The Civilian Conservation Corps

By Ralph Poore

Collage of CCC picturesSome Newton County residents old enough to have served in World War II may also have served in the Great Depression-era Emergency Conservation Work program, better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Every state and most communities contain parks or other projects constructed by young men who served in the CCC. One of President Roosevelts New Deal projects, the CCC began in 1933 and ended with the beginning of World War II. Under the program, CCC recruits planted trees, pruned and harvested trees in state, municipal, and private forests. These young men built recreation areas and beautified picnic, camp, and park grounds. The young men also constructed shelter belts, fire lanes, trails, and rural roads.

CCC Company 479, F-18, located 18 miles from the town of Newton, had its beginnings in Vredenburh, Alabama, in June 1933. The camp moved to the Newton area[2] in early December 1934. The letter F designation indicates that it was assigned to the Forest Service.

According to the 1936 CCC Annual, work began on the camp in January 1935. Work done up to the time this is being written [1936] includes: 800 acres planted with 800,000 trees; another plantation of 3,000 acres to be ready for planting by the coming winter with 3,000,000 long leaf pines; 1,884 man days have been expended in fire control; 4 miles of fence constructed and 11 miles partially completed; 12 miles of roads and 29 miles of telephone lines have been built; 7 bridges and approximately 46 miles of fire lanes have been built.

The annual also states that The men of this company have taken advantages of all the educational facilities provided for them. U. H. Hassell is the Educational Adviser. Class attendance has averaged about 90% of the enrolled strength. Tennis, basketball and baseball have been the favorite sports. One baseball championship was won by the Company in 1934.

Under the 29 various officers who have been assigned to this camp, many improvements have been made. The camp grounds are now as attractive as you could want; the men have china dishes for the mess; the recreational Hall is lighted with fine reading lamps; a moving picture projector [sic] has been added to the educational department; a camp newspaper is published, as well as many other improvements.

More than 3 million young men joined the CCC and their records are available to genealogy researchers. You can gather a wealth of details about your ancestors life from his CCC file in the National Archives.

I learned from my Dads records, for example, that he lied to the Mississippi welfare representative who interviewed him as a prospective recruit for the CCC program. My Dad, not yet 17 at the time, told the relief agent that he was almost 19. The program accepted only young men between the ages of 18 and 28. My Dad may have lied because he and his impoverished parents needed the money he could earn $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home. Recruits retained the other $5 a month for personal expenses.

Or perhaps the recruiter, taking pity on the Poore family, simply entered the higher age himself, because my Dad, at 5-foot, 7 -inch, 111-pounds, certainly didnt look nearly 19. His application also indicated that he hadnt participated in activities such as the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, or 4-H Club, activities that the recruiters usually looked for in the youth they offered applications.

You, too, can discover these kinds of details and more in your ancestors records.

In your CCC research, start by writing the National Archives and Records Administration, National Personnel Records Center, Civilian Personnel Records, 111 Winnebago Street, St. Louis, MO 63118. In your letter, explain that you are interested in getting copies of the records of service with the CCC for your ancestor. Provide his name, Social Security Number, and birth and death dates. Also list the Federal Employing Agency, in this case, the CCC. If you know it, include the CCCs company number and the federal or state agency the camp was assigned to. Initials, such as F for Forest Service or SP for State Parks, designated the agencies. If you know the time period your ancestor served, include that as well.

You also need to provide proof of death.

You can expect to receive your ancestors Application for Enrollment that lists a home address, place and date of birth, education, community activities, last job held, work experience, Record of Service in the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC work record, health exam, and discharge information. In my Dads case, these records indicated that he had served in more than one CCC camp, which I hadnt known before.

You can request a search for photographs by e-mail at stillpix@nara.gov. Provide the same information as in your request for records. Be sure to include your mailing address because a report of the results of the search, which takes two to four weeks, is by regular mail.

You can find out about life at your ancestors camp, although not necessarily specific information about your ancestor, by requesting the CCC camp inspection records for your ancestors particular camp. To get these records, write to the National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Provide the same information on your ancestor as in the other record requests.

What you will receive from the National Archives are forms for ordering copies of the files they find. These forms include a brief description of what is in the files, the number of pages, and an estimate of the cost of copies. You pay the estimate, but you are billed for the difference if the cost is greater. A word of warning these estimates are notoriously bad. In my case I received an estimated total of $25. The final bill totaled about twice that.

These inspection reports include camp commanders reports of the activities of the young men, including work and recreation. Of particular interest to me were the mess halls daily menus that told me my Dad got hearty meals three times a day. I also learned that the camp inspector found bed bugs in the bunks and ordered them cleaned.

To learn more about the history of the CCC program, an excellent Internet source is the online publication by John C. Paige, The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933-1942: An Administrative History, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 1985. It is located at online and can be read at NPS.

Another Internet source you should check is the Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni Website.

Pages from the Past

CCC Boys Have Been Building Roads & Planting Trees
Two Lookout Towers Have Been Erected; Camp Site Has Been
Made Beautiful[3]

By G. K Stephenson, District Forest Ranger

On December 3, 1934, a company of 195 Alabama boys broke camp at Vredenburg, Alabama, and proceeded to Jasper County, Mississippi, near Roberts to make a new camp to be known as Miss. F-18.

The area in which this camp was to work once had one of the greatest stands of virgin pine timber in Mississippi; the towns adjacent to the camp area had once been flourishing towns when the timber was plentiful, but now that the timber has all been cut with no thought of the future, these once flourishing towns are missing the hum of the saw and resulting large payrolls; stores and residences are badly in need of repair, and in many instances tumbled down. One may ride for miles and miles and see nothing but scrub oak bushes; not one pine seed tree in sight and in places where seed trees were lucky enough to escape the slaughter of the saw and the steam skidder, forest fires have played their part of destruction by burning to crisps the few seeds that fell.

The camp, mindful of the great task ahead of it, dug in upon arrival, and all men were employed in putting the camp in order. Just one week later 119 husky boys began the task of putting the woods (sic, intended as roads) in order. The first road worked was Jasper No. 507, a stretch of 10 miles, connecting F-18 with the once flourishing town of Montrose. Today the road is near completion. Next road was Sun No. 506 from Camp to Roberts. This stretch of 3 miles is complete. The next real task was to get some means of transportation across the swamps of Tallahalla Creek and into Smith county. Today the road is completed with the exception of the bridges, material for which is on the ground, and bridge construction is to start early next month. By the middle of summer people will be able to traverse a highway where once the only transportation was the log train of the Marathon Lumber Company and the mules of the natives.

Two lookout towers have been erected, one west of Montrose and one near Sun Post Office in Scott County. From these towers, CCC boys become the eyes of the Forest Service, and transmit the location of the fires to Camp over the 29 miles of telephone lines constructed by the camp. During the existence of this camp some 1900 man days have been expended in fighting forest fires. It cannot be estimated how much money has been saved the people through this work, thousands and thousands of acres having been saved.

The most recent achievement of our camp is the planting of some 800,000 pine trees on an area where there were no seed trees. With fire protection, these trees 30 years hence will begin to replace the long lost pay rolls of the past.

In addition to the achievements in the field, this camp has been made into a place of beauty, it can be classed with the most beautiful spots in Jasper, Scott, Newton or Smith counties.

The restoration of the once prevalent stand of pine trees is well on its way and with the continued cooperation of the people OLD MAN HARD TIMES will have to look elsewhere for FOOD and SHELTER.

[1] About the author: Ralph Poore is a native of Mobile, Alabama, now living in Boise, Idaho. He is currently a medical writer and his career has included stints as a newspaper reporter and editor as well as a media relations manager for a Fortune 500 company. He holds degrees in both journalism and history. He is currently writing a history of his Poore family, who settled in Choctaw County, Mississippi about 1840, and moved to Newton County around 1850. He has many relatives living in the Laurel area.

[2] The actual camp site was in Jasper County just south of the town of Roberts in Newton County. See related newspaper article.

[3] The Newton Record, April 30, 1936.

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