Men of the CCC, by Mary Penner

Enrollees arrive at Fort Roosevelt, Virginia. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/lee/cultural/ccc/index.shtml).“110 Rookies Enrolled in Oct,” read the newspaper headline. Below the headline it read, “Average Age is 17 Years and 11 Months — Educational Level Varies — All are Interested in Self-Improvement.”

The headlines summed it up. Those were the typical characteristics of the young rookies. But, that wasn’t just any group of rookies; my father was in that group. The newspaper? It was the Camp Ames News, published by CCC Company 1709 in Ames, Iowa.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression gripped America; unemployment and poverty affected millions of households. Shortly after taking office in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt spearheaded a bill through Congress creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Focusing on natural conservation projects, the CCC promised to put young men to work across the country. Enrollees, aged 18-25, (later expanded to 17-28) had to be poor, unemployed, single, and healthy.
They also had to send most of their $30-a-month pay home to their families.

With a stunning display of bureaucratic speed, CCC camps began to open across the country just a few months after the bill passed. Iowa, for example, responded quickly with thirty-four camps in operation by the end of 1933. Over the program’s nine years, nearly 46,000 young men labored in Iowa as CCC enrollees; more than eighty Iowa state parks owe their development to the efforts of the CCC.

In fact, 2.9 million young men served in the CCC between 1933 and 1942. State parks throughout the country sport plaques and markers identifying the handiwork of the CCC.

They built roads, picnic shelters, bathhouses, dams, bridges, and fences. They dug irrigation canals and fought forest fires. They learned trades and took education classes. And, they received food, clothing, and shelter–a welcome change for many of the impoverished men.

When the United States entered World War II, however, the funding for the CCC stopped and the camps quietly disbanded. Many of the enrollees, including my dad, went directly into the military.

If any of your relatives served in the CCC, there are a number of resources available for researchers. At the national level, the National Archives in Washington D.C. has extensive records on the CCC in its Record Group 35 including photographs, official correspondence, camp directories, inspection reports, and accident reports.

You can also request copies of the enrollees’ records from the Civilian Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

Include as much information in your request as you can, including date and place of birth and death, location of CCC service and the CCC company number. If the individual is deceased, provide proof of death. When requesting my father’s records, I sent in the funeral card and that worked fine.

The individual record files include enrollment and re-enrollment paperwork. You’ll also find a record of the enrollee’s duty and camp assignments. Other data includes a list of previous employment, education, and a medical history. Genealogical clues include parents’ names, birthplaces, occupations, and education.

Payroll disbursement records provide another interesting snapshot of the CCC enrollee. My dad sent $22 of his monthly pay to his mother and put $7 a month into the bank, keeping just $1 a month for himself.
 
Check the state archives where your relative served for additional records. The New Mexico State Archives, for example, has 11,000 enrollment cards, rosters of enrollees, lists of discharges, and other miscellaneous documents. Keep in mind that enrollees didn’t always serve in their home state. My dad was a rural Missourian, but he served in the CCC in Iowa.

Look also for camp newspapers. These provide an excellent glimpse into camp life. The Camp Ames News was a fine example. Its articles outlined the various projects camp members worked on; sports news recapped the camp baseball team and boxing squad efforts; lists of new arrivals and profiles of enrollees were in each paper; plus, little bits of gossip about camp members rounded out each issue.

Search an online database for camp newspapers at the website for the Center of Research Libraries. They have microfilmed many CCC camp newspapers and the microfilm is available via interlibrary loan.

Other camp newspapers are at state archives and historical societies. The Kansas State Historical Society has a large collection from various states.

To learn more about the CCC, go to the Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni website. You’ll also find information about the CCC Museum in St. Louis.

I never knew that my dad served in the CCC until after his death. If he ever talked about it, I forgot it, or, even worse, didn’t pay attention. He did talk often about his WWII experiences, so I have those stories to remember and pass on to my daughter.

Now, as with most of our genealogy research, I just have the documents left behind to help me piece together that part of his life. I did find his CCC-issued trunk in the basement and an autograph book that he had while in the CCC. Filled with addresses, signatures, and little one-liners from his camp buddies, it’s a poignant and touching symbol of my dad’s youth.

Many of the men who served in the CCC have died, and more pass away each day. If any of your CCC relatives are still living, grab the video camera or tape recorder and preserve their important role in history.

Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.
Genealogist Mary Penner writes “Lineage Lessons,” a weekly genealogy column, for the Albuquerque Tribune. She can be reached through her website.

Photograph: Enrollees arrive at Fort Roosevelt, Virginia. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/lee/cultural/ccc/index.shtml).

23 thoughts on “Men of the CCC, by Mary Penner

  1. In March of 1941 my dad and a friend left Mudd Bay in Puget Sound in a small boat that took them up through the inside passage and into Alaska. The friend left my dad with the boat and no way home. So dad hired on with the CCC in Petersburg, AK and worked there until he earned enough money for his passage home. He went back to work in a sawmill in the small town he had left until his draft number came up #1 in Thurston county, WA. He enlisted in the Navy and went off to war.

  2. Thanks for the CCC information. My Father served in a camp in New Mexico. The money he made there provided much support for his family in Texas.

    Now I can look at his records and learn some about him at that time.

    Thanks again.
    Jerry C. Smith

  3. My father served in the CCC in New Mexico. I had often wondered how to get his records. Thank you for posting this information. We don’t have much from his time in the CCC, but do have a few pictures of him during that time.

  4. Ahhhh, the CCC. My dad was in the CCC out of Winsted, Connecticut (he was from Greenwich). He used to tell me such funny stories about his time in the CCC. He would say things like ‘we’d dig a trench and then the next group would follow us and fill it in’ (of course they did much, much more… my dad was a ‘kidder.’). He would say, and I don’t know if this is true, that they earned a dollar a day and three square meals.

    I have a great photo of the CCC ‘regiment’ he was in – one of those panoramic style of photos. And he is dead center right behind the commanders with a big grin on his face.

    Lastly, I own his CCC trunk and use it to store genealogy materials on my family that I have collected. Every time I open it, I see all those ‘girly’ pictures (very tame by today’s standards) pasted in the inside of the lid and get a real kick out of it.

  5. I went to the CCC alumni site and then to “research guidelines.” I found the following statement.

    “Other information, including camp and company reports, reside in the National Archives. To date these items are not indexed, but are available for study at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.”

    Does anyone know if plans for indexing this information is in the works?

  6. I don’t have any relatives, that I know of, that were part of the CCC, but I do remember a driving trip my husband, our 2 daughters, and I took thru Canada down into New York stopping in Ithaca, New York where my husband had gone to college. During our stay there, one of his old college friends who still lived in the area took us to a state park. As we began our walk he told us that this park was part of FDR’s project, during the depression, to employ people. As we walked I found myself noticing every log in the path that helped create a step that made our walk easier and the bridges across the river that flowed thru that park and thought about that time and who was it that put that log there or built that bridge. Thank you for this article that explains more and all these comments it all is adding to that memory. Just think, here we are some 70+ years later and still enjoying their labors. I thank all of them!
    Judy Rosen

  7. Are there similar records for ancestors who worked on WPA projects? I have a record of the project my husband’s grandfather worked on. It gives the number of the project but no description or location. Is there a list somewhere?

  8. In addition to state parks, the CCCs made terrific contributions to the National Park Service. For details, in a search engine look for “Civilian Conservation Corps in the National Parks”. There is a book online about them.

  9. Believe I can get closer to finding my grandfathers ccc history now, He worked Rensalaer county, New York. They were involved with dams, road building that I visit when I go back “home”.
    A CCC gentleman in my city has donated most of his experiences/literature to our local library here in Texas. He was involved on the west coast lumber project and then to the US Army.

  10. That was a wonderful article. I’m 83 and knew about it, but couldn’t explain it to anyone the way you did. I didn’t have anyone in the CCC but camped across the US in many parks they had a hand in setting jup. Thank you!

  11. CCC should be brought back. It would keep a lot of youngsters off the streets and out of trouble. One of my uncles learned a little about cartography in the CCC and within a few years went to drafting school and not too long after that landed a job as an instructor at Indiana University,a job he held until his retirement. Proof that a college degree is not needed for success. He may not have even finished high school.

  12. I remember my mother saying that my dad was in the CCC but I have no other information. We lived in Indiana and both of my parents died in the mid 70s. I’ve looked at the sites linked to this article and don’t see any way to search for names. Am I missing something or is that option just not available. It looks like I’d have to know the answers to the questions before I can ask them.

  13. My dad served in at least two (2) CCC camps..Dolores, Co and Winkelman, Ar. Now I can perhaps find the exact dates on both locations using the various references you provided. Thanks so much for this great information.

  14. My father in law was an instructor at a CCC camp and taught young men how to repair the various types of engines (cars, trucks and earth moving equipment) used to build the Sabine Wildlife refuge in the marshes of southwest Louisiana. When the CCC’s were terminated as World War II begin he transferred to the local Army Air Corps as a civilian machinist and mechanic and served there until the base shut down.

  15. We often visit the CCC site near Luzerne MI while we are at our cabin. Not much left have to use our imagination. Just like to think what it may have been like. There is a museum for CCC in Roscommon co MI I believe I need to go and investigate.

  16. Thank you for this wonderful article.My father served in camp BF1-5Mile CO. Company 737 CCC Burns OR. On the back of the camp picture it is dated 05-13- 1939. My father died when I was just a few months old so if I can get his records & picture it sure would make me happy. Thanks again for telling me how to get them.

  17. I graduated from High School in 1938 when I was sixteen, too young to get a job, even if there were any to be had. When I turned seveteen, I “fudged a little” about my age,joined the CCC, and spent six months in the mountains of northeastern Utah. I came out of the camp in Vernal, Utah,six feet two inches tall and about as muscular and healthy as I have ever been. The pay was $30 a month and all but $5 this was sent to my parents each month. I have always felt good that I was able to assist my family at such a young age, and in those trying times.

  18. Hello and Thank-you for sharing info for the CCC’s. I had at least 2 uncles ,one from each side that served here in New Hampshire. Also,had acquaintence w/other men who served and worked here in the White Mountains. They and others did a lot of work here which is part of our Kancamaugus Highway system .
    When I was learning how to drive my Dad took me up on the”Dugway” which leads to the “Kanc” The “Dugway” was just that ,dug by pick and shovel by the CCC. When I was younger we went for picnics there at the Dugway Picnic area.

  19. My father, Bud Wells, worked for the Forest Service in the mountains outside of Paris, Arkansas, during the Depression. He was assigned, as a forman, to Company 741, Crystal Springs, AR, Black Springs Side Camp, about 1936. I have a copy of the Official Arkansas District Annual for 1937, published in August 1937, which contains picture of some of the work they did and names of the members. Through the subsequent years, up until the mid-70′s, he visited with some of the members who remained in the mountains. He always spoke fondly of the young spirited men who were assigned to his Camp. That was one of the most rewarding periods of his long life. He died in March 1992, aged 90-1/2.

  20. Greetings!

    I was born in 1962 and mother died soon after. My father died when I was 16 yrs old. I do recall him telling me about serving in the ccc camp. However, I have not been able to find any record on him. I am hoping this site will assist me; for I am yearning for information pertaining to my roots from both mother and father.

    Thank you for all you have done!

  21. My father worked in the CCC camp in Arkansas. I would love to get some info about his camp. I believe he was in company 1705.

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