By Wade Coggeshall
NORTH SALEM — Here's roughly what officials know about the history of what is now McCloud Nature Park.
Danville-based attorney Frank Davidson bought hundreds of acres (including where the park is now) and built up a resort-like setting in the early 1900s. When it changed hands is still a mystery.
Paul Miner, vice president of the Hendricks County Parks Board, hopes to clear some of that up in time for McCloud's 10th anniversary this year. Festivities are planned for the weekend of May 4-5, with details forthcoming.
Miner started researching Davidson's life last year. He learned he was born in Ladoga, but grew up in North Salem. Davidson went to Butler College (now a university) when it was in the Irvington area, where he also starred in football. He graduated in 1892, then went on to the Indiana Law School and earned his diploma in 1896.
"He became a prominent Indianapolis attorney in the early part of the 1900s," said Miner, noting some of Davidson's bigger clients included Western Union and Indiana Bell.
He began acquiring farm property in the 1930s, including where McCloud Nature Park is now. Davidson eventually owned some 500 acres in both Hendricks and Putnam counties.
"The bulk of the acreage was in Hendricks County," Miner said. "It was far larger than what today's park is (which is 233 acres)."
Over time, Davidson built a lodge and cabins, and added walking trails, a driving range, and tennis courts.
"People came from North Salem and (Eel River) township and had family reunions and class reunions there," Miner said. "Clubs would meet there too. It was quite a destination in its time."
Minor found old newspapers on microfilm dating back to the '30s that listed names of people attending reunions at Davidson's lodge. It added up to thousands of guests over many years.
"People would go there for picnics and to hike and fish in Big Walnut Creek," Miner said. "This is something I found out and didn't expect."
Stone pillars from the lodge still stand near McCloud Nature Park's entrance. Miner says the lodge itself is still in the vicinity, now remodeled and serving as a private residence. At least one of the cabins is still in the park too.
Miner is still not fully sure how the area came to be known as McCloud.
"I do know there were quite a few McClouds who settled in the area, on both sides of the county line," he said. "Also Davidson had purchased some of the property from a McCloud."
He thinks Davidson might have named the resort McCloud because of a story dating back to 1910 about picnickers meeting a woman there with the last name McCloud. She apparently lived in the cabin near there for many years.
"A lot of this history just isn't readily available," Miner said.
He has found scores of names of people who attended reunions there. Miner also discovered that at least one wedding was conducted there, before the resort started winding down amidst the Great Depression and start of World War II. He's hoping to find someone with photos of the Davidson era that can be displayed at McCloud's anniversary celebration.
"Ultimately, the property was broken up and went through several hands before (the county) acquired it from two couples," Miner said.
Anyone with information and/or photos is asked to call the parks department at 718-6188.