CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS, 1933 TO 1941,
ON THE PAYETTE NATIONAL FOREST
by Dan Dzuranin
Payette National Forest
In 1933, according to the ECW camp inspection reports, for main camps were operating within the Idaho and Weiser Forests (present-day Payette National Forest). Two other camps were established near the Forests.
In McCall, Lake Fork Camp, F-51, was established in early 1933. Another camp that was also called Lake Fork, F-415, operated later. The State of Idaho sponsored a camp (S-223) in McCall also. Many of the present-day buildings on the McCall District Administrative Site were built by the men of the CCC.
According to a September 30, 1933 camp inspection report, Lake Fork Camp, F-51, located "one-and-one-half miles from McCall," was first occupied on June 2, 1933. There were 175 men from Idaho and New Jersey in the camp, and they had constructed 10 miles of road and about five buildings.
On the shore of Goose Lake, Camp F-56 was established June 3, 1933. On September 30, 1933, there were 180 men from New York in the camp. They were constructing seven miles a roads, erecting 20 miles of telephone lines and clearing 800 acres of forest. Also, CCC men built a campground near Goose Lake.
Camp F-54 was at Paddy Flat. Although there is no ECW camp inspection report, a group of enrollees of Co. 1262, collectively wrote a letter that was published in a newspaper -- Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, New Jersey, July 8, 1933 edition. They wrote:
This camp is the first to fall timber in the State of Idaho and could well be called "Trenton's Own Forest Camp." More than 75 percent of the fellows hail from Trenton and the other 25 percent are from other towns in New Jersey and New York. Only a few are from Idaho.
In 1983 article in the Sunday Times, published in Trenton, New Jersey, Charles (Chris) Simone stated he served five months as an ambulance driver for Company 1262 at Paddy Flat, and that one CCC man was killed by a falling tree.
In a 1976 magazine article, Henry Jones reflected on his CCC days at Paddy Flat:
Because of the threat of fire...only half of the men in camp were ever allowed out of the same time.
The also said in the same article that the men were sometimes flown by airplane to fires, while other times they hiked 10 to 15 miles to a fire.
During their stay at Paddy Flat, CCC men built a dwelling, an office, and a warehouse-garage.
In the Weiser Forest, Camp F-68 was established June 3, 1933, in Council. According to a September 30, 1933 camp inspection report, there were 202 men from New York and New Jersey who were building a warehouse, cleaning 10 miles of roadside, and controlling rodents on 800 acres.
Camp F-68 may have had a spike camp at the old Hornet Ranger Station. "In 1934, a modified Plan 1 Ranger's Dwelling, a wood shed-cellar, office, warehouse-garage, oil house, and barn were constructed was CCC labor and funds" (Hockaday.)
Besides the Council Camp, another camp located at Price Valley was established on the Weiser Forest at the beginning of the CCC program. Though there is no camp inspection report, CCC men replaced a dwelling in 1933; and, in 1934 and 1935, they constructed "a three-room guard dwelling, office, barn, and a garage-warehouse" at Price Valley (Hockaday).
CCC men also build roads around Price Valley and built a campground at Lost Valley Reservoir.
The Price Valley camp was moved to Mann Creek, or CCC men built roads, campgrounds, and ranger station buildings.
According to ECW reports, two other main camps were established in 1933 near the Idaho and Weiser Forests.
Located near New Meadows, Camp Sooner Meadows, P-222, was established in 1933. The "P" signifies that the bulk of the work was to be done on private land. In October, 1933, there were 178 men from New York, New Jersey, and Idaho in the camp. They were building 30 miles of roads and controlling rodents on 800 acres.
Near Tamarack, Round Valley Camp, S-221, was established June 3, 1933. In October, 1933, there were 188 men from New York, New Jersey, and Idaho in the camp. They were building roads and a "Ranger house and barn."
The 1933 report did not State the location of the "Ranger house." What is known is that in the early 1930s, a dwelling and other buildings were constructed at the original New Meadows Ranger District Administrative Site.
In 1934, according to camp inspection reports, CCC camps were established at Thorn Creek, McCall, and at French Creek.
On May 1, 1934, Co. 1311 established Camp Thorn Creek, F-56. In August, 185 men, who were all enrolled in Idaho, were reported to be working in the camp. A 50-man spike camp, which "had some wooden structures" was just completed. The men were working on "33 separate work project, spread over an area of 1,867,966 acres covering the entire Idaho National Forest (Reddoch).
By August the men had a long list of accomplishments. They had build roads and a few small bridges along Thorn Creek, Hard Creek, Hazard Creek, and on Brundage Mountain. For the Forest Service in McCall, they constructed a cement foundation and interior for a barn, painted 11 buildings and cut 75 cords of wood. They also had cut 300 telephone poles "stubs," 1200 fence posts and 1500 fence stays; treated 1800 poles, posts and stubs with creosote. They also build for miles of fence, reclaimed six acres of grazing pasture, poisoned rodents on 5,000 acres on the east slopes of Meadows Valley, and fought 11 fires -- the largest was 360 acres.
The men from Co. 1311 also "blasted three spill ways into natural rock" and built concrete had dates through falls on the Little Salmon River as requested by the Idaho Fish and Game Department (Luce).
The 1934 report also stated that they would work on bridge and road construction on the Lake Creek Road.
In McCall, the state sponsored camp, S-223. This camp was started on June 2, 1933. An October 1933 camp inspection report did not list the Co. No. the did report that there were 200 men from New York, New Jersey and Idaho in the camp.
A 1934 report stated Idaho enrollees of Co. 1308 were working in Camp S-223; these men were building roads, cleaning public campgrounds and roadsides, and fighting fire.
In later years, Co. 1997 was listed in S-223 camp inspection reports. A main 23, 1941 report stated the camp was "located on a beautiful lake just west of McCall," and it started June 26, 1935. The report also stated the camp was occupied all year and a work program had been operated continuously since the date of occupation (McConnell).
The men from this camp "contributed to be Forest transportation system by working on the Lake Fork, Paddy Flat, Boulder Creek, No Business, and Brundage Road projects. Except for the lookouts, all work from this camp was outside the Forest" (Hockaday).
The 1941 report also stated there were 101 men in camp, and there were "nonportable camp buildings." These buildings are probably the log structures on Lake Street. They must had been built in 1936 because a report stated:
Work is scattered over an area of 120 square miles, and consists of road construction and maintenance; public campground development... construction of state forestry buildings such as a dwelling, garage, warehouse and game checking station (Reddoch).
In a May 23, 1941, letter, the commander of Co. 1997, Marion J. Kloth, wrote that 25 men were dismissed for desertion during February, March, and April of 1941. He wrote the men left because they lived nearby, and farm work was available.
The shortage of men may have caused the State to stop sponsoring the McCall camp for a short time.
Obviously, the State had resumed sponsoring S-223 late in 1941, because a December 27, 1941 report of Camp S-223 stated that 20 men were enrolled in a radio operator's and radio mechanic's course as part of a national defense program.
Many men were involved in the construction of the Salmon River Road between Riggins and Vinegar Creek. Two main camps, F-108 and F-109, were established along the Salmon River near the confluence of French Creek. The CCC men of the French Creek Camps worked on the Road in the winter and work from other camps in the Forest during the summer. Crews from other camps near Riggins also worked on the road.
A.E. Briggs, then Ranger of the Warren District, wrote in his memoirs that the Salmon River Road work was dangerous and difficult. He stated:
The road construction required the use of air compressors and jackhammers for drilling holes in solid granite ledges, and the use of many tons of high explosive per month for blasting purposes. Perpendicular ledges of solid granite had to be stripped of loose rock before work started below in order to protect the workers blasting the road way [sic]. Strippers were suspended on roads from 10 to a hundred feet above the road location. Men had to be trained to operate huge tractor-bulldozers to move blasted rock off the roadway. A slight error in operating the big tractors would have plunged the big machine and operator over the brink into the Salmon River.
The man from the French Creek Camps also built the Manning Bridge, which was also known as the "Crevasse Bridge" and later renamed to honor a CCC enrollee who died there. The bridge was built by Co. 1896 in 1938.
The Manning bridge, according to a 1938 published article in the Engineering News-Record, was designed by two USDA Forest Service engineers and built by Co. 1996. The article describes the bridge as follows:
The span of the bridge is 240 ft. and it is 327 feet long between anchorages. It is supported by eight 1 1/2 in. diameter cables, and has a capacity of 16 tons. The wood guard rails act as stiffening trusses. A "bulldozer" with grading blade removed was used to hoist into place the timbers there were too heavy for the winches.
According to camp inspection reports, Camp F-108 was established Oct. 3, 1934; Co. 1335 was working in the camp; and Camp F-109 began Oct. 11, 1934; Co. 1348 was in the camp.
The 1935 report of Camp F-108 listed the work project as "construction of four miles of road and one twenty ton swinging bridge across Salmon River" (Reddoch).
A different company was listed in 1936 report of Camp F-109. It listed Company 283, and the men were enrolled from New York, New Jersey and Idaho.
A 1938 report of Camp F-109 listed yet another company. It stated Company 2939 was working there. The report also stated that 28 "Local Idaho Boys" were dishonorably discharged, and that there was a problem of enrollees going home on the weekends and not returning to camp.
As with other camps throughout the west where the balk of Conservation work was located, the French Creek camps had its share of enrollees from the East where the bulk of enrollees occurred.
Warren District Ranger Briggs wrote of the Eastern enrollees:
We were told by Army officers...most of the youngsters had come from the slum districts in the big cities and many were repeaters (sic) in appearances in the juvenile courts. As we continue to work with the youths, we found many of them had come from broken homes, or no homes at all, and had been "kicked around"...Most of them gradually responded to encouragement, decent treatment, and patients, but there were a few incorrigibles who failed to respond.
Briggs also wrote that they had a "habit of shouting at the top of their voices when talking to each other," which he thought was "annoying" because in the mountains a "shout or yell usually signaled an accident or other trouble." An Army officer told Briggs that the youngsters were accustomed to shouting above the noise from elevated railways and other sources found in New York City or other large cities.
During the summer months, some man from the French Creek Camps or other main camps were at the Warren Ranger Station and at the old Burgdorf Station.
At Warren, an "office, warehouse-garage and barn were added in the 1933 to 1936 period a CCC labor" (Hockaday).
During the 1930s, the Burgdorf Station was used as a "smokechaser" or guard station. It had a house and storage building. In 1933 and 1935 "some additional betterment occurred" (Hockaday).
According to a camp inspection report, West Pine Camp, F-169, was established June 24, 1935, near Cambridge. A 1936 report did not state the company in camp but did state 128 men from Idaho were in the camp and "work is scattered out over an area of approximately 200 square miles. Projects are truck trail construction, forest stand improvement, and rodent control" (Reddoch).
A 1937 report stated that Co. 1996, which had 156 men from Idaho and Montana, occupied Camp West Pine and that they spent the winter of 1936-37 there. This camp was the only CCC camp operating in the Weiser Forest during 1937.
In 1937, there was a spike camp at Brownlee Ranger Station. The men from West Pine Camp "did road work on West Pine, Mail Creek, and the Brownlee roads, Brownlee Station buildings and campground" (Hockaday).
The West Pine Camp was move to Council. According to July 29, 1938, camp inspection report of Council Camp, F-413, Co. 1996 was working in the camp which was established in January 1938. The report also stated 38 men were in a side camp.
In an Oct. 6, 1939, letter to the CCC Director, Special Investigator M.J. Bowen wrote about Co. 1996:
The one very bad feature of Idaho companies, is that they do not seem to think anything of getting any kind of unfavorable discharge,. (enrollees) Most of them are farm type boys, go home, work on the farm, or elsewhere, and do not return to camp, and parents pay no attention to letters from Camp Commanders, advising them of the Son's absence. (sic) This company had 86 unfavorable discharges. I believe this is a record, at least for me.
Possibly because of the large number of men leaving the camp, a new company was formed at the Council camp. A 1940 report stated Co. 6421 arrived July 9, 1940 and was working in the camp.
In a supplementary report, Special Investigator A.W. Stockman wrote: "The morale of this company is extremely low." He reported that the man, from Alabama and Louisiana, were coerced to come out West. Enrollees told him that they were threatened by Army officers that they "would have to go to Western camps, or be given immediate dishonorabe discharge." Other enrollees said that a notice "posted on the bulletin board at Camp Reeves, Company 1940, Reeves, La." promise them that if they signed up "they would go to 'Hollywood', or some camp closely adjacent thereto, or 'California.'"
Council Camp, F-413, was abandoned on June 30, 1941.
Though there are no Inspection reports, main camps were also located at Black Lee Flat and at Camp Creek along the South Fork of the Salmon River.
A South Fork of the Salmon River Road was built by the CCC as well as a dwelling at the then Krassel Ranger Station.
The second camp called Lake Fork was established June 24, 1939, and Company 2939 was reported to be working in the camp. The camp, F-415, was located "about an hours (sic) truck ride away" from McCall (Stockman). As stated earlier, and earlier camp called Lake Fork, F-51, was located in McCall.
Work projects included building roads, telephone lines, Forest Service buildings, and nursery work. The nursery work must have been in McCall, where, in 1936, the Forest Service had bought 10 acres for a tree nursery.
During the CCC era, the old Idaho and Weiser Forest (present-day Payette National Forest) were dramatically change. But more than roads, bridges, buildings, and campgrounds were constructed. More than forest land was renewed.
The youths of the CCC built themselves up physically and mentally to be proud, productive Americans. While the young men built structures, they were also building self-confidence, pride, and hope for better future for themselves.
The CCC program was unique experiment. Though it was only our relief program, the benefits to the Nation are still with us today.
(Herring) Herring, Laverne B., Camp Inspection Reports, 1933.
(Hockaday) Hockaday, James, History of the Payette National Forest, 1968.
(McConnell) McConnell, F.B., Camp Inspection Report, 1941.
(Reddoch) Reddoch, James C., Camp Inspection Reports, 1934-1937.
(Stockman) Stockman, A. W., Camp Inspection Reports, 1940-41.