The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was an initiative begun in 1933 by Franklin Roosevelt as part of the New Deal. The goal of the program was to provide jobs during the Great Depression, a tumultuous period of American history, and also to begin a conservation movement in America’s parks and forests that involved the citizens. In his book At Work in Penn’s Woods, author Joseph Speakman outlines the work of many CCC camps in the Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including descriptions and historical records from Camp Michaux. This area was designated Camp S-51-PA, meaning it was on state land. Soon after President Roosevelt signed the CCC Bill, in May 1933, the first 200 young men arrived and set up camp at Pine Grove Furnace. Their first project was to build the CCC camp on the old Gardner Farm site two miles away. While most of the campers worked on this, the first small work crew was sent out to work on improving the road to the Baker sawmill on June 1, 1933. By Christmas of 1933, the barracks were finished and the campers and officials could move in.
Over the course of nine years, the men did numerous jobs to restore and preserve Michaux Forest and Pine Grove Furnace State Park. They built access roads, including the one used to reach the site today (Michaux Road), planted trees, strung telephone wire, and fought fires. They also built and improved upon the camp themselves, constructing more than forty buildings on the site. As Camp Michaux was a residential site, there were many activities aside from work in Michaux forest. The men published a weekly newspaper, participated in baseball leagues, and even had opportunities to earn high-school degrees. The camp not only gave the men immediate job relief, but also set them up for a more successful future. The camp closed in 1942 when World War II began, and the economy was resurrected with industrial demands from overseas, such as steel, machinery and weaponry.
Our research here hopes to answer some questions about the CCC at Camp Michaux. What was day-to-day life like as a CCC camper there? How did they work, play, and eat? These daily activities usually leave a trace – some things are dropped and forgotten, others are thrown away. Additionally, the CCC was one of the first instances of large-scale, federally funded conservation, and there is an important link between the archaeology of the site and the history of conservation in the area. As researchers, we ask how the CCC affected the reforestation of Michaux forest and South Mountain and look for the archaeological evidence of conservation effects.
- Civilian Conservation Camp S-51-PA Pine Grove Furnace – Company 329
- March 31st, 1933 – Roosevelt signs bill creating the Civilian Conservation Corps
- May 1933 – First young men arrive at Pine Grove Furnace to build the camp at old farm site
- June 1st, 1933 – First work crew sent out to improve road to Baker sawmill.
- Late December/Christmas 1933 – Campers & officials move into newly constructed barracks
- Sometime in 1934 – Educational component added
- 1942 – Camp closed.
Bland, John Paul
2006 Secret War At Home: The Pine Grove Furnace Prisoner of War Interrogation Camp. Cumberland County Historical Society Heritage Publications, Carlisle. Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Conservation Heritage Project
2006 At Work in Penn’s Woods. The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania.
Smith, David L
2010 Camp Michaux Home Page, The History of Camp Michaux, http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/history-dave-smith.htm, accessed 3/6/2018
Smith, David L
2014 William V. and George F. Garner Digital Library, Camp Michaux Historical Site,
http://gardnerlibrary.org/encylopedia/camp-michaux-historical-site, accessed 3/6/2018