Kathleen Thomas


Probably one of the most interesting biographies in the family, but the hardest to trace.  Apparently she did not tell her own story very much, and her children's memories of it are fragmentary.  She was born and brought up in Vienna, Austria, which suggests that her name has been anglicized, possibly at Ellis Island.  There is some disagreement within the family as to whether she had a middle name "Bertha" or not.  As if that doesn't create enough confusion, her first name is given as "Catherine" in the 1920 census, but surely this is just clerical error.  She came from Vienna, but was not necessarily born there.  She apparently lost her father at an early age.  There is a story that she came to the U.S. on the suggestion or invitation of one of Samuel Clemens' daughters who had tasted her cooking at one of the famous Vienna cooking schools; such a suggestion, if true, would have to have taken place between September, 1897 and May, 1898, and the fact of her husband being a servant in the Twain household a short time after that gives this story some plausibility (the 1920 census says she immigrated in 1888, clearly wrong but perhaps a typo--or math error--for 1898).  There is also a story, more vague and questionable, that she won her ship-fare at a horse race in Paris.  She traveled to the U.S. with her cousin Sue (remembered as "Aunt Suze" by the offspring), bearing a letter of introduction to a minister in lower Manhatten, or possibly Washington, D.C.  Joe obtained information that she and Joshua were married in Washington D.C. by a Rev. Ernest Stires, who is remembered to have commented, "This will be a happy marriage."

Nothing seems to be currently known either of her parentage and previous life in Austria nor of the precise circumstances of meeting and marrying her husband, though the Mark Twain connection is obviously tantalizing.  I did examine the Clemens household records at Vassar College, but they were not nearly complete enough to answer these questions.  I hope there are records kept somewhere else (perhaps Berkeley) that will actually contain the names of household servants.

Though diabetic and blind in old age, she outlived her husband by many years, sharing a house in Staten Island with the family of her daughter Dolly Campbell.  She remained an exceptional chef, much appreciated in the family.