ROME, Ind. (AP) - A secluded, rustic retreat overlooking the Ohio River will become part of Gov. Edgar Whitcomb's legacy to the state after he agreed to sell it to the state so it can become part of a nature trust, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced Monday.
The agency and the one-term governor elected in 1968 agreed on a purchase price of $300,000, about half of the appraised value for the 144-acre Perry County site surrounded by the Hoosier National Forest. It will be named the Edgar Whitcomb Nature Park and Retreat and become part of the Bicentennial Nature Trust created by Gov. Mitch Daniels to mark the state's 200th birthday in 2016.
"I got word the DNR was interested in the property," Whitcomb said during a ceremony with Daniels in Rome, the town about 50 miles east of Evansville where Whitcomb lives. "As time went by, I waited and waited and waited for this day. I'm so happy to see this come to fruition."
Whitcomb, who turns 95 next month, acquired the property in the 1990s.
The heavily wooded site rests on limestone and sandstone outcroppings and cliffs. It has three log cabins and a small barn. Rare plants found there include resurrection fern, pink thoroughwort, and a subspecies of downy phlox named after Charles Deam, Indiana's first state forester and botanist.
Whitcomb moved to the property in search of solitude after a life of politics and high adventure. He was a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II and escaped by swimming long distances at night between islands in the South China sea.
He married a fashion model, became a lawyer and won his first political office in 1966, when he was elected secretary of state. He sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1976 but lost to Richard Lugar. Whitcomb returned to practicing law, but became restless. He divorced, bought a sailboat and made a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
The acquisition is part of Daniels' plan to acquire more wilderness land to mark Indiana's the bicentennial.