Wherein a newcomer discovers the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts
By Curt Burnette
Gene Stratton-Porter introduced the Limberlost to the rest of the country in her first book, The Song of the Cardinal. Her next book, Freckles, brought her readers back to the Limberlost and introduced the Birdwoman and the fictional stand-in Geneva - Onabasha. It was her fourth novel, A Girl of the Limberlost, which made the Limberlost famous around the world. Inexpensive reprints of Freckles and Girl were sold in the U. S. and abroad. Average people were transported to the Limberlost no matter where they lived. Gene received letters from such far-flung places as China, Australia, and South Africa, and every corner of the United States. The Limberlost had become legendary.
But by the time it had become famous, it was also mostly gone. oil production, timber removal, and agricultural needs led to the destruction of the once 13,000 acre Limberlost. After Gene's death in 1924, her popularity and influence waned, but she was not completely forgotten. The Limberlost Cabin in Geneva was preserved as an historic site on December 31, 1946. And although Gene and the Limberlost are gone, the Land of the Limberlost remains.
The citizens of the Land of the Limberlost are small town folks with big ideas. It didn't take me long to realize this after I began my job at the Limberlost State Historic Site as the naturalist. I saw a committed support group, the Friends of the Limberlost, working to keep the Limberlost Cabin an important part of the community and vital to the tourism of the area. I saw this same group, through the Limberlost Remembered Committee, working with Nature Preserve (a division of DNR) and the local agricultural community to restore flood-prone farmland back to Limberlost wetlands. I also saw a nice 4000 square foot welcome center under construction. there sure was a lot happening in this small town!
Something special is going on It isn't just that there are currently over 1500 acres [now around 1700 acres] of nature preserves in the area. A lot of places have natural areas around them. It isn't just that there is an historic home in a picturesque small town. There are historic homes in many small towns. It isn't just that this is a place where a very famous Hoosier author lived for many years. There are plenty of places where famous people have lived. So just what is it that is so special?
It is all of the above taken together. What I see happening is a version of the old saying that something can be of greater value than the sum of its parts. Each of the things mentioned above are nice, but taken separately aren't all that special. But when convinced they rise above the ordinary. Not many places have nature preserves surrounding a town that has a fine historic home of a famous author, a beautiful welcome center, and dedicated staff and volunteers committed to the excellence of these facilities. That's what's so special. Nice job folks! You are the reason the whole (the Land of the Limberlost) is greater than the sum of its parts.