Once upon a time I lived in small town Indiana, but I’ve been a suburbanite for decades. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a leisurely drive on a two-lane highway through the flat lands of the state, but this week I “wandered Indiana.”.
One destination was the state historic site of Gene Stratton-Porter’s home in Geneva, Indiana, an easy day trip. Having rediscovered this famous author and her books, I wanted to visit the town where she began her writing career. More fun for me – fellow Scriblerian Beth Steury met me there.
As I approached Geneva, the land subtly shifted from an abundance of corn fields to uncultivated wetlands. Each pond and marsh possessed its own water fowl, herons, swans, egrets.
Both docents at the museum center welcomed all questions and volunteered tidbits I would have never thought to ask. Here’s a quick rundown of what I learned:
- Geneva Stratton was born in Lagro (stress the second syllable), not Geneva. And here I’d thought she was named after her hometown.
- Youngest of twelve children and left to entertain herself much of the time, she spent her days watching birds and helping in the garden, activities that contributed to her skills as a naturalist and conservationist.
- As I suspected, Gene is the Bird Woman character in A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles.
- She started her career by writing magazine articles on nature, which led to short stories, which led to novels, which led to movies.
- She moved from Geneva to Rome City, Indiana, to avoid autograph hounds.
- Having been one of the fortunate few to survive the Spanish flu, she then moved to California in 1918 to regain her health.
- Her husband’s attitude was way ahead of his time. Who else circa 1900 allowed their wives to dress in pants and spend their days lying in a swamp holding a camera and waiting for the perfect shot of a baby vulture?
The Porters built their home in 1895, a large house made of logs.I was surprised they didn’t build out in the country, but it sits in the middle of town. While I’m not an antiques enthusiast, I do enjoy visiting history via the furnishings of its time. The best part of the Porter home? I could touch the furniture. Nothing was roped off.
If I’d stretched out on the antique bed, I’m sure I would have received a reprimand, but I was welcome to brush my fingers against the fabric of the coverlet.
Why have I shared my sightseeing tour on a Scriblerian post? Remember, I told you in my last post (Lost Virtues Found in the Limberlost) how Porter’s books are great for homeschoolers. Visiting the Limberlost region and Gene Stratton-Porter’s home makes for a great field trip as well. In fact, the staff at the museum center plans a calendar of events which includes student activities.
If you’re traveling through Indiana on vacation, make time for a visit. I’ve included a list of related websites below.
You’re welcome, Indiana.
http://www.indianamuseum.org/limberlost; http://www.bernein.com; http://www.swissheritage.org; http://www.BerneClockTowerInn.com; http://www.visiteasternindiana.org; http://www.fwhistorycenter.com; http://www.kidszoo.org; http://www.botanicalconservatory.org