The Civilian Conservation Corps (the "CCC") was part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal effort to fight unemployment during the Depression and help conserve natural resources. The bill creating the CCC was titled "An Act for the Relief of Unemployment Through the Performance of Useful Public Work and for Other Purposes" (Public Act No. 5, 73rd Congress). This law was adopted by a Congress called into emergency session by the newly elected President in March 1933. FDR signed the legislation into law on March 31, 1933. He then established by Executive Order 6101 (5 April 1933) the Emergency Conservation Work agency, appointed a Director, and provided $10 million in funding. The first CCC member enlisted on April 7, 1933.
The U. S. Army was given the job of moving the men from induction centers to the newly established camps, with assistance provided by the Coast Guard, U. S. Navy, and Marine Corps as needed.
The Army (War Department) was not the only organization to display extraordinary efforts in meeting the demands of this emergency. The Departments of Agriculture and Interior were responsible for planning and organizing work to be performed in every state of the union. The Department of Labor, through its state and local relief offices, was responsible for the selection and enrollment of applicants. All four agencies performed their minor miracles in coordination with a National Director of Emergency Conservation Work, Robert Fechner, a union vice-president, personally picked by FDR and appointed in accordance with Executive Order 6101 mentioned above.
Applicants had to be age 18-25, poor, single, unemployed, and reasonably healthy. The pay was $30 per month of which $22 was required to be sent home to help the family.
During its eight-year life, 2.9 million men served in the CCC. They planted millions of trees, fought forest fires, and helped control erosion on millions of acres of land. They built roads, bridges, fences, dams, canals, picnic shelters, and bathhouses. For this, in addition to the pay, the CCC men received clothing, food, and shelter.
The priorities of World War II brought an end to a bold and generally successful experiment. Many of CCC went on to serve in the armed forces.
Online Reference Materials
Records on those who served in the CCC can be found at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., which has extensive records in Record Group 35 (photographs, official correspondence, camp directories, inspection reports, and accident reports). Information also is available from the Civilian Personnel Center. State archives may also have CCC records. Remember that enrollees did not always work in their home state. Many camps published a newspaper and some were microfilmed and archived by libraries. Visit the Center of Reserach Libraries for possible leads for inter-library loans of microfilm. Information also is available at the Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni website.
Caswell historian William Powell provided the following observations in When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 14-15 and 292-296:
In the 1930s Caswell was noted as the state's most eroded county. After the Civil War much land in the county had been abandoned insofar as farming was concerned and depression, the lack of transportation and adequate labor had resulted in great waste. In 1935 the Dan River Soil Conservation District was established with headquarters in Greensboro and including in addition to Caswell County, the counties of Person, Rockingham, and Stokes. In Caswell County L. F.Lyday became county conservationist. Civilian Conservation Camps, established throughout the nation as part of a federal program to provide employment for young men during the Depression, furnished labor to halt erosion. Alfalfa was planted to help hold soil in place as well as to restore fertility. Meadowstrips were laid off and maintained and terraces were constructed in many fields to hold back the water from rain and to channel it properly out of the field. Within a nine-year period nearly seven hundred farms comprising about 90,000 acres of land had instituted soil conservation practices. In many instances farm yield increased as much as fifty percent through improved methods of cultivation. On some farms income increased two hundred percent.
Caswell County benefited greatly from two special programs of this period [President Roosevelt's New Deal]. The Civilian Conservation Corps, known familiarly as the CCC, and the Rural Electrification Administration, the REA, were designed primarily to benefit rural areas.
The CCC was established by act of Congress approved on March 31, 1933. Its purpose was to give employment to thousands of unemployed young men and thereby also bring a measure of relief to distressed families through an allotment of a portion of their pay. The Corps was to participate in conservation, restoration, and protection of forests, in soil erosion and flood control, and in the development of public parks, recreational and historical areas, in wildlife conservation, and in other useful public works. Beginning in late April men were enrolled and from time to time the number permitted in the program was increased. Camps were established in 47 counties. The one in Caswell County opened in September, 1935, on property owned by the county two miles from Yanceyville and a quarter of a mile from the county home. the camp area occupied fourteen acres on which there were 24 buildings.
W. H. Horney was superintendent of the camp when he made a report early in 1937 on the work of the men during the previous nineteen months. Caswell's soil was among the most eroded in the state, and soil conservation was one of the primary functions of the camp. Of the sample farms surveyed in a preliminary examination, it was discovered that only about 25 percent of the farm land had no apparent erosion. From 75 to 100 percent of the topsoil had been washed away from another 25 percent of the farms examined. Gullies and galled spots were also problems.
Men from the CCC camp in Caswell County worked throughout the county and in about half of Person County. In the beginning, 15,346 acres of cleared land were mapped with the cooperation of the Soil Conservation Associations of the two counties. Among the early accomplishments of the young men, it was reported that the equivalent of 21 acres of crops had been planted in contour strips; 1,240 acres had been newly planted with the rows and tillage implements run on the contour; 54 acres of pasture had been contour-furrowed; 427 acres of badly eroded land was taken out of cultivation and retired to woodland or pasture and an additional one hundred acres was planted in cover crops. In addition, nearly 200 acres had been treated with lime, fertilizer, and manure to make them more productive.
Under another program nearly two thousand acres were terraced with 168 miles of terraces. Twenty miles of ditches were constructed, many check damns built, and mulch placed and diversion ditches opened to eliminate gullies. On 550 acres of gullied land, steps were taken to repair the damage that had accrued over many years. Around improved pasture land 3,573 rods of fence were erected.
The woodland management section reported that nearly eighty acres of tree seedlings had been set out using over 120,000 seedlings. The men had cut over 163 acres of woodland to thin out old or damaged trees and to permit the growth of vigorous young trees. In forest management it was noted that seventeen forest fires had been extinguished in the past year and half.
The wildlife department of the camp reported that seventeen acres of woody plants had been set out to provide food and cover for game while the equivalent of an additional seventeen acres, made up of field edges and abandoned corners, had been planted with a mixture of peas, beans, millet, and canes to provide bird food.
The CCC camp was in charge of Army personnel, most of whom were from South Carolina. Dr. Houston L. Gwynn, however, was the contract surgeon, and civilians were in charge of the field work. Among them, in addition to Horney, the superintendent, were: W. H. Thompson, Technician; D. W. Roberts, Engineer; R. B. Bailey, Agronomist; L. F. Lyday, Forester; W. C. Flowers, Foreman; M. R. Edwards, Foreman; R. O Berry, Foreman; and R. J. Riddick, Mechanic.
The young men in the camp, in addition to their outside work, had an opportunity to continue their education or to learn new skills and trades. Some who entered the program were illiterate, but it was reported none ever left without having learned to read and write. Standard academic courses were taught at various levels including grammar, mathematics, and geography. Courses in forestry, poultry raising, woodworking, surveying, radio technology, cooking and baking, and other useful subjects were offered.
During the period of time when the services of CCC men were available, the Soil Conservation and Land-Use Programs, sponsored by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, were busy enlisting support for their programs of conservation and reclamation. They continually described Caswell as one of the worst eroded or "washed" counties in the state and by lecture, publication, and demonstration they encouraged contour tillage, terracing, the planting of cover crops, crop rotation, and other means of improving and saving the most valuable natural resources that the county possessed.
The program in Caswell County was so successfull that it was selected late in 1938 as the site of a special land utilization project embracing an area of more than 250,000 acres. Its purpose was to demonstrate a possible solution for a problem faced in fourteen counties in the region. The Soil Conservation Service planned to purchase approximately 67,000 acres of poor land over a period of several years and change a considerable portion of it from cultivation to grazing and forestry. On some of the remainder a new program would be instituted from the former single cash crop type of farming to a more diversified type which would include livestock production and dairying and the utilization of timber products from the forest lands. Attention would also be directed to the replenshing of soil fertility and a good conservation program. A part of the woodland area was designated as a game refuge. Fire control facilities would also be established and useless farm buildings, which constituted a fire hazard, were to be removed.
In November, 1940, it was reported in the county that plans were being made to remove the CCC camp, but the State Land Use Planning Committee at North Carolina State College requested that it be retained. In Caswell, however, as elsewhere, it was the looming spectre of the Second World War on the horizon that brought an end to the CCC. The Selective Service and Training Act of September, 1940, drew young men willingly or unwillingly into a far different kind of camp. A rising economy and need for labor in war-related industry quickly changed the scene across the face of the land.
Some, unfortunately becoming few, will remember the "big snow" of January 1940. Caswell County CCC Camp men helped remove the snow from the roads and other public places, including around the Square in Yanceyville.
Click photograph for a larger image.
The first Caswell County, North Carolina, CCC camp was established 2 August 1935. It was part of CCC Project SCS-5 and was designated Company #3406. The camp was located in an oak grove near the Caswell County Home (home for the poor), eight miles southwest of the Blanche Railroad Station (but near Yanceyville). To the right is a photograph of Dr. Stephen A. Malloy speaking at the CCC camp in Blanche (October 1940). Note that the tents had been replaced by wooden-frame structures.
(CCC Camp #3406 at Blanche, North Carolina)
Click HERE for a larger image
Date: 2 August 1935
Post Office: Yanceyville
Location: Oak Grove 8 miles SW
Project: The number given by the state to the project and camp
Co. #: The number given by the federal government to each company. Some company numbers have a letter following the number. "C" stands for colored meaning the company was made up of African-Americans. "V" stands for veterans meaning the company was made up of veterans of World War One. "X" or "Mix" stands for integrated camp.
Date: The date that company occupied that particular camp.
Railroad: The closest town to the camp that had a railroad stop.
Post Office: The closest town to the camp that had a post office.
Location: Distance from the railroad stop - Additional notes
Later, on 29 July 1937 a "colored" camp (made up of African-American men) was occupied in Caswell County. It was designated Company #429-C and also was part of CCC Project SCS-5. This second camp also was located in Blanche, but the exact location is unknown.
Date: 29 July 1937
Post Office: Yanceyville
Location: Not Specified
For more photographs of the Caswell County CCC camp go to Photographs and Soil Conservation Service.
Other nearby CCC camps were in Danville, Virginia, and Roxboro and Burlington, North Carolina.
The Caswell County CCC Camp had a newspaper called Oak Chips:
Yanceyville, N.C.; - v. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Holdings: 1936: Jan.-Mar., June-Nov.; 1937: Feb.-June.
Place: Yanceyville, NC - Caswell
Source: CCC Camp Newspapers
African Americans in the CCC
CCC Camp Newspapers
Detroit News (Michigan) Article
Heralds in New Deal America
History of the CCC
James F. Justin CCC Museum
MSN Encarta Article
National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni
National Heritage Museum
National Park Service
Northeast States Civilian Conservation Corps Museum
Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Roosevelt Executive Order
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
With the Civilian Conservation Corps
That Magnificent Army of Youth and Peace: The Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina, 1933-1942, Harley E. Jolley (2007).
At the urging of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Congress created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 to counter the hopelessness felt by millions of young men in the depths of the Great Depression. These men, ages eighteen to twenty-five, were set to work restoring land wasted by over farming, clear-cut timbering, and erosion. Their success is demonstrated in such well-known recreational resources at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. In this landmark study, the establishment of the CCC in North Carolina is discussed, camp life recounted in great detail, and the accomplishments of the corps examined. Separate chapters present the involvement of African Americans and Cherokee Indians in the state's CCC efforts. Ninety black-and-white illustrations bring to life the story of that magnificent army. Harley E. Jolley is professor emeritus of history at Mars Hill College, where he served on the faculty for forty-two years. He received a bachelor's degree from Appalachian State University, a master's degree from the University of Tennessee, and a doctorate from Florida State University. Jolley is the author of several award-winning books concerning the Blue Ridge Parkway."With the Civilian Conservation Corps," American Forests (July 1933).
Civilian Conservation Corps: A Selectively Annotated Bibliography, Larry N. Spypolt (2005).
The African-American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps, Olen Cole, Jr. (1999).
The Civilian Conservation Corps, John A. Salmond (1967).
The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1932-1942: An Administrative History, John C. Paige (1985)
An all-male quartet of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees sings for fellow camp members in Yanceyville, North Carolina, May 5, 1940.
Image: © CORBIS
Photographer: Wilfred J. Mead
Date Photographed: May 5, 1940
Location Information: Yanceyville, North Carolina, USA
African-American CCC Enrollees Dig Gully
Negro Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees fill in a gully on eroded farm land. Yanceyville, North Carolina. May 5, 1940.
Image: © CORBIS
Standard: Rights Managed
Photographer: Wilfred J. Mead
Date Photographed: May 5, 1940
Location Information: Yanceyville, North Carolina, USA
Civilian Conservation Corps
The CCC camp was a big part of my family's life during the forties. Early on, my two brothers Roy, and Eldridge, worked there. The pay was 35 dollars a month, but they only got to keep five dollars of it -- the rest had to be sent home. That small amount must have been a big help to my mother who was a widow with ten children, and the head of our home and farm. Eventually, my brother, Roy, was sent to another camp in western N.C. -- he helped work on the Blue Ridge parkway. The camp was very much akin to a military base, with barracks, mess hall, kitchen, recretational building, library, etc. I was too small to remember much about the camp's beginning, but my brother, Bill, recalls the grand opening -- with a radio station from Danville, and dignitaries, plus much fanfare, I can remember being taken there and being given ice cream in a little striped container called a Dixie cup.
The camp was across the road from the path leading down to our home place. Many of the buildings remained and were used for other purposes after the camp's closure. There was a mattress making building, and I remember as a child going with her to make mattresses. I sat under the metal contraption holding the mattress, and watched as the ladies push large, long needles threaded with tobacco twine through the striped, heavy cloth called "ticking" to quilt the mattress covers. Even today, my family refers to the old CCC camp property simply as the campgrounds. We have many photographs of the stone pillars at the entrance, the barbecue pit, and other features. One building for years was used as storage for caskets for county home residents who died.
My brother also recalls that across the road from the camp and below the county home, were long, covered sheds built by CCC boys and used as "greenhouses" for the planting and growing of that despised vine, cudzu, introduced to our area in the thirties. Those were hard times, when farmers struggled during the depression, and the famed dust bowl era. The plant was used to halt erosion, and to enrich the poor soil in places. Because of its close proximity to our home, the CCC camp area will always be to our family a hallowed ground. In our teen years, my sisters and I always headed to the camp to take pictures with our Brownie cameras. It was a restful place to be, to walk among the trees, and reminisce about the past.....Thanks for your posts, Rick....
Source: Helen Jean Ledford 21 March 2018 Post to the Caswell County Historical Association Facebook Page.