Thursday, May 30, 2013

State by State: Iowa

One reason that historians give for the success of the CCC is that many agencies had wish lists of project work they needed to accomplish already written up when the CCC was created.  These wish lists often grew out of the years of neglect that was manifest in our nation’s state and national forests and parks.  These were truly shovel ready projects that local officials already had in mind when the CCC was created in 1933. 

Iowa is an example of a state that benefited tremendously not simply from the work of the CCC, but because Iowa had a set of plans and goals already in place or nearly in place in early 1933.  Iowa was well positioned to utilize the resources of the CCC immediately and as Rebecca Conrad points out in “The Legacy of Hope from an Era of Despair: The CCC and Iowa State Parks”, President Roosevelt was so impressed with Iowa’s long range plan, he instructed CCC Director Robert Fechner to “Give Iowa all it wants.”

In Roosevelt’s Forest Army, Perry Merrill notes that the average number of camps to operate in Iowa was 29 with an average distribution in fiscal year 1937 as follows: State Forest Camps: 1, Biological Survey Camps: 1, Soil Conservation Service Camps: 20, Agricultural Engineering Camps: 5 and State Park Camps: 8.

Merrill goes on to note that the aggregate number of Iowa men who gained employment as a result of the CCC was 45,846, which included 41,190 junior and veteran enrollees, 60 Native American enrollees and 4,596 non-enrolled camp staff such as foremen and military officers.

Backbone State Park, Bixby State Park, Echo Valley State Park and White Pine Hollow State Park are among the state parks to gain from CCC work in Iowa (Merrill, p. 129).  Ren and Helen Davis list still further state parks with a CCC connection in their recent book Our Mark on This Land:  A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks; among them:  Black Hawk State Park, Lake Wapello State Park, Ledges State Park and Palisades-Kepler State Park.  Among the specific improvements noted by the Davis’s:  park roads, picnic areas, shelters, cabins, observation towers, entry portals and utility structures.

The Annual Reports offer another glimpse of CCC work carried out in the state of Iowa.  For example, the fiscal year 1937 report notes that the CCC built 3 foot bridges and 3 vehicle bridges in Iowa and if those figures seem a bit on the low side, consider that in Iowa, CCC enrollees also dug some 101,622 linear feet of diversion ditches that year, and CCC enrollees moved and planted 250,191 trees and shrubs and they performed insect pest control on some 18,000 acres of land in Iowa alone!

The 1939 Annual Report records 4 foot and horse bridges and 5 vehicle bridges built by the CCC along with 61,877 linear feet of diversion ditches and 144,001 trees and shrubs moved and planted and insect pest control  conducted on 4,934 acres during the same reporting period.

Happy Days, the official newspaper of the CCC reported the deaths of at least 6 enrollees in Iowa camps between 1933 and 1940.  Company 1757 at Bedford, Iowa suffered the loss of two enrollees.  The January 9, 1937 issue of Happy Days documented the death of enrollee George Griffith, who was killed in a truck crash.  Almost 3 years later, enrollee Frank Coates, also with Company 1757 at Bedford, was killed in an automobile accident while absent from the camp without authorization, according to the October 13, 1939 issue of Happy Days.


Conrad, Rebecca, The Legacy of Hope from an era of Despair:  The CCC and Iowa State Parks, from Books at Iowa 64, April 1996, The University of Iowa.  Available online here:

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

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.

 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

Monday, May 13, 2013

The C.C.C. State-by-State: Indiana

Indiana, which was situated in the 5th Corps area, saw an estimated $13,686,184 in allotments to dependents as a result of CCC work according to Merrill.  Furthermore, nearly 64,000 Indiana men were given employment in connection to the CCC, including junior enrollees, veterans and camp personnel.  The Indiana state map illustration here shows the location of CCC camps in the state in 1938.

William “Otis” Hickman recalled working in a CCC camp at McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis.  The park and its camp were located near the town of Spencer, Indiana and Hickman wrote of walking into town for ice cream and a movie during the year he spent as a CCC enrollee there.  McCormick’s Creek State Park is listed in Ren and Helen Davis’s book Our Mark on This Land (2011).  Camp SP-4, Company 589 worked in the park, building a gate house, picnic shelters, roads and a stone bridge among other improvements.  The Davis’s report that the CCC recreation hall was later converted to a nature center by the WPA. 

The January-February 1934 issue of The Military Engineer magazine included an article by Captain Denzil Doggett entitled “Engineering in Indiana’s CCC Camps”.  At the time, Denzil reported there were 18 CCC camps in the state, engaged in a range of activities including gully-control work on private property, forest improvement and construction projects in state forests and game preserves as well as similar work in state parks.  With respect to the gully-control work done by the CCC in Indiana, Denzil noted that each such camp had two or more foremen, whose duties included designing dams and spillways for erosion control, establishing boundary control to insure that work did not stray into unauthorized lands, and calculating drainage areas.  At the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial, Denzil described the construction of an earthen dam and concrete spillway that would impound water in a 28 acre area, with the impounded water being used “to irrigate an extensive landscaped area which forms a part of the court of the memorial building which is to be constructed in future years.”

In the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1937, 5,521 enrollees worked in Indiana, while the 1939 Annual Report of the Director of the CCC reported that a total of 7,411 enrollees worked in Indiana during the fiscal year.  The breakdown of camp types in 1937 and 1939 was as follows, according to these Annual Reports:

National Forest Camps, 3
State Forest Camps, 12
Agricultural Engineering Camps, 8

Soil Conservation Camps, 10

State Park Camps, 7

Military Reservation Camps, 1


State Park Camps, 7

National Forest Camps, 2

State Forest Camps, 5
Agricultural Engineering Camps, 6
Soil Conservation Service Camps, 8

Examples of work totals from the 1939 Annual Report include 2,541 man-days spent fighting forest fires, 44 miles of erosion control terracing installed, over 23,000 linear feet of diversion ditches dug and over 142,000 trees and shrubs moved and planted.
There are countless stories of how the CCC experience gave a new perspective to some enrollees, who came away from their time in the camps with an increased appreciation for nature and the world around them.  One such enrollee was Charles W. Massie who worked in Company 513, Henryville, Indiana.  Massie’s essay entitled God in the Forest was reprinted in Leslie Alexander Lacy’s book The Soil Soldiers.  Massie wrote, in part:

“Not long ago I sat by myself in a great grove of trees, sat and wondered how man with his puny strength could rule over such a vast domain.  How strange would be the tales these tall trees would tell, if they could talk!  Countless untold legends, the rise and fall of civilizations.  The steady march of progress and the eternal struggle for existence and the right to live and grow.”

No state was immune to the threat of accidents and fatalities related to CCC work.  One especially shocking fatality in Indiana involved the deaths of enrollees Edwin Mannix and Edgar Bigley who died early on the morning of November 3, 1937 when their truck slammed into the side of a freight train near Wallen, Indiana.  Those portions of the testimony that I have obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration are sketchy with respect to the exact time of the crash and the cause of the tragedy, but given the time at which it occurred, one is led to conclude that fatigue and darkness may have played a role.


Davis, Ren & Helen, Our Mark on This Land, 2011, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company.
Doggett, Denzil, "Engineering in Indiana's CCC Camps," The Military Engineer, Jan-Feb 1934.  

Lacy, Leslie Alexander, The Soil Soldiers, 1976, Chilton Book Company.

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

National Archives & Records Administration, Wash., D.C., Records of the CCC, Div. of Safety.

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