By Mary Giorgio
In the early 1900s, Gene Stratton Porter entertained thousands of readers with her tales of romance and adventure set in memorable natural landscapes. Her books sold 10 million copies by the time she died in 1924, making Porter Indiana’s most successful female author.
Porter was born in Lagro, Indiana, on August 17, 1863. She grew up on a farm with eleven siblings. In 1886, she married Charles Porter. The couple moved to Geneva, Indiana, in 1894. There, they built a 14-room home that soon became known locally as Limberlost Cabin.
The home was located near Limberlost Swamp, a local wetland habitat of ecological significance. Porter soon immersed herself in the study of the plants and animals that lived in the swamp. Porter recognized the area as a valuable habitat for many different species. However, nearby oil drilling threatened the loss of the swamp’s wetlands. Porter campaigned unsuccessfully to stop drilling and preserve the wetlands.
Porter spent much of her time exploring the wetlands and documenting the characteristics of the plants, birds, and insects that called the area home. Her observations and photographs were printed in magazines across the country.
Around this time, Porter also gained fame as a fiction author. Her first book, Song of the Cardinal, was published in 1903. All of Porter’s books aimed to inspire readers with a love of nature. Many were set in Porter’s beloved Limberlost Swamp. Her most popular books were Freckles (1904) and Girl of the Limberlost (1909).
In 1912, Porter moved to Rome City, Indiana. There, she designed a house on Sylvan Lake that would become known as Wildflower Woods. The home was surrounded by scenic woodlands. Porter continued her nature studies in her new home.
In 1918, Porter relocated to California to make movies based on her popular books. She had just started her own production company in 1924, when Porter was killed in an automobile accident.