A Look Back at the Ccc Camps
|Owen Price, second from left, and others receive instructions from the sergeants at the CCC camp.|
The memories of the CCC camps are still bright in the mind of Owen Price, 92, Orangeville resident. He enjoys retelling the stories of days long past when he was young and working in the camps.
The Civilian Conservation Corps. was the brain child of then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was the most popular of the New Deal work agencies. The CCC put a total of 2.5 million young men to work in the forests and also on BLM land. They lived under Army supervision. Jobs included: feeding wildlife, counting game, battling Dutch Elm disease, clearing beaches and camping grounds, building fishing ponds and fighting forest fires. Forty-seven CCC men lost their lives during that time fighting fires.
One of their most noted activities was planting trees in the forests and other areas. Of all the trees planted in the nations first 175 years, more than half were planted by CCC members.
|A water control structure built just below where the Millsite Golf Course now sits.|
One of the major goals of the administration at that time was land conservation and reclamation. The drought and misuse of land brought about the "Dust Bowl" of the early 1930s. For years, dust storms continued casting an ominous black pall that turned noon into midnight on the Great Plains. In 1935, Congress created the Soil Conservation Service to address and seek solutions to the problems of erosion. Farmers were paid federal payments for engaging in practices to remedy the erosion problems.
A CCC camp was built in Castle Dale and in Ferron. Most of the workers for the Ferron Camp were from the Salt Lake area. Workers for the Castle Dale camp came from back east. Owen Price said, "Those CCC boys from Utah made off with about 50 girls from Ferron. They took them away from Ferron and most settled in the Salt Lake area. But, interestingly enough the boys from back east that came to Castle Dale, married a lot of the local girls and then stayed here in the area. The man that started Ray's Tavern in Green River, Ray Sherrill was a CCC boy who married a local girl. Joe Grant married a local gal and stayed here and Darrell Brady from Salt Lake married a Petty girl and he went on to work in Murray for the water company.
|CCC boys work on timber harvest in the right fork of Huntington Canyon. |
"I think one of the most important things about the CCC program was to teach the young men a trade. I learned how to be a cat operator. Others learned carpentry and other trades.
"We harvested timber and planted trees. I was in charge of the horses when I was in the Mount Pleasant camp. Another guy and I would stay with the 42 horses in a sheep camp and have them harnessed and ready when the trucks brought the boys up in the mornings. I used to ride around on one of the horses to check on the other horses. We would shoe, feed and just take care of them. The workhorses were the most important part of camp. We worked on a spillway above Mount Pleasant. We worked on flood control all that winter. We also worked on the lower Gooseberry reservoir. The ground was sure hard digging. We did have some fun too at the camps, sometimes we would race the workhorses.
|The spillway work done by the CCC at Boulger Reservoir in Huntington Canyon.|
"In Ferron Canyon we worked on the road up to the Ferron Reservoir and we replaced what was just a wagon trail. When we first went into Mount Pleasant, the community didn't think they liked the CCC kids, but when it was time for us to leave, there wasn't a dry eye in Mount Pleasant. Most of the boys were between 18-20 years old that worked in the camps. I joined the CCC in July of 1934. There was a large fire in Huntington Canyon-Upper Gooseberry during that time which we helped put out and a large rainstorm came along and helped us put that fire out.
"We also worked on a drift fence that's still in place. We helped build the Stuart Guard Station in Huntington Canyon and planted trees all around there. One of the trees we planted became the National Christmas tree in 1996. It was cut down and transported all the way to Washington. D.C. I was there at the ceremony where they cut the tree down. It was quite an experience for me.
|A truck pulls under the makeshift tipple to load with dirt for a CCC project.|
"We worked on a lot of irrigation and flood control projects in and around Ferron Canyon. One project was right below where the golf course is now, it would help direct the flood waters that came down. The Ferron Camp was known as Ferron CCC 959. The Ferron camp boys worked on the Skyline Drive road. It was quite the trick making teamsters out of city kids. But, those city boys came along and made pretty good workers. They relied a lot on us farm boys to show those city kids the ropes. These CCC camps were the best thing that ever happened to boys that age. It kept them out of trouble and made men out of boys. They built character. A lot of those boys went on to become really successful in business and politics. A lot became truck drivers with the new skills they had learned. I think the CCC started in 1933 and went on to around 1945. One of my brothers was also in the CCC camps and I think there were 30-40 camps in Utah during that time.
"It helped give us a job through the depression. We had a reunion of the Ferron Camp boys in 1980 and a lot of them attended. It was at the Ferron rodeo grounds. We also worked on campgrounds and built picnic tables, I think one of the tables is still left at Willow Lake. When we were in camp we were under the jurisdiction of the military and when we went into the forest then the US Forest Service was in charge.
"Some of the CCC boys worked in the desert of the San Rafael. They built the Swinging Bridge and also ponds out there. The CCC also built rock walls in Orangeville Canyon. The CCC camps would get together and play baseball. The camps also put out a newsletter and I still have a couple of them today. It was called the Desert Breeze. The newsletter would just update everyone on projects and tell stories about completed projects. We also worked on a spillway coming out of Boulger Reservoir. It was a great project, but now the forest service went in and tore that out and put in some big concrete structure that looks totally out of place up there. But, they say it's for our safety. I'm still mad about that," said Price. The Ferron boys also placed rock dips in the Narrows in Ferron Canyon.
|Glenna and Owen Price with granddaughter, Sara Grindley in front of the tree which went to Washington D.C. for the National Christmas tree. The tree was planted by the CCC boys at the Stuart Guard Station in Huntington Canyon.|
Price left the CCC camps and went on to work for various construction companies through the years. He also signed up for duty in World War II at the age of 32.
The stories of bygone eras will be lost as the people who know these stories pass on. It's important to record and preserve the messages of the past to learn from them and to just be in awe of the fortitude of those people who built reservoirs with wagon teams and picks and shovels. What lessons can we learn from the past if we are just willing to listen?