Historical Markers
Civilian Conservation Corps Historical Marker
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Civilian Conservation Corps

Valleys of the Susquehanna


Marker Location:
Route 14 North of Trout Run

Dedication Date:
September 28, 1996

Behind the Marker

The 1930 graduating class of McKeesport High School did not have much to be optimistic about. Despite its industrial base, the Pittsburgh suburb was, like the rest of the nation, stuck in an economic slump. Three years after receiving his diploma, Leonard Parucha found himself boarding a train in Pittsburgh to enlist in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

With nothing more than a one-way train pass, a 35-cent meal ticket, and dreams of a better life, Parucha, like nearly 200,000 other Pennsylvanians, thought the CCC might provide the work he needed. "They [CCC laborers] were also helping to conserve and strengthen their own lives and character by this wholesome work that they were doing in the forests under army discipline," recalled Parucha, who worked for thirty-one months in a camp in North Bend, Pennsylvania.

A group of about 25 young men are posed in front of a tent.
Members of the Forestville CCC Camp, Wyoming State Forest District, Sullivan...
During the 1930s, Pennsylvania was in dire straits. Burdened with a state unemployment rate that crested at more than 37 percent, the state had a million workers without jobs at the height of the Great Depression. Simultaneously, what was once the Commonwealth's greatest natural resource - its forests - were suffering from decades of relentless logging. The cut-over lands that had fallen under the protection of a fledgling state park system suffered from neglect, disease, and the ever-present threat of forest fires.

Soon after taking office in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the CCC to give unemployed men meaningful jobs improving the nation's infrastructure and environmental resources. Fully funded and operational within one month, the CCC, later known as "Roosevelt's Tree Army" and the "Colossal College of Calluses," remained an important New Deal program for nine years before its dissolution in 1942.

Photograph of men gathering at the mess tent for dinner.
Mess call at the E.C.W. Camp, Licking Creek, Rothrock State Forest, Mifflin...
While Roosevelt may rightly take credit for the national program, it was Pennsylvania Governor marker Gifford Pinchot who laid much of the groundwork. Winning the office of governor in 1922 and then again in 1930, Pinchot, who had served as Chief Forester of the U. S. Division of Forestry under Theodore Roosevelt, had already developed a network of labor camps to employ workers in road building and conservation work. Pinchot's program led to the construction of marker20,000 miles of paved roads, mostly in rural, agricultural areas, and his worker camps set a template for the CCC camps that followed.

Considering Pinchot's involvement, it is not surprising that Pennsylvania was second only to California in the number of CCC camps in operation. Between 1933 and 1942, 194,527 Pennsylvanians were employed in 114 CCC camps across the state. Nationally, the program employed a total of three million men in 5,000 camps that spanned every state, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Black and white image of dam in the midst of construction. Bolders and pine in foreground. Several men observing and working.
CCC boys at work below the Parker Dam, Moshannon State Forest District, Clearfield...
The CCC had a lasting impact on the lives of the men it employed. Providing a small salary of $30 a month - most of which the men sent home to their families - as well as room and board, the camps promoted military-style discipline, and ended up training a ready reserve for the armed forces in World War II.

The camps also offered educational programs to help the enlistees. Teaching everything from literacy to social courtesy, first aid to motor mechanics, and cabinet making to citizenship, the CCC's classes were tremendously popular. In District Number 2, Third Corps in Pennsylvania, a full 79 percent of the workers enrolled in the classes. "The CCC has earned and received the approbation of the people of our country. Useful work has been done with great benefit in the training of our young men in character and citizenship," wrote Major General A.J. Bowley.

Its marks are also clearly visible to those visiting the national and state parks that stretch across the Commonwealth. In Pennsylvania alone, CCC laborers, who worked under the slogan, "We can take it!" developed the Blue Knob, Hickory Run, French Creek, Laurel Hill and Raccoon Creek state parks. Nationally, the CCC planted three billion trees, stocked more than one billion fish, built 57,000 bridges, and spent almost 6.5 million days fighting forest fires. Many CCC camp log cabins and bathhouses can still be seen today.

"We were new to the game then," marker recalled CCC veteran Donald Miller, "wondering what the future held in store for us - if we would be able to stick it out - or, as we learned to call it afterward, take it. Little did we realize then that there was untold happiness awaiting us in this forest refuge, away from the artificial pleasures of the city. Troubles, yes, we are never immune from them, whether in the midst of a maddening throng, or in a quiet, sylvan hideaway. But the greatest troubles for us were ended - starvation, want, and suffering.... We shall all cherish the memory of this brief adventure. We shall be proud to have been members of this army of pioneers, as our forefathers were proud of being the forerunners of a great nation. We say farewell with regret, but face the future with enthusiasm, feeling that we have proven ourselves men."
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