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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
with the bitter incense of the dying foliage. Far to the
west stretched the still prairie, and at the remotest
moving dots told of grazing buffalo
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
stricken over it, perhaps for centuries (182-83).
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
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.
Dionis of the White Veil. Boston: L.C. Page,
---. 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,
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.