LeRoy Oliver MacLeod was born in Anderson,
Indiana, on October 20, 1893. His early life centered around
Browns Valley, which is located approximately ten miles away
from Crawfordsville, Indiana,
where he lived on a farm with his family. He obtained a degree
from DePauw University in English composition. He married
Irene Ruth Miller, and they had two children together before
their eventual divorce. He moved out west and lived in Colorado
and California, and was remarried in 1928 to Geraldine Seelemire.
Finally, he moved to New York and eventually retired in 1958.
primary career was in advertising, but he did write four books
during his lifetime. The first of these was Driven,
a book of poetry published in 1929. A few of the poems in
Driven contain references to Indiana’s landscapes,
describing the farmland that much of it had become by that
point in time. The longest poem in this collection, “Drouth,”
describes an Indiana farm family during a drought year. This
poem in part is a depiction of nature’s effects on the
family. The lack of water is ruining their crop, and their
lives, already difficult, become hellish. Their farm
becomes both the means by which they stay alive and the bond
that holds them back from happiness.
second book, Three Steeples, a Tragedy of Earth,
is the story of a small Indiana town and the events that surround
the construction of a third church there. The main character
goes to school and becomes a preacher, eventually dying inside
the church when it catches fire. Although nature certainly
is not the focus of this novel, many passages illustrate the
condition of Indiana’s environment within the setting
of the book. Toward the beginning of the novel, for example,
fields of corn are compared to a tired army, made to continue
traveling all summer long. This feeling of the land being
weary and over-used is a recurring theme in MacLeod’s
Later, nature’s endurance is compared to
humankind's failure to endure. According to the speaker, even
after human bones have disintegrated and the people's names
forgotten, the stone that their grave marker is made out of
will retain the record of their lives. Eventually even that
will be wiped away by nature. Essentially, he is saying that
no matter what negative changes humankind has caused, nature
is more powerful than humans, who are only a small part of
the greater whole.
1932, MacLeod wrote The Years of Peace,
followed by its sequel, The Crowded Hill,
in 1934. They are based around a farming family in the Wabash
Valley of Indiana and are set in the 1860s and '70s. The one
very negative aspect of these two books is that some of MacLeod’s
characters are blatantly racist. However, the novels are full
of descriptions of farmland
in that area. The topic of worn-out land comes up again in
The Years of Peace. Two of the farmers discuss how,
when they first arrived in the area, they thought the land
would be able to continue producing the same crops forever.
At the time of their conversation, they are starting to see
some of their neighbors encounter problems with the need to
let land rest. They comment that some farmers whose land used
to be river
bottom or prairie
land probably are still laboring under the illusion that
their land will indefinitely hold out in its richness.
Other environmental issues also arise in MacLeod's
writing. There are many references to the deforestation
that occurred to create the farmland initially. In The
Crowded Hill, one of the characters looks out from her
roof over the surrounding area and describes the land around
To the right of the woods the forest, as long
as fifty years ago, had been cut and burned for fields;
and the borders had since been crowded back to double and
triple the clearing, so that southwest winds had plenty
of room now to swoop down for a good blow at the trees in
the pasture here, still guarding the big house. (18)
Later in the same novel, the main character decides
to clear out ten acres of thicket full of a range of growth:
Tyler directed them to look at what they couldn't
help seeing—the familiar thicket of every description:
trees from a few inches to seventy feet high, grapevines,
poison vine, blackberry and rose briars, tangled grass and
leaves. Rabbit paths ran through it, and here and there
a wider path with gray wool quivering on the twigs as though
left there purposely to keep the sheep from getting lost
if they ever came again. "I want to clear this all
out before spring—the whole business. Then I want
to ditch it and the next year stick a plow in it."
These comments are typical of the ideology of
farmers of Indiana at this time: once the growth is gone,
the land can be drained of the water that would hinder farming.
What farmers failed to recognize is that the land would continue
to try to reclaim these areas in their original state.
One of MacLeod’s characters shows definite
consciousness of the negative impact of deforestation
in The Years of Peace. He is considering draining
some of his land with tile; however, he changes his mind when
he imagines the area cleared to look like the rest of his
land. Despair fills him as he pictures the natural beauty
destroyed, and he swears that he will leave that section of
MacLeod’s work is important to Indiana’s
environmental literature because it illustrates not only the
state of much of the land during the late 1800s and early
1900s, but it demonstrates the attitudes of Indiana’s
farmers toward the environment. Although they seemed to have
no qualms about destroying the forests and draining the wetlands,
they were gradually becoming aware during these years that
the land would not indefinitely support their crops, and that
it would require care to keep it from losing all of its fertility.
MacLeod, LeRoy. The Crowded Hill.
Baltimore: Waverly, 1934.
---. Driven. New York: Covici-Friede,
---. Three Steeples, a Tragedy
of Earth. New York: Covici-Friede, 1931.
---. The Years of Peace.
New York: Century, 1932.
Shumaker, Arthur W. A History
Indiana Literature. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical
Vanausdall, Jeanette. Pride and
Protest: The Novel in Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana
Historical Society, 1999.
MacLeod, LeRoy. The Crowded Hill.