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Huge tract will stay farmland forever

One of the largest private landholdings in Indiana has a new owner. Juanita Waugh bequeathed 7,600 acres to St. Joseph’s College at Rennselaer. Waugh, Brookston, passed away in 2010.

Here’s “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey said for years. The land was deeded to the nonprofit college, but it is never to be sold, and a conservation easement requires that it can only be used for farming and wind energy production.

What St. Joseph’s College gets in return is annual income, currently estimated at about $1.5 million. The college will pay local property taxes, amounting to about $130,000 per year. College officials are finalizing plans to use the funds, most likely for a scholarship program.

Key Points

• St. Joseph’s College inherits huge northern Indiana farm.

• Annual income from the farm will likely support student scholarships.

• The Waugh farm was once known for huge grass fields on level land.

Long history

The Waugh property was to northern Indiana what the Goose Pond was to southern Indiana. Coincidentally, they’re about the same size. It’s also notable that while the Goose Pond is now permanent wetlands, the Waugh property will remain farmland forever.

The story behind the Waugh farm dates to the late 1800s, notes Dave Bechman, FarmFirst LLC, a farm management and ag realty firm, West Lafayette. He and Stan Wanner, Waugh’s business manager, are co-trustees of the Juanita K. Waugh Trust.

As the story goes, her grandfather Kious began accumulating land in White County and built a house in Brookston around 1885. Waugh lived there until her death. She had no children.

Waugh’s mother married Lloyd “Sag” Waugh, whose family had large landholdings near Colfax and Crawfordsville. Juanita Waugh’s father passed in 1949. Juanita and her mother managed the farm until her mother’s death in 1982.

Flat-land cattle farm

Many people drove long distances to see the farm where some of Indiana’s most productive land was in hay and pasture. The cow herd reportedly built to 1,500 cows.

After her death, Waugh’s possessions were auctioned. Her father’s late-’40s Ford F-1 pickup sold for more than $18,000. Her liquid assets were bequeathed to Mayo Clinic.

“We were instructed to tear down the house,” Bechman says. “Then that land will be deeded to the town of Brookston for a park.”

Waugh legacy at a glance

Last survivor: Juanita K. Waugh, passed away February, 2010

Acres in farm: 7,600

Acres tillable: 6,800

Other land: 200 acres trees, 200 acres rough pastureland, remainder in ditches, roadways

Major soils: Brookston and Chalmers; some fields still need tile

Current tenants: Farmed cash-rent by one family (father, son and son-in-law)

Livestock: None since 1985
(Cow herd once approached 1,500 head)

Number of wind turbines:
19 operating, 13 more under construction

Largest contiguous field: 960 acres (section and a half), only recently divided by windmill access road

Special provisions: Land can never be sold. Wood-Land-Lakes RC&D holds conservation easement requiring land to be farmed and/or used for wind energy production

Notable: St. Joseph’s College will be largest private landowner whose land contains the most windmills east of Mississippi River. Horizon Wind Energy owns the windmills.


Seal the deal: Stan Wanner (left) Dennis Riegelnegg, president of St. Joseph’s College, and Dave Bechman discuss deeding 7,600 acres to the college located in Rensselaer.

This article published in the August, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.