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Conner Prairie independent

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Phil Scott/Eyewitness News

Fishers, IN, December 30 -  One of Indiana's most visited tourist attractions, Conner Prairie, will start the new year under new ownership.

"It's been a long road to this day.  Conner Prairie is delighted to have achieved its independence," said Berley Duck, Conner Prairie Board Chairman.

The agreement on the last business day of 2005 puts an end to years of disputes.

Conner Prairie, where 50,000 Indiana school children go each year to see early settler life in Indiana, took on historic legal confrontations between the local board running Conner Prairie and Earlham College in Richmond, to whom Eli Lilly gave ownership in 1968. 

Control of the museum and its $174 million endowment was up in the air.

"If it were an easy thing to deal with, this would have been resolved years ago.  But these were complex, deep rooted issues that had to be addressed," said Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter.

The historic, living history museum seemed to hang in the balance with the two sides at an impasse, until the Indiana Attorney General's Office stepped in.  Visitors and donors would still wait more than two years before the two sides came to terms.

The agreement, signed Friday afternoon, splits the money and turns over the operation to an independent Conner Prairie Corporation, which says it's already begun planning its new future. Conner Prairie will begin fundraising immediately.

Conner Prairie also starts with a little bonus.  Good investments by Earlham put an extra $11-million into the museum's share of the endowment.