Raintree County

The Raintree was an exotic plant, brought from the Orient, perhaps by one of the idealistic communities of Americans who helped settle Indiana. One grows in the midst of legendary Raintree county’s great swamp of the Shawmucky River. Folklore has it that those who find it discover love under a rain of yellow blossoms.

Another tale tells of a ragged preacher wandering the shores of a lake in the middle of the county. That preacher, known to us all as Johnny Appleseed, spent his life traveling through the land planting apple orchards in the wilderness. Among the thousands of seeds he entrusted to the earth was one special seed — the Golden Raintree. “Luck, happiness, the realization of dreams, the secret of life itself — all belong to him who finds the Raintree.”

Ross Lockridge wove this tale of the mystical tree that poets in every land, in every language have sung about in his Civil War era novel “Raintree County”.

Lockridge was the author of Shockley in Straughn in the southern part of Henry County. Throughout a single day in 1892, its hero John Shawnessy, recalls the great moments of his life — from the love affairs of his youth in Indiana to the battles of the Civil War, to the politics of the Gilded Age, to his homecoming as schoolteacher, husband, and father. In the book the reader will find Knightstown known as Beardstown, New Castle as Free Haven, and Straughn as Waycross. The inside front and back covers show older pictures of the very same Court House that currently stands in New Castle. Even with characters and towns resembling those of true life in Henry County, the story itself is fiction.

The novel “Raintree County” helped put Henry County on the map in 1948. There are a number of businesses in the county that have used Raintree in their names in order to obtain recognition and savor the attention Raintree County brought to Henry County in the late 1940″s.

“Raintree County” was adapted into the movie Raintree County in 1957 staring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint and Lee Marvin.  Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Susanna Drake.

Mark Orr, Photographer, Historian and Author has written a book entitled ” Raintree Co. Memories”.  It is about the writing of the book Raintree Co. and also about the making of the movie.  There are photos of the stars never before seen and interviews with stand-ins for the stars.

Mark has lived his whole life in New Castle and has published 5 photography books and the one known as “Raintree Co. Memories”.