During the Great Depression of the 1930s the federal government started numerous programs to provide jobs. One, based on an earlier New York State program established by then Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
The CCC employed about 3.5 million young men nationwide, with about 210,00 of them at 116 camps across New York State. The camps, for men only, were supervised by the U.S. Army and the Soil Conservation Commission.
Many of the camps were near-complete villages, with such facilities as barracks and officers’ quarters, a mess hall, medical clinic, and recreation and instructional facilities. All of the equipment, trucks, tractors, and official automobiles were maintained and repaired in shops in the camp. Movies were provided and Army chaplains attended to religious needs. The Army took care of the housing, feeding, shelter, recreation, and education of the men, and “delivered the youths to the Soil Conservation Service in the morning.”
CCC camps provided income and training and it’s said that much of their income was sent home to support impoverished and unemployed families. Some local residents near an early camp on State Route 12-B about a half-mile south of Deansboro, Oneida County, were apprehensive about a camp of single young men in poverty nearby. The camp at Deansboro included 22 buildings. An open house was planned so the public could visit this “miniature city.”
A reporter for the Clinton Courier visited a CCC camp in Sheds, Madison County, south of Cazenovia on State Route 13 in September 1939. Farmers were the main beneficiaries of the work done by this camp, with soil erosion work a priority. Soil conservation projects included helping farmers lay out contour strip fields, constructing diversion ditches, reforestation and erosion control, and other soil and water saving work. The reporter, who described the men in camp as “enthusiastic and happy in their camp life,” shared lunch and chatted with them in the mess hall.
The camp had an official newspaper, Chenango Trail News, produced by the camp. A copy donated to the Clinton Historical Society by Ira Cooperman has 19 pages of news about upcoming educational opportunities, sports and recreation, an article on typhoid vaccinations, one on playing the piano, and humor. A brief paragraph explained the newspaper’s name. “An old Indian trail used to pass along the route later used as a basis for a Binghamton-Utica highway. In memory of this old trail, the editors have decided to name this paper “Chenango Trail News.”
Lt. Wetzel, commander of the camp, wrote of his goals and objectives, which included improving the men’s discipline and appearance and improving the grounds and facilities. The paper reported on weekly recreation trips to Utica, some of the men’s girlfriends, and a new washing ramp in the garage for automobiles. The camp cooks, the library, first aid courses, and the volley ball team were included.
The paper also includes a roster of men. Most were from Utica, with others from around the state from New York, to Albany, Lake Placid and Buffalo. Interestingly, none from Clinton were listed.
Photo of Deansboro CCC Camp flag pole and three buildings.