Articles

ORIGINS: The Richard Lieber Story


[Birds singing] ♪[Melodic piano] My mom and dad
loved the outdoors. We would always tent camp at one State Park
or another. Some of my earliest memories are waking to the smell of wood smoke, bacon frying, coffee brewing. Birdsong was in the air. Other campers would give you a [Footsteps in leaves]
quiet greeting as they walked by on their way to the bathhouse. I pretended I was still asleep, but really
I was just soaking it all in. I felt safe
and at ease, cradled in the affections of my parents,
yes, but also cradled in the arms
of the natural world around me. Those times are just burned in my memory so vividly I can
recall them effortlessly. But one thing
I never thought about as a kid, nor even as an adult, not for many years, was this: How did these grand and beautiful places, these places laid out with both thoughtful protection for their wildness, but also arranged so people
would relate to them with wonder? How did that happen? In short, how did our State Parks
come to be here at all? This story means to answer that question, for it’s the story about the man who,
more than anyone else, helped create
our Indiana State Parks. But it’s also the story of
how he very nearly failed. And all because of one particular day. That was a day
a little over a hundred years ago, so let’s go back
to that day. It was a Thursday. He’d been looking forward to that day. Planned it out,
raised money to make it happen, worked on every little detail. Yes, land for the first State Park
was finally going to be purchased. The newspapers
wrote all about it, said it would be wonderful. People had traveled by train, by horse,
by automobile just to see it all unfold, the huge, public celebration,
an historic moment for Indiana. No one realized
what was actually going to happen, for it was one of those days,
and we’ve all had them. They start off just fine then end up going totally wrong. Bob Sander: And that’s
what I’m going to tell you about I’m going to tell you about
what he planned and how it failed. But more important, I’m going to tell you about
the one thing we all need to know which is this: I’m going to tell you about
what he did next. You learn that
and you can do it, too. You can suffer
the biggest failure you can imagine and still know what to do next. In order to do that though,
we’ve got to go back to the beginning. And I mean the very beginning. (Narrator) Ancient oceans [Waves splashing] Mile-high glaciers [Winds whistling] Unrelenting wind [Winds whistling] Raging waters [Water running] Carving, grinding, lifting, and gouging Time and the elements
made Indiana a unique
and a diverse place. [Birds calling] First the elements
shaped the land [Shorebirds calling] and then the land
began to shape us. ♪[Folksy guitar] With settlement came agriculture and industry Our Hoosier forebears began to
transform Indiana. Forests were cut
for farming and timber. The city of Chicago grew
and vast sand dunes were used to help build it. Marshlands were drained. Prairies were plowed. By the late 1800’s, only small portions of Indiana remained
that the pioneers might still recognize. It seemed likely
even those would soon
disappear. And that’s when it happened. ♪[Folksy string music] Half a world away,
a 22-year-old German left his native land for a
short visit with his uncles in America. His parents hoped
the visit would cure him of the scandalous, liberal ideas
he picked up while studying in England. He, on the other hand,
referred to his time in England as his “awakening.” It was like a whole other person
was emerging for the first time. An immigrant’s dilemma is not easy. Though he thrived in England,
he wasn’t exactly at home there. On the other hand, he knew he’d never again
be comfortable going back to the rigid society of Germany. And so, the young man traveled
to America. He arrived at his uncle’s home
in Indianapolis. It was January
of 1891. No one realized it yet,
but because of him the State of Indiana would one day
be altered forever. His name
was Richard Lieber. (New Narrator) “It is as
the father and creator of the State Parks will be remembered. As long as men shall walk
on the springy sod beneath great trees, as long as there is beauty of things, the people of Indiana
will remember their great debt to Richard Lieber.”
– Indianapolis Times, April 17th 1944 Interviewer: Do you all know
who Richard Lieber was? What’s that? Interviewee: I don’t remember the name Interviewer:
Have you ever heard of Richard Lieber? Interviewee: Yeah, Lieber. Did Lieber buy the park?
No. Lieber. I’ve heard the name, I don’t know why. Interviewer: Do you guys know who
Richard Lieber was? (Narrator) Is this where we are now? The man who would never be forgotten is now all but forgotten? (New Narrator) So who was Richard Lieber? Well let’s start with this: that short visit he made to Indiana? It only lasted for The rest of his life! The effects of his life,
his vision upon our state, have been profound. But when he first arrived,
he was an unknown immigrant. Who’d ever imagine
he’d leave much of a mark? Hm, truth be told, anyone who spoke with him
for more than a few moments. Cause that man had skills. ♪[Classical piano]
He could speak French, Hebrew, Greek, Italian, German, and English. He could read Latin. He was educated in classical learning,
especially history. He could play trumpet and piano. He had an outgoing nature, was well-known
in artistic and social circles. He began to write art
and music reviews that, if his readers
could fully understand them, buddy, I’ll eat my hat. Now over the years
he dove into politics, got to know
key players, numerous Indiana governors. He also had a businessman’s head
for organization. He owned a successful bottling company, he spurred fire insurance reform, and helped start
the first Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. Turns out
there were more layers to this mere immigrant
than anyone expected. But, all this is just a hint
of what was to come. Lieber’s true life work
was still invisible to him, unformed like an acorn in the ground,
waiting. So far it was all
potential. The poet E. E. Cummings once wrote, Well that might be true, but it also takes a bit of luck. Not every seed gets to germinate. Conditions have to be just right. Everything has to happen at just the right moment. And Lieber’s moment came
in 1904. ♪[Folksy guitar] That was the year
Lieber and two friends traveled through
the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. Their guides told them no white man had ever seen that trail
until 1860 and no one after that
until 1902. For 45 days, Lieber and his friends
lived in the wilderness, ate only what fresh
trout, bear, elk, or venison they could kill. They got lost,
slept under the open sky, they saw the terrible waste and
devastation of a forest fire, and they had to l- [laughs] they had to listen to their guide
as he recited [southern accent]
cowboy poetry, a western tradition which goes something
like this: (Cowboy)
♪I never changed my white starch shirt,♪ ♪the one I wore clean away,♪ ♪but now it has got so thunderin’ rotten,♪ ♪I am compelled to say,♪ ♪farewell old standup collar,♪ ♪with all your pride and starch,♪ ♪I wore you from♪
♪September,♪ ♪to the twenty-third of March♪ (Narrator) About that western trip, Emma Lieber had this to say: (Emma Lieber) If Richard
had not already loved the United States that hunting trip
surely would have awakened his love. that trip really laid
the foundation for his interest and work for conservation. ♪[Expectant piano]
(Narrator) To Lieber, ♪[Expectant piano]
the grandeur of the American West was overwhelming. When Lieber returned home, his senses opened to the natural beauty
and diversity that was unique to Indiana. A metamorphosis was going on
inside the man; change,
something forming, nearly ready to emerge. All that was needed was
a tiny push, and it came in the form of a HUMAN STEAMROLLER! ♪[Orchestral music] (New Narrator) Peacemaker,
warmonger, adventurer. Two-term president Teddy Roosevelt
was many things to many people. But, everyone agreed on one thing: the man was a force of nature. Whatever he did, he did with
unbridled passion and determination. It was no different
when he embraced conservation. (Teddy Roosevelt)
What do I mean by conservation? My friend and fellow conservationist
Gifford Pinchot says it is three things. One:
Develop natural resources to use. Two:
Don’t use them up as if there’s no tomorrow. Three:
Make sure they benefit not just the few but the many. Bully!
Bully good! I agree wholeheartedly. But to this, let me add if you’re going to profit
privately from public property
you must pay for it. (Narrator) Common sense, yes? Not in 1908. It was highly controversial then. Roosevelt held public conferences
to promote this new idea: conservation. Lieber would have read about this
in the Indianapolis papers. Indeed, when Indianapolis hosted the fourth
Conservation Congress in 1912, Lieber was named chairman. The Bitterroots trip, conservationist ideas, chairman of the 1912 Congress. Only one more ingredient remained
to complete Richard Lieber’s metamorphosis. ♪[Folksy guitar] [Hooves clopping]
Brown County, yes, it was Brown County. When Lieber went
to visit a friend there, he fell in love with it all. In 1910, that 49-mile trip
from Indianapolis to Helmsburg took the train several hours. Though Nashville is only
seven more miles, that part took
an additional two hours by horse and buggy. Lieber’s wife Emma said it was the “worst road I’d
EVER encountered.” But the beauty of Brown County
inspired Lieber to build him a summer home there: Whip-poor-will Lodge. He and his family became frequent visitors. But his inspiration went much deeper
than the new house. In 1910,
he remarked: “this whole county
should be bought up by the State and made into a
State Park so that all the people of Indiana
could enjoy its beauty.” The new idea of
State Parks was in the air. Yosemite National Park
had started out as a State Park. Lieber had been there,
he’d seen it. As early as 1908,
Lieber looked ahead and wondered why not create a whole
system of State Parks in Indiana? Not only to celebrate
Indiana’s 100th anniversary, But to leave,
as a lasting gift, to future generations. His friend, Governor Ralston,
liked that idea. A Parks Commission was established
with Lieber at the helm. But the question was
where to start? Bob Sander:
Sometimes you go to the mountain, and other times
the mountain comes to you. While Lieber looked for likely places, beauty spots, he called them, fate intervened. (Narrator) Turns out there was a woman
who knew every crook and cranny of a magnificent area
in west-central Indiana. Her name
was Juliet Strauss. She had been raised
nearby. ♪[Folksy violin]
She had explored its steep rock canyons, hills, trees, and waters
ever since she was a little girl. Visitors called it
Bloomingdale Glens but the locals knew it
by its old pioneer name: Turkey Run. Turkey Run
had belonged to one family since the War of 1812: the Lusk family. No tree had been cut
nor land despoiled in all those years. Surely, here was a beauty spot
worthy of becoming a State Park. But, there was a problem. The last owner
John Lusk died in 1915. He left no direct heirs
to inherit the land. That meant Turkey Run would be auctioned
to the highest bidder. Juliet Strauss
feared timber companies were poised to buy the land
and she knew what they would do. Rip out
all the giant old growth trees, scalping the land,
and that was more than she could bear. A journalist,
her columns began to feature passionate pleas
to save Turkey Run. She wrote to the governor for help. He appointed her
head of a commission to save Turkey Run. But there was no money
to carry out the mission. Word filtered through to Lieber and he, too,
was appointed to the commission. He looked Turkey Run over and
saw its value right away. If ever there was a fitting showplace
for the first State Park, Turkey Run was it. But again,
money was the problem. They needed at least $18,000
to acquire the place and maybe more. There was no money
available from the State. Asking the legislature to raise taxes
was also out. But Lieber had an idea: donations. What if the people of Indiana
bought it as a gift to themselves? And to the future? Lieber got newspapers
statewide to print articles about this beautiful
park-to-be. Folks were urged
to contribute. And contribute
they did. The smallest amount they received was 35 cents. A woman from Bloomington
was the first to donate $1. Later in that season,
they received their largest donation that would be $6,000 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But overall,
money was slow to come. Lieber was disappointed by
how few citizens saw the value of parks and how little they contributed. During this time,
he worked tirelessly to solicit funds. No matter how small
or far away the group was, Lieber traveled to them all, eager to describe the value of having
State Parks. By mid-May,
the Park Commission had collected $20,000. That’s less than what Lieber wanted but
more than the appraised value of the land. Lieber also spoke with prominent Indiana timbermen
in advance. They promised a gentleman’s agreement. They would make a few bids
early on but just for show. Then they’d do their civic duty; they’d drop out and let the Parks Commission
carry the day. In a letter to Strauss,
Lieber wrote: And then,
it was time. Bob Sander: It was Thursday,
May 18th, 1916. It was the day of the auction. The auctioneer that day,
a Mr. Berk, was a very tall man, so naturally everybody called him “Shorty.” Shorty Berk. [Three wooden knocks] (Shorty Berk) Alright now,
we’re gonna begin. But first,
we’re gonna sell some corn. (Narrator) Shorty was referring to
a few acres fit for corn farming. Not many bid for the corn;
corn was not the issue that day. ♪[Exciting folk music]
Then Howard Maxwell of Rockville announced the terms of sale
and a description of the property. The entire Lusk farm
was divided into seven tracts These were to be bid on first. [Crowd noises]
(Voice from crowd) Ho ho! You hear that? [Crowd noises]
They’re saving the best for last! (Narrator) The Hoosier Veneer Company
bought six of these tracts for $37,500. But the main event,
the tract with Turkey Run, [Auction noises]
was saved for last. [Auction noises]
And finally, the bidding began. (Voice from crowd) $100! Bob Sander:
Now the lumbermen entered the fray. They started making token bids
but it was just all for show. (Shorty Berk) Thank ya, friend,
but we need to do better than that. [Exciting folk music]
Who’ll give me 500? 500, 501, 502, 503 (Bidder) 9,000 (Bidder) 10,000 (Bidder) 12,500 (Bidder) 13,000 Bob Sander:
This was the first bid by the State Parks Leo Rappaport,
Richard Lieber’s brother-in-law, was doing the bidding. (Bidder) $13,500 (Bidder) 14,000 (Bidder) $14,500 (Bidder) 15,000 (Narrator) A Mr. C. P. Brown began bidding
against the State Parks Committee. He was bidding for members of
the Lusk family heirs; they wanted to keep the tract
for their own purposes (Bidder) $16,000 (Bidder) 17,000 (Bidder) 18,000 (Bidder) 19,000! (Bidder) 20,000 (Bidder) $20,500 (Bidder) $21,000 Bob Sander: Do you remember how much
money the State Parks had to bid with? That’s right.
$21,000 They were already over their limit. But they were so close
they could almost taste it. They had a quick conference, the women of the party
offered up their fur coats, their jewelry,
anything of value to keep the bidding going. And so,
the bidding went on. (Bidder) 22,000 (Bidder) 25,000 (Bidder) 26,000 Narrator) The bidding got out of hand Nobody knew
where the money would come from. (Bidder) 29,000 (Bidder) 29, 5 (Bidder) $30,000 (Narrator) At this point,
Lieber said to his brother-in-law, “$100 more, Leo,
and we have to quit.” (Bidder) $30,100 (Shorty Berk) Can you
give me an advance on $30,100? The bidding now is at $30,100. I’ll ask you one last time, are you certain you can’t
give me an advance on 30,100? (Narrator) The Lusk bidder fell silent. The Parks Commission had outbid him. Evidently Turkey Run
would become our first State Park at – [Interrupting in a deep voice]
(Bidder) $30,200 ♪[Tragic music] (Shorty Berk) What?!
Wait! Who said that? (Narrator) It was Joseph Gross,
an agent for the Hoosier Veneer Company, an Indiana timber company. The Parks Commission could only watch
in silence. (Shorty Berk) I have $30,200 Can you give me an advance on 30,200? Going Going [Wooden knock] Sold to the Hoosier Veneer Company
for $30,200. [Crowd noises]
(Voice from crowd) Hang him! (Narrator) People were completely outraged but the outrage
did no good. The land was gone. Slipped away. It had been so close. That train trip back to Indianapolis
was a dark time. That night, Lieber wrote in his diary: “Sick about Turkey Run.
Too hard to bear.” [Sad piano music] Bob Sander:
Can you guess what day this was? It was the day that I told you about way back at the beginning of the story. That’s the day you think
your life’s been preparing for all along: the defining day, the defining moment. And instead,
it turns out to be the day
you fail. Fritz Lieber: There’s no question
but what he was sick to his soul at the loss
of Turkey Run. They had worked very carefully beforehand
with potential bidders, they had enough money, the subscription campaign
that he managed brought in
sufficient funds, but there’s no question that
he was probably at his lowest moment at the failure
of the State to secure that land
at auction. (Narrator) The auction
was lost. And the public?
Disappointed, to say the least. Some were angry.
They wanted their donations back. The loss of Turkey Run played
over and over again in the newspapers. ♪[Uplifting folk music]
In spite of everything, Lieber found a way forward. How? I think there’s a clue
in a book he wrote years later: America’s Natural Wealth Mostly,
he wrote about the need to conserve our forests,
and soil, air,
and water. But listen to how he ends the book: (Richard Lieber) ” We stand at the crossroads
where signs point to success or failure. The future well-being and prosperity
of our nation depend upon which road we choose. Our natural resources are the source
of our health, and our wealth, of our strength,
and our independence. Let us be of good cheer
and stark faith and through courage,
sacrifice, vision,
and kindliness, we shall make our contribution. Which road are we to follow? In the end,
the choice depends on you.” (Narrator) Now that’s a clue,
not an answer. After the auction,
Lieber himself was at a crossroads. He could walk away
and accept failure. Or,
well, or what? After such a public failure,
the question remains: where do you find strength
to go on? Fritz Lieber: On the other hand,
life is patient,
and he was patient
and he was determined and without that disappointment, I’m not sure that we would ever have known
the depth to which he was
committed from the beginning. Narrator: It’s obvious that Fritz Lieber
is as thoughtful and as eloquent as his grandfather. For my part,
and I’m just making a guess now, but here’s what I think Lieber might say: Bob Sander:
Failure is a small moment in a long game. Failure can teach you
what you still need to know in order to succeed. It’s difficult to see this. It requires inner strength. But we each have natural resources
inside of us. Resources just as critical as
soil, and water, and air. He even named some of them:
courage, sacrifice, vision. But they need to be cultivated
in order to succeed. Here’s Lieber’s true genius: he’s telling us that the way to cultivate
and to unlock and develop these qualities inside of ourselves, is to have a place
outside of ourselves. Oases of nature, where we can go to
refresh and renew ourselves. Beauty spots, he called them. If we can preserve these places, if we can have a relationship
with places like this, then we can bloom, we can succeed,
we can become who we really are. Failure or success, he was at the crossroads. The choice was his. The future of the State Park system
depended upon which road he chose and he did not
disappoint. Interviewer:
How long do you reckon you’ve been coming? Interviewee: I’d say
over 40 years. Yes, we bring a lot of family members here. There are 15 of us with children, and grandchildren,
and great grandchildren and it’s not unusual for us to
try to do that trip about once a year as well. Cause they like the water
and they like the river, lazy river and it’s fine with us, but
we were fine coming here before that, but they love it
and it’s a real nice place to bring your kid. Interviewee:
For me, it just calms the spirit. Interviewee: My son,
his wife, and my daughter love the trails. So I know they can come here
and they all find things that they, my other grandson is three, so
he’ll do anything, so they all will find things they can go do at this park or any of the State Parks
and I can take a nap. Yeah, I am hoping that there are many other kids, like my kids,
that their parents have introduced them to the State Parks. Introduced them to the values
of the State Parks, where our tax money goes and why, and that they continue
taking their children and finding what beautiful things
we have at the State Park. We always feel
fulfilled and happy when we leave. Bob Sander:
Lieber never quit on Turkey Run, he kept negotiations with
the timber companies going for six months. During that period of time,
the timber companies offered several deals, all of which would have
removed trees from the property. All those deals were rejected and finally,
Turkey Run did become a State Park. (Narrator) They had to pay
$40,200. That’s a $10,000
profit for the timber company. But Turkey Run finally became
a State Park. By then, however,
it was not the first. While negotiations for Turkey Run
dragged on, another site came to the attention
of the Park Commission. Just outside Spencer, Indiana, there was a lovely canyon and creek
with ample wooded areas. It housed a former sanitarium. And so, McCormick’s Creek canyon
became our first State Park. Lieber’s time with the State Parks
lasted until 1933 During that period, Indiana’s park system
was admired nationally and widely copied. States far and wide
asked him for advice. In those years,
Lieber met the first director of the National Park System:
Stephen Mather. He and Mather
had numerous opportunities to discuss conservation issues, to influence, and guide, one another, and I bet you a dollar to a doughnut, two of them talked about another subject
Lieber held dear: history. For, if the parks were Lieber’s gift
to the citizens of the future, then his drive to establish State Memorials
and Historic Sites was his way of
honoring the past. During Lieber’s tenure,
many more parks were also added. And,
you can be sure, each new park had its own unique
origin story. State Parks,
Historic Sites, and Memorials Forests,
Reservoirs. Lieber deserved a place
in Indiana history for this alone,
but there was more. The parks were only part
of his larger vision. As early as 1916, Lieber envisioned a simple, but efficient,
structure. It would knit together separate,
and sometimes competing, agencies. A complete Department of
Conservation. His idea was realized in 1919
when it passed into law. That legislative act ensured that a sturdy organization
would exist far into the future. Indeed,
today’s Department of Natural Resources still reflects
the brilliant foundation Richard Lieber
originated nearly
a hundred years ago. [Water running] Time has its way with all things. [Methodical dulcimer]
Cut through solid rock? Few million years of
running water will do it. Turn rock
into sand? Few centuries of glaciers
coming and going; just the thing! And how long does it take
to lose the memory of someone’s life story? It takes no time at all, easiest thing in the world, happens every day. (Interviewer) Know who
Richard Lieber was? Interviewee: Pssh. No way. Interviewee: Not a clue. Interviewer: Does the name Richard Lieber,
do you know that name? Interviewee: No, I don’t know
the name of Richard Lieber. [Winds whistling] (Narrator) Richard Lieber
died in 1944 in the Canyon Inn
at McCormick’s Creek, the first
State Park. He was 74 years old. He and his wife
had their ashes buried by his statue
in Turkey Run. How a place came to be, who a person was, what he or she accomplished. It can all be forgotten
in the blink of an eye. Matter of fact,
you can’t stop that from happening. Unless, unless you
value the story of that place
or that person’s life. Because, while everything else will
fade away stories can remain if we tell them
and pass them on. Friends, that’s the story of the man
who set our State Parks in motion. Now, when I first set out
to research and tell this tale, I never thought
it would turn out to be personal. But it did. Because, doing research, I discovered that when Richard and Emma were first married, they loved to go and watch
the skilled craftsmen who were creating furniture for them, furniture Richard designed. Emma wrote about this in her book. Turns out that work was done
at my great grandfather’s furniture store in downtown Indianapolis. I also learned Lieber spent time at the Turnverein, and the German-American Club,
and other places where he likely met
and socialized with my German ancestors. My own father told me that
when he was a boy in the 1920’s, my grandfather took him to a
wonderful high and lonesome place called Weed Patch Hill. That same Brown County view from there
is what inspired Lieber’s vision
for our State Parks. And for myself, well as a boy I remember camping with my family
nearly every summer weekend at one State Park
or another. One time,
we went group camping at Turkey Run with several neighbor families. In the morning,
we all went for a an all-family hike and I was entrusted
with a group of younger kids. We ran on ahead of the adults. Well, I’ll never forget the look
on the adults’ faces when they came around a corner
and saw me, the guardian
they’d entrusted to watch their kids, there I was,
perched high atop a massive, pyramid-shaped rock. Wedge Rock,
it’s called. Some guardian, right? It scared my mother
half to death. Well,
that’s the end of my story, but I hope this show, Origins, marks a new beginning
in the continuing story of you and your Indiana State Parks. Let’s let the man himself
have the last word: (Richard Lieber)
No one of the millions who enjoy our State Parks owes me anything, not even thanks. On the contrary, I am in their debt that they have permitted me,
a chance immigrant, to do
what he wanted to do. Only
in these United States could a thing like that
happen.

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