Exploring Camp Michaux

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Civilian Conservation Corps 1933-1942

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was an initiative begun in 1933 by Franklin Roosevelt as part of the New Deal. The Great Depression, which began with the crash of the stock market in 1928, was one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. As businesses and banks closed, over ⅓ of the US population became unemployed, creating a national crisis. President Roosevelt created the New Deal to give jobs and opportunities to the newly unemployed, including the creation of the CCC. While the program mainly intended to provide work, it also began a conservation movement in America’s parks and forests that involved everyday citizens.

Undated photograph of Camp S-51-PA in the winter. A large building, perhaps the Mess Hall, is in the foreground, and the barracks behind it. Source: http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/#CCC

Undated photograph of Camp S-51-PA in the winter. A large building, perhaps the Mess Hall, is in the foreground, and the barracks behind it. Source: http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/#CCC

The area we are studying in Camp Michaux was designated Camp S-51-PA, which indicated it was on state land. At the time, it was referred to as either Pine Grove Furnace Camp or South Mountain Camp, in reference to the known features of the region. It was one of the first CCC camps opened, and soon housed 200 men seeking work. Their first project was to construct the buildings, which survived for the next several decades. While most of the campers worked on this, the first small 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.

An undated photograph of the young CCC men at Camp Michaux, then known as Camp S-51-PA. Source: http://www.arcse.org/qCCCboys.htm

An undated photograph of the young CCC men at Camp Michaux, then known as Camp S-51-PA. Source: http://www.arcse.org/qCCCboys.htm

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.

The fountain, believed to be constructed by the CCC, as it looks today. Source: http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/history-dave-smith.htm

The fountain, believed to be constructed by the CCC, as it looks today. Source: http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/history-dave-smith.htm

There is more to learn about the CCC from Camp Michaux. Our archaeological research here hopes to find clues that will answer some questions we have about this period of Camp Michaux’s history. While historical records and photographs form the basis for most of what we know so far, we hope to gain better insight and paint a clearer picture to help tell the story of Camp Michaux.

To do this, some of the questions we are asking are:

  1. What was day-to-day life like as a CCC camper here? How did they work, play, and eat?  
  2. How did the CCC affect the reforestation of the Michaux forest and South Mountain? What archaeological traces can we find of this initiative?

Daily activities usually leave a trace – some things are dropped and forgotten, others are thrown away. We may expect to find glass objects like bottles, nails, and other metal objects like tools and cans. It may also be possible for us to find personal effects from the men, such as hair combs or dog tags, that could tell us who they were or where they were from. From these artifacts and the foundations of the camp buildings we can piece together what CCC life was like. 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. By documenting the ecology, we can learn what parts of the forest were affected by the CCC and use those areas as places to perform potential archaeological surveys.

Using a database called GIS, which stands for Geographic Information Systems, archaeologists can examine the landscape of an area such as Camp Michaux to identify important natural resources. We can use aerial photographs to physically see the affect the CCC had on Michaux forest, such as where the buildings were constructed and which parts of the forest became denser from planting trees. Also part of this database are Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), which can show us faint traces of structures on the ground that other tools may not be able to see. With the tools in the database and ground survey techniques, it is possible to paint a picture of everyday life at Camp Michaux almost a hundred years ago.

Useful Sources

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

http://paconservationheritage.org/stories/the-civilian-conservation-corps-ccc-1933-1942/

Speakman, Joseph 

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

 

Created by Olivia Ellard and Marc Morris

Pre-Contact Period

Over 10,000 years ago, in the Paleoindian Period, small groups of ancient Native Americans were roaming an American landscape, very different from the one we know today. Massive glaciers extended all the way down to northern Pennsylvania and the climate in the Michaux State Forest was much colder and dryer, but was warming gradually.

The Native Americans of this time roamed vast territories, within which they followed the migrations of the animals that they ate, such as massive mammals (called megafauna), like the mastodon and the giant sloth. However, smaller game was a more important resource in the Camp Michaux region and migrated following seasonal plants.

Paleoindians used a variety of carefully crafted stone tools for a multitude of purposes. Groups were very selective in their tool-making materials, preferring volcanic rock, which is abundant in the Camp Michaux region.

Projectile points collected from the Shoop Archaeological Site in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, dating back to the Paleoindian Period. Photo courtesy of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, via http://statemuseumpa.org/dauphin-county-projectile-point-collection-ice-age/

Projectile points collected from the Shoop Archaeological Site in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, dating back to the Paleoindian Period. Photo courtesy of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, via http://statemuseumpa.org/dauphin-county-projectile-point-collection-ice-age/

The Archaic Period was a time of great environmental change, and serves as a long transition between the Paleoindian and Woodland periods. Lasting between 10,000 and 5000 years ago, the Archaic Period saw the environment become closer to what we know today, as our current geological period, the Holocene, began. This environmental shift allowed  for the expansion of plant growth and animal and human development. Camp Michaux would have seen large growth in the forests and a rise in the abundance and variety of small game, making it a very favorable place to inhabit.

Northeastern Paleoindians processing recently killed caribou at a hunting camp. Photo of mural in Maine State Museum, courtesy of Almay via http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-paleoindian-caribou-hunters-in-north-america-11073453.html

Northeastern Paleoindians processing recently killed caribou at a hunting camp. Photo of mural in Maine State Museum, courtesy of Almay via http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-paleoindian-caribou-hunters-in-north-america-11073453.html

Generally, during this time the lifestyle of Native Americans did not change very much. They remained mobile hunter-gatherers until the very end of the period. However, with the end of the last Ice Age, megafauna became extinct because of a combination of the climatic shift and hunting by the Native Americans. Diets shifted to include more small game, but more importantly people began to rely on fishing and harvesting shellfish to support their diets along with seeds and nuts. However, culturally, there was one important development. It is during the Archaic Period we see the first evidence of long distance trade of food, stone tools, and decorative ornaments.

Stone tool technology, also, did not see any large or dramatic changes. Rather, there were small improvements, like the attachment of stone points to sticks using notches at the bottom of spearheads.

With the transition from the Archaic to the Woodland Period, the climate in the Camp Michaux area was what we see today. In the earlier portions of this period, Native Americans, in the Eastern Woodlands relied primarily on the abundance of natural resources and cultivation of crops such as little barley, maygrass, and knotweed. Later, this cultivation intensified and the Native groups became dependent on domesticated crops like corn, beans, and squash. Eventually, as gathering decreased in prevalence, they began to settle down into villages. The population of these villages increased significantly over time, and features, such as storage pits, developed. Pottery also developed significantly during this time and ceramic styles became increasingly more complex and elaborate.   

Reproduction of a Native American village during the Late Woodland Period depicting the daily lifestyles of the villagers. Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commision via http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/archaeology/native-american/late-woodland-period.html

Reproduction of a Native American village during the Late Woodland Period depicting the daily lifestyles of the villagers. Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commision via http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/archaeology/native-american/late-woodland-period.html

Camp Michaux is a promising candidate for a pre-contact Native American site. It is located in a river valley, as many of these sites are, and is rich in the types of materials that were used to create stone tools. The site is located in an area that would have been ideal for small game hunting and gathering. However, there is still much to be uncovered about the potential Native American inhabitants of Camp Michaux. So far, their culture, social structure, and ways of acquiring food are still speculative. Our main questions pertaining to this period are:

  • Why were they there? Based on previously studied settlement patterns, we know that most Native Americans inhabited valley areas, either for temporary or permanent camps. This site could have been utilized in a number of ways, including, hunting, gathering, quarrying, or as a place to bed down for the night.
  • What did they eat? There were a variety of edible natural resources in the Camp Michaux area, such as, nuts, fruits, small game, and fish. Also, over the thousands of years before European contact, Native American diets shifted based on changes in climate, technology, and agriculture.
  • How did the lives of Native Americans change between each period? While we do know how the environment changed over time, we have less evidence of how these changes impacted the daily lives of native populations at Camp Michaux.

Things such as stone tools, animal remains, charred plants, and stone structures could help us answer our questions and provide further insights into the lives of Precolonial Native Americans at Camp Michaux. Due to the ancient and under-researched nature of this site and time, any find, large or small, would prove exciting and informative!

 

If you would like to learn more about the history and pre-history of Native Americans in Pennsylvania, we recommend these sources:

 

Carr, Kurt W. and Roger W. Moeller

2015     First Pennsylvanians: The Archaeology of Native Americans in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

https://www.amazon.com/First-Pennsylvanians-Archaeology-Americans-Pennsylvania/dp/0892711507

 

History Channel

2009 Native American Cultures. Electronic Document, https://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/native-american-cultures, Accessed March 22, 2018.

 

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

2015 Timelines. Electronic Document

http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/archaeology/native-american/time-periods.html, Accessed March 22, 2018.

 

Penn State Public Broadcasting

Paleoindian Period in Pennsylvania. Electronic Document

http://pspb.org/archaeology/media/Paleoindian%20Period-Textv3.pdf, Accessed March 22, 2018.

 

National Park Service

2018 Pre-Contact. Electronic Document,

https://www.nps.gov/cajo/learn/historyculture/pre-contact.htm, Accessed March 22, 2018.

 

Created by: Cecilia Brine, Sophia Miretskiy, and Ethan Rao-Cramer

 

Bunker Hill Farm and Pine Grove Iron Furnace Period 1785-1924

The first European colonists operated farming settlements around the Northeast throughout the 18th century. Central Pennsylvania, and specifically Cumberland County, at this time was widely home to German settlers who likely utilized the land that became Bunker Hill Farm in 1785. The farm was functioning before the United States had even elected their first president, who would be George Washington in 1787. Washington’s presidency would mostly be characterized as peaceful, however this peace did not last long as the British soon began restricting US trade and imprisoning American seamen, leading to the War of 1812. During the war, embargoes created an increased need for domestic items such as clothing and ironworks. Businessmen took advantage of this opportunity and began to industrialize. When the War of 1812 ended in 1815, America had begun an industrial revolution, with iron quickly becoming one of the most prevalent industries. In 1861, with many states having already seceded, the Civil War began. This war lasted four years, ravishing most of the Southern and Eastern parts of the United States, including areas close to Camp Michaux like Gettysburg. Iron continued to be an important industry during this war, as there was high demand for the material to manufacture weapons. After the Civil War, the United States began a period of reconstruction in the South. This period of reconstruction called for an excess amount of industrial supplies, which the Pine Grove Iron Furnace, established at Camp Michaux in 1794, would have produced. Pine Grove Iron Furnace continued to function through historical events such as economic depressions and World War I, until its closing in 1924.

Bunker Hill Farm was privately owned from 1785 until 1794, when the iron industry purchased it; the original structure is pictured below.

A photo of the original farm house at Bunker Hill Farm used throughout the various periods of occupation at Camp Michaux.

A photo of the original farm house at Bunker Hill Farm used throughout the various periods of occupation at Camp Michaux. Photo courtesy of the Camp Michaux Walking Tour by David Smith http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/WalkingTour.pdf

Some typical farm products that would have been produced here include grains such as wheat, corn, and rye, and animal products like milk, meat, and wool. When the iron industry bought the land with the farm on it in 1794, activity adjusted to serve the furnace. The farm continued producing food at a higher rate, but the most prominent activity at this time was the production of charcoal as fuel for the furnace. The picture below depicts what the furnace activity looked like in 1883.

A photo of the Pine Grove Iron Furnace operating in 1883 showing the extensive quarrying and deforestation of the surrounding area.

A photo of the Pine Grove Iron Furnace operating in 1883 showing the extensive quarrying and deforestation of the surrounding area. Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources via http://www.docs.dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks/findapark/pinegrovefurnace/index.htm.

To make charcoal, extensive deforestation and burning took place at Camp Michaux. Many workers were needed to carry out the production of charcoal, and of course to run the furnace itself to produce the iron. The furnace experienced a period of increased productivity from 1861 to 1877, during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but faced financial difficulties after these periods when demand suddenly decreased. The furnace held on and was functional until its closing in 1924.

There is still more to learn at Camp Michaux, and as we continue our archaeological work, we intend to try and find clues that can help us answer a few key research questions about the farm and iron furnace period. As we know, the introduction of Pine Grove Iron Furnace into the area would have dramatically changed the lives of those living and working at Bunker Hill Farm. We lack information, however, in exactly what changes occurred and what their degree of impact was in the area. The main questions we are currently focusing on for this time period include:

  • What physical remains can be found at Camp Michaux today that indicate the increase in amount of commodities Bunker Hill Farm had to produce after the introduction of Pine Grove Iron Furnace?
  • Since Pine Grove Iron Furnace required charcoal to operate, what were the impacts of extreme deforestation on the surrounding land? To what extent did the methods used for deforestation by the original farm and later by the iron furnace differ?
  • With the changes in the land, were there also changes in the layout of the farm? Were crop fields moved to different locations as deforestation and pollution increased? Were new crops or animals more commonly grown and raised to accommodate the increased activity at the iron furnace as well as its environmental impacts?

Physical remains such as iron products, animal bones, and potentially even foundational remains of old structures that we may find at Camp Michaux could help us answer the questions about the productivity of the farm and the layout changes that may have occurred.  Using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to detect changes in vegetation in the area and studying the components of the soil today can help us answer questions about how the deforestation progressed and the lasting effects of it on the land.

If you would like to learn more about the time period during which Bunker Hill Farm and Pine Grove Iron Furnace existed, here are some easily accessible books you may find at your local library that are also available for purchase on Amazon and some fun websites to check out!

 

Books:

McMurry, Sally

2017     Pennsylvania Farming: A History in Landscapes. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

Flower, Lenore Embrick.

1975     History of Pine Grove Furnace. The Cumberland County Historical Society, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

 

Websites:

History

War of 1812. Webpage, https://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812, accessed March 2, 2018.

 

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

History of Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Webpage, http://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/PineGroveFurnaceStatePark/Pages/History.aspx, accessed March 5, 2018.

 

Library of Congress Teachers with Primary Sources

The Industrial Revolution in the United States. Electronic document, http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/industrial-revolution/pdf/teacher_guide.pdf, accessed March 3, 2018.

 

Created by: Kalei Downing, Beth Eidam, and Marisa Schaefer

Prisoner of War Camp Period 1942-1945

On September 1st, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Just two days later, Britain and France (the Allied Powers) declared war, beginning the six-year conflict known as World War II. These years would be marked with catastrophic conflict. Nations passed drafts to raise world-class armies. For those citizens that remained on the “home front,” life did not get any easier.  Still recovering from the global economic downturn of the Great Depression, they had to organize blood drives, ration food, and help fund their armies. They also lived (and at times worked) beside Axis Prisoners of War held on their soil. Camp Michaux, served as one of the U.S.’s Prisoner of War (POW) camps.

The United States did not officially enter WWII on the side of the Allied Powers until December 11th, 1941, following the surprise Japanese attack on the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It had been assisting the Allies economically for years, but it was not ready for war. However, its factories were still available to produce tanks and aircraft, and land was available for use as various Army facilities. Some of the most important of these facilities were the Prisoner of War Camps like Camp Michaux. American POW Camps freed up other Allied soldiers (British, French, etc.) to fight rather than guard, and provided controlled areas for interrogation of Axis soldiers and officers.

During World War II, Camp Michaux served a very important role as the Pine Grove Furnace Interrogation Camp. This was where important Axis prisoners would be sent to be interrogated for information that could be vital to the U.S. victory in the war. According to available records, during their time at the camp, prisoners would be questioned, never tortured, and would have plenty of free time. We know that some prisoners had jobs around the camp such as cooks, stable hands for the horses, and were used to help maintain the camp and keep it clean. This camp was initially a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp before the war, so some of the buildings and barracks were used as new mess halls and barracks for the prisoners.

A photo of the interior of one of the prisoners’ mess hall with the Army star as well as the Third Service Corps emblem on the floor. Photo from the Pine Grove Furnace Park Office via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/.

A photo of the interior of one of the prisoners’ mess hall with the Army star as well as the Third Service Corps emblem on the floor. Photo from the Pine Grove Furnace Park Office via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/.

While it was a CCC camp, many additions were made to the property, and many of them have foundations that can be seen today. Some of the original features built by the men can be seen in pictures and in person, such as the log cabin and the fountain in the pictures below.

A photo showing one of the guard towers and a pathway leading to a Log Cabin which was not used by the army. Photo from the Pine Grove Furnace Park Office via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/.

A photo showing one of the guard towers and a pathway leading to a log cabin which was not used by the army. Photo from the Pine Grove Furnace Park Office via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/.

 

Photo showing the gate to the POW camp as well as the CCC fountain in the background. Copied by Chris Champion via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/

Photo showing the gate to the POW camp as well as the CCC fountain in the background. Copied by Chris Champion via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/

Some prisoners had the skills and time to create artwork or carvings during their days at the Pine Grove Furnace prison camp. We also know the basic structure of the camp from historical photographs, maps, and some archaeological evidence of foundations and building remains. The camp was set up in a similar fashion to other prisoner of war camps across America. It had a fenced in area with guard towers that had a mess hall for the prisoners to eat in, barracks for them to sleep in, and a building where they would be taken for interrogation, among others.

A map showing the original layout of the Prison Grove Furnace Camp. Via Defense Environmental Restoration Program Site Map 1996 (Relabeled) and http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/DERmapLarge.gif

A map showing the original layout of the Prison Grove Furnace Camp. Via Defense Environmental Restoration Program Site Map 1996 (Relabeled) and http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/DERmapLarge.gif

A photo showing the different barracks where prisoners lived in the camp as well as the fenced guarding the area. Photo from the Pine Grove Furnace Park Office via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/.

A photo showing the different barracks where prisoners lived in the camp as well as the fenced guarding the area. Photo from the Pine Grove Furnace Park Office via http://www.schaeffersite.com/michaux/.

There is, however, much we do not know about the POW period of Camp Michaux. Through archaeological evidence, we wish to answer questions such as:

  • What were the lives like of the prisoners of war? We can try to piece their lives together by finding artifacts, or item such as bottles or razors that can give us an idea of what the prisoners did during their time at Camp Michaux. We can try to figure out if any prisoners held jobs. If we find working tools that we can pair to historical evidence, we might be able to determine if the prisoners were working around the camp.
  • Were the prisoners allowed outside the camp for recreation or work? If we found items that were representative of German or Japanese prisoners outside of the prison camp boundaries, such as a figurine or a keepsake of some kind, we might be able to determine if the prisoners were allowed outside of the camp.
  • What else did they do during their free time? We might find carvings or other artwork that could tell us what the prisoners did in their free time. We can answer these questions by finding artifacts that can give us a look into the past and help us answer the questions about the lives of these prisoners. We may be able to tell what their lives were like just from everyday items.

If you’d like to do some research of your own on interrogation camps and the camp at Pine Grove Furnace, here are some sources that you could use!

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.

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Grove-Furnace-Prisoner-Interrogation/dp/0978564510

Van Cleve, Thomas C.

1942-1945    On the Activities of Two Agencies of the CPM Branch, MIS, G-2, WDGS: The Interrogation Section Fort Hunt, Virginia, Tracy, California and the MIS-X Section Fort Hunt, Virginia, Covering the Period from 1 August 1942 to 1 August 1945. United States War Department, Military Intelligence Division. http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/utils/getfile/collection/p4013coll8/id/2051/filename/2040.pdf

Laird, Matthew R.

2000 “By the River Potomac”: An Historic Resource Study of Fort Hunt Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mount Vernon, Virginia. National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/gwmp/potomac.pdf

Metcalf, P.L.

2000   Cumberland County History. The Pine Grove Prisoner of War Camp. 17(2): 118-130.

http://gardnerlibrary.org/sites/default/files/vol17n2.pdf#page=30

Krammer, Arnold

1983 Japanese Prisoners of War in America. Pacific Historical Review 52(1): 67-91.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/3639455?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 

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