Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region
 

 

Civilian Conservation Corps - 1935 to 1942

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

 

On July 1st, 1932 New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt accepted the nomination for President of The United States. The Nation at the time was immersed in the turmoil of the stock market crash, and city streets were lined with soup kitchens as unemployment ran rampant throughout the country. Farms were being foreclosed on at an unprecedented rate forcing families from their livelihoods and into destitution. Destructive farming practices had become a widespread epidemic in which massive plots of farmland were left fallow and abandoned across the Midwest. Drought conditions only exacerbated the condition of the farmlands giving rise to dust storms on a catastrophic scale.

Dust Bowl Time Line

Roosevelt campaigned for a “New Deal” and a more abundant life for the American people, one that held firm in the belief of the strength and will of this Nation’s resolve to rise above “The Great Depression”.   On March 4th, 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as President of The United States. Roosevelt’s inaugural address called for immediate action by any and all means deemed necessary to alleviate the struggles of a nation in need. On March 9th, 1933 an emergency session of the 73rd Congress was called to assess the needs of the nation and to devise a plan for action.  On March 27th, 1933 Senate Bill S.598 was introduced proposing a program that would conduct emergency conservation work across the nation as a means of combating the destruction of erosion that had caused the dust storms plaguing the Midwest, while at the same time employing thousands of young men across the country. On March, 31st FDR signed Senate Bill S.598 to initiate an extensive program to relieve unemployment and to manage the ecological disasters occurring across the nation.

View Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 Inauguration

On April 5th FDR signed Executive Order 6101 authorizing the establishment of Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) more commonly known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). On April 7th just two days later the first CCC enrollee was inducted into the Corps. Enrollment was initially made open to young men ages 16-25. Executive Order 6129 established on May 11th authorized the immediate enrollment of approximately 25,000 veterans of World War I and The Spanish American War. CCC enrollees would be paid a total of thirty dollars a month, of which twenty five dollars would be sent back to their home. CCC enrollees were contracted to work a period of six months and given the option to reenroll at the end of their term. By the end of 1935, 2,650 Civilian Conservation Corps camps were operating in all 48 states and in Alaska, Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

View footage of the CCC at work across the United States: Film # 1 and Film # 2

View local newpaper articles (1936-1937)

The Malheur Migratory Bird Refuge (Malheur National Wildlife Refuge) was established by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Refuge was expanded on February 21st, 1935 to incorporate the 164,503 acre Blitzen Valley. The Blitzen Valley was purchased using funds made available under provisions of the Act for the Relief of Unemployment through the Performance of Useful Public Works and the National Industrial Act as established under Executive Order 7106 signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, July 19th, 1935. Between April and July, 1935 three CCC camps were established on Malheur refuge to fulfill that purpose.


Sod House Headquarters

Est. April, 1935 – May, 1942


Camp Buena Vista

Est. July, 1935 – November, 1938


Camp Five Mile RF-1

Est. July, 1935 – July, 1941


The Sod House Camp was established on May 2nd, 1936 South of Burns, Oregon on the southern shoreline of Malheur Lake. The first major projects undertaken were the establishment of Refuge Headquarters consisting of six permanent structures including residence and utility buildings. The buildings were made with a “rubble construction” (chiseled stone) quarried from the Blitzen Valley. The Camp was closed for the winter months and reestablished in May, 1937 and remained in operation until the close of the camp in 1942. The initial camp was maintained as canvas tents prior to the building of wood barracks. The canvas camp was moved from Cottonwood, Idaho in May. Among the major contributions made by Camp Sod House were the construction of roadways, built hundreds of miles of boundary fence, placed miles of telephone poles and strung cable, they built a number of water control structures and gauging stations, and conducted various biological studies including bird banding and predatory bird control. The permanent structures built as the Refuge Headquarters are still standing and in use today as the Malheur Wildlife Refuge offices.

Camp Sod House Newspaper 1938

Completion Report for Construction at Refuge Headquarters 1936

Camp Sod House November 1940 Yearbook

A permanent residence structure was built at Buena Vista Station using a “rubble construction” (chiseled stone) quarried from the Blitzen valley between August and September, 1936. The initial camp was maintained as canvas tents prior to the building of wood barracks in April, 1937. Camp Buena Vista, as a centrally located camp, functioned as the main base for the three camps. Enrollees at this camp contributed to the majority of the CCC projects on the refuge including the maintenance of a grain camp used by all three camps.  Among the major contributions the camp provided were construction of the Center patrol Road while digging the east and west canals, built a number of bridges, built a number of water control structures and dams, placed miles of telephone poles and strung cable, placed hundreds of miles of fence, and fought fires. The permanent residence and one of the equipment sheds are still in use today. The Center Patrol Road remains in use, as well as a number of water control structures, bridges and canals.

Missouri Traveler Camp Newspaper 1937

View Camp Enrollees at Burns, Oregon Train Station

 

 

Camp Five Mile was located five miles north of the town of Frenchglen in the southern Blitzen Valley. Camp Five Mile was the smallest of the three camps although it contributed to a number of projects. The camp operated largely in cooperation with camp Buena Vista on a number of projects, primarily road construction and the establishment of telephone lines within the Blitzen Valley. The initial camp was maintained as canvas tents prior to the building of wood barracks. Among the major contributions the camp provided were renovation of both the P-Ranch house and the Frenchglen Hotel, and construction of a major tract of what is today State Highway 205. No structures remain of what was once Camp Five Mile, however there are several remaining contributions that are still in use today - the Frenchglen Hotel and State Highway 205.

Missour Traveler Newspaper for Camp Five Mile 1937

"Call of the CCC" poem written by an enrollee at Camp Five Mile

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

hand icon Click on map to view photographs and slideshows

Malheur Refuge 2011 Map

Map with thumbnail photos of CCC project areas

 

By the summer of 1941, desertion of enrollees and an overall lack of applicants began to affect the performance of useful public works projects as enrollees were leaving their camps for employment elsewhere. In the summer months of 1941 there were fewer than 200,000 enrolled in the CCC, operating in less than 900 camps across the country. The Dust Bowl had subsided and the nations’ economy began to rise decisively from the ruins of the depression.  The United States maintained a status of noninvolvement in the ever growing conflicts in Europe and Asia as fascism and imperialism grew more volatile. On December 7, 1941 Japan initiated hostilities with the attack on Pearl Harbor, “a day that will live in infamy”. FDR had envisioned the Civilian Conservation Corps as a “peacetime army” to confront economic and environmental issues crippling the country. With the nations’ entry into WWII all eyes turned to the imperative needs of defense. By June of 1942 the funding made accessible for CCC programs began to take a backseat to the rising need for defense funding. The House of Representatives voted in June to dissolve the CCC in favor of defense, the vote failed by a narrow margin in favor of a continuance of CCC funding. This vote was later overruled, placing the end date of all CCC program funding on July, 1, 1942.

The Civilian Conservation Corps is the United States of Americas’ most dynamic and wide-ranging conservation program to date. Many of the CCC projects shaped the landscape of the country, forever impacting our ways of life. Others have paved the way for innovations in land management. Some as is the case at Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters are still in use today.

Camp Sodhouse Final Narrative Report 1942

1942 Progress Report of Projects Completed by all Camps

CCC Then and Now

For more information about the CCC visit the Legacy of the CCC.

Research and development for this page compiled by Benjamin J. Garza, Cultural Resource Intern, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 2011

Base map created by Mike Towle, Geographic Information System Intern, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 2011

Last updated: August 3, 2011
click here to see historic photos from camp sod house image of Sodhouse Dam image of Center Patrol Road under construction image of Stubblefield Lookout Tower image of Rockcrusher Point image of state highway 205 under construction image of Frenchglen Hotel under construction by the CCC image of P Ranch House after additional construction by the CCC image of Benson Pond Patrol Station after construction image of ccc enrollees swimming in McCoy Creek slideshow of construction of the Rockford Lane Bridge Camp Buena Vista CCC slideshow slideshow of construction of Ramali Bridge slideshow of Ramali Bridge construction Camp Five Mile slideshow Page Springs Dam slideshow