By Elaine Ernst Schneider
Geneva (nicknamed Gene) Stratton was born on a farm in Indiana. Her favorite spot as an adult, however, was the Limberlost Swamp in Wabash Township, pegged today by locals as a part Adams and Jay counties. She often trekked into the Limberlost with camera, notepad, and glass plates, photographing the birds and wildlife and then developing the photos herself, sometimes tinting them with watercolors.
As a married woman, Gene Porter lived with her husband and daughter Jeanette in the Limberlost Cabin situated just at the edge of the swamp. Gene created a Limberlost character named Freckles – an orphaned boy who has only one hand. As the plot unfolds, the reader learns that Freckles feels he is “absolutely nothing” and that this is all he is ever destined to be. A kind owner of a lumber camp and the Swamp Angel prove otherwise.
The book Freckles was so popular that Ms. Porter decided to follow it with another Limberlost tale. The next book was entitled A Girl of the Limberlost and told the story of Elnora Comstock who collected butterflies from the depth of the swamp. Elnora’s father had died in the swamp, and for this, Elnora’s mother carried an unyielding hatred for the Limberlost. Ironically, it was the Limberlost that gave Elnora comfort and solace. This was by far Gene Stratton-Porter’s most famous work.
When the real Limberlost Swamp was drained for cropland, Ms. Porter lost her laboratory and her inspiration. However, the State of Indiana declared the area a Historic Site. Today, the lands have been restored to marshlands. Travelers may take swamp tours, see the bird sanctuary, and tour the Porter cabin.
Gene Stratton-Porter was a naturalist. She desired authenticity for her writing and studied independently, gleaning her own information from the swamp. Her books are fascinating, as was her life. Ms. Porter died in a streetcar accident in Los Angeles. She was in Los Angeles, arranging movie rights to her books.
You may order both Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost by clicking on the icons on the left of this page. The links will take you directly to the Amazon order information for those specific books.
Write a letter of introduction as if you are Gene Stratton-Porter. The letter should tell interesting information that would make Gene a candidate for membership in the Limberlost Conservation Association (this association does exist, by the way!) You may wish to do additional research so that you can include facts that make your letter believable. Start your letter:
Hi. My name is Gene Stratton-Porter.