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Recognizing the Conservation Work of Black CCC Companies in PA

February 21, 2018 04:00 PM

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Group photo taken shortly after the camp was established and before the barracks were built at Penn-Roosevelt State Park (1933)

From 1933 to 1942, hundreds of thousands of unemployed men worked as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 151 camps throughout Pennsylvania.

Some camps were on army bases, some were in national parks, some worked with the soil conservation service, but most camps were in state parks and forests.

The CCC men fought forest fires; planted trees; constructed roads and buildings; built picnic areas, swimming areas, and campgrounds; among many other important job duties.

Unfortunately, during this time period, corps work was often segregated. There were 12 black CCC camps across Pennsylvania during the 1930s. Without the hard work of these corps members across the state, many state parks would not be what they are today, including Penn-Roosevelt and Pymatuning state parks.

Company 361 at Penn-Roosevelt State Park

EDITED IMAGE - Penn-Roosevelt State Park 361-c.jpg

Official company portrait, taken 1933-35 by D. J. MacDonald.

Penn-Roosevelt State Park did not exist until June 5, 1933, when members of the CCC Company 361 arrived to set up a work camp during the height of the Great Depression.

The camp at Penn-Roosevelt was first known as Camp S-62, Stone Creek Kettle. The camp at Stone Creek Kettle was one of the 12 black camps in Pennsylvania.

Corps members lived at the camp and constructed recreational facilities, including a 195-foot log-crib dam that has since been stone-faced. They also built many of the surrounding forestry roads and trails. Two fireplaces, a unique stone bake oven, and other ruins of the camp can still be found.

Other commendable efforts by Company 361 include:

  • In May 1934, the company was called to fight one of the largest forest fires in the history of Mifflin County, Pa. The Forestry Service sent “Letters of Commendation” to the company for their valiant services.
  • On May 3, 1935, the company was honored with a personal inspection by the Corps Area Commander, who highly commended their accomplishments in development and beautification of their camp site.
  • From March 18 to April 14, 1936, the company was called to assist in the rescue and rehabilitation work during the time of and after the severe flood at Sunbury, Pa. Many commendatory letters were received as a result of the valiant efforts during the grave crisis in Pennsylvania’s history.

Company 2312 at Pymatuning State Park

Company 2312 located at Westford, Pa., was organized in 1935. During this time, the CCC built Camp NP-11-PA at Pymatuning.

Major work projects included:

  • The construction of a state garage
  • Building of numerous parks
  • Fighting forest fires and being involved in fire prevention efforts
  • Moving and planting trees and shrubs
  • Getting rid of undesirable structures
  • Engaging in emergency flood relieve work
  • Making topographic surveys
  • Building roads, shelters, camp tables, benches, bridges, culverts, sewers, wells, camp stoves, trails, and parking areas

The company was called to fight three major fires and their efforts saved a great deal of valuable property in local communities.

The communities welcomed the great work of these corps members. During major flooding, the company was called to do rescue work in Pittsburgh and Johnstown. At one point during winter, snowfall was so heavy in the area that people were unable to travel to and from work, but the company members helped them.

Learn More About the CCC

To learn more about the CCC and the great work accomplished by black CCC companies, during Black History Month and year-round, visit DCNR’s website. At the bottom of the CCC Years web page, you can learn more about specific CCC companies, camps, or individuals.

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