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December 09, 2016
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History converges at Ten Mile River; Remembering an ‘army’ that planted trees

Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees are seen relaxing and keeping the barrack clean.
Contributed photos

On August 4, 2013, a full day of events is scheduled on the site of Sullivan County’s historic CCC Camp at Ten Mile River (TMR) Boy Scout Camp. There will be activities for the whole family, including tours of the CCC Camp; discussions with CCC expert John Dowd; interviews with a re-enactor portraying Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the charismatic U.S. president who launched the CCC; plus displays of memorabilia, artifacts and more. The story of the CCC is a tale of noble ideas, desperate times and the men who had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The Great Depression

Following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, America was thrown into the grip of the Great Depression. Unemployment was (under)estimated at 25%. Families became splintered as men left home to travel great distances in search of work. Conditions were made worse by the Dust Bowl, caused largely by a crippling drought (1934-1937) in the Great Plains, but exacerbated by years of misuse of our nation’s agricultural lands.

In 1933, as FDR was pushing through his “New Deal” relief programs, the CCC was born. Sometimes called Roosevelt’s “Tree Army,” it saw the fastest mobilization of young men in the U.S. in peace time. Its purpose was two-fold—first, to provide unskilled manual labor jobs to a nation of young men struggling to find work; and secondly, to establish a natural resources conservation program in every state and territory.

Enrollees were provided housing, clothing, food and medical care and were paid $30 a month. Of this, $25 had to be sent home. After a seven-hour workday, classes were offered in reading, writing and other skills, such as woodworking, metal work, typing and photography, to prepare the men for life after the CCC.

During its nine years of operation, FDR’s “Tree Army” of 2.5 million men would be responsible for planting three billion trees to help reforest America. The CCC can be credited with establishing many of our national parks; and the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, owes much of its clearing to the CCC.

Ten Mile River Scout Camp