Geneva Grace Stratton was born on August 17, 1863 in the small town of Lagro in rural Wabash County, Indiana to Mark Stratton and Mary Shallenberger Stratton. The Strattons were a large family, with Gene being the youngest of twelve children. Young Gene enjoyed the outdoors, exploring, picking flowers on their family farm.
On July 6, 1872 Gene’s favorite brother Laddie drowned leaving the family grieving and with no one to help Mark Stratton with the farm work. In 1875 the family moved in with another daughter and shortly thereafter Mary Stratton died after a long illness.
On April 21, 1886 Gene married Charles Porter, a successful druggist and business man. They moved to Decatur Indiana with Charles traveling often to his stores in Geneva and Fort Wayne. Their only daughter Jeannette Stratton-Porter was born August 27, 1887. Soon after this the family moved to Geneva to be closer to one of Charles’ stores.
In 1894 the family began to build a fourteen room home called the Limberlost Cabin. The home was designed by Charles and sits near the Limberlost Swamp. This home is now an Indiana State Historic Site.
Gene began to intensely study nature and record her observations through writing and photography. She spent much of her time in Limberlost Swamp and in her gardens and orchards. She submitted her writings and photographs to magazines and was published in several including Recreation, Outing, and Metropolitan.
Song of the Cardinal was Gene’s first novel. In her novels, she combines her knowledge and love of nature with stories of romance and hardship, adventure, and memorable characters. She published 12 novels, 7 nature studies, 3 books of poetry, children’s books and many magazine articles.
Gene Stratton-Porter’s fame grew with each work published. People were fascinated with her descriptions of the Limberlost Swamp and many came to Geneva to visit the private author. Around the same time the oil drilling and draining of the swamp for farm land distressed Gene further.
In 1912 Gene and Charles moved to Sylvan Lake, Rome City Indiana. After a time they started construction on a cabin at “Wildflower Woods”. The vast forest allowed Gene to continue her nature studies, writing and photography. She helped preserve endangered plants in her gardens. For more information click here.
A decision to move to California was made in 1918-1919. Several of Gene Stratton-Porter’s novels were adapted for film. Gene formed her own company, the Gene Stratton-Porter Film Company. A total of eight of her novels were produced as motion pictures.
Gene Stratton-Porter died on December 6, 1924 in Los Angeles, California, from injuries in a traffic accident. Nearly 75 years after her death, the remains of Gene and her daughter Jeannette Stratton-Porter Meehan were moved back to Indiana and were laid to rest near her cabin at “Wildflower Woods”.