Became Lifelong Friends of Gene Stratton-Porter
By Terri Gorney
The Miller and Aspy families were early settlers of Geneva and well known in the community. Gene Stratton-Porter would become friends with three generations of this extended family. She would photograph the old cabin on the Aspy farm and place it in Friends in Feathers.
Andrew Jackson Miller married Sarah Aspy. They would raise a family of six children; three who would have a close connection to Gene. They were: Lorene, Ray, and Sarah.
Sarah Miller was the same age as Gene's daughter Jeannette. They were girlhood friends. Gene would photograph Sarah and Jeannette playing together at the Limberlost Cabin.
Raymond Miller according to Gene in Homing with the Birds, was "first assistant in field work in the region of the Limberlost. For him, no day was too hot, no tree too high, no swamp too treacherous. In years of field work, he never refused any hazard I suggested we undertake." Gene photographed Raymond in this same book.
Lorene Miller would become her secretary in 1908. It was a position she would hold for seven years. Lorene wrote about a special Valentine's Day when she worked for Gene. It was February 14 1911, the day that Gene began writing The Harvester while sitting at the desk next to the east window in the library after breakfast. Lorene shared several fond memories of Gene in later interviews.
Lorene made the decision to continue in Gene's employ when she left Geneva and moved north to build Wildflower Woods. It was a decision that would change her life. In 1913, she met Frank Wallace whom Gene hired to help her with the plantings on her new land. Two years later, Lorene and Frank quietly married on a June day in the gardens of Wildflower Woods. Gene hosted the bridal celebration.
Frank would go on to become the state entomologist, thanks in part to Gene who wrote to Governor Rolston to ask that he be hired. It was a position that he would hold for 43 years.
Gene would remain lifelong friends with Frank and Lorene. The Wallaces usually spent time with Gene in the summer months. Lorene and her young son, John, visited Gene in California the summer before she died. Frank wrote Gene a birthday card that same August in which he stated how much her friendship meant to him. The last letter she wrote was to Frank. He received it a few days after she died in December 1924.
In 1946, when both Wildflower Woods and the Limberlost were being considered as historic sites, Frank knew many influential people and was a well liked and respected employee of the state. Frank was definitely one of Gene Stratton-Porter's biggest fans, and we know that Lorene had many fond memories of the time she spent living in the Limberlost Cabin in Geneva working for Mrs. Porter.
Note: This article was in the Limberlost Notebook column in the Berne Witness in November 2018.