Reitz or Wrong: An Industrial, Environmental, and Political Analysis of Evansville’s “Lumber Baron”

Jarrod Koester Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Bruce Bigelow Butler University
The history of Evansville, Indiana in the nineteenth century can be best understood as a time of economic development, regional expansion, growing migrant communities, and powerful industrialists. Of the influential characters involved in Evansville’s early growth, John Augustus Reitz stands out among the rest. A Prussian immigrant, Reitz settled in heavily Germanic Southern Indiana, constructing a vastly successful logging empire which brought him immense wealth and influence. Reitz’s contributions helped elevate Evansville’s lumber industry to national acclaim. Earning the title of the “Lumber Baron,” Reitz’s actions gave him influential power on the political stage, as well as in the environmental and cultural spheres.
Reitz or Wrong primarily focuses on the concept of historical memory, bringing together the implications of Reitz’s industrial and political ventures with his idolization in twentieth and twenty-first century Evansville. Through this analysis, my work explores how Reitz’s industrial actions influenced the way individuals of the area would come to view their natural environment and regional leaders. As the first project of the region with an environmental history component, this research will utilize materials from the Reitz Home Museum archives, as well as primary documents and newspaper articles found in the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, and Willard Library collections to piece together a new perspective of the region’s past. Reitz or Wrong will open conversation around the relationship between the people of Evansville, ecological damage, and the memory of historic figures.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

10:45 AM
Jordan Hall 201