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Caroline Virginia KroutCaroline Virginia Krout
(pen name Caroline Brown)

(1852 - 1931)

Hoosier Connection: Caroline Krout was a lifelong Hoosier author whose writing focuses on the countryside surrounding her Crawfordsville, Indiana, home.

Works Discussed: Knights in Fustian: A War-Time Story of Indiana, On the We-a Trail: A Story of the Great Wilderness, Bold Robin and His Forest Rangers, Dionis of the White Veil

Born in 1852 in Crawfordsville, Indiana, Caroline Virginia Krout wrote only four novels during her literary career. Throughout her childhood, this Hoosier author was strongly influenced by her father, Robert Krout. Early in his life, he moved to an untamed section of Montgomery County in west central Indiana called the Balhinch region. While growing up, Robert Krout learned firsthand about the Indiana wilderness that his daughter eventually wrote about. It may have been her father’s stories about this area that led her to write about a forest that "abounded with deer and wild turkeys, and the plain opposite, which ended only with the horizon” (Dionis 181).

Caroline Krout had a less than idyllic childhood. When Caroline was only sixteen, her mother passed away. After her mother’s death, Krout took over the matriarch’s role of the house by keeping it clean and raising the remaining children that her mother left behind. When one of her sisters eventually succeeded her in this matriarchal role, Caroline was able to take a teaching position at Crawfordsville High School where her older sister, Mary Hannah Krout, worked as a teacher.

After five years of teaching, Caroline was forced to resign from her position when she fell ill. During this time, she kept busy by writing articles in regional newspapers, including the Chicago Journal, Chicago Daily News, and the Inter-Ocean. Once she recovered from her illness, Krout spent another brief time in the workforce but again left after illness overcame her. Yet again, Krout found it necessary to write for a living and for her own sanity’s sake.

At this point in her life, Krout turned to writing for periodicals after receiving encouragement from her friend and fellow Crawfordsville resident, Susan Wallace. Although Caroline wrote many short stories, she did not receive much attention until her first novel, Knights in Fustian: A War-Time Story of Indiana, was published in Boston in 1900. Her first novel discusses the Copperhead uprising movements of the United States Civil War, along with a love story between a Union soldier and a local country girl.

As with most of her novels, Knights in Fustian also vividly describes the landscape in which she is so comfortable and her works are set: "On either hand lay thick woods broken by a few fields. From them came sounds of night life, which gave her no disquiet..." (100). This book was a great success among readers, including Theodore Roosevelt, then current governor of New York. Although the book was a success with readers, it did not fare as well with critics. The critics' lack of approval greatly troubled Krout, and it continued to affect her until the end of her writing career.

She hoped that her second novel, On the We-a Trail: A Story of the Great Wilderness, would improve her reputation among critics. Unfortunately, her work only troubled her more after she learned that Maurice Thompson, a fellow Crawfordsville author, was writing a book about the same topic and time period. She considered leaving her literary career altogether at this point. Fortunately, Thompson encouraged her to do otherwise, and Krout published On the We-a Trail in 1903.

The novel is about a young girl named Ferriby, whose family is killed by a band of Indians terrorizing the frontier, and the associated search for that girl by her lover. The girl is found by a trapper who takes her out of the wilderness:

The coureur turned about and walked half a league within the thin fringe of the forest, pausing now and then to rest. He crossed a short arm of the great prairie, the magnitude of which had overwhelmed Ferriby, had smitten her with fear, and had mazed her senses. Before him lay the broad brown sheet of the stately Ouibache [Wabash]. It was fringed along the margin with green willows and young sycamores, whose vernal leaves gave out faint, sweet odor from their fuzzy under sides (44).

Such descriptions convey both the power and delicacy of nature. It simultaneously awes and invites.

Stream in Southern Indiana
A small Indiana stream

Later in the novel, as Ferriby and her friends are on the way to the confluence of Sugar Creek and the Wabash River, the narrator describes a landscape that is different from today's:

In the great blue sky little white clouds floated lightly as owls’ feathers. The air, exhilarating by the slight frost overnight, was odorous with the bitter incense of the dying foliage. Far to the west stretched the still prairie, and at the remotest skyline moving dots told of grazing buffalo (204).

In 1905, Krout wrote Bold Robin and His Forest Rangers, which is a compilation of juvenile short stories about archery that had already been published in periodicals. Even with the publication of this collection of stories, Krout’s popularity continued to decline. Discouraged and dejected by the critics' opinions of her works, Krout published her final novel, Dionis of the White Veil, in 1911. The novel tells the story of a group of Jesuit missionaries trying to form a mission at the mouth of the White River in the eighteenth century:

The site itself was thickly covered with shrubs.... Through this wilderness ran a broad buffalo trace, hard, compact, and smooth as a street.... Herds, numbering thousands, had ambled peacefully, or rushed panic stricken over it, perhaps for centuries (182-83).

Bison and cow grazing

A bison and calf grazing on an open prairie

Krout's novels depict a landscape that has long since passed. Where thousands of buffalo used to roam along wide dirt paths, now thousands of cars travel along concrete superhighways.

After the publication of her last work, Krout left the literary community and lived the final twenty years of her life at her father’s house in Crawfordsville. Perhaps her father’s strong childhood presence caused her to be so sensitive to the criticism that eventually forced her to end her literary career. Even though Caroline Krout's writings were limited, they do give a good glimpse of what the Indiana landscape used to look like before settlers began arriving in the late 1700s.



Banta, R. E., ed. "Caroline Krout." Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816-1916: Biographical Sketches of Authors Who Published During the First Century of Indiana Statehood, With Lists of Their Books. Crawfordsville, IN: Wabash College, 1949.

Krout, Caroline [Caroline Brown]. Bold Robin and His Forest Rangers. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1905.

---. Dionis of the White Veil. Boston: L.C. Page, 1911.

---. Knights in Fustian: A War-Time Story of Indiana. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1900.

---. On the We-a Trail: A Story of the Great Wilderness. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1903.

Shumaker, Arthur Wesley. A History of Indiana Literature, with Emphasis on the Authors of Imaginative Works Who Commenced Writing Prior to World War II. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1962.


"Media Photographs." Wind Cave National Park. 12 Sept. 2002. National Park Service. 27 June 2004 <http://www.nps.gov/wica/Media_Pictures-Bison.htm>.

"Caroline Krout." Archives, Crawfordsville District Public Library. Crawfordsville, Indiana.