I have a daughter who loves to read, write stories, and shows some interest in becoming an author. Remembering that Indiana is home to a few famous authors, I decided to encourage this hobby of hers. I jotted down some names, did a couple internet searchers, and found several great places around the state that offer tours and museums dedicated to famous Hoosier writers. We visited these locations over the course of a few weekends. I am happy to share our destinations, how long the tours last, and how long it takes to get there from Indy. For fun, we are going to call this…the Indiana Authors Trail.
Gene Stratton-Porter | Geneva, Indiana
First stop, Gene Stratton-Porter’s Limberlost Cabin in Geneva, Indiana. A two hour drive northeast of Indianapolis takes you to the place that inspired her novels and nature books. The 13 room cabin has been maintained just as it was when Gene herself lived there. The desk and typewriter she used when writing are on display, as well as the moth specimens she collected.
Gene was born on a farm in Northeast Indiana and spent most of her life in that area. Writing 12 novels and nature books over the course of her career, she is most well known for “A Girl of the Limberlost” which was published in 1909 and has been made into a movie several times. I actually had my daughter read “A Girl of the Limberlost” prior to our tour so she had a good feel for Gene’s writing and could identify with so many points made on the tour.
On site is a visitors center with restrooms and a small gift shop. The property is managed by the Indiana State Museum and Historic sites. There is a small fee for the tour and they are given 3 times a day, Wednesday through Sunday. I would check the website for exact hours.
While only portions of the Limberlost swamp remain today, there are several trails and parks in that area where you can view the flora and fauna of the swamp the same way Gene did.
James Whitcomb Riley | Greenfield, Indiana
Stop #2 takes us to Greenfield, Indiana and the home of famed Hoosier Poet. James Whitcomb Riley. Greenfield is a short 30 minute drive from Indianapolis and the house and museum sit right on US 40, the old National Road. There are two houses on the site, one is for the tour and the other is the museum and gift shop. There is also event space on the property for parties or meetings. Check their website for tour times as they are seasonal and they do get busy with school groups.
There is a small fee for the tour and it takes about an hour. The tour goes through Riley’s house and showcases the inspiration for some of his poems. There is also a short video you can watch. Both of my kids had read some of James Whitcomb Riley’s poems in school and were familiar with his work. I even remember having to memorize “When the Frost is on the Pumpkin” back when I was in grade school.
Kurt Vonnegut | Indianapolis
Stop #3 is in downtown Indianapolis at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Tours start at the top of every hour, there is a fee and they suggest reservations. Check out their website for more details. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis and wrote novels and some plays. He is probably most famous for Slaughterhouse-Five. While I recall reading that in high school, I found some short essays online to have my daughter read before our visit that were more suited to her age. Inside the museum are some artifacts like Vonnegut’s purple heart medal and typewriter.
Lew Wallace | Crawfordsville, Indiana
Stop #4 is the Lew Wallace Study and Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana, a little less than an hour west of Indianapolis. The older I get, the more I like history and Lew Wallace’s life fascinated me. I’m embarrassed to say I thought all he did was write Ben Hur. However, he was also a general in the Civil War and he was a military judge in the Lincoln conspirators’ trials. He was an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, ran for congress – the list goes on and on. As you can tell, I fully enjoyed the tour and learned a lot.
The tour begins in the carriage house with a video. You are then taken to his study where you can see his library and some artifacts from the movie Ben Hur.
Lew Wallace was born and raised in Indiana and actually sat under a tree on his property in Crawfordsville to write Ben Hur in 1880. As for previous tours, I had my daughter read a children’s abridged version of Ben Hur before we arrived.
Ernie Pyle | Dana, Indiana
As I wrap up this tour, I have one more recommendation to make the trail complete. The Ernie Pyle WWII Museum in Dana, Indiana. Pyle was a war correspondent during the war and won a Pulitzer Prize.
I hope this list gives you some ideas of places to visit in Indiana, and expands your literary knowledge of famed Hoosier authors.