The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – 1933 – 1942

Pennsylvania state parks and forests have a rich history of the wonderful efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a public work relief program for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 18–25. A part of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. During the time of the CCC, volunteers planted nearly three billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the CCC boys to the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources and the long-lasting legacy of their work. Harrisburg’s WITF-TV included a short salute to the CCC in their series UnCommon Wealth in 2009, and the Bureau of Forestry’s Tiadaghton Resource Management Center includes a short video vignette on their work.

If you’d like to know more about the CCC’s work all across the United States, visit the website of The Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy. And more information and interviews with some of Pennsylvania’s own CCC boys (from Laurel Hill and Promised Land) are featured on the Bureau of State Parks’ YouTube channel.

The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation is fortunate to feature the writing of John Eastlake, a retired forester from the Williamsport area, in our newsletter, Penn’s Stewards. John has made research into the CCC in Pennsylvania his life’s work and PPFF is grateful to John for sharing their stories.

In the early days of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Army and the Department of Forests and Waters saw a need to educate the young men enrolled in the program. Many of the boys only had a 7th grade education. Bernie Nye, who was an enrollee at the Scotland CCC camp, said that he was only one of two in his Company (200 men) that had a high school education. His camp developed the Caledonia State Park.

There was an Education Advisor at most of the camps. They taught Spelling, English, Mathematics, etc. The Army and Forestry personnel were also important in the education process. The camp’s doctor would teach first aid and the camp commander might teach ‘Social Courtesy’. The forestry personnel taught carpentry, stone masonry, and blacksmithing. Most of the forestry education was on-the-job training in the field. Even some of the enrollees taught subjects such as plumbing, electrical wiring, taxidermy, etc. I wrote about George Bush previously, (see Penn’s Stewards Newsletter, Spring 2012) who taught Art at the Worlds End Camp.

The Educational Advisor also oversaw the camp’s newspapers. These had great names such as “Bag Puncher”, “Black Forest News”, “Green Guardsmen”, “The Rattler”, “Woodland Whispers”, “Chip Chop Chats” – to name a few. The camp newsletter taught enrollees journalism and art. All the education enrollees were required to write and submit articles.

The education process was strictly voluntary and most of the subjects were taught in the evening on the enrollee’s free time. Several of the former CCC boys said that they started long distance education and often had to travel 50-60 miles in the back of a truck to such places as the Williamsport Technical Institute. For you Penn State fans, Rocky Graziano told me that he took a class in Welding in the basement of Old Main. He went on to Piper Aircraft for 30 years. In a nutshell, the CCC boys really appreciated the opportunity for some education.

During the CCC era (1933-1942) there were 11 camps on the Pine Creek Watershed, each with the ‘S’ designation indicating PA Department of Forests and Water camps. The Army provided the necessities for the camps – shelter, clothing, food, medical supplies and equipment. Forests and Water (now the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) planned the work projects and supervised the CCC boys in the completion of these projects–which included tree planting, building fire towers, fire trails, forest fire fighting, etc.

The S-88 Lyman Run Camp developed many of the roads and trails in that area and started Lyman Run State Park. After the CCC program and during World War II, the former camp became a prisoner of war camp, interring captured Germans. The S-136 Cherry Springs Camp mission was similar to the S-88 camp. They developed Cherry Springs State Park. The log pavilion there is a real work of art as is the log structure that was rebuilt to commemorate the original hotel along the Couderport Pike. The park is very popular now with Woodmen’s Weekend in August and the summer dark sky star shows. Both of these camps were on the Susquehannock State Forest.

There were five CCC camps on the Tioga State Forest. The work of the S-92 Asaph Camp included the erection of a fire tower, the standard CCC projects, and the development of a fish hatchery. Unfortunately, a fire caused the camp to be moved and was renamed the S-155 Darling Run Camp. Darling Run Camp was directly on Pine Creek and accessible by the New York Central Railroad– now the Pine Creek Rail Trail. The boys of this camp developed the two Pennsylvania Grand Canyon State Parks – Leonard Harrison and Colton Point. The S-91 Watrous Camp built the Thompson Hollow Road that made Colton Point State Park accessible from the west and built numerous roads in conjunction with the S-90 Leetonia camp.

The layout of the S-90 camp was unique. Several buildings, accessible by elaborate wooden steps, were erected on the hillside on a former logging railroad grade. The S-91 and 90 camps cut vistas along their roads. The Leetoni Camp was located in a former logging town. These camps built many fire trails and the West Rim Hiking Trail. The S-138 Dixie Run camp was located between Morris and Blackwell. They built roads and trails in the lower Pine Creek Gorge and the CCC boys often threw mini Kellogg’s cereal boxes to the Blackwell kids on their way to their work projects.

The S-81 Slate Run Camp was located along the Francis Branch of the Slate Run stream and had a medical facility called the “Walter Reed Junior Hospital.” They built a splash dam swimming area patterned after the dams used to move logs during the logging era. The S-124 Cammal Camp, like Darling Run, was also located on the wrong side of the creek. After several bridges were wiped out by ice jams and high water. the camp was moved to Maryland. The S-82 Tiadaghton Camp had several names during its history: Waterville, then Haneyville, and finally Tiadoghton Camp.

It is fitting that the last camp in the Pine Creek watershed was the S-129 Gifford Pinchot Camp and Little Pine State Park. Gifford Pinchot started the U.S. Forest Service and was a friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt the “Father of the CCCs.” He was also the governor of Pennsylvania when the CCC program was started. The tremendous legacy created from this relationship continues to be a great benefit for Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests.