The History of the Acton Campground Property

1853. Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad opened adjacent to the property.

June 16, 1859. Group of 14 Methodists meets for the first time to discuss the purchase of land as a church campground.

June 23, 1859. Group finds the future 40-acre property near Farmersville, which would later become known as Acton. Twenty acres at $35 per acre could be purchased at that time. The remaining 20 acres would be purchased prior to 1881. Organization names itself the Indianapolis District Camp-Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Aug. 29, 1859. First camp meeting held.

Aug. 15, 1861. Camp was held from Sunday to the following Sunday and was considered "a glorious success."

1862 and 1863. Meetings held during these years were considered unsuccessful due to the nation's concern over the Civil War.

1864. Tensions were high among Hoosiers, and there were mixed feelings toward Indiana's governor, Oliver P. Morton.

Aug. 14, 1864. Acton Campground was completely burned. Troops from Marion and Shelby counties were defeated at Cumberland Ford. The Acton Campground was used as a hospital for wounded troops by Governor Morton. The "enemies of the county" destroyed the campground.

June 1865. Association met to determine rebuilding of the campground. Canvas tents, which would burn less readily than the previous board tents, were not available in time to hold a meeting in 1865.

Post Civil War. Disagreements between the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad and the Camp Meeting Association were prominent. Camp officers opposed to running trains to the campground on the holy Sabbath. The railroad continued to run on Sundays.

August 1870. Camp adopts resolution to form a committee to submit a plan to address the issue of trains running to the campground on Sundays.

1871. Railroad refuses to stop trains on Sundays, and camp officers approve selling and relocating the campground.

1872. Association decides not to sell and move the campground but to come to an agreement with the railroad.

Aug. 1, 1873. Camp and railroad entered into a 20-year contract that required that trains not be run to or from the campground on Sundays. The agreement was withheld the first year, but was ignored after 1873.

1878. Newspaper accounts state that "fully 10,000 people" were present for the meeting.

August 1880. In an effort to improve the overall quality of the meetings, the association added literary speakers. Three lecturers, including Emerson E. White, president of Purdue University, spoke at the meeting this year. The campground would later be known for its impressive speakers. It is said that every known speaker or literary figure had spoken at campground meetings.

1881. Association begins refusing profit made from the railroad's trains that ran on Sundays. Earlier, a 10-cent royalty fee had been added to trains running to the campground. That extra 10 cents was returned to the campground treasurer, who also was the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Railroad treasurer.

1881 - 1900. Campground flourishes. Some history suggests 40,000 individuals could attend a meeting in a single day. Cottage owners from 20 Indiana towns, as well as some from Illinois and Ohio, owned 120 to 140 cottages.

1895. Campground appraises for $970. Individual cottages valued mostly at $50 or less, but some reach $250.

1899. A fire started by a gasoline stove leak burns eight cottages.

1900. Residents dammed the small stream on the property, creating a lake for recreation and fire protection. The bridge was said to be large enough for canoes and boats, and a bridge spanned the lake to take campers from the Acton Road entrance to the mail buildings located along Southport Road.

1905. Association sells bonds at $10 with a 3-percent interest in an effort to get out of debt. A successful season in 1905 showed promise for the campground.

Nov. 12, 1905. A spark from a 3 p.m. train passing the campground starts a fire that completely destroys all 110 cottages and tabernacle as well as 425 shade trees. Cottage holders wished to rebuild, but officers were skeptical.

April 1906. Officers vote to abandon the campground. Stockholders disagree.

Aug. 9, 1906. Acton Park Association stockholders develop a plan for possibly rebuilding. The plan was not successful, and stockholders abandoned the possibility of rebuilding. The property was sold.

June 2004. Half of the property (17 acres) is now residential property. The remaining 23 acres are privately owned. The owner agrees to sell the property to the Indianapolis Parks Foundation for use as future parkland if the appropriate funds are secured by Dec. 31, 2004.

Sept. 7, 2004. Indianapolis Parks Foundation receives a $1.1 million gift from AES to purchase the Acton Campground Property and another property (in Warren Township) for use as parkland.

The Future. Indianapolis Parks Foundation will purchase the property and deed it to Indy Parks and Recreation. The property will then become a city park, owned by the City of Indianapolis. The master planning process will begin in 2005. First amenities could be added as soon as 2006. The park will take several years to complete.

 

Source: The Story of Acton Camp Ground. Indiana Magazine of History. Sylvia Henricks. 1970.
Photos Courtesy Franklin Township Historical Society

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