The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was the first of the New Deal agencies created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after his inauguration in 1933, to address the problems of the Great Depression. West Virginia made up the Charleston District, Fifth Corps Area, of the CCC. The Fifth Corps also included Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.
The CCC was designed to put the nation’s unemployed youth to work on reforestation and similar projects throughout the country. Members, called enrollees and commonly known as ‘‘CCC boys,’’ had to be males between the ages of 18 and 25, unmarried, and employable, although the rules were later relaxed for war veterans. Enrollees were selected on the basis of family need and were paid $30 per month for their work, with $25 of each pay sent home to the enrollee’s family. The enrollees were provided with food, clothing, shelter, medical needs, and work training.
Each CCC camp—made up of a company of 200 men—was administered by military and naval officers, with forest or park project supervisors teaching the enrollees forest and land conservation skills.
West Virginia boasted 65 CCC camps and two summer camps housing 55 different companies. Most of the camps were located in the Allegheny and George Washington national forests. These companies worked on reforestation and conservation projects; fought forest fires; built shelters, fire towers, fire stations, roads, and trails; strung electric and telephone lines; and planted thousands of trees.
The West Virginia state park system owes much to the CCC. Many of the early state parks were built by the CCC boys. The buildings, pavilions, and scenic overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest were built by enrollees, for example, as were the administration building, stone cabins, swimming pool, stone culverts, and bridges at Watoga State Park. Cabins, trails, and other recreational facilities were constructed using rustic architecture by the CCC at Babcock, Lost River, and Cacapon state parks, as well as Oglebay Park. The reservoir area for Bluestone dam was cleared with CCC labor.
Educational activities also played a major role in the enrollee’s daily routine. Camps were furnished with libraries, and classes were held to teach enrollees vocational skills and provide basic educational needs. They were also permitted to take high school and college classes. More than 55,000 youth participated in the Civilian Conservation Corps in West Virginia between 1933 and 1942. Their built-to-last construction techniques in our parks and forests will last as a testimony to their era for generations to enjoy.
This Article was written by Larry N. Sypolt
Last Revised on November 26, 2010
Cohen, Stan. The Tree Army: A Pictorial History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1980.
Harr, Milton. The CCC Camps in West Virginia. Charleston: Milton Harr, 1992.
Merrill, Perry. Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942. Montpelier, VT: P. H. Merrill, 1981.