Nestled in southern Adams County is a little natural and historic gem called the Munro
Nature Preserve. It is the first and only preserve owned by ACRES in the county. It is
located to the west of the town of Geneva and north of the restored wetlands of the
Limberlost and Loblolly. The preserve is just over twenty-five acres and was generously
donated in 1994 by two sister-in-laws, Esther Munro Cooper and Agnes Biery Fravel
Munro, wife of Esther’s brother Lloyd.
Asa and Edith (Dillon) Munro moved their family of eight from Illinois to southern
Adams County, Indiana in February 1917. The couple’s six children were Esther, Clark,
Ruth, Willard, Lloyd and Warren. They arrived in a 1916 Jeffery seven-passenger touring
car. A railroad box car brought the family’s household goods and livestock, including
two horses, a cat and a dog and a few farm implements. Asa, a farmer by profession,
purchased the land that was known as “the old Porter farm.” This land had at least forty
oil wells on it at one time.
Their daughter, Esther Launa Munro was born in 1900 Piper City, Illinois. She attended
Geneva High School and later taught in Hartford township schools after her graduation
from Indiana University. Esther also attended Ball State University. It was there that she
met and married Dr. Robert Cooper of Muncie. He later was on the faculty at the university
as a biology professor. In 1969, they donated their woods and land to Ball State to be
managed by the Department of Biology. Today it is known as the Esther L. and Robert H.
Cooper Memorial Woodland Area.
The Robert Cooper Audubon Chapter was named in his honor. The society established
the Robert and Esther (Munro) Cooper Conservation Award. Robert and Esther were
honored as the first recipients in 1983.
This preserve was once part of a 239 acres farm owned by Charles Porter and his wife
Gene Stratton-Porter. Even though they lived in a fourteen room cabin in Geneva, the
Porters owned this land from April 1890 to the end of 1906. When Gene wrote about
their farm, she was referring to this land. This farm contained working oil wells when the
Porters owned it.
There is a brick schoolhouse ruins on the property. It is the Hartford Township
Schoolhouse District No. 6 also known as Brushwood. It was built in 1903. The school
was made famous in Gene Stratton-Porter’s book “A Girl of the Limberlost.” It was the
school that the book’s heroine, Elnora Comstock, attended. The youngest of the Munro
children were students at this school.
This area of southern Adams County is rich in the history of the old Limberlost Swamp
and its restored wetlands, the Limberlost State Historic Site, and the Ceylon Bridge
which is the last covered bridge on the Wabash River.
Agnes died in 1996 at the age of 90 and is buried next to Lloyd at the Riverside Cemetery
in Geneva. Esther died in 1997 at the age of 97. We owe them our gratitude for saving
their woods and a piece of Indiana history.