession he had decided to try his hand at journalism.

While staying at the Gillis brothers’ cabin, one day Clemens went to a saloon in Angels Camp where he heard a story about a jumping frog. Clemens took notes, wrote the story down in his own style and published it as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” under the pen name Mark Twain, and thus began his career as a writer.

The cabin that stands on the site today is a replica, built in 1922, but the fireplace and chimney are original. As you look through the open doorway it is easy to imagine young Sam Clemens writing his story by the fireplace.

Know Before You Go

From the intersection of Highway 49 and Highway 4 in downtown Angels Camp, drive south on Highway 49 for 7.8 miles (12.5 km). A stone marker will be on the right, and just past that on the left is the turnoff to Jackass Hill Road. The cabin is 0.75 miles (1.2 km) from the highway.