A century ago, a portion of Possum Creek was home to the 200-acre Argonne Forest Park, a former amusement park.
Null Hodapp founded the park, named after the World War I battle of Argonne Forest in France, where he served with the 322nd Field Artillery. Fellow WWI veterans built Argonne Forest Park in honor of those who served during the Great War.
Argonne Forest Park, dedicated in July 1927, served as a reunion grounds for veterans and their families. Local businesses, clubs and associations also rented the park for private picnics. It was home to such amenities as a clubhouse, midway, swimming pool and baseball field, where parades and sham battles were held.
Today, you can explore remnants of Argonne Forest Park, including a dance floor and streetcars used as cabins and for concessions, by hiking the 1.4-mile purple loop trail. Most hikers can complete this easy, natural-surface trail without a lot of elevation change in an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
With less vegetation to block views, winter and spring are a great time to see these remnants. This spring, new interpretive signage telling the story of Argonne Forest Park will be installed along the trail, adding a dose of history to your hike. Time has changed the landscape as a mixed hardwood forest has grown around the remnants and into the space once filled with open fields and beech woods.
While many amusement parks now are dominated by roller coasters and Ferris wheels, Argonne Forest Park was designed with amenities for people to play and enjoy the outdoors together.
Through the decades, one thing remains the same: Spending time outdoors improves your physical and mental health now as much as it did 100 years ago.
- 1917 – February United States officially entered the Great War, which had been going on for three years in Europe.
- June the 322nd Field Artillery formed
- September began training at Camp Sherman, near Chillicothe, Ohio. The regiment trained at Camp Sherman for nine months.
- 1918 – June, the regiment sailed for Europe aboard the S.S. Canopic. The journey to Le Havre, France took 12 days at sea.
- September 9, the regiment left for the front where it participated in the Meuse‑Argonne offensive. They remained there until the end of the war.
- November 11, the war ended.
- 1919 – April, 322nd Field Artillery receives orders home from Germany.
- 1920 – 322nd Field Artillery Association holds their first reunion in Dayton, Ohio.
- 1927 – July 4, Argonne Forest Park is dedicated during the association’s first annual 2-day sham battle following reunion program.
- Annually the association continued fourth of July fundraising events with fireworks and carnival rides.
- 1930s – Argonne Forest Park hosted 322nd Field Artillery Reunions, annual 4th of July Sham Battles, organization picnics, and outdoor enjoyment for Daytonians.
- 1940s – Argonne Forest Park closed.
- 1966 – The Park-district now known as Five Rivers MetroParks purchased the property.
- 1981 – After sixty-two reunions, held in various locations, the 322nd Field Artillery Association closed its books for the final time. It was the oldest continuing reunion of a military unit in the United States.
Interview with nephew Ruey Hodapp
Poem by Null Hodapp
The sun set among the distant hills–
Warm hands shook a parting good-bye
Something more than Friendship–Comradeship.
Silence sealed lips–thoughts were afar
Tears moistened sunburned cheeks
Good-bye buddie, good-bye–God bless you.
Marriage, children, deaths; sorrows
Comrades again–but life was changed.
Faces shown, smiles warmed; voices cheered
Today Buddie, smile again and again
Friendships will soon be renewed; comradeships warmed
Tales swapped around the hearthstone of
This–the 322nd Club House. Corporal of the Guard