40 Years Ago
Week of November 24, 1983
Civilian Conservation Corps Was Creature of Depression 50 Years Ago
“Two hundred men of the army of the unemployed of Washington camped in the heart of the Massanutten mountains last night,” according to a contemporary newspaper account of the April 17, 1933, arrival.
The first group of “campers” along with 275,000 others who would be placed in 1,300 camps across the United States in the next three months, had just enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps, probably the most successful conservation and unemployment relief program ever attempted on a national scale.
Most of the men that came to Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the early months were ill prepared for the tasks that lay ahead. But they were in need of work, they were willing, and they would eventually develop the skills they needed to improve themselves and their new surroundings. Today, on the George Washington National Forest and across the country, the public continues to benefit from the conservation and recreation projects completed by workers of the CCC.
The first 200 arrived about 5 p.m. on April 17 at what soon would be known as Camp Roosevelt. The camp was named for President Franklin Roosevelt, who just a month earlier had introduced the legislation that made the CCC possible.
The men were soon put to work, unpacking, peeling potatoes, and cutting wood. The problem was that many of them had never seen an ax, a pick or shovel, and few knew how to handle them.
But most were eager to learn to use the tools that would be essential in the coming months and years, and most were willing workers, according to then Capt. Leo Donovan of the U.S. Army. Donovan was assigned by the Army to establish and administer the first CCC camp.
Ninety percent of the men had never done manual labor, Donovan wrote in the July-August 1933, issue of Infantry Journal, but their spirit and willingness under adverse conditions, including weeks of bad weather, was excellent.
The high spirits of CCC enrollees is understandable. Just a few weeks earlier they were among the millions of unemployed caught in the deep Depression of the early 1930’s. Many were wandering the streets of America’s cities—they were jobless, hungry and almost without hope.
The Civilian Conservation Corps of 50 years ago promised, first, hope. Then it provided food, shelter, and clothing. Probably most important, it gave the men of the Depression a chance to learn work skills that many would use when private sector jobs were again available.
To join the CCC, a young man had to be 17 to 25 years old, unemployed, unmarried and out of school. He served a minimum of six months to a maximum of two years in the Corps. In addition to food, clothing, and shelter, he received $30 per month for 40 hours work per week. Of the $30, the government sent $25 per month home to the worker’s family.
The CCC program was administered by a variety of federal and state agencies. The Department of Labor supervised the enrollment of eligible young mem. The Army and Navy oversaw the design, construction, and maintenance of work camps, and supervised day-to-day operations. The U.S. Forest Service, the Park Service, and a variety of state agencies directed specific projects conducted by the Corps.
Those projects provided skills and training that prepared enrollees by the thousands for productive working lives. They learned carpentry, cooking, plumbing, typing, and driving. Many were trained to operate pick-up trucks and dump trucks, bulldozers, road graders and cement mixers. Some worked jack hammers, air compressors, and stone crushers.
Together the CCC men constructed roads, trails, bridges and buildings. They fought forest fires, renewed timber stands and aided further development of wildlife. They built lakes and dams, telephone lines, and fire towers.
During the nine years of the Civilian Conservation Corps—from 1933 until 1942 when the CCC was disbanded at the start of World War II—more than three million men worked in the program. They planted 2.4 billion trees, stocked streams with a billion fish, controlled soil erosion by constructing more than 6.6 million dams, and filled the nation’s forests with uncountable numbers of a variety of wildlife. They built 126,000 miles of roads and trails and installed 89,000 miles of telephone lines.
Perhaps the most visible contributions for the modern visitor to the George Washington National Forest are the many recreation areas built or improved by the CCC. Typical of these is Sherando Lake on the Pedlar Ranger District, today one of the forest’s most popular recreation areas. Sherando Lake took more than three years to construct.
Of the first group who enrolled in the CCC in 1933, Capt. Donovan said, “There has never been assembled any group of men who could eat more than a Civilian Conservation Corps company.” They started eating April 17, Donovan wrote that July, “and they are still eating.” But their appetites for work and learning matched their physical hunger, and the legacy of their labor is apparent in parks and forests across the nation.
Week of December 1, 1983
Pendleton Off Limits
To Soviet Diplomats
Soviet diplomats and journalists are free to visit in West Virginia, provided they stay out of Pendleton and Mineral counties.
These two eastern panhandle counties are on the revised list issued by the state department, but there is no explanation why they are off-limits to the Russians.
An official of the state department explained to an inquiring journalist that with so many counties on the list, the agency cannot provide explanations for all of them even if they were inclined to do so.
The official said there are two reasons normally that a county is restricted: security, and retaliation against the Soviet Union.
The Soviets have their own map of areas to which U.S. diplomats may not travel, and the U.S. may include areas on its list in order to match the percentage of land area that the Russians have restricted.
Another reason for the restrictions may be the fact that the Naval Radio Receiving Station is located in Pendleton County and the Alleghany Ballistics Laboratory, a research and development plant for missile engines, is located in Mineral County.
50 Years Ago
Week of November 29, 1973
Indicate Deer Sex
Whose Woods Are These . . .
(A Weekly column of Wilderness Lore by The Woodlands and Whitewater Institute Staff, Spruce Knob Mountain)
Last week in this column we wrote about the rutting season of the white-tailed deer. This week we look at one specific aspect of the white-tail—a very controversial aspect at this time of year—the deer’s hoofprints.
Among hunters and outdoorsmen there is much argument over whether and how you can tell the sexes of deer by their hoof prints. Many people claim that they have techniques that are certain. If anybody among our readers does have a foolproof technique we would like to see it.
Many people say that because a buck is larger, a buck’s hoofs are broader, heavier and more rounded at the tips than those of a doe. Actually, for the majority of bucks and does, the opposite is probably true. Because does are protected from hunters they live longer and grow bigger.
Studies have shown that seldom do bucks live beyond three years—usually sooner rather than later a hunter gets even the most cautious buck. Occasionally though a buck will live longer than three years. Then it is true, you can tell his prints by his size.
On the other hand, does live much longer, often more than 10 years. (In the old days, when there were wolves and mountain lions, does did not live as long as they do today, for the old ones were picked off by these predators.) Otherwise, scientific studies of both bucks and does have shown that the hoofs of both sexes are identical. What is not identical is the way the deer set their hoofs down. Bucks step differently from does.
The doe, true to her womanhood, is dainty and picks up her feet carefully. As a consequence, in light snow of about one inch, her prints are of just the hoof itself. Consequently, in a light snow a buck will leave very definite drag marks, sometimes a foot long or more before he sets down his hoof.
In snow deeper than an inch, both bucks and does leave drag marks so then this method becomes unreliable. In the fall, during a buck’s rut, he is most sloppy about dragging his feet and this becomes an especially good method to tell the sexes apart by their tracks. Look around after a spring snow; you will never see the number or the length of drag marks that you see in the fall during hunting season.
60 Years Ago
Week of December 5, 1963
100 YEARS AGO
By LON K. SAVAGE
Editor’s Note—The following is one of a series of articles on the Civil War. Each weekly installment covers events which occurred exactly 100 years ago.
Longstreet Repulsed; Knoxville Siege Ends
The night was cold—a bone chilling cold that sent the temperature below the freezing mark. A fine mist fell. Huddled in their camps trying to get a little sleep without fires, 12,000 Confederate soldiers waited for dawn to come.
It was early morning of November 29, 100 years ago just outside Knoxville, Tenn. The soldiers were those of Gen. James B. Longstreet who for a week had besieged Knoxville and the Union troops therein commanded by Gen. Ambrose Burnside.
This night was different from those that had preceded it, however. Longstreet had been sent to Knoxville from Chattanooga to destroy Burnside’s army and then to return to Chattanooga and rejoin Braxton Bragg’s huge army there. But since Longstreet’s departure, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had defeated Bragg in the gigantic battle on Missionary Ridge. Bragg now was falling back into Georgia. Longstreet was by himself.
Longstreet had gotten unofficial reports that very night of the Confederate catastrophe at Missionary Ridge, but they did not change his plans for an assault. His orders were for an attack at the first sign of dawn.
When that moment came November 29th, Confederate guns boomed out three signal shots that climbed into the sky and exploded. Immediately, the woods and fields west of Knoxville were filled with moving men in gray, assembling for their day’s work.
Through the dim light, the Confederates hurried forward, their gun barrels flashing as the fighting began. With little resistance, they moved into Union rifle pits, which had been captured the night before, within 200 yards of their prime target—Fort Sanders, west of the city.
From the pits, they swarmed toward the fort itself and immediately ran into trouble. A maze of wires had been spread on the field in front of the fort, and the Confederates found themselves momentarily entangled, confused and faltering. They pushed beyond the wire only to come upon a deep, frozen ditch in front of the fort. Some jumped into the ditch but were unable to get out the other side; a few climbed over their buddies’ shoulders onto the fort’s parapet only to be shot or captured.
Meanwhile, Union troops fired muskets and canister down into the Confederates who, now, were stopped and milling about. It was too much. Soon, the Confederates were retreating.
That night, Longstreet got more bad news. Orders came in from Richmond, announcing Bragg’s defeat at Chattanooga and telling Longstreet to fall back and rejoin Bragg. Next came word from Bragg, himself, saying Grant had sent Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, with more Union troops to aid Burnside.
Longstreet decided to stay at Knoxville until Sherman was almost on him, thereby keeping Sherman away from Bragg. Three days passed, and on December 4, Longstreet’s army marched north into the Tennessee mountains, as Sherman moved into Knoxville.
The campaign at Knoxville was over; more than 1,000 men on each side had become casualties.
Next week: The two presidents speak.
MISS ANNE SIMMONS HOMAN SHATTERS FAMILY TRADITION
Morris Homan, local insurance executive and former assessor of Pendleton County, has lost the respect of his five brothers.
Because his wife gave birth last week to a baby girl.
It’s not that there is anything particularly wrong with having a baby girl. But the trouble is that this young lady has shattered the family tradition by being the first girl born in the Homan family in three generations.
First it was two boys, Morris’ father, the late Virgil R. Homan, and his brother, Walter Homan; and in the next generation it was six boys. Morris and his five brothers, Richard, Walter, Reed, Virgil, Jr., and John; and in the current stanza, there have been six more boys, two of whom are Morris’, one (now deceased) was a son of Virgil, Jr., and three are sons of Walter.
But alas! Last Thursday it was Anne Simmons Homan.
Morris is blaming it all on his wife, Ruby, and she is just as pleased as can be.