Gene Stratton-Porter’s husband Charles enjoyed collecting Native American handiwork
and relics as he called them. In 1895, the Geneva Herald wrote “C.D. Porter has probably
the finest collection of Indian relics in this section of Indiana.” In October 1906, he wrote
to Charles “Charlie” Deam asking if it would be all right if he and his wife could “drive
over and call on you sometime” as he understood that Deam was also a collector.
Charlie Deam was two years younger than Gene and like Gene was born close to the
Wabash River on a farm; he in Wells County, to the northwest of Geneva. Deam, like
Gene, loved to roam the countryside studying nature. By the 1890s, he was a druggist
with his own pharmacy in Bluffton. A profession he shared with Charles Porter.
Slowly, Deam evolved into a self-taught botanist who in his lifetime collected 73,000
specimens in the state. This collection is housed at Indiana University. His books on
Indiana’s flora, grasses, shrubs, and trees are four classic books that are still consulted by
those studying the field.
Both the Deam and Stratton families came to northern Indiana in the late 1830s.
According to his biographer, Robert Kriebel, Deam’s grandfather, John Aughey Deam,
brought his family and followed the Wabash River “to a scenic promising valley.”
In August 1921, Gene wrote Charlie “after eighteen years and fourteen books in my
swamp region of Indiana, I have done two years of botanizing in California and written
a book from the new location. It you can find time to read it, I shall enjoy having your
official opinion as to the change.” She sent him a copy, as well as his daughter, Roberta,
of her new book “Her Father’s Daughter.” They had planned to meet for a visit at her
home Wildflower Woods on Sylvan Lake but it was not to be. That August was busy
time for the Porters and the Deams and Gene left for California on September 10 with
plans to spend the winter there.
It was remarkable all that Charlie Deam accomplished in 1921. He collected 1741
specimens in the state, spending 104 days in the field, driving 4880 miles. He spent
several weeks revising his “Trees of Indiana.” This is the year that he began planting
hickory and walnut trees at his Bluffton home which became known as the Deam
These two famous Hoosiers both produced an enormous body of work in their lifetimes
and taught us much about the natural history of Indiana. We were fortunate that they
called northeastern Indiana home. They had very similar backgrounds and lived one
county a part for much of their lives. It is not surprising that they met and developed a
friendship. Unlike Gene, Deam lived a long life and died in 1953. He enjoyed a long and
productive career as a successful botanist and pharmacist.