Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The C.C.C. State-By-State: Indiana


In Roosevelt’s Forest Army, Perry Merrill notes that an average of 30 CCC camps operated in Indiana during the lifetime of the program and that some 63,742 men from Indiana were given employment because of the CCC.

State forest work in Indiana was carried out in Clark, Morgan-Monroe, Brown, Harrison, Jackson, Jasper-Pulaski, Dubois, Warrick, Pike, Wells and Orange Counties.

The Annual Report of the Director of Emergency Conservation Work for fiscal year 1937 reported the monthly enrollment totals for Indiana as follows:

July 1936: 6,020
August 1936: 5,575
September 1936: 4,478
October 1936: 6,346
November 1936: 6,028
December 1936: 5,786
January 1937: 6,882
February 1937: 6,474
March 1937: 4,749
April 1937: 5,788
May 1937: 5,236
June 1937: 4,538
These are monthly totals for enrollments of men from Indiana, not totals for the number of CCC workers actually working in Indiana by month.

The same Annual Report (FY 1937) has a break down of camps by type in Indiana. During that period, Indiana had a total of 41 camps distributed amongst the various technical services as follows:

National Forest camps: 3
State Forest camps: 12
Agricultural Engineering camps: 8
Soil Conservation Camps: 10
State Park camps: 7
Military Reservation camps: 1

Indiana’s sole Military Reservation CCC camp was at Fort Benjamin Harrison, was designated camp Army-1 and, in 1936 was home to Company 3550. The Federal Security Agency Annual Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Fiscal year 1942 includes a summary of the type of work that the CCC performed on military reservations and while it does not refer specifically to Indiana, the details are informative. Among the tasks undertaken by CCC enrollees on military reservation land: airport construction, drill fields, tank traps and target construction, firebreaks around magazines, artillery and rifle ranges, observation posts auxiliary water supply systems storage buildings and sheds, camouflage work of all types and excavations for buildings.

Previous posts in the State-By-State series have elaborated on the unhappy reports of enrollee accidents and fatalities that appeared in the CCC newspaper Happy Days. For a change, let’s look at some upbeat news that was reported from various locations in Indiana in the Saturday, May 30, 1936 issue of Happy Days. For example, a short, 3-paragraph piece reported on the rare skill of one enrollee. The un-headlined piece reads:

"Co. 2580, Princeton, Ind., boasts of an enrollee who is literally “one in a million.” He is Johnny Jeffries, who won the national marble tournament in 1931. Census figures are used to confirm the assertion made by one of the camp officials.

In 1931 there were over 1,000,000 boys 12 years old and that Johnny was the one who at Ocean City, N.J., met and defeated the best boy marble players from 47 other states and Canada.

Johnny admitted, in a speech made before the company, that aside from planting a tree upside down he was a pretty good rookie."

The CCC Legacy camp list for Indiana shows that Princeton, Indiana was home to Camp SCS-1, known as Camp Princeton in 1935. Evidently, three years later, the camp was called Camp Seminole, but was still designated SCS-1, and was home to CCC Company 2550-C, an all-black CCC company.

Another Indiana-related article appears in the same section of the May 30, 1936 issue of Happy Days under the headline Oscar, a Squirrel.

"This is about Oscar, a pet squirrel of barrack 3, Co. 2583, English, Ind. He climbs all over the boys and likes to sleep in their jacket pockets. Another favorite place is their sleeves where he sleeps at the elbows.

Oscar usually gets angry when taken from his warm shelter and will vent his displeasure by little engaging growls. He will run to any hand or waving finger expecting to find a nut in them – he usually does. If you try to take away his nut, again the puny growls come forth. Of course, he frisks along the rafters as you would expect all good little squirrels to do."

The CCC Legacy camp list for Indiana shows that English, Indiana was home to Camp F-5-I and confirms that it was indeed home to Company 2583.

Another article reported the dedication of a new park entrance at Clifty Falls State park in Madison, Indiana. The governor of Indiana, Paul V. McNutt gave the keynote speech to dedicate Guthrie Entrance, named in honor of Senator Guthrie, the first chairman of the Indiana State Conservation Commission. The park entrance was built by enrollees from Company 1597 under the leadership of project superintendent John B. Clifford and commanded by Lt. Robert C. Hubbard. The ceremony was attended by the 84-year old Senator Guthrie who was accompanied by his three grandchildren who unveiled the bronze plaque.

To visit the Clifty Falls State Park website, click here.

(Note:  I managed to figure out how to resolve the formatting problem here, by switching to Blogger's "recommended" format.  Unfortunately, the new format includes so many new bells and whistles that I find I'll have to go back and re-learn everything in order to post decent content.  For example, I am now unable to post more than one image for some reason.  I don't have time to start completely over so I'm afraid the posts here will have to stop while I try to figure out how to make the posts work properly.  I feel really bad about this because I'd dedicated myself to getting all the State-By-State entries made through out 2011, but now it doesn't look like I'll be able to follow through on that goal.  For the record, I think that Google has just made their Blogger better for people who have nothing else to do in life but blog.  Unfortunately, for the rest of us, they've simply made it more difficult to share valuable content easily while at the same time attending to life's many other obligations.)








State-By-State: Louisiana


For an explanation of the State-By-State series, click here.
To view previous State-By-State articles, click on the “State By State” link under the "Labels" listed to the left.

Situated in the 4th Corps Area, Louisiana was home to a wide range of CCC camps.  Perry Merrill notes that an average of 30 CCC camps operated in Louisiana between 1933 and 1942, with some 51,225 individuals working in the state, regardless of their state of origin.

The Annual Report of the Director of Emergency Conservation Work for fiscal year 1937 reported that the total enrolled strength in Louisiana by month was as follows:
July 1936:  6,989                               
August 1936:  6,662
September 1936:  5,483
Work crew, Company 4408, Camp SCS-3, Homer, Louisiana
October 1936:  6,625
November 1936:  6,437
December 1936:  6,242
January 1937:  6,795
February 1937:  6,573
March 1937:  5,547
April 1937:  6,572
May 1937:  6,271
June 1937:  5,798
During that same fiscal year, a total of 6,869 enrollees were enrolled in Louisiana, though as we know, not all of them remained in Louisiana; odds are some were shipped out to work in other states.  Some specific work undertaken by CCC enrollees in Louisiana in fiscal year 1937 included:
New Buildings: 262
Firefighting crew, Camp F-5, Company 5406
Dry Prong, Louisiana
Garages: 202
Earthen Dams:  44,490 cubic yards
Fighting Forest Fires:  12,495 man days
Mosquito Control:  210 acres
Insect Pest Control:  775 acres

 
What about specific camp information you might ask.  It is fortunate that there exists an Official Annual of District “E’ Fourth Corps Area that lists accounts of the work of some 68 camps in Louisiana and Mississippi.  In the Annual’s “History of District E” section, the command history of the District is spelled out in great detail and it is interesting to note that the District was initially established under the command of Major Gooding Packard in May, 1933.  However, the District history goes on to report that in September, 1934, Major Packard was replaced by Lt. Col. Leslie J. McNair of the 4th Field Artillery who was in command of the District only a short time before he was promoted to colonel and ordered to report to Washington, DC to serve on the staff of the Field Artillery Division there.  Students of World War II history and those eager to learn where CCC officers wound up after the U.S. entered the war will find it interesting, albeit very tragic, to learn that Lieutenant General Leslie McNair was killed by U.S. bombs dropped as part of Operation Cobra, the effort to dislodge German defenses near St. Lo, France on July 25, 1944.


Col. Thomas D. Osborne and Headquarters Staff, Fourth Corps Area, District "E", 1935

It would seem that, in accordance with racial segregation prevalent at the time, the 1935 District “E” Annual is divided by race, with the all black, African-American CCC companies relegated to the rear of the book.  Among the companies listed there, is Company 3498, assigned to camp Army-1-L at Barksdale Field, Louisiana under Lieutenant James C. Barlow.  Often, if a local community expressed opposition to having an all-African-American (“Colored”) CCC company stationed nearby, the federal government would respond by finding work for the Colored company on a nearby military base and it is possible that Barksdale Field was the beneficiary of just such an arrangement.  The work of Company 3498 is described in the 1935 District Annual:

“Road building to the airport proper and over the reservation has been a major work of the Using Service.  Emergency landing fields are also being built.  A saw mill is operated to utilize the timber being cleared from the roads, and landing fields.  Some of this lumber is used in making bridges.  A great portion of it is used each week to construct targets for the planes on the ranges.  Targets do not last long when bombed by a group of planes in practice.”
Company 3498, Camp Army-1, Barksdale Field, Louisiana
The Annual goes on to report:  “As evidence of the training and pleasant conditions existing in this company the following observations may be made:  The average weight of enrollees was increased 20 pounds the first 60 days; every man re-enrolled on October 1st; not a single fist fight or other brawl has taken place during life of the camp; played baseball during season; men engage in boxing; men have an orchestra with company instruments.”

Another all-African-American CCC company was assigned to work on Barksdale Field during this period.  Company 3499 was assigned to camp Army-2-L at Barksdale Field.  According to the 1935 Annual, the camp was located a quarter mile from Bodcau Station near the I.C Railroad.  The camp was established by an initial cadre of 15 white enrollees from Company 1440, Marion, Louisiana, 125 colored enrollees from Baton Rouge and nearby communities and an additional 50 colored enrollees from Lafayette and adjoining parishes.  The objectives for Company 3499, according to the Annual, included the improvement of Barksdale Reservation by 1) building 25 miles of gravel roads, 2) building of 25 miles of dirt road with bridges, 3) building of two emergency landing fields and gun ranges, 4) planting of 1000 pecan trees on highways in the reservation, 5) building fire prevention roads and fire breaks, 6) giving proper drainage to the entire 22,000 acres.


Camp L-73-L at Marksville, Louisiana in Avoyelles Parish was home to Company 1481 according to the 1935 District Annual.  The camp was actually situated 6 miles north of Marksville “in the little village of Moncla, on the banks of the Red River.”  Company 1481 was a “Colored” company as well, with white officers and foremen.  The educational advisor for the company was African American.

In Morehouse Parish, Bastrop, Louisiana was home to camp SP-4-L, where Company 478 was stationed in 1935.  Here, so the narrative goes, a group of CCC boys from Georgia became a bit homesick because of a stretch of dismal weather at Bastrop which was not like the bright sunshine they’d left behind in Georgia.  The narrative goes on to say that the boys were cheered up immensely by “a big Thanksgiving dinner prepared under the careful direction of the Assistant Mess Inspector, Second Lt. Bryce Alexander, 348th Infantry.  The members were ‘just kids’ again as they sat down to the appetizing meal that made their away from home Thanksgiving complete.”
Jonesboro, Louisiana in Jackson Parish was home to Company 4413 at camp SCS-8-L during 1935.  The camp was under the command of Captain Stanton A. Hall with Ensign F.E. Johnstone serving as Executive Officer.  The District Annual refers to this camp as “Camp Colvin” and records that it was established on August 2, 1935 with an initial detail of 139 men from New Orleans and its suburbs.  After being confined to camp for two weeks, the enrollees were put into the field “to conserve the soil of the District..” and “For many of these boys, it was their first experience with pick and shovel and you should have seen how they handled them for a few days.”  A highlight of the period was the Jackson Parish Fair, held at the camp from October 16th to the 19th, during which time more than 8,000 people visited the camp.  “Everyone seemed to like the Camp and it gained some mighty good publicity and made friends of people from whom co-operation is needed to make the Soil Conservation project a success.  All the credit for the success of the Fair belongs to the excellent company commander, Capt. Stanton A. Hall.  He was the ‘daddy’ of the Fair.”
In 1935, Company 5408 was assigned to the CCC SCS-1-L at Minden, Louisiana in Webster Parish, under Lieutenant H.A. Strickland, commanding officer and Lieutenant C.A. Harris, executive officer.  The narrative camp history reports that the enrollees in Company 5408 had an array of diversions to keep them busy, including an educational program that offered course work in typing and wood working as well as recreational activities such as baseball, boxing, ping pong, horseshoes, billiards, shuffleboard, volleyball, checkers, basketball and bowling as well as books, newspapers and magazines.  Nevertheless, the company history reports that “many of the boys have fallen victims of the dreaded ‘acute homesickness, and the song ‘Two Tickets to Georgia’ has been so popular that the original 198 dwindled to 128 men.”
Other notable events and accomplishments reported in the 1935 District “E” Annual include:
The company history for Company 1476 at camp F-1-L, Pollock, Louisiana, reported that camp exchange officer Lieutenant  Eugene Paletz directed the construction of a “Woodrow Wilson Heart” in the center of camp as “ a reminder of the love and esteem for the late president after whom the camp is named, Woodrow Wilson.”
On Labor Day, 1935, Company 4421 at camp L-SCS-18, Mount Hermon, Louisiana, hosted a chicken dinner to which were invited the citizens of the surrounding communities.  A U. S. congressman attended the event during which the camp was renamed “Camp Sanders,” and the mess hall and recreation building dedicated as “Melvin Smith Hall and Oscar James Hall” respectively.  Enrollees Smith and James were killed I a bus accident while traveling home on a weekend pass. 
Author’s Ren and Helen Davis provide a glimpse of long-term state park impact of the work of the CCC in Louisiana in their book Our Mark on This Land (2011).  At Chemin-A-Haut State Park near Bastrop, enrollees created a wooded park that overlooks Bayou Bartholomew and the lodge there is host to a CCC exhibit.  At Chicot State Park near Ville Platte, the CCC constructed a dam and spillway structure as well as picnic shelters and a group camp dining hall.  Fountainebleau State Park, on Lake Ponchartrain was established in 1936 and developed by CCC enrollees.  Here visitors will still see the park entry structures and roads built by the enrollees, as well as trails and historic structures.
Here are additional images taken from the 1935 Official Annual of District “E,” Fourth Corps Area Civilian Conservation Corps:
Survey crew, Company 4411, Camp SCS-6
Calhoun, Louisiana

Company 4414 enrollees in a stake bed truck.
Camp SCS-9, Mansfield, Louisiana
 
Camp F-5, Dry Prong, Louisiana
A friendly boxing match at Camp F-5, Dry Prong, Louisiana
 
Enrollees from Company 4491, Camp SCS-21, Keithville, Louisiana

SOURCES

Davis, Ren & Helen, (2011), Our Mark on This Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company.

Official Annual for District E for 1935, Direct Advertising Company, Baton Rouge, LA.

Merrill, Perry H, Roosevelt’s Forest Army, 1981, Perry H. Merrill, Publisher.

U.S. Government Printing Office, Annual Report of the Director of Emergency Conservation Work, Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1937.

Copyright, 2014, Michael I. Smith

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thank you, John Salmond


For anyone who makes even a passing study of the subject, the arc of Civilian Conservation Corps history swings right through John A Salmond’s book The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study.  Open any scholarly work on the subject of the CCC and odds are good you’ll see Salmond listed in the notes.  I refer to Salmond’s book nearly every time I fire up the computer to write and I have done so for more than 20 years.

Occasionally I will conduct an internet search for Dr. Salmond and it was in this way that I contacted him by email back in early 2006.  In a gracious response to a stranger’s email from overseas Dr. Salmond expressed surprise over the long-running success of his book, writing, “…it has always surprised me that my little book, now long out of print, remains the standard work on the Corps.”  To my great surprise and satisfaction, Dr. Salmond also agreed to help me with my CCC writing efforts, including the book on which it seems I have been “working” for years.  Sadly, while I remain optimistic that I will actually complete my own book on the Civilian Conservation Corps, John Salmond will definitely not be writing the forward for that book as I had originally hoped.

Last week, during one of my occasional internet searches for “John A. Salmond,” I found a La Trobe University tribute to the late professor, which you can view here.   It seems Dr. Salmond passed away last summer.

It is no exaggeration to say that John Salmond’s work is the foundation upon which some 40 odd years of Civilian Conservation Corps scholarship rests.  When a historian, scholar or freelance researcher works on CCC history, they stand on John Salmond’s shoulders.  My interest in the CCC was fired initially by my grandfather’s work for the Forest Service in the 1930s but my ongoing work and research of the CCC has been propelled forward because, early on, in an Arizona State University library, I discovered John A. Salmond’s valuable contribution to the study of our beloved Civilian Conservation Corps.  Godspeed, Dr. Salmond, and thank you.

Photo of John A. Salmond is from the La Trobe University website.  Image of the book cover, from the author’s collection.

©Michael I. Smith, 2014

Monday, December 9, 2013

Help Preserve a Piece of CCC History


Will we understand the value of our history only after we have lost it?

In addition to helping folks find information about the Civilian Conservation Corps, another critical component to this thing we call CCC “resources” is the preservation of endangered items and bits of information.  Clearly a resource is of no use if it’s wasted, lost, destroyed or hidden away so deep in an archive vault that the average person cannot access it.
I was recently contacted by the folks at Appalshop Archive in Whitesburg, Kentucky.  It seems there is silent film footage shot at Camp SP-10-K near Pineville, Kentucky in 1938 that is in need of preservation.  For the sake of getting the word out quickly, I’ve pulled a quote directly from their fundraising site:
“In 2008 the Appalshop Archive received the donation of a 1938 16mm silent b/w film documenting the CCC camp in Pine Mountain State Park near the coal mining community of Pineville, KY.  It was made by Park superintendent and CCC supervisor Carl Zody.  Camp SP-10 men are seen constructing roads and bridges, operating vehicles, and cutting native sandstone for the Laurel Cove amphitheater (which is still a local landmark central to the town’s annual Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival).  The at-risk film is the most extensive known moving image materials of CCC activity in Pineville.  It is also unique in that it was made by a Park employee rather than by the U.S. Department of the Interior, whose films were intended to promote the program to the public.”
I think the critical thing to consider in this case is that the effort is to raise funds in order to preserve and exhibit this rare piece of film history.  Preservation of CCC history will insure that items are kept safe but possibly never seen.  Exhibition of CCC history brings the CCC story to thousands but risks damage to the items being exhibited.  The folks at Appalshop Archive are working to do both and they need the public’s help to make that happen.
Again, because Appalshop is working to meet a fundraising deadline, I’ve chosen to pull the contact information directly from their website in order to get this piece posted as soon as possible.  Here is how you can help:
“To donate by credit card go to the Contribute Now button at the top right of this page (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/appalachia-coal-camps-home-movies-and-the-ccc?c=activity).  If you would prefer to make your tax-deductible contribution by check, just make it payable to APPALSHOP, INC. and mail to: Appalshop Archive, 91 Madison Ave, Whitesburg, KY, 41858.”  
There are premiums offered based on the level of contribution you make – call it a “perk” or an incentive – but there is also a deadline for the current fundraising effort.  To view the fundraising web page and to see the range of incentives being offered, visit the website here (scroll down the page to view the section on the Pineville CCC film):  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/appalachia-coal-camps-home-movies-and-the-ccc?c=activity
Think of it this way:  Somewhere, there are people searching for information about a family member or a loved one who worked in a CCC camp in Kentucky.  Wouldn’t you feel great if you knew that you’d helped make it easier for those folks to perhaps catch a glimpse of their CCC boy on film?  That should be incentive enough.
For a history of the CCC in Kentucky, see Connie M. Huddleston’s book Kentucky’s Civilian Conservation Corps, 2009, The History Press.
For the CCC Resource Page State-by-State article about the CCC in Kentucky, click HERE.
For previous Forest Army blog posts related to the CCC in Kentucky, click HERE.
(Header illustration:  Edited detail from the CCC Company photo, Camden, Maine.  Courtesy of John McLeod.)
 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Remembering Some of the Dead at Blackwater Creek


August is a bastard.  Hot.  Dry.  Blazing.  Deadly.  If you’re lucky, August will break your will, steal what little hope you have left and leave you dejected, hoping and praying for September or, better yet, October.  If you’re unlucky, perhaps a bit too slow, a bit too tired, a bit too inexperienced or careless, or wearing the wrong kind of boots, that bastard August will kill you.  If you’re really unlucky, August will wipe out any vestige that you even existed.

August 21, 2013 marks the 76th anniversary of the blow up in Blackwater Creek, a fiery August conflagration that took the lives of 15 firefighters, most of them young Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees who battled wildfire on a rugged mountain slope hundreds of miles from their Texas homes.  I have posted more than one article related to the events that occurred in the Shoshone National Forest that blazing hot August afternoon and yet thoughts of that hot, smoky, fire-filled afternoon always come back to me when this bastard month rolls around and I begin to feel it’s too hot for my own good and then just as quickly, I remember that it isn’t likely ever going to be too hot where I am, compared to some panicky boys on a steep mountainside far from home in 1937.

Particularly heartbreaking is the fact that, while we know very little about the men who died fighting the Blackwater Fire, we know virtually nothing whatsoever of the CCC enrollees whose names filled the bulk of that tragic headcount in 1937.  Of the dead men who were variously in charge of the fire suppression work at Blackwater we know that one (Alfred G. Clayton) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1892 and that he was considered to be a ranger of the “old school” and that he was an accomplished artist and writer.  We know that another (21-year-old Rex A. Hale) was originally from Afton, Wyoming, that he worked his way of from CCC enrollee to a full-time Forest Service position as Junior Assistant to Technician and that he left behind a wife and infant daughter.  We know that another of the leaders who perished on the Blackwater Fire (Paul E. Tyrrell) was a graduate of the University of California’s school of forestry, that he became a Junior Forester in February 1937 and that he died as a result of burns he suffered while trying to protect others during the fire.  Finally we know that one of those in charge of firefighting crews that day at Blackwater Creek (James T. Saban) had struggled with personal demons that had, in the past, forced him to leave work in forestry for a time and that he had only been back working in the woods professionally for about 3 weeks when the Blackwater blow up took his life.

Ranger Clayton and the men who were trapped in the gulch probably didn’t have a good deal of time in which to consider their impending fate.  A mortally injured enrollee, Roy Bevens, was found within 60 feet of Ranger Clayton, Foreman Saban, Junior Assistant to Technician Hale and enrollees Gerdes, Griffith, Mayabb and Rogers.  Bevens pointed out the location of the fatality site in the gulch and reportedly expressed his thanks to God for having survived, but he would later die from his burns.

As for the group of men with Ranger Post, the fire and the terrain provided time to weigh options, to take action, to pray and to panic, but there wasn’t evidently much time.  In the end, a rocky point was their last refuge as smoke enveloped them and flames surrounded them on all sides.  The group shifted from one side of the clearing to another to avoid the heat and flames.  Foremen and members of the technical services struggled to keep order in the chaos and in some cases, literally fought with the panicked men in order to keep them from bolting from the rocky clearing and its scant prospects for safety from the inferno all around.  Among the men trapped on the ridge with Ranger Post that blazing, smoking fearful August afternoon were CCC enrollees Earnest Seelke, Rubin Sherry, Clyde Allen and Herman Patzke.  Seelke, Sherry, Allen and Patzke made a break for it, along with Bureau of Public Roads employee Billy Lea.  Only one would survive the effort. 

The men were told to lie down, but according to Ranger Post’s account after the tragedy, many insisted on sitting up or even standing in order to say prayers.  Ranger Post noted later:

“Nearly all the boys grew panicky and instead of lying down as instructed, a good many of them stood up and ran to the edge of the park, turned and came back.  Some of the boys did not listen to any orders, instructions or cautioning and were insistent upon standing up and saying their prayers.”

Foreman Paul Tyrrell restrained panicked enrollees at the expense of his own safety; as he lay atop the panic stricken lads his body created a shield that protected the boys from the heat.  After the flames subsided, Foreman Paul Tyrrell would be helped from the burn area only to succumb to pneumonia a few days later.

For others trapped on what would later be named Post Point, death came a bit more quickly, but only just a bit and certainly in no less a traumatic fashion.  Sam Van Arsdale, a worker with the Bureau of Public Roads made a break for it at one point only to retreat back into the clearing but not before seeing others make a similar less successful break for safety.  Van Arsdale survived with burns but he recounted seeing other runners lie down in the flames, seemingly resigned to their fate.  Van Arsdale later recounted his ordeal:

“I tried to get away from that terrible heat…I remember there were other fellows running with me down the hill the first time.  But they didn’t turn around.  I guess they tried to run on through.  I saw some of them just lay down in there and let the fire burn over them.” (The Helena (Montana) Independent, August 24, 1937.)

In all likelihood, Sam Van Arsdale was witness to the death of some who chose to make a break for it:  Bureau of Public Roads employee Billy Lea or CCC enrollees Earnest Seelke, Rubin Sherry, Clyde Allen.  History records that only Herman Patzke survived his dash through the flames.
So here, for the first time that I am aware, are images of the four CCC enrollees who chose to make a run though the flames that blazing hot afternoon on a Wyoming mountainside 76 years ago.  History seems to have forgotten them, but not quite.


CCC enrollee Clyde Allen, killed at Blackwater Creek, Wyoming.

CCC enrollee Rubin Sherry, killed at Blackwater Creek, Wyoming





CCC enrollee Earnest Seelke, killed at Blackwater Creek, Wyoming.
CCC enrollee Patzke, Blackwater Creek Survivor.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A New Online Resource: Forest Outings, 1940


This post will be brief, but I felt it important to share an online resource that has some good references to the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Better still, this is a primary source document published before the abolishment of the CCC.  The publication is Forest Outings, edited by Russell Lord and published by the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service in 1940.  You can access the entire text of this book here.

Though it is a study of our forests and their uses, there are numerous references to the CCC and to CCC work in Forest Outings.  Perhaps more importantly, Forest Outings is a snapshot of forester’s attitudes about forestry and land management in the late 1930s.  I don’t recall ever seeing more than one copy of Forest Outings in my travels so I’m very excited to find that the book has been made available online so that anyone with an interest may access it and use it as a research or reference tool.  I hope that some of you will find it useful, too.


Monday, August 5, 2013

State-By-State: Kentucky


1938 Camp Map for Kentucky
If you are looking for detailed information on the work of the CCC in Kentucky, you’re really in luck because there is at least one book devoted to CCC work in that state.  Kentucky’s Civilian Conservation Corps by Connie M. Huddleston will be a boon to anyone researching Kentucky’s CCC work; the photos and illustrations alone make it a real treasure.  I am especially drawn to Huddleston’s text and photos related to the work of the CCC at Cumberland Falls State Park.  A few years ago, the annual Civilian Conservation Corps reunion was held at Cumberland Falls State Park so in the case of Kentucky, I have some photos of my own to share.  To access an article about the reunion that I posted at the Forest Army blog back in 2007, click here.

Huddleston notes that the first CCC camps established in Kentucky were those at Cumberland Falls and Mammoth Cave and that by October 1935 a total of 35 camps had been opened in the Bluegrass State.  More to the point, Perry Merrill provides a snapshot of camp totals in his book Roosevelt’s Forest Army.  According to Merrill, there were 44 CCC camps in Kentucky in June 1937.  This total is likely taken from the annual reports published by the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C.  The Annual Report of the Director of Emergency Conservation Work for fiscal year ended June 30 1937 gives the breakdown of camps by types in Kentucky exactly as reported by Merrill, specifically:
CCC-built bench and steps, Cumberland Falls, KY
National Forest Camp: 8
State Forest Camps: 1
Private Forest Camps: 8
Agricultural Engineering Camps: 2
Soil Conservation Camps: 14
National Parks Camps: 4
State Park Camps: 6
Military Reservation Camps: 1

The total monthly enrolled strength for enrollees entering the CCC from Kentucky in fiscal year 1937 was reported as follows:

July 1936:  11,272
August 1936:  10,750
September 1936:  8,907
Ft Knox CCC Conditioning Camp, 1934
(Click to enlarge.)
October 1936:  13,289
November 1936:  12,779
December 1936:  12,158
January 1937:  12,901
February 1937:  12,342
March 1937:  8,392
April 1937:  12,641
May 1937:  12,014
June 1927:  10,956

The Annual Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps for fiscal year ended June 30, 1939 reported that the total number of camps in Kentucky was down to 28, broken down as follows:

National Monument Camps:  3
State Park Camps: 3
National Forest Camps: 4
State Forest Camps: 1
Private Forest Camps: 5

Agricultural Engineering Camps: 2

Soil Conservation Service Camps: 10


It is worth noting that along with the lower number of camps in Kentucky in fiscal year 1939 compared to fiscal year 1937, the number of enrollees joining the CCC from Kentucky each month was also significantly lower in 1939; just 7,631 in July 1938, 7,271 in November 1938, 7,111 in January 1939 and 4,169 in March of 1939.  One might speculate as to the reason behind such a drop in enrollment numbers from 1937 to 1939 (the enrollment count for Kentucky in March 1939 was only about half of what it was compared to March 1937).  Perhaps the economy was improving, perhaps there were more agricultural jobs available for seasonal workers.  Perhaps Kentucky’s quota of enrollees had been reduced.  We do know that by 1939 enrollees from eastern states, including Kentucky, were being shipped out to the western United States where there was a greater need for their labor.

In his book The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, John Salmond points to an even more compelling reason for a decline in enrollment numbers between 1937 and 1939.  After some four years of priming the nation’s economic pump, the Roosevelt administration was desperate to rein in spending and to balance its budget.  Consequently, in late 1937 CCC Director Robert Fechner was told that estimates for the 1938-1939 fiscal year had been reduced by $125 million.  Fechner pointed out that this would mean closing just over 400 CCC camps nationwide by July of 1938 but his protests fell on deaf ears.  The reductions were made as a budget balancing measure and this is likely one major reason for the reduction in the number of camps in Kentucky between fiscal year 1937 and fiscal year 1939.

Even with a reduction in the total number of camps, the CCC accomplished great things in Kentucky during fiscal year 1939.  Here are some examples from that year alone, taken from the Annual Report for 1939:

Vehicle Bridges:  14
Pipeline:  11,654 linear feet
Permanent Check Dams:  73
Temporary Check Dams:  3,305
Seed Collection, Conifers:  79 bushels
Seed Collection, Hardwoods:  10,536 bushels
Collection of Tree Seedlings:  9,270 seedlings
Firefighting, Forest Fires:  10,515 man days


Remember that these figures are for a single year (1938-1939).  Multiply this effort over the 9 year lifespan of the CCC and you truly have a noteworthy list of accomplishments in Kentucky alone.  Naturally, this effort was not accomplished without some sacrifice, and the cost was occasionally documented in the pages of Happy Days, the official newspaper of the CCC.  Likely the first incidence of a CCC fatality in Kentucky to be documented in Happy Days was the death of Jack Stafford, which was reported in the April 14, 1934 issue.  Jack was killed in a truck accident during a trip home and it would seem that enrollees in Kentucky were especially prone to accidents during their free time.  The March 3, 1940 issue of Happy Days reported that Daniel Miller, an enrollee with Company 512 at Chappell, Kentucky, was accidently shot and killed by his nephew while on leave.  The August 3, 1940 issue reported the death of enrollee John Elliot, also from Company 512 at Chappell.  Elliot was killed in an auto accident en route back to camp while on leave.   W.P. Harris, an enrollee with Company 1562 at Madisonville, Kentucky was killed in a work related truck accident (Happy Days, August 4, 1934) and Carl F. Snyder of Company 563, Corbin, Kentucky, was killed in a logging accident (Happy Days, May 25, 1935).

By and large, CCC camps were welcomed by residents of nearby communities.  It is estimated that the establishment of a CCC camp meant an additional $5,000 in expenditures in the local community so it makes sense that local towns would welcome the CCC simply from a monetary standpoint.  But CCC enrollees often endeared themselves to residents of nearby cities and towns as a result of their work and often as a result of their behavior.  In The CCC Chronicles, Alfred Cornebise notes that the local librarian in Henderson, Kentucky was moved to write an editorial about the local CCC camp, her words of praise appeared in the Company 1540 camp newspaper, the Cromwell Cardinal.  The librarian wrote that “rarely does a detachment of men, stationed near a town, make the good impression on the community that the CCC Camp has made on Henderson…  This most satisfactory condition is due, of course, not only to the boys but to the institution of the camp, to its discipline, its educational system, to its general conditions.”
CCC-built stone steps and retaining wall, Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

 

Sources

Cornebise, Alfred Emile, The CCC Chronicles: Camp Newspapers of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942. Macfarland and Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2004.

Huddleston, Connie, M., Kentucky’s Civilian Conservation Corps.  The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, 2009.

Merrill, Perry H, Roosevelt’s Forest Army, 1981, Perry H. Merrill, Publisher.

Salmond, John A., The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942:  A New Deal Case Study.  Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 1967


U.S. Government Printing Office, Annual Report of the Director of Emergency Conservation Work, Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1937.

U.S. Government Printing Office, Annual Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1939.

Copyright, 2013, Michael I. Smith