Our Raintree County
|Ross Lockridge's fictional Raintree County (left) and Henry County that was the setting for Lockridge's
novel (on right).
Raintree County song recorded by Nat
King Cole. Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.
Music by Johnny Green.
Photo by Joan Wylie Hall.
Storyline of Raintree County
Idealist John Wickliff Shawnessy drifts away from his high school sweetheart Nell Gaither and enters into
a passionate, but loveless, marriage with Susanna Drake a wealthy New Orleans belle. But John soon
learns that Susanna's mother died in a lunatic asylum and it becomes apparent that Susanna has
inherited her family's curse for she tricked him into marriage. Frustrated with life, John leaves home by
enlisting in the Northern Army and fights in Tennessee and Georgia during the terrible and brutal Civil
War where he does some soul searching for himself and explores his path in life to what may lay in store
for him should he return home.
Written by Matt Patay
In 1948 author Ross Lockridge Jr. (1914-1948) published his epic novel (over 1000 pages) titled
Raintree County. The setting of this pre-Civil War era novel and beyond, was Henry County,Indiana
known afterwards to many as Raintree County. Lockridge's novel told the life story of one John Wickliff
Shawnessy , a dreamer, a teacher, a Union soldier,staunch abolitionist, father and hero in his own part
of the world from Waycross, Indiana. It tells of Shawnessy's life-long search to find the Raintree and the
peace and joy it brings. In actuality John Shawnessy was the grandfather of Lockridge whose real name
was John Wesley Shockley. John Wesley Shockley (1839-1907) lived and died in Straughn,Henry
County,Indiana. He is buried along with other Shockley family members in the nearby town of
In the novel the real towns of New Castle, Straughn and Knightstown were renamed Free Haven,
Waycross and Beardstown respectively,
"For Raintree County is not the country of the perishable fact. It is the country of the enduring fiction. The
clock in the Court House Tower on page five of the Raintree County Atlas (above left) is always fixed at
nine o'clock, and it is summer and the days are long."
--Raintree County, by Ross Lockridge, Jr.
Raintree County , the movie was filmed in 1956 by Metro Goldwyn Mayer towards the end of Hollywood's
Golden Age, as publicized by M-G-M, "in the great tradition of civil war romance". The movie was lavishly
conceived, made for the widescreen, with a grandiose musical score by Johnny Green, starring
Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Nigel Patrick, Rod Taylor and Agnes
Moorehead. The movie's most famous piece of music is the haunting "The Song of Raintree County"
sung by Nat King Cole.
Many people I've spoken with who watched the movie in it's original release say that theme song has
stayed with them throughout the years and brings back fond and nostalgic memories.
Lillian Vernice Baker, wife of
Ross Lockridge Jr. Vernice
inspired the character of
Nell gaither in the book and
Author Ross Lockridge Jr.
Ross Lockridge's grandfather John Shockley with his students in Starughn, Indiana 1893. Son Ernest in
lower left of photo with hands in his pockets. Daughter Elsie is directly behind Ernest.
Early photo of Shockley home in
Staughn, Indiana. Ross and
Lillian visit his grandparents
|John Shockley home in 2013 - Straughn, Indiana
Photograph by Mark Sean Orr
Lyrics sheet to
"The Song of Raintree County"
Shockley Family Marker in Lewisville, Indiana Cemetery. John Wesley
Shockley , wife Emma Rhoton and children Ernest and Frank are buried
here along with Frank's wife Borgia Haskett and their son Frank Jr.
Ross Lockridge's fictional town of "Waycross"
|Raintree County Movie Art. Montgomery Clift,
Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint.
|Ross Lockridge Jr's Raintree County
John Wesley Shockley
Emma Rhoton Shockley
2nd wife of John Wesley Shockley.
Lewisville Cemetery in Henry County, Indiana is the burial place for John Wesley Shockley,
wife Emma Rhoton Shockley and other family members.. John Shockley's parents William
B. Shockley (wife Louisa Conwell) are buried in Messick Cemetery north of Lewisville in
Henry County. William and Louisa were portrayed as T.D. Shawnessy and wife Ellen
Shawnessy in the movie Raintree County.
John W. Shockley was married first to Susannah Duke (Susannah Drake in the novel).
They had one son James Shockley 1862-1919. Susanah Duke is buried in the Messick
Cemetery along with John Shockley's parents and siblings. John's second marriage was to
Emma Rhoton of Henry County, Indiana.
The Shockley Family
|John Wesley Shockley and second wife Emma Rhoton Shockley
John and Emma Rhoton Shockley's daughter Elsie Lillian Shockley married Ross Lockridge Sr. in
Elsie was born in Henry County in 1880 and died in 1961. Ross Lockridge Sr. was born in 1877 and
died in 1952. Ross Lockridge Sr. and Elsie are buried at the Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne,
Ross Sr. and Elsie Shockley Lockridge had four children, the youngest of whom was Ross Lockridge
Jr., author of Raintree County. Ross Jr. married Lilliam Vernice Baker. Their children included: Robert
Bruce Lockridge (1903-1919), Vivian Lockridge (1904-1986). Vivian married Mary Kay Geaks
(1905-1971), Lillian Lockridge (1909-1961) and Ross Frankiln Jr. (1914-1948). Ross Jr. married Lillian
Vernice Baker (1914-1994).
|John Wesley Shockley
The maternal Grandfather of Ross Lockridge
Jr.,in his yard at
Straughn, Dudley Twp., Henry Co. Indiana.
The paper in his lap is a copy of the
He was the Hoosier Schoolmaster and Poet
who inspired the character,
"John Wickliff Shawnessy" in the novel
|THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY APPLESEED
Legendary Johnny Appleseed
wandered the midwest,
carrying among his apple seeds
a single, exotic seed...from the
golden Raintree. Looking for
a place it would flourish and grow,
he planted it somewhere here
in Henry County.
Legend has it that those who
find the Raintree discover the
realization of all dreams
It was "Johnny Appleseed," by which name
Jonathan Chapman was afterward known in every
log cabin from the Ohio River to the Northern lakes,
and westward to the prairies of what is now the
state of Indiana.
The good people of New Castle like to think that
Ross Lockridge Jr. knew something when he set
his Civil War-era novel Raintree County in real-life
Henry County, Indiana. According to Lockridge lore,
Johnny Appleseed planted the seed of a magical
golden raintree somewhere in Henry County, and
whoever found the tree would find the secret of
--And so he learned that Raintree County being but a dream must be upheld by
dreamers. So he learned that human life's a myth, but that only myths can be
eternal. So he learned the gigantic labor by which the earth is rescued again and
again from chaos and old night, by which the land is strewn with names, by which the
river of human language is traced from summer to distant summer, by which beauty
is plucked forever from the river and clothed in a veil of flesh, by which souls are
brought from the Great Swamp into the sunlight of Raintree County and educated to
its enduring truths. p. 1021
A well stocked kitchen in Henry County in the
Photo taken at the Wilbur Wright Family Home
Museum in Millville, Indiana.
Photography by Mark Orr
Broad Street in New Castle, known as Free Haven
in the novel Raintree County. 1875....looking west.
|Blue River postcard-New Castle, Indiana.
|On the set of "Raintree County". Elizabeth
Taylor, Monty Clift and Eva Marie Saint.
|The people and places of Raintree
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Elizabeth Taylor as she appeared during Raintree
County. Taylor played the wife (Susannah Drake) of
protagonist John Shawnessy. In reality, Susannah
Drake was Susannah Duke, first wife of John
Wesley Shockley. She died in Henry County and is
buried in the old Shockley family plot in Messick,
Henry County, Indiana,. Their son James (also
named James in the movie) is not buried in Henry
John Shockley went on to marry Emma Rhoton in
Henry County, Indiana after his divorce from
In the movie, Susannah dies in the marsh, looking
for the fabled Raintree.
Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylore and Eva
Marie Saint - Movie poster for Raintree County.
|Children of John and Emma Rhoton Shockley
|Frank William Shockley
1884 - 1954
(Will Shawnessy in the
movie Raintree County).
|Borgia Haskett Shockley
Wife of Frank William
|Frank WIlliam Shockley Jr.
Son of Frank William and
Borgia Haskett Shockley.
|Ernest Vivian Shockley
1878 - 1924
Ernest married Viva Irene
Anger. her burial place
Old Mooreland School in Henry County, Indiana. Not far away is the old homestead of W.B.
Shockley and wife Louisa, parents of John Wesley Shockley.
The old Academy in New Castle, Indiana. New Castle was known as Freehaven in the
novel Raintree County. Photo 1893.
Bundy Hotel in New Castle (Freehaven) burns May 5, 1889.
Raintreee County today....as beautiful as ever. Photo by Mark Sean Orr
Raintree County, music by Johnny Green.
Click "pause" to stop music.
Hoosier author Ross Lockridge Jr.
|Elsie Shockley, mother of Ross
|Author Ross Lockridge Sr.,(1877-1952)
noted Indiana Historian with author son
Ross Lockridge Jr. Ross Sr. wrote "The Story
of Indiana among other books..
The New Castle Train Depot,. In the novel this would have been the train depot in Freehaven.
Postcard of New Castle in the 1950's, S.S. Kresge's Store is on the left and Hook's Drugs on the right.
Farmer Forest Vaugh Jackson on his farm in Henry County in the 1930's. Vaughn also helped
build National Road 40 where the towns of Straughn, Lewisville, Knightstown, Dunreith and
Donald Losby played the part of James
Shawnessy in the film, son of John and
Susannah Shawnessy. The role was shared with
Eva Marie Saint on set of Raintree County. Here
she is getting her hair and make-up done. Eva
played the role of Nell Gaither. Her character
was inspired by Lockridge's wife.
Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in rehearsal for
Raintree County. Clift played the mian character John
Short feature on the production of the 1957 film "Raintree County."
Nat King Cole sing the musical theme of the movie '' Raintree County '' released in 1957
|Ross signing books at L.S. Ayers Store in