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Denton Community
Historical Society

Tales & Trails


Volume 12, No. 5 - January, 2011

CCC Annual Gathering and Reunion
Preserving America's Natural Resources: 

By - Suzanne Williams

Branson, Missouri, was the location of the Civilian Conservation Corp Legacy annual gathering on September 23- 25th 2010. Richard Chrisinger, from Springfield, Missouri, had been in the CCC from 1937-38. He had just finished reading the book Nebraska and the CCC. He told his daughter, Naomi Shaw, how much he was enjoying the book. Because Marv and I only live an hour from Branson, Naomi called and shared how much her father had enjoyed reading the book and she invited me to attend the conference. I was thrilled. Marv enjoys conferences, so we both attended.

There were sixteen CCC "boys" attending the conference that came from Missouri, Maine, Oregon, Connecticut, Arkansas and Florida. Most of the men attending had entered the CCC when they were 14 or 15 years old. The age limit was 17-25, but there were no driverís licenses or any form of identification, so they could "lie" about their age. The young boys were hungry and couldnít find jobs.

Many of these men had ridden "the rails" around the country looking for work before entering the CCC. Some had ridden the rails for two years. If they were caught riding the rails in Wyoming, they had 30 days free labor for the railroad. Grover Renick said that his mother told him that it was stealing if you rode the trains and that he was never to do that. His mother felt that hitch hiking was not stealing, so he had her permission to hitch hike. Grover followed his motherís directions. Grover also explained the rules to follow when hitch hiking. They were not to use their thumb. The men would line up at the intersection and stand. If there were more than one person, they formed a line, with about 10 feet between the men.

Grover Renick celebrated his 90th birthday at the conference. J.D. Sexton announced that he and his wife, Melvina, would celebrate their 65th anniversary in November.

Patricia Scott came to the conference with 57 letters her father, Charles Patterson, had written to her mother when he was in the CCC. She shared her letters with those attending. Dale Manuel, from Board Camp, Arkansas, found the letters very informative as he is researching the work done in Arkansas by the CCC for a book he will be publishing.

Carla Burnside, an archaeologist from Princeton, Oregon, works for the National Wildlife Refuge. She is researching and collecting items from the 57 wildlife refuges across the United States where the CCC boys worked. The two Nebraska wildlife refuges are at Fort Niobrara and Crescent Lake, located in the panhandle of western Nebraska. She plans to have the traveling exhibit completed in a year.

Saturday, September 25th, was spent at Roaring River State Park in Cassville, Missouri. CCC Company 1713 actually built the entire park from June1933 through November 1939. During their tenure at the park, the CCC workers constructed 33 buildings, mostly of log and stone quarried by the men. They completed six acres of landscaping and topographical and linear surveys. They built many miles of roads and trails, garages, bridges, fire guards, fences, drinking fountains, fish raceways, and a fish hatchery to name a few.

CCC MonumentóEast of the CCC Shelter Kitchen

Roaring River State Park, Cassville, Missouri

What was especially exciting for me was that Colonel Eugene Orton was Company Commander at Roaring River State Park from September 1933 (just 3 months after the camp opened) until November 1934. I feel he was probably the second Company Commander at Roaring River. Colonel Orton was later Company Commander in Nebraska at Beatrice, Denton and Bridgeport.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Roaring Riverís trout hatchery. Camp Smokey, the barracks and buildings built by the CCC are today in constant use by the Scouts and other organizations throughout the summer.

Bill Bryan, Missouri State Parks Director, spoke to the group and explained that the Youth Corps program and the AmeriCorps, put over 1,000 young people from 17 to 24 years to work at the state parks in Missouri this summer. Bryan said, "A lot of work they did was to buff up the work the CCC did in our parks. The program was very successful."

Preserving America's Natural Resources: 1933-1942

Sandra Walther, Missouri State Parks architect, provided a detailed presentation on a project she guided to restore the CCC built stone walkways and walls at Roaring River State Park. She spent two years researching the project, which took four months of construction to complete. "I took a lot of care to study the color, texture and tooling of the stone used in the walkways and walls," said Walther. "I did historical research. I needed to know who you (the CCC) were and how they worked so I could give you the recognition you deserved." In the end, the stone used in the project was quarried from a ledge of limestone discovered in the parkís horse corral. "We actually lifted the ledge of stone out of the earth and worked it with our hands," said Walther. "It was an exact match in color and texture."

When our group arrived at the CCC Shelter Kitchen, the youth from the Missouri State Parks Youth Corps and the AmeriCorps were waiting for us. I found it to be very emotional as soon as the CCC "boys" got off the bus, walked over to the young people, shook their hands and thanked them for working on the park. The youth had big smiles and felt honored.

A new monument had been erected to honor the work done by the CCC. The monument was unveiled when the former CCC enrollees pulled off the big white sheet that covered the new monument constructed of stone, timber and bronze. The monument stands east of the CCC Shelter Kitchen on Highway F where it is visible to park visitors and those traveling by the park. Bill Bryan said, "Both our roots and our future are here together" as he referred to the CCC veterans and the State Park Youth Corps workers.

People using the Roaring River State Park and passengers traveling by the monument are very impressed with the monument. It is a great way to educate people who are not familiar with the CCC.

Richard Chrisinger wanted the CCC Conference to be held in Missouri. So he asked his daughter, Naomi, if she would be the coordinator. Naomi said, "How can you tell your father "No". "Naomi told Richard that it would be his Christmas present. Richard was thrilled to help his daughter host the event. Richard is still thinking. Now Richardís goal is to have an Iron Mike statue placed near the monument at Roaring River. Of course he asked his daughter to help with the project. An Iron Mike statue, shipping, and foundation work for the statue costs $25,000. I offered to assist Naomi with the project. I am sure that Richard will help dedicate Iron Mike within the next year or two.

I am going to research to learn who all the Company Commanders of Company 1713 were at Roaring River. My goal will be to locate a photo of each of the Company Commanders and have their photos on display at the Melton Lodge at Roaring River. Colonel Eugene Ortonís two sons, Robert Earl and Eugene William live in Denver, Colorado. They were thrilled to hear about the conference and will be following the progress of Iron Mike.

In 1938 Joe enrolled in the CCC and was assigned to Company 2738 Camp Denton. Joe Splichalís goal was to get an Iron Mike placed in Denton. Nebraska is one of the few states that does not have an Iron Mike statue I hope that in the future there will be a statue in Denton.

"Iron Mike" Statue

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