Below, you will find the paper that I wrote when I was a student at Juniata College and took a local history class. The paper explores how the Civilian Conservation Corps impacted Huntingdon County.
Relief from the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Huntingdon County
by Deborah Fisher
December 19, 1994
“Exploring Local History”
Professor David Hsiung
On a rainy May morning, the train pulled into the station. Two hundred young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five lumbered off the train into the drizzling, foggy morning. By bus, the anxious men traveled to their destination. The bus stopped, and suddenly the men found themselves in an empty, abandoned field that would become their home for the next six months. In a field that had been vacant only hours before, there soon popped up a tent city, just one of the more than 1,400 tent cities springing up across America. The Civilian Conservation Corps just moved into town.
The year was 1933, and Americans found themselves entangled in the strong hold of the Great Depression. The Depression had started in 1929, with the crash of the stock market; and little did Americans know, but their economic insecurities would last until the U. S. entered World War II in December of 1941. By 1932, nearly 13 million Americans, or 26% of the adult population, had lost their jobs (Porter, p. 61). When President Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated and took office on March 4, 1933, he was confronted with a nation of fifteen million unemployed workers. In some counties, as high as 90% of the population was on relief, and the local governments could no longer take care of the unemployed (Leuchtenburg, p. 52).
All across the United States, the Great Depression was taking its toll on the American people. The Civilian Conservation Corps, which was initiated by President Roosevelt to alleviate the effects of the Depression, had an impact on the United States and in Pennsylvania too; but more importantly, how did the Civilian Conservation Corps affect Huntingdon County? And, in what ways did it help Huntingdon County? Throughout this paper, these questions will be addressed and answered in order to find out how the Civilian Conservation Corps affected Huntingdon County.
In order to alleviate the effects of the Depression all across the United States, Roosevelt immediately set to work on programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps to help put the unemployed nation back to work. In what was termed the “first hundred days,” Roosevelt called a special session of Congress, which lasted from March 9 to June 16, 1933 (Zinn, p. xxxix). During this time, Roosevelt established his New Deal plan, which organized work relief programs to put the unemployed back to work. Some of the programs that Roosevelt created included the Civil Works Administration, the Works Progress Administration, and the Emergency Conservation Work Act (Otis, Honey, Hogg, & Lakin, p. 6; Wolfskill, p. 129; Porter, p. 61).
Of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the Emergency Conservation Work Act (ECW) was perhaps one of the best known programs established. It was from the Emergency Conservation Work Act that the Civilian Conservation Corps was created. Roosevelt had special intentions for the CCC, which included “the creation of a civilian forest army to put the ‘wild boys of the road’ and the unemployed of the cities to work in the national forests” (Leuchtenburg, 1963, p. 52). On March 14, 1933, the President asked four members of his cabinet to consider the conservation corps idea. Roosevelt thought that the character of city men would benefit from a furlough in the country. The next day, his officials recommended that the idea be presented to Congress (Leuchtenburg, p. 52).
So, on March 21, 1933, Roosevelt presented a message to Congress on the topic. In his address, he focused on a prompt plan to enroll unemployed persons in public employment. In addition, he asked for relief grants for the states and a broad public work program to create a need for labor (Otis, Honey, Hogg, & Lakin, p. 6). In his address, Roosevelt estimated that 250,000 men would be put to work by early summer if his program for reforestation and flood control was accepted. He pointed out that his program would confine itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control, and similar projects. Roosevelt also argued that the type of work he proposed had a definite practical value in creating a future national wealth. At the end of his speech to Congress, the President mentioned the moral and spiritual value of an employment program by saying “We can take a vast army of these unemployed out into healthful surroundings. We can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability” (Daily News, 3/21/33).
Congress took only eight days to create the Civilian Conservation Corps, and by March 27, 1933, the Senate whipped through Bill 598, authorizing half a billion dollars in federal grants for relief for the states; and the House gave its approval, landing the bill back on the President’s desk for signature on March 31 (Leuchtenburg, p. 52; Merrill, p. vii).
Seventeen days later, the first Civilian Conservation Corps camp, Camp Roosevelt, opened in the George Washington National Forest near Luray, Virginia, on April 17 (Reynolds, p. 241). From the President’s inauguration until the opening of the first camp, only 47 days had elapsed.
The Civilian Conservation Corps camps that were being established to house “Roosevelt’s tree army” were to serve a double purpose. First, the Civilian Conservation Corps was to give employment to young men between the ages of 18 and 25 from destitute families and put them to work building roads, bridges, mountain trails, and dams (Monitor, 8/11/33; Fagley, 1994). Roosevelt broke the work projects down into ten categories, including structural improvement, transportation, erosion control, flood control, forest culture, forest protection, landscape and recreation, range, wildlife, and miscellaneous (Merrill, p. 8).
Second, the CCC was also established to do emergency conservation work for the government, since federal forests east of the Mississippi consisted of 22,000,000 acres, with only 54% of the land being under protection from forest fires, diseases, and insects (Monitor, 8/11/33; Daily News, 3/23/33).
Basically, all of the Civilian Conservation Corps camps across the United States were set up the same way. First, applicants were selected by the Department of Labor for the first enrollment periods. However, prior to the enrollee selection, quotas were established for each state and federal agency. State authorities would set local quotas and designate a local selecting agency. This local agency would review the relief lists and make a preliminary selection of eligible youths. The Welfare representative would then set up an appointment to meet with the youth and his family. Those under consideration had to be between 18 and 25 years of age with no physical handicaps or communicable diseases. They had to be unemployed, unmarried, and a citizen of the United States. Selecting officials were encouraged to pick applicants who were clean-cut, ambitious, and willing to work. With these qualifications, it was suggested that applicants with backgrounds as Boy Scouts, Scout leaders, any military service at all, or some type of training in woodcraft be given preference (Paige, p. 73).
Next, the enrollees were sent to an army camp for three weeks, where they were outfitted, inoculated, and drilled (Fagley, 1994). Next, the men were sent out to the forest camps. Each camp had an initial strength of 195 men. This number allowed for the addition of twenty local men to serve as foresters at each camp. The working strength of each company in the field was fixed at 215, including the necessary overhead of cooks, mess attendants, sanitary details, and other officers (Daily News, 5/2/33).
Enlistment periods were for six months, and the President wanted all enrollees who had served a year in the ECW to be “mustered out” and replacements selected; however, some enrollees were allowed to reenlist, and eventually an enrollee was allowed to remain in the ECW for a maximum of two years (Paige, p. 17). However, statistics show that approximately 60% of the men worked at the camps on an average of 6 to 11 months (Walker, p. 59).
The CCC was a conglomeration of agencies working together toward the same end of providing work for the unemployed. First, recruitment was done by the Department of Labor. Transportation, camp construction, and management was done by the Army, while the Departments of Agriculture and Interior selected the camp sites, planned, designed, and supervised the work projects in cooperation with the State Departments of Forests and Parks (Merrill, p. vii). Army officers were in charge of the camps, but the Department of Forests and Waters oversaw the work projects.
Over the life span of the CCC, there were approximately 4500 camps operated across the U. S. (Merrill, p. 196). A listing of the number of camps across the United States, according to each fiscal year, can be seen here:
The Number of CCC Camps in the United States According to Fiscal Year
(Paige, p. 213).
In Huntingdon County, there were seven camps established within the county. In addition, another camp was established just over the Huntingdon County border, in Centre County, that also performed a lot of work in Huntingdon County. The location of the camps is displayed below. A description of each of the camps can be found on the website.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Camps in Huntingdon County
Map adapted from The Huntingdon County Data Book
Together, these camps impacted Huntingdon County in three ways. First, the camps had an economic impact on the county. These camps helped to keep the local businesses from going bankrupt, based on the money the CCC was pouring into the local economy. Second, they had a social and psychological impact on the men themselves, and for many, the CCC provided a better life style in general. Third, the CCC established, formed, and upgraded the state parks within the county to approximately the status they still maintain today.
Like in every other city or small town across America, the effects of the Great Depression took a toll on Huntingdon County. In 1932 and 1933, approximately 52% of all the families in the county were receiving relief checks from the county, as can be seen from the following statistics:
September 1932 to March 1933
Number of Families
(Daily News, 4/13/33).
During the Depression in Huntingdon County, approximately 1,450 families received relief funds in a given month. Each family received an average of $8.53 from the county relief board. In addition, in 1933, the board also distributed clothing, seed, and fertilizer to the needy families (Daily News, 4/13/33).
However, the seven Civilian Conservation Corps camps that were built in the county quickly had an impact on the economy. The first camp to open in Huntingdon County, the Seeger Farm Camp, opened on May 6, 1933. With seven camps in the county, the total population of Huntingdon County increased by approximately 1400 men. According to the 1930 census report, the population of Huntingdon County was around 14,000; so, the CCC enrollees made up approximately 10% of the population of Huntingdon County (Truesdell, p. 147).
With seven camps in the county, it can be assumed that the Civilian Conservation Corps played a rather large role in uplifting the economy of Huntingdon County from the throws of the Depression. Across America, the CCC had an immediate economic impact. Supplies of all kinds from food to lumber, trucks, axes, and shovels were needed (Merrill, p. vii). According to Mr. Sedgeley Thornbury, an Army officer who purchased the supplies for the Diamond Valley Camp, all of the supplies for the camps were to be purchased within the county if at all possible. As he stated, “The whole purpose of the CCC was to help the local economy” (Thornbury, 1994). Therefore, the purchasing of supplies had to significantly add to the economy of Huntingdon County. As Isabelle Story, Chief of the Division of Public Relations, estimated in 1933, “A ECW camp would spend $5,000 per month in local markets, giving a substantial boost to the local economy and adding millions of dollars nationally when clothing, equipment, and other supplies were purchased for the conservation work” (Paige, 1985, p. 17). The $5000 a month in local purchases was just enough to help keep the small businesses from going under (Civilian Conservation Corps, 1983, p. 3).
As Sedgeley Thornbury, who bought all of the supplies for the Diamond Valley Camp pointed out, “the local merchants were delighted to sell pork, beef, lumber, and gasoline to the camp.” One of the places he remembers buying goods was at Miller’s Hardware (Thornbury, 1994). C. H. Miller Hardware in downtown Huntingdon had a loss of $7,439.56 in 1932. However, in 1933, the company turned a profit of $4,076.40. Still within the strangle hold of the Depression, there had to be a reason why C. H. Miller’s went from a losing figure to clearing a profit. Could the profit in 1933 be the direct result of the start of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the county? The profit continued in the Depression years following 1933 with a $21,936.38 profit in 1934 and a profit of $19,358.78 in 1935 (Coffman, 1994). With approximately $5000 a month being poured into the local economy, the seven camps in the county could have put $420,000 into the economy in a year and $2,160,000 in the eight years the CCC was in existence, based upon the life span of each camp in the county. Therefore, from analyzing the records of one small business in the county, it seems logical to conclude that the CCC definitely helped to keep the small businesses from going bankrupt. The C. H. Miller Hardware Company’s profit and loss statement from 1932-1935 can be seen here:
C. H. Miller Hardware Co., Huntingdon PA, Statement of Income and Profit and Loss
Courtesy of Richard Coffman, C. H. Miller Hardware
In addition, the Civilian Conservation Corps brought money into Huntingdon County through the purchasing of groceries to feed the 200 men at each of the seven camps within the county. It was estimated that during the first year of the CCC, the ration cost per man per day was approximately 37¢ (Paige, p. 81). A typical grocery list can be seen below:
A Typical Grocery List to Feed 200 Men for 30 Days
Quantity to feed 200 men for 30 days
No. 1 can
No. 10 can
No. 10 can
5 pound can
No. 2 can
4 oz. can
5 lb. can
No. 2 can
8 oz. bottle
Jam or Preserves
No. 2 can
No. 10 can
No. 2 can
4 oz. can
No. 2 ½ can
No. 10 can
20 oz. package
No. 10 can
(Otis, Honey, Hogg, & Lakin, 1986, p. 186).
One must keep in mind that this list would have been multiplied by twelve for the other months of the year and times seven for each of the camps in the county.
According to newspaper accounts, the quota of men to enroll in the Civilian Conservation Corps peaked at approximately 44 men from Huntingdon County in 1933. In addition, there were also approximately 12 local experienced men (LEM’s) at each of the camps, who were hired as foremen and as foresters, since they were experienced in working in the fields and forests surrounding each camp (Walker, p. 10; Jackson, p. 68). Of the 44 enrollees, they would have been required to send their $25 allotment back to Huntingdon County to their families, so those men would have sent $13,000 back to Huntingdon County in a year (Daily News, 5/19/33; Daily News, 6/2/33). Also, each man could keep $5 spending money each month. Based on the seven camps in the county, the enrollees could have put an additional $84,000 in the economy each year, assuming that they all spent their spending money in the county, which could have happened on Saturday nights, when the men bought cigarettes, candy, beer, and movie tickets, and took the local girls out on dates (Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933).
Considering all of the economic possibilities for Huntingdon County, the Civilian Conservation Corps had the potential to bring in over $500,000 a year into the local economy. During the Great Depression, this was a lot of money, considering that coffee only cost 15¢ a pound, a one pound can of salmon cost 9¢, and Nordic fish steaks could be purchased for 20¢ a pound (Daily News, 5/26/33).
In addition to having an economic impact on the county, the Civilian Conservation Corps also provided a social and psychological impact on the men, as well as providing a better way of life for many involved. When President Roosevelt first initiated the idea of the Civilian Conservation Corps to Congress, he stated in his bill that “More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work…we can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability” (Paige, 1985, p. 8). Just as the President predicted, the CCC helped to foster a sense of pride and accomplishment in the men the program employed. As one CCC veteran commented when he was asked what he got out of his experience, he said that “he learned to ‘get along with other people’” (Jackson, 1994, p. 76). The enrollees gained self-esteem, improved their health, developed their social abilities, and most importantly, they assisted their families while they were employed in the Civilian Conservation Corps (Civilian Conservation Corps, 1983, p. 10). As Ralph Heilig, district forester for the Rothrock District pointed out, “the most important influence of the Civilian Conservation Corps was what it did for the individuals. It gave them pride to pay their own way. They were glad to get a job. And overall, it gave the men self esteem and pride” (Heilig, 1994).
The enrollees who worked under the Civilian Conservation Corps program showed their pride and accomplishments in various ways. Several enrollees from Ohio expressed their accomplishments in terms of helping to preserve a portion of the nation’s resources. As one Ohio enrollee put it “I feel almost as if I owned that land. Some day when those trees I planted grow large, I want to go back and look at them” (Walker, 1938, p. 33).
As Captain William Gill from the Paradise Furnace Camp once said, “It is evident, from this survey of achievements, that more work has been accomplished than the ordinary layman realizes. It is our hope and aim to continue to say, ‘The CCC is the most sound of President Roosevelt’s relief measures’” (Gill, 1933). From his statement, it becomes clear that the men took a lot of pride in the work they performed; they wanted their work to be the best, and they wanted the effects of their work to last for a long time.
Each camp was planned, set up, and built by the men themselves (Monitor, 8/11/33). At first, the camps were “tent cities,” since large army tents were set up as barracks, with 25 men per tent. While living in these tents, the men constructed the camp buildings. Typically, each camp consisted of 5 barracks, a recreation hall, a dispensary for medical attention, a school, dynamite shed, supply building, blacksmith shop and tool house, bath house, and mess hall (Fagley, 1994). By 1935, buildings had been constructed in all of the CCC camps to replace the drafty tents in which the men had become accustomed to sleeping (Morgan, 1991).
In addition, life for the men in the camps was often good. For many men, life at camp was often better than back home. As Sedgeley Thornbury, a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve at the Diamond Valley Camp, pointed out, “the men had the best of food, housing, and medical care. There was no abusive work. For those who wanted to get ahead, they could; many went on to work in the industries. Others went into the regular army and then into the work place” (Thornbury, 1994).
When each enrollee signed up to join the CCC, the government provided him with three sets of underwear, six pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, one pair of rubber boots, one pair of trousers, one blouse, two flannel shirts, one set of denim work clothes, one oversees cap, one raincoat, four blankets, four sheets, two pillow cases, one pillow, one cot and bed sack, and regular toiletry accessories (Fagley, 1994). Many of these supplies, like the bedding and uniforms, had been left over from World War I. As the excess supplies were used up, new items were issued (Hetrick, 1994). As Wayman Wells, a veteran of the CCC from Arkansas stated “That scared me too because it was more clothes than I’d ever seen before” (Jackson, 1994, p. 67). An example of the kinds of clothing the men were issued can be seen below:
A CCC enrollee from the Owl's Gap camp (S-60) attired in his dress uniform
Photograph courtesy of Paul Fagley, Greenwood Furnace State Park
A CCC enrollee from the Owl's Gap camp (S-60) fitted in his work detail clothes
Photograph courtesy of Paul Fagley, Greenwood Furnace State Park
The men were also provided with three solid meals a day. One example of a typical meal menu for the men included fresh milk, cooked oatmeal, apples, creamed beef on toast, fried potatoes, bread and coffee for breakfast; roast beef, brown gravy, potatoes, creamed peas, lettuce salad, orange jello, bread, butter, and iced lemonade for dinner; and creamed salmon on toast, diced potatoes, vegetable salad, jam and bread for supper (Monitor, 8/11/33). As one cook from an Ohio camp once stated “I know for a fact that not a home in the city had better food than the CCC boys did” (Walker, 1938, p. 28). An Ohio enrollee also commented “It was nothing fancy. If you expected desserts all the time and chicken on Sunday you were out of luck, but what you had was good and there was plenty of it” (Walker, 1938, p. 28). On the average, each man gained approximately 16 pounds while they worked at the camp (Walker, p. 29).
As for work schedules, the Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees put in eight hour work days, with a schedule that looked similar to the following:
Employees turned over to the work director
Lunch brought to them
Return to camp
Supper until 5:30
(Merrill, p. 14).
After the men returned to camp, they were given time for recreation and schooling. Schooling was a major goal of the camps, since only 13% of the enrollees had ever graduated from high school. The educational programs were set up with specific goals in mind. For example, the Paradise Furnace camp set up a five point education system. The five goals at this camp included:
1. Development of well rounded and healthy personality
2. General knowledge of everyday affairs
3. An appreciative understanding of the responsibilities belonging to human relationships
4. Practical instruction in subject matter and skills
5. Proper use of leisure time
The men could obtain both an elementary and a high school education, and over 60% of the enrollees took part in the courses presented (Merrill, p. 19). Classes that were offered included reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, spelling, history, civics, and geography, along with a special class for illiterates (Paige, p. 86). Other classes included forestry and map-making, cooking, public speaking, hygiene, first aid, English, auto mechanics, journalism, Bible, American Red Cross first aid, and photography (Gill, 1933). In addition, the enrollees could also choose to study higher mathematics, foreign languages, history, typing, shorthand, diesel engineering, radio, truck driving, aviation, blue printing, electrical engineering, surveying, soil erosion, photography, music, art, woodwork, and life saving (Walker, p. 40).
In addition to attending classes, there were opportunities for the men to participate in various recreation activities such as baseball, football, basketball, boxing, volleyball, pool, table tennis, horseshoes, swimming, and fishing. To make the sporting events entertaining, tournaments were often held between the barracks and the other camps. There were also opportunities to form bands and have dances that invited the ladies from the local area (Paige, p. 80).
The men who joined the CCC enlisted for 6 month periods; and they could reenlist, as many did. A copy of a discharge paper can be seen here:
Certificate of Discharge from the Civilian Conservation Corps
Courtesy of Paul Fagley, Greenwood Furnace State Park
Each man received $30 a month pay; and he had to send $25 home to his family (Fagley, 1994). The purpose of sending the $25 home was to clear the public relief rolls (Walker, p. 9). Consequently, it gave the men a great sense of pride to know that they were helping their families out with the money they sent home. For approximately 28% of those who had been employed in 1936 prior to joining the CCC, they averaged under $30 a month. So, the enrollees not only could help support their families, but for some it was a raise in pay (Walker, p. 68).
Unlike the Army, there were no rules to keep the men in the camps. They could leave at will, without fear of being marked as a deserter; but less than 1% of the men ever left the camps (Fagley, 1994). However, some statistics show that the desertion rate ranged anywhere from around 8% in 1933 to nearly 20% in 1939 (Paige, p. 88). The rather low percentage of deserters probably reflects the moderately successful life styles the enrollees were living. Life at the camps was not especially tough; and the men received decent pay, good food, a complete wardrobe, and an opportunity to earn an education and a chance at post-Depression success in business and industry. For those who did leave the camps, they often left within the first few days after homesickness set in (Jackson, p. 74).
When asked about the life styles that the men led, Ed Huling, who worked for the Department of Forests and Waters at the Diamond Valley Camp, responded that “the men did have a better life style than they had before” (Huling, 1994). As Wayman Wells, an Arkansas veteran of the CCC, recently stated “I believe I’d be there yet if they’d-a let me” (Jackson, 1994, p. 67).
The Civilian Conservation Corps also had a large impact on the upgrade and formation of the state parks that exist in Huntingdon County today. As F. H. Dutlinger, the state forester for the Rothrock District once said, “this work is going to set us ahead years in our forestry program. The amount of money spent will be a capital expenditure and will accomplish what it would have taken many years for us to do on our meager allotments. The men will build and maintain roads, build trails, fire trails, nature trails, build telephone lines, repair and build towers, make improvement and liberation cuttings, cut and collect free firewood, remove insects, and do many other related jobs” (Daily News, 4/26/33). These kinds of projects that Mr. Dutlinger spoke of made the state parks in Huntingdon County what they are today. The enrollees repaired and constructed roads and trails within the state forests. They did improvement cuttings, tree plantings for flood control, wood production and watershed production, and they accrued lumber to help supply Pennsylvania’s wood-using industries with raw material. Insect attacks and fungi growths were also brought under control (Monitor, 8/11/33).
At the Paradise Furnace Camp, from 1933 to 1934, the workers turned the area into the Trough Creek State Park that can still be seen today. The workers at this camp built an 85 gallon reservoir for drinking water, an office building, a garage, 2 tractor sheds, 9 roadside tool houses, 14 vehicle bridges, 2 foot bridges, and 3 public latrines. The workers also installed 2 water systems, cleared 42 miles of trail side, cleaned up 32 miles of roads, built 4 miles of scenic trails, 25 miles of truck trails, 29 miles of foot trails, maintained 16 miles of road, built 9 miles of road, spent 90 days fighting forest fires, built 20 miles of fire breaks, improved 471 acres of forest land, surveyed timber, collected seeds, excavated rocks, put down 3,000 feet of pipe for the water systems, ran 6 miles of telephone lines, and chopped 300 cords of fire wood for the camp (Gill, 1933).
As William Gill, the captain at the Paradise Furnace Camp once wrote, “To these pioneers must go considerable credit for the camp as it is viewed today, as, due to their heroic and laborious efforts, the permanent establishment of this area became a reality” (Gill, 1933).
Even though the Civilian Conservation Corps is often fondly remembered as one of the most worthwhile programs of President Roosevelt’s administration, there were some negative aspects surrounding the CCC. With the large number of camps scattered across the United States in remote locations, the CCC was a prime target for fraud, waste, and abuse. In one isolated case of embezzlement within the ranks of the CCC, Reno E. Stitely, chief of the voucher unit, was convicted on January 7, 1938, of nine charges of forgery and embezzlement and was sentenced to 6-12 years in prison, and fined $36,000. Stitely began embezzling money in 1933, when he was authorized to approve bills for pay in the Shenandoah National Park. From that time on, he forged the name of the superintendent to letters which authorized him to sign for payroll vouchers. He also created fictitious ECW personnel, submitted falsified payroll vouchers, and created “dummy” CCC camps. It was alleged that he falsified 134 payroll vouchers comprising 1,116 checks which amounted to $84,880.03 (Paige, p. 64). In one rumored case of abuse in Huntingdon County, a forester allegedly had four enrollees build a hunting cabin using CCC materials and on CCC time (Heilig, 1994).
In addition, many officials speculated that it was inefficient to open camps and then close them a short time later. Many camps were only open a very short time (Merrill, p. 16). In Huntingdon County, only two of the seven camps remained open for the whole eight years of the program. Three of the camps closed after four years, and two of the camps closed after just two years.
For many of the enrollees, joining the CCC meant leaving home for the very first time. For others, they were forced to leave home. “Many of them (the enrollees) had left their homes reluctantly, urged by precinct police captains to ‘sing up’ or go to the reformatory. This was not the intent of the CCC. But often it worked that way…they had grown up in the streets and cluttered alleys of the tenement districts” (Paige, 1985, p. 74). As Sedgely Thornbury stated of the men at the Diamond Valley Camp, many of the men “came from the slums of south Philadelphia. They had prison and arrest records. I would meet them at the train at Petersburg; many of them had been convicted of murder. There were always 4 to 5% who were good citizens; the ones who weren’t, I’d take to Judge Bailey to be discharged and sent back home” (Thornbury, 1994).
With the criminal records of many of the men, there were often riots in the towns; the enrollees were often troublemakers when they left the camps. “In some areas, townspeople objected to the establishment of camps because they feared that the youths were vagrants and toughs and that they would rob their homes and violate their daughters and wives” (Paige, 1985, p. 89). Even in Huntingdon, Lieutenant Thornbury spoke of riots in the streets when the boys would go into town (Thornbury, 1994).
In the camps, there was sometimes a problem with the men abusing alcoholic beverages (Paige, p. 93). Also, the men sometimes contracted venereal diseases. When a boy with a venereal disease was detected, the boy was given prompt treatment and then discharged (Walker, p. 28). As Clair Hetrick, a Huntingdon County enrollee, commented, “Some of the men would contract venereal diseases and they would be sent to Johns Hopkins” (Hetrick, 1994).
With two hundred men in one place, dissatisfaction often surfaced; and one of the major complaints was always over the food. The CCC boys often criticized the food, and along with the criticism often went suspicion that the officer was pocketing some of the food allowance. Some of the men said that the quality of food was poorer after the first few weeks and that the quantity decreased too (Walker, p. 27). As Ed Huling stated, “Somebody was always complaining about the food” (Huling, 1994).
Even though there were some negative aspects associated with the Civilian Conservation Corps, the benefits far outweighed the negative problems. Although many enrollees were forced to leave their homes behind in order to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps, their circumstances still provided a special impact. These young men were taken off the streets, they traveled far from home, and they performed useful work in a healthy environment. They learned to live and work together, and 40,000 illiterates learned to read and write (Merrill, p. vii).
Throughout the eight years of its existence, the Civilian Conservation Corps was very important to the people of Pennsylvania. In April of 1933, officials in Washington reported that 18,000 Pennsylvanians would be given employment in the national forests (Monitor, 4/7/33). Also, Robert Fechner, chief of the “Reforestation Army,” ordered that there would be 92 camps set up in Pennsylvania (Daily News, 4/18/33). By June 30 of 1937, there were 7 CCC camps in the national forests, 63 in the state forests, 2 in private forests, 9 operated by the Soil Conservation Service, 2 operated by the National Park Service, 11 in the state parks, and 2 on military reservations, for a total of 96 camps (Merrill, p. 168).
In total, there were around 194,572 Pennsylvania men enrolled in the CCC. The work accomplishments of those men included 102 impoundments and large diversion dams, 3,273 miles of truck trails and minor roads, 59,806,000 trees planted, 201,468 acres of forest stand improvement, 406,059 acres of tree and plant disease control, and 1,698 fish rearing ponds. Over $126,435,051 was spent in Pennsylvania, while enrollees sent home $39,536,770 (Merrill, p. 168).
In Pennsylvania, over 1.1 billion dollars was spent in just 8 years for projects at the camps, even though the CCC used as much on site materials as possible to save costs (Fagley, 1994). This money was used for the planting of nearly 50,000,000 trees and the construction of over 6,300 miles of roads and trails through woodlands and state parks in addition to other projects (Morgan, 1991). In addition, these workers built dams and lakes, beaches, picnic pavilions, log cabins, latrine facilities, hiking trails, performed historical reconstruction, built campgrounds, planted trees, built miles of forest roads, and assisted in fighting forest fires (Fagley, 1994).
A list of the Civilian Conservation Corps camps can be seen below:
Pennsylvania Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Directory – Taken from Civilian Conservation Corps: 50th Anniversary *1933-1983*
Overall, the Civilian Conservation Corps provided jobs to over three million young men in America, who ran 89,900 miles of telephone lines, created 6,660,000 acres of check dams and erosion control methods, planted 21,000,000 acres of seedlings for erosion control, spent 6,459,000 days fighting forest fires, and planted 2,356,000,000 trees to reforest the state and national forests (Reynolds, 1993). In addition, these men built fire towers, truck roads, fire breaks, planted millions of trees, reclaimed thousands of acres from erosion, built countless federal and state parks and campgrounds, and improved fish and wildlife habitats (Merrill, p. viii). Of all the forest planting, public and private, in the history of the nation, more than half of it was done by the CCC (Leuchtenburg, p. 174). During the time frame of the CCC, 4,500 different camps operated throughout the U. S. These camps cost $2,969,000,000 to operate, and the enrollees sent home over $662,895,000 (Merrill, p. 196).
The Civilian Conservation Corps was also responsible for starting a nationwide state park program that established the first state parks in Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and New Mexico. In addition, new parks were added and existing parks were expanded in 17 other states. Through the CCC program, 711 state parks were established (Paige, 126).
By 1940, America was facing the grim fact that it was about to be drawn into World War II in Europe. Due to the conflict and the fact that many of America’s formerly unemployed citizens had found work elsewhere, the need for the CCC camps was questioned. With the declaration of war in December of 1941, the Park Service terminated all CCC projects that did not directly relate to the war effort (Paige, p. 32). Finally, on July 1, 1942, seven months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the CCC program was officially abolished (Morgan, 1991). Many of the men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps went into the military, since their CCC background gave them good standing. For those who did not enter the military, they were able to find work in the war time factories and in munitions plants (Fagley, 1994).
As the late Jim Canfield, a local historian, wrote “And so it went. The CCC boys did their part, with muscle, sweat and toil to sweep back the engulfing tide of the Great Depression. And they also planted the seeds of plenty now being harvested by the youth of today. There were no demonstrations, no marches, no riots for the boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They were too busy building – building the America we know today” (Fagley, 1994).
And so, just as the rain fell on that May morning in 1933, it fell once again on an empty, abandoned field. This time, the year was 1942, and the explosion at Pearl Harbor, the echoing of the bombs in the Pacific, and the call of the war time factories had already taken the anxious young men out of the field. Once again, the field is vacant. Yet, the impact of the tent city that was once there can still be felt all around today. For men who did not have any backhoes or bulldozers, they went to work with shovels, sledgehammers, double-edged axes, and crosscut saws; and they built sturdy log and beautiful stone masonry structures that can still be seen today in the state parks throughout Huntingdon County.
CCC annual 1936, for district no. 1, third corps area. New Cumberland, PA. A copy of this publication is available from the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni in St. Louis, MO.
Civilian Conservation Corps 1933. A copy of this pamphlet can be obtained from the Promised Land State Park in Greentown, PA.
Civilian Conservation Corps: 50th anniversary 1933-1983. (1983). R. B. Winter State Park: Halfway Dam.
Coffman, R. (1994, November 16). Interview by author, written notes and photo copies from C. H. Miller Hardware, Huntingdon, PA.
The Daily News. (1933, March 21). President sends special message on job problem.
The Daily News. (1933, March 23). Plan for jobless army begins trip through congress.
The Daily News. (1933, April 13). County relief board submits detailed report.
The Daily News. (1933, April 18). 7 forest camps for jobless army set up near here.
The Daily News. (1933, April 26). Tells Rotary of forestry camps.
The Daily News. (1933, May 2). 4,000 men to be moved into state camps this week.
The Daily News. (1933, May 19). 20 young men in county enlisted for forest work.
The Daily News. (1933, May 26). [advertisement].
The Daily News. (1933, June 2). 24 young men of county entrain for forest camps.
Fagley, P. T. (1994, October 23). Interview by author, written notes and photo copies from interviewed, Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Gill, W. H. (1933-1934). A brief and pictorial sketch of the 1331 company ~ CCC camp S-57 ~ Pennsylvania Paradise Furnace Aitch ~ PA: 1933-1934. A copy of this booklet can be obtained at the Trough Creek State Park in James Creek, PA.
Heilig, R. (1994, October 17). Interview by author, written notes, Huntingdon, PA.
Hetrick, C. (1994, October 30). Interview by author, written notes, James Creek, PA.
Huling, E. (1994, October 28). Interview by author, written notes, Petersburg, PA.
Huntingdon County Business and Industry. (1991). Huntingdon County Data Book.
The Huntingdon Monitor. (1933, April 7). Many in state to get jobs in national forests.
The Huntingdon Monitor. (1933, August 11). Appreciation is growing for our forests.
Jackson, D. D. (1994, December). They were poor, hungry and they built to last. Smithsonian Magazine, pp. 66-78.
Leuchtenburg, W. E. (1963). Franklin D. Roosevelt and the new deal 1932-1940. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.
Merrill, P. H. (1981). Roosevelt’s forest army: A history of the civilian conservation corps: 1933-1942. Montpelier, VT: Perry H. Merrill.
Morgan, R. (1991, April 17). Trough Creek park a tribute to pilgrims of conservation. The Daily News.
Otis, A. T., Honey, W. D., Hogg, T. C., & Lakin, K. K. (1986). The forest service and the civilian conservation corps: 1933-42. U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Paige, J. C. (1985). The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933-1942: An administrative history. Washington: National Park Service.
Porter, D. L. (1980). Congress and the waning of the new deal. Port Washington, NY: National University Publications.
Reynolds, G. P. & Walker, S. (1993). Foxfire 10. New York: Anchor Books.
Shedd, N. S. (1991). Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania: An inventory of historic engineering and industrial sites. Washington, D. C.: National Park Service.
Thornbury, S. (1994, October 26). Interview by author, written notes from telephone conversation, James Creek, PA to Edgewater, FL.
Tracy, Thomas. (date unknown). Civilian Conservation Corps. A copy of this paper can be obtained from the Bureau of Forestry, Huntingdon, PA.
Truesdell, L. E. (1943). Sixteenth census of the United States: 1940 (Polulation: Volume 3, part 5; The labor force). Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office.
U. S. State Camp 112, Co 1381 Christmas 1933. (1933). A copy of this paper can be obtained from the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni in St. Louis, MO.
Walker, H. M. (1938). The CCC through the eyes of 272 boys. Cleveland, OH: Western Reserve University Press.
Wolfskill, G. (1974). Happy days are here again! A short interpretive history of the new deal. Hinsdale, IL: The Dryden Press.
Zinn, H. (1966). New deal thought. Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.