Civilian Conservation Corps
and the CCC
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was born from the despair of the great depression: the soup lines, the Hoover villages, and the conditions of a nation in desperate need of help and action. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a nation bankrupt in money and spirit. In his First Hundred Days, Roosevelt took many bold actions. Passage of the Emergency Work Act in March 1933, authorized several programs, one of which was the CCC. The CCC was a program to recruit thousands of young men in a peacetime Army to work in forests, parks, lands and waters.
Robert Fechner was appointed as National Director on April 5, 1933. He was from Quincy, Mass. and received a salary of $12,000 per year. His two objectives for the CCC were to give employment to the youths and assistance to their families. The first camp opened on April 17, 1933, in Virginia, and by the first of July there were 275,000 enrollees in 1,300 camps across the country.
The CCC was the work of many agencies. The Dept of Labor did recruitment. Transportation, camp construction and management was done by the Army while the Dept of Agriculture and Interior selected the campsites, planned, designed and supervised the work projects in cooperation with the State Dept of Forest and Parks. Through cooperative arrangements the Corps worked on national, state and metropolitan lands and projects.
The young men needed to be between the ages of 18 and 25, be physically fit, unemployed, and unmarried. In 1935 the age limits were reduced to 17 and increased to 28 years. The men were paid $1 a day. The enrollees were required to send $25.00 of the $30.00 monthly wages home. The men were given the $5 to spend as they wished. The CCC program had an immediate economic impact. This money helped greatly the towns across the nation. The enrollee felt that he was working to help his family, many of whom were in dire need. Many families were kept from the relief rolls with the monthly checks. The families were interested and proud of what their sons were doing. Leaders received $45 and assistant leaders received $36.
The CCC had a social impact. Young men were taken off the streets. Since there were not enough projects in the east to take care of all the eastern men, many eastern youths were sent west. The War Dept assigned each company. The operating agency usually had a name for a camp as well as a letter to designate the type of land ownership. Thus, P indicated private land; S stood for state forest land; SP for state park land; F for national forests; DG for Division of Grazing; and SCS for Soil Conservation Service.
When a company arrived at a site that had been established by a cadre of 25 enrollees, tents were used as quarters until wooden buildings were built. The men went to work and built the camp. The camp had a main building, four 50-man barracks, a mess hall, a recreational building, quarters for Army and technical personnel, an infirmary, educational and library buildings, small garage, tool shed, and a machine shop. Each enrollee was required to spend a part of his time at camp cleaning up the barracks, policing the grounds, aiding the cook, and assisting in the maintenance of equipment and structures.
The staff was an important part of the camp. The Quartermaster was responsible for obtaining supplies and maintaining them. He was also responsible for providing each enrollee with three balanced meals a day, sending them to work in suitable clothing, supplying soap to use to bathe, heating the barracks, providing a bed with blankets and washing the sheets. He was also the librarian, carpenter, plumber, electrician, surveyor, engineer, fireman, bookkeeper, chauffeur, mechanic, train conductor, station master, ice man, milkman, and if needed, the undertaker.
A medical officer was stationed in nearly every CCC camp. In addition to a medical officer, a Chaplain was also assigned. One of the basic principles of the CCC program was for the men to develop good citizenship. The Chaplain played an important part helping the men meet this goal in maintenance of the morale and welfare of the thousands of young men of the camps. The Chaplains brought the gospel, new hope and high character to the youth of the camps. The Chaplains helped the men to develop initiative, love of country and obedience to its laws, honesty and character in the men.
One of the problems that faced the young men in the CCC was to get a job when their term of service was completed. To help solve this problem each camp had an educational program. Educational Advisers were first placed in the CCC camps in the spring of 1934. Educational Advisers were required to have a Bachelor's Degree from a recognized college or university. The advisers received training in conferences. The advisers needed to be trained in the techniques that would apply to camp conditions and CCC educational objectives. The adviser's needed real leadership qualities. The adviser's helped build and rebuild young manhood. The Educational Advisors were called to counsel in all the different fields and to give advice.
Over 60% of the enrollees took part in the courses presented. Courses were taught on a quarterly basis and subjects were organized in units. Each unit contained from ten to twelve lessons. Certificates were issued enrollees who successfully finished the required number of units. The subjects taught were selected as a result of the expressed need of the enrollee through personal interviews. The new men were contacted individually to discover what their educational background was and where their interests were. They were then encouraged to commit themselves to a regimen of training that fit their needs. Then the classes were organized for those enrollees.
Many of the men had never had a job. Some had never had an opportunity to use tools such as a hammer, ax or saw. Here they were taught how to use tools and equipment including jack hammers, compressors, how to drive heavy trucks and trailers and bulldozers. From the Educational adviser 40,000 men learned to read and write. They learned how to use a typewriter and adding machine and do bookkeeping, etc.
They were taught first aid, safety with tools, machinery and equipment. The men also learned good housekeeping by their KP chores, how to make a bed and how to clean their clothes, and learned about a proper diet. They learned to be punctual, to take orders from their superiors, accept responsibility, to be disciplined and learned to cooperate with others. Swimming and life saving schools were conducted during the late spring of 1936 and 1937. Selected enrollees from all the companies in the District were given Red Cross training in swimming and life saving.
With the cooperation of the National and State Employment Services, interviewers were sent from the district employment offices to interview the best trained men and get their applications on file. Due to the training experience the men had received through CCC, about 12,000 enrollees left the camps to accept employment elsewhere.
The government purchased nearly 400,000 acres of sub marginal land for the use of CCC camps and to plan and develop areas for recreational purposes. The men engaged in outdoor work on forest, park and soil conservation. These projects were of practical value to all the people of the nation. The records show that the results were very impressive. 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, improved fish and wildlife habitats. By 1935 over 600,000 enrollees were working out of 2,650 camps.
The Nebraska District CCC was organized in April, 1933, with Headquarters at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Two sub-districts were designated: Southeastern Nebraska, with headquarters at Fort Crook, and the Northwestern Nebraska sub-district, with headquarters at Fort Robinson. Major Edwin N. Hardy, Cavalry, Post Commander at Fort Robinson, also commanded the Nebraska District CCC, at its beginning.
The first enrollees to be processed in the Nebraska District arrived at Fort Crook, Nebraska, on April 26, 1933. Thirteen companies were organized at Fort Crook during the next month and most of them were sent to the West Coast. On April 1, 1934, the District Headquarters was moved to Fort Crook, Nebraska, and the district placed under the command of Colonel T. M. Anderson, 17th Infantry.
On July 5, 1934, Company 2738 was organized at Nebraska City, Nebraska. The organization was formed around a cadre of men from Company 761, which were located at Nebraska City. Shortly after its organization, it was a full-sized company of 216 men. The new company then moved to one and one-half miles southwest of Denton, Nebraska, on July 28, 1934, on the Gilbert farm. Captain Ney was in command of the new organization. The Denton camp served the Lancaster, Seward and Saline Counties. Eighty men from this company went on to other companies because of their outstanding work.
Only seven companies were retained in Nebraska until the fall of 1934. A cooks' and bakers' school for officers and enrollees was conducted in the early spring of 1936 at Fort Crook, Nebraska. All officers in the work companies and all enrollee cooks and mess stewards were required to attend. In 1937 there were eighteen projects being carried on in Nebraska: Bureau of Reclamation, 2; State Park, 2; Forestry, 1; Biological Survey, 1; and Soil Conservation Service, 12.
Robert Fechner was the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Major General Stanley H. Ford was the Commander of the Seventh Corps Area. W. Homer Hill was the Educational Director, Seventh Corps Area. The Nebraska-South Dakota District CCC was organized on February 1, 1936, through a consolidation of the Nebraska District with the South Dakota District. Major C. H. Hayden, 17th Infantry, was District Commander for Nebraska-South Dakota CCC District. An advance detail of men had made the preliminary preparation for the arrival of the remainder of the company. The ground had to be cleared and the water and sanitation system had to be installed. Tents were used for the first two months as living quarters while the barracks were being built.
Harold "Mick" Sullivan and Joe Splichal, two of Denton Community Historical Society members, were in the CCC at Denton 2738TH Company, SCS-19. When Mick gave a program at the April 2000 Denton Community Historical Society meeting, he talked about living in the tents for two months while the barracks were being built. He still remembers how cold it was in the tents. Mick talked about walking from the camp to Denton. At the May 2000 Denton Community Historical Society meeting, Joe was wearing a CCC T-shirt. Joe talked about his experiences in 1938 and 1939 at Denton CCC camp. He emphasized how the $25 a month that was sent to the families was a great help. Joe operated a caterpillar tractor. He told about the day he stopped to eat lunch and he found a rattlesnake in his jacket that was laying on a rock. Both Mick and Joe talked about the CCC experience as a great experience.
The Denton camp was to help with the Soil Conservation of this agricultural area. The projects this camp worked on included contour farming, erosion control in earth dams, brush dams, fencing, and forestry work. Bernadine Stransky has a dam on her farm that was built by the CCC. The water tower that was used at the CCC camp is still standing today. At one time a side camp was organized and sent out from the base camp. The side camp had thirty-two selected men and they did a special project for Camp Strader, a YMCA Camp, at Crete, Nebraska. They built a dike to prevent the Blue River from flooding the camp. The pit was later made into a swimming pool.
The educational program proved worthwhile. During inclement weather when the company couldn't work outside in the field, educational trips were made to Lincoln to tour various businesses. On several occasions the company provided help to the community by fighting fires, clearing roads, providing aid in automobile accidents, and clearing a snowbound road where one of the neighbors had died. The Denton Company was very active in athletics. They entered teams in city softball leagues at Lincoln. They played football in 1934 and 1936. In 1934 they were the winners in football in the area. During the winter of 1936 and 1937 the team went on a 250-mile basketball trip by automobile to play the Winnebago Indians. Boxing, horseshoes, tennis, and Ping-Pong were the main recreational activities at the camp.
In the October, 1949, American Speech (Quarterly), page 194, Elizabeth Grone wrote an article entitled, "Nebraska Newspaper Names". She states that The Scoop was the Denton Company CCC newspaper. It was first printed in January 29, 1935. During 1936 it was printed January 29, February 17, June 18, August 19, and October 9. The Denton Community Historical Society would like to obtain copies of The Scoop. If you have any copies or are aware of where copies can be obtained, please contact the society.
The number of Nebraska men given employment through CCC was 30,739. The types of work carried on varied from state to state and from park to forest. The work accomplished in Nebraska included:
Total obligation in NE (estimate) $34,280,100
Allotments to dependents by enrollees (estimate) $7,849,091
1940,due to the growing threat of war and improvement
in the nation's economy there were fewer than 200,000
men in about 900 camps. By July, 1941, many young men
were joining the army, so another 266 camps were
closed. The need for the program had rapidly
the former enrollees recall the time spent in CCC as
the "best days of their lives." Former
enrollees still attend reunions today. Sixty years
later, many of them recall it as the best thing that
could happen to them. Many of the men gained
confidence in themselves. They received training and
were prepared to go out and get a job.
The Nebraska State Historical Society placed a historical marker in Denton business district in recognition of the CCC Denton Company 2738 Camp. The marker is in honor of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Village of Denton. The marker was dedicated July 27, 1997.
MEMBERS OF DENTON