Speaking as Mark Twain, Waddell said the Tom Sawyer book began as a manuscript titled “The Boys,” about Billy Rogers and an 8-year-old girl named Amy, with whom he was obsessed.

Jim Waddell has been portraying Mark Twain in programs at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum for many months, but the group gathered Monday, Oct. 23, at the Hannibal Free Public Library heard a new presentation, performed for the first time.

This was “Finding Tom Sawyer,” detailing how Sam Clemens was inspired to publish his first book of fiction, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Waddell’s free program was sponsored by the library and will be repeated at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, with the public again invited to attend.

Speaking as Mark Twain, Waddell said the Tom Sawyer book began as a manuscript titled “The Boys,” about Billy Rogers and an 8-year-old girl named Amy, with whom he was obsessed.

He wrote a note to her: “Darling Amy. … If you found an apple on the doorstep, it was me.” He left the apple but was afraid to face her and hid when she came out. “I sang out ‘apples.’” he said.

He tried to see her by going in a torchlight procession. He paid his friends in marbles to walk by her house four times.

He became so obsessed with her his mother thought he was ill and gave him various kinds of remedies, some of which made him sick. “My mother don’t understand me,” he said.

He said Amy came to his house with her aunt and talked to him about being sick. Then they discovered they were going to the same school and she asked him, “Will you play with me?” at school.

Twain said, “I mined that story to make Tom Sawyer, but it wasn’t enough. The story came to a sudden halt. I had exhausted my stock of raw materials. … Two years later I took it out and now had plenty of materials.” So the book was written and eventually published in 1870.

He added that “Tom Sawyer is somewhat autobiographical,” going on to describe some true experiences he fictionalized in the book. One was about being whipped at school, when his teacher sent him out to get a switch and he found a rotten one. “I stood before her, and she used my full name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. She said she was ashamed of me.” Another boy was told to find a switch and he found a strong one.

“Aunt Polly was based on my mother,” he said. “She lived to age 92. She was a friend of the friendless.” She was not afraid of anyone and once shamed a mean man into asking her pardon and giving her a rope that he had used to threaten people.

“Sid is based on my brother, Henry,” he said. “He was two years younger than I.” He was always good, he said. “I think his goodness would have been a burden to my mother, but I (did the opposite).” Sam was often punished he said. “Mother took it out on me, and I took it out on Henry.”

He said Huck Finn was based on Tom Blankenship. “I drew him exactly as he was. … He was the only truly independent (person) in the community. We sought out his society,” because it was forbidden.

He told about Injun Joe getting lost in the cave that was later named Mark Twain Cave, and about another time when he and several friends became lost in the cave and spent 24 hours there before being found.

Another story, told in Twain’s own amusing way, involved Sam and two friends finding a boat and later barely making it to an island before the boat sank. They were later rescued by Mr. Blankenship’s boat crew.

One story involved the Gold Rush. It was near 1830s, he said. “I remember the street was filled with Conestoga wagons with teams of oxen. They were on their way to California, because gold had been discovered.”

After the program, Henry Sweets, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, reported that during the past summer Waddell did a shorter version of the program but this one was much more detailed.

“We anticipate he will do the presentation for us in 2018 as well,” Sweets said.

The program was partially financed by the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities Council and the Community Foundation, which is an area-wide agency in Missouri and Illinois.

A group of appreciative teenagers attended the Mark Twain program Monday. They explained their regular Teen Night event had been cancelled, giving them an opportunity to learn about Mark Twain’s famous book. Teen Night at the library is from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. every Monday except on holidays, year-round. The library’s Assistant Director Caitlin Greathouse leads Teen Night.

Library Director Hallie Yundt Silver explained, “One week a month they discuss books. One week they see a movie. One week they play board and other games, and one week they make crafts.” And if there is a fifth Monday, she said, “We do something different. … They keep in touch through Facebook.”

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.