The Civilian Conservation Corps
by Helen Nolden
The following article was written by Helen Rice Nolden for The Valley Star, Velva
March 6,1996 Article by Helen Rice Nolden in The Valley Star
The Civilian Conservation Corps was an agency authorized by the U.S. government to hire unemployed men for public conservation work. Set up as a part of the New Deal program in 1933, it provided training and employment for many young men in the country during the drought and depression of the 30s.
With more than 2 million men serving, the C.C.C. conserved and developed natural resources by planting trees, building dams and fighting forest fires. Congress abolished it in 1942.
Cecil Graham, a young man from Anamoose, was with Company 795. He enrolled in the C.C.C. in May of 1933 and stated that it was a grand life while it lasted. Some men returned home after their first hitch, some stayed with the C.C.C.s and a few found work and returned to their homes.
During a month of training at Ft. Lincoln, some time was spent on road improvement and digging up old pipe lines. Push ball, touch ball, and kitten ball served as recreational periods.
In June, Cecil states that they were sent by special train to Indian Diggings in California. Crossing the Great Salt Lake in Utah during the trip was a new experience for some who had never been on the water before. At that time, most of Nevada seemed a vast dessert.
In an article about Company 795, Cecil says, “We got to the Indian Diggings in the morning. We were as hungry as bears. An advance detachment had been sent out ahead. We took our place in the mess line. That first meal and many more were eaten in the shade of the towering pines until our camp was completed.”
The men were put to work building tent floors, mess halls, a bath house, fire trails and truck trails.
Company 795 saw many sights while they were in California, including the giant sequoia trees and Silver Lake, where the elevation was over 8,000 feet. Some of the fellows tried swimming, in the lake, but they found the water awfully cold. They visited Carson Pass, toured Folsom Prison and Lake Tahoe, and some even went to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Two weeks before heading back to North Dakota, they took a trip to Yosemite Park. When they arrived at Pine Grove, California, a dog ran out to meet them and stayed with them all the while they served there. When company 795 left for North Dakota, Captain Allen K. Davis put the dog, whom they had named Ronnie, on the train. Cecil states that Ronnie took to North Dakota like the trouper he was.
They took the north route home through Portland and Spokane and got to their camp at New England on April 24, 1934.
Camp Dispensary of 795 was the only one in the North Dakota district honored as being designated a camp hospital, according to Dr. Robert Murray, camp surgeon.
In June of 1934, a severe storm swept the camp at New England. In the high wind, 17 tents were blown down and 13 were beyond repair.
The storm struck in the afternoon while most of the men were out working on projects. It caused $855 worth of damage. A truck was dispatched to Ft. Lincoln to obtain tents to replace the ones that were destroyed. In spite of the fact that many of the boys came back to find their tents leveled, they all spent a comfortable night.
Cecil Graham was an assistant work foreman. Other men from this area, to name a few, were: Joseph Donahue, Butte; Howard Faber and Robert Martin, Anamoose; Otto Wahl and Raymond Hirning, McClusky; Charles Hoepfer, Martin; Robert Holmes, McClusky; Edwin Lucas and Conrad Severson, Harvey; and Alvin Martwick, Balfour. The paper stated that all these men would be honorably discharged in June of 1934.
I realize there were a lot of other men from this area that served in the C.C.C.s, but these were some who served in Company 795 and who received leadership awards.
The men who joined the C.C.C.s didn’t get paid very much, and they had to send most of their money home to their immediate families. After all, they had their food in the mess hall, they had a place to sleep, and they had a job. In the 30s, jobs were scarce and people traveled all over the USA looking for work. A lot of men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to help keep their parents and sibling in food.