Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Bruce Bigelow


For nearly two centuries, the history of Evansville, Indiana has remained incomplete as historians and the general public have not recognized some of the key factors responsible for the city’s famed past. The generally accepted history of Evansville, the state’s third-largest city, conveys valiant tales of industrialization, transportation, and successful entrepreneurs who overcame insurmountable odds and left everlasting impressions on the people of the region. While the once-prosperous city was a significant national port and participated heavily in transatlantic and transcontinental trade, Evansville’s historical significance has diminished over the course of the twentieth century. What were once bustling factories, streams clogged with shipments of imported timber, and railways packed with the products of Evansville’s various industries, now stand as vacant remnants, empty lots, or repurposed structures now housing upscale restaurants or offices that merit little to no recognition of historical significance from the modern passerby.

Reitz or Wrong focuses on the negative environmental impacts of the lumber industry in Evansville, Indiana, as well as the roles nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, and political influence play in remembering historical figures. Through this analysis, my work explores how Reitz’s industrial actions, as well as his family’s philanthropic and community service work, influenced the way individuals of the area would come to view the family and the natural environment and form his legacy. As the first environmental history of the region, this research utilizes materials from the Reitz Home Museum archives, as well as primary documents and newspaper articles found in the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, Willard Library, and Evansville Museum of Art, Science, and History. Reitz or Wrong opens conversation around the relationship between the people of Evansville and their ecological landscape.