Saturday, April 7, 2012

Go Down In History...

One of the sites I had on my must-see list in Indiana were the homes of Gene Stratton-Porter, a famous author who loved nature and preserved several areas of Indiana in her fight to keep the wilderness.  The pictures, I took as I was mesmerized by the beauty of the place. Below is a description, (in blue), taken off the historical website:

"Gene (born Geneva) Grace Stratton is one of Indiana’s most famous female authors. She was a prime example of an independent woman, an accomplished naturalist, and a born story-teller.

Born near Wabash, Indiana on August 17, 1863, she was the youngest of 12 children. Her parents, Mark & Mary Stratton, raised their children on a farm near Lagro, Indiana, located in Wabash County. From a humble Hoosier homestead and with not even a high school diploma, Gene Stratton-Porter would eventually become a famous author, naturalist, talented photographer, and movie producer.

Two of her Indiana homes are state historic sites. The Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva, Indiana, was Gene’s home from 1895-1913, but altogether she lived 25 years in Geneva. It was in Geneva that she, her husband (Charles Porter) and daughter (Jeannette), lived near the 13,000 acre Limberlost Swamp in a 14-room Queen Ann style log cabin home that she called “Limberlost”.

Mrs. Porter lived until December 7, 1924. A streetcar accident claimed her life in Los Angeles. At the time of her death she was considered to be one of the wealthiest female authors in America and had an estimated 50 million people (nearly half the population of America) reading her books. 


This home is an Indiana State Historic Site, administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and managed by the Indiana State Museum. The Porters built the home in 1895 after Charles Porter, Gene’s husband, could afford to build a home that reflected his financial & business success. The white cedar logs used to construct the home came from Wisconsin. The architectural style is an unusual “Queen Anne Rustic”. 

The interior is more indicative of the late Victorian period. Much of the interior paneling is quarter sawn red oak. The music room’s lincrusta is beautifully restored.

The Limberlost Cabin has 14 rooms, many of them restored to their original detail by skilled artisans. Mrs. Porter worked with the architect to design the home, and there is an obvious attention to detail. The home features some original pieces including bedroom furniture by Grand Rapids Furniture Company (Michigan). Some items were still in the home when it was donated to the state in 1947 such as Mrs. Porters Moth and Butterfly collection as well as a mounted Golden Eagle. Today, the Limberlost Cabin still has the warm, embracing, charm that it had when the Porters lived in the home a century ago. "


The location of the Limberlost Cabin was close to the Limberlost Swamp, which covered approximately 13,000 acres in the southern part of Adams County, the northern part of Jay County, and a small portion of Wells County in Indiana and Mercer County in Ohio.

Attracted to the abundant wildlife and unique plant life of the Limberlost Swamp, Gene Stratton-Porter spent a great deal of time photographing the flora and fauna of the area, and the swamp became the setting for many of her famous novels. Her love of the Limberlost Swamp inspired the novels that brought her international fame as an author. The Limberlost Swamp was the subject of some of her most popular novels including her bestsellers, Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost (today considered classics of Indiana literature). During her time at Limberlost, she wrote six novels and five nature books.

For Mrs. Porter, the Limberlost was a place to study the natural world, but for others of her time, it was a place to be avoided altogether. When Mrs. Porter arrived in Geneva in 1888, the Limberlost Swamp was in the process of being ditched and drained so that its valuable timber could be cut and settlers could lay claim to more agricultural land. In 1888 an oil & natural gas boom started in this part of the state, and by 1895 it was going at a fever pitch. Many had hopes that large deposits of oil would be found below the surface of the Limberlost. 

Mrs. Porter's second home is located on Sylvan Lake and the drive is totally worth it.

The area is a woodland wonder and the entire grounds has been dedicated to keep her studies and love for native woodland wildflowers alive.Her gardens still exist as she had planted them, with studies on the plants continuing today.

By 1913, Mrs. Porters popularity as a writer made her seek out a more private location for a new home she built with her own money on Sylvan Lake in Noble County, Indiana,. 

Also, by 1913, the original 13,000 acre Limberlost swamp was significantly reduced in size due to drainage projects and this adversely impacted Mrs. Porter’s nature studies.

Despite efforts at draining the Limberlost, many acres still frequently flood and this flood-prone acreage is eligible for federal and state programs established to protect and increase the amount of wetland acreage in Indiana. There is a successful program underway by Limberlost Swamp Remembered, a Committee of The Friends of the Limberlost, to buy and restore some of the Limberlost Wetlands. Today close to 1500 acres of the Limberlost Swamp are in the process of being restored and are managed by the Indiana Division of Nature Preserves. People can visit these restored wetland properties and experience the Limberlost just like Gene Stratton-Porter did a hundred years ago, and discover why Mrs. Porter felt the Limberlost was the best place to study birds, wildflowers, and moths."

Besides, the Biltmore Estate, I have never been in a more historically heavenly place where I felt like I was stepping back in time. Gene Stratton-Porter has a legacy that only I could imagine leaving behind with her preservation of natural wonders.

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