- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Many people think of Gene Stratton-Porter as an avid naturalist and talented author who spent much of her time in the outdoors. But a new review of official records and newspaper reports of the day provides a fuller - and sometimes conflicting - picture of one of Indiana’s most famous women.

Stratton-Porter, for example, spent a lot of time in Fort Wayne, often taking the train here to go shopping, visit family or attend social events and lectures, researcher Terri Gorney of Fort Wayne told The News-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1fNhg5y ).

While lamenting the draining of the Limberlost Swamp near Geneva, Gorney also found Stratton-Porter and her husband, Charles, had 30 or more oil wells on their 239-acre farm 3 miles west of town, which required draining the swamp to install the wells.

“It’s fun, because I never know where it’s going to lead me,” Gorney, 53, said of her search for information.

The News-Sentinel recently wrote about Gorney’s research on early conservationists in northeast Indiana, which she started in 2007.

She began researching Stratton-Porter in 2009 at the suggestion of Randy Lehman, site manager for the Limberlost State Historic Site, the Porters’ large log home in Geneva. Gorney had become active with the Friends of the Limberlost, a nonprofit group that supports the state historic site and efforts to restore wetlands once part of the Limberlost Swamp.

She didn’t think she would find much new about Stratton-Porter. But when she really starting digging in 2011, she was surprised.

“I’m still finding things,” she said.

Gorney reads day by day through newspapers of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Fort Wayne, Geneva and Decatur. She also sifts through official land and other records, as well as archives containing letters Stratton-Porter wrote to other people.

She is pleased what she learns helps the Limberlost site and its historical interpretation of Stratton-Porter.

Here are some of her discoveries:

Early years

Stratton-Porter spent a lot of time in Fort Wayne, beginning with when she and Charles began dating in 1884.

She had grown up near and then in Wabash, and he in Decatur. They met during Chautauqua Days in Rome City - a gathering where people came to relax and learn from speakers.

Charles was considered one of Fort Wayne’s most prominent bachelors, and their courtship was followed closely in newspaper society pages. A successful businessman, his holdings included a pharmacy and bank in Geneva and a now-gone pharmacy in the 100 block of Fairfield Avenue and other property in Fort Wayne.

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