ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED CONSERVATION SERVICE EMPLOYEES (ARCSE)

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CCC Work in WEST VIRGINIA

 

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West Virginia had about 67 camps.

 

Recollections from Ross Mellinger transcribed and edited by Betty Ball.

 

GLENDON P. BURTON. The CCC Camp Mr. Burton was assigned to was located at Elizabeth, WV.   He was one of four foremen in that camp and each foreman was responsible for the supervision of about 25 CCC enrollees when they were away from camp on a job.   In camp, they were under the supervision of an Army officer.   They were charged with carrying out the work planned by the technicians that were assigned to the soil erosion project, then (1934) known as the Soil Erosion Service.   They did such things as tree planting, building check dams for control of gullies, severe erosion problems, building fence to protect new plantings and existing woodlands.   Sometimes they were involved in fire suppression.   They did some tree seed collection for supplying the soil conservation nurseries.   Each foreman rotated jobs.   Each one had varying experiences.   One interesting thing about this particular camp was that the camp was started by a cadre from Indiana and that cadre was in charge of a CCC enrollee, what they called a Leader, and this Leader was so well liked by the people that worked under him that they named the camp after him -- Camp Crawford.   That was the only camp in the state of West Virginia that was ever named for an enrollee.   When that camp shut down, it was moved to Milton.   Glendon Burton went along with the other personnel who went with them and they did the same type work - worked on farms in erosion control activities.   After that camp closed down, that ended their career with the CCC camps.   That was about the time that soil conservation districts were being organized and Glendon Burton went to work for the Soil Erosion Service (later changed to Soil Conservation Service) as a Work Unit Conservationist in Gilmer County.   He was later a District Conservationist and was Area Conservationist (covering nine counties) in Parkersburg at the time of his death, March 9, 1969.

 

KENNETH B. "P.T." BARNUM was a foreman in the camp on the same level as Glendon Burton but in the camp at Union, WV, Camp Rowan.   (Camp Rowan was named for a Gap Mills, WV, native, Andrew Summers Rowan (1857-1943), the U. S. Army officer who carried President McKinley's message to the Cuban rebel, General Garcia in 1898.)   According to Ross Mellinger, P. T. was one of the most intelligent of the foremen, self-educated, well read, self-taught on a number of subjects.   When that camp closed, he was moved to Camp Fairfax in Berkeley County.   One of the main activities in Monroe County was grinding limestone (for use in treating farm land) and burning limestone.   To burn the limestone, they built stacks (oblong) made out of alternate layers of coal and limestone and backed it up with earth.   They burned the limestone in kilns (designed by Glenn H. Baker) and when it slacked down, it was white lime.   This was one of the main activities at Camp Fairfax.   The other activities were much the same as the other CCC camps, tree planting, making diversion ditches, etc.   For the diversion ditches, they assigned an enrollee a section of ditch to dig (by hand) and if he got done early in the day, he could take the rest of the day off.   They were each given about 25' of ditch to dig.   After this camp shut down, P. T. spent time in San Diego in the U. S. Navy, and after discharge went to Romney, WV, was assigned to inspection work on the watershed dams that were under construction.   When he retired, he moved to Florida, got a job as a surveyor for one of the land developers and spent years laying out streets and roads, all as a result of the training he got in CCC camps and the Soil Conservation Service.

 

GLENN H. BAKER came to Union, WV, about the same time as P. T. Barnum.   He came right out of West Virginia University as an engineer.   He was the principal mover in getting out limestone for the burning and grinding and got to be well known for the size of the dynamite blasts causing all the enrollees to run for cover.   He was also responsible for laying out of diversion terraces and check dams for gully control.   When the camp broke up at Hedgesville, he spent time at Elkins on engineering work.   He went from there to the State Office in Morgantown as State Conservation Engineer and then to Assistant State Conservationist for Watersheds and held that position until he retired.

 

NORRIS R. "LEFTY" CARYL came to the Soil Erosion Service Project 13 at Spencer right after he graduated from the New York Ranger School.   When he came in they were trying to get a timber survey of the project area completed.   Caryl took part in that timber survey.   In the summer of 1935 there were a lot of additional camps established.   These new camps were assigned to the Soil Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Erosion Service under the U. S. Department of the Interior) now an agency of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.   Caryl was assigned the position of Camp Forester and was responsible for developing the forestry parts of conservation plans and had overall supervision of CCC camps in tree planting, fence building, woodlot improvement, and sometimes fire suppression.   He was assigned as a supervisor of a side camp, comprised of about 25 enrollees who lived in tents on a land utilization project in Mason County.   In the spring of 1939 or 1940, they planted thousands and thousands of trees there.   All CCC camps were phased out in 1942.   (They were never abolished.   Congress simply failed to provide funds and they went out of existence.)   Lefty went to the Potomac District as Work Unit Conservationist at Romney, then District Conservationist, then Area Conservationist, and was then Assistant State Conservationist for Watersheds when he retired.    "Lefty" was in the Seabees (Construction Battalion - CB's) during WWII and was in charge of a heavy equipment unit in the South Pacific.

 

JOHN H. "JACK" MYERS came to Project 13 at Spencer in the early part of 1934.   He was assigned responsibilities for collection of tree cuttings, seed collection activities, and timber survey.   In the summer of 1935, he went to Camp Lewis in Greenbrier County, then Monroe County, where Ross H. Mellinger was located.   Jack was appointed as Camp Forester and had responsibility for the same things as at Spencer, tree planting, fence building, tree seed collection, fire suppression, woodland improvement, etc.   After Camp Lewis closed, he went to Princeton as Work Unit Conservationist.   He and Ross Mellinger divided up the state - Jack took the southern part and Ross took the northern part, each assuming Woodland Conservationist responsibilities in addition to their other duties as Work Unit Conservationists.   Later Jack became the RC&D Coordinator in Princeton, then transferred to Parkersburg as Coordinator for the Little Kanawha RC&D Project and retired from there.

 

 

ROSS H. MELLINGER started at Project 13 in Spencer in the summer of 1934.   Mainly that whole summer was involved in a timber survey of the entire area, up one hill and down another.   At the end of that summer, he was administratively attached to the CCC Camp at Billings in Roane County.   This camp was occupied by World War I veterans.   Mellinger was given the title of Draftsman; there was no other position open.   The camp superintendent was upset because Mellinger was stationed at the camp and the superintendent never saw who he was paying as a Draftsman.   That fall and winter Ross supervised CCC crews engaged in tree-planting, and backup on the timber survey.   The tree seedlings came from SCS nurseries, mainly one that was in Roane County opposite the camp occupied by the WWI veterans.   The next spring, there was expansion of the CCC camp under SCS and he was assigned as Camp Forester at Camp Rowan in Union.   That camp was moved to Hedgesville (Camp Fairfax).   He was responsible for the same activities as at Union.   Before that camp was disbanded, he was transferred to Pt. Pleasant and set up a project in Mason County called the "Farm Forestry Project."   That project didn't last long because along came World War II.   SCS needed a Work Unit Conservationist in New Martinsville in Wetzel County, so Ross moved there.   Glendon Burton was instrumental in his being transferred from New Martinsville to Elizabeth in Wirt County as Work Unit Conservationist.   After about five years in that position, he was promoted to Woodland Conservationist and was stationed in the Parkersburg Area Office for several years until State Conservationist Thomas B. Evans wanted that position in the State Office in Morgantown.   It was from Morgantown that Ross retired in 1970.

Ross with his wife Madge on their porch.

 

One of the 63 WV camps was Camp Hardy (WV-SP-2).   It was populated by the men of Company 1524.   It was in Hardy County just west of Mathias.   Hardy County is on the east side of WV, and is bordered by Virginia.   Camp Hardy's Officers Headquarters building still exists and is currently used as a residence.   Camp Hardy was open from 1935 - 1940.

 

One of the camp's projects was to build Lost River State Park.   The entrance to the park is about half a mile west of the camp.   Work in the park included 15 visitor cabins, a home for the superintendent, furniture for the superintendent's cabin, a swimming pool, a fire tower, a restaurant (which is now the visitor center), stables, a shelter at the top of the mountain, and an incinerator.

 

The stables are very much in use today.   Trail rides are a very popular park activity.   "Hidden Trails" provides half hour, one hour, and two hour rides.   The two hour ride goes up about a thousand feet to the Cranny Crow Overlook around 3200 feet above sea level.

 

 

Attempts to farm in this area had caused severe erosion.   Therefore, the CCC boys (nicknamed Roosevelt's Tree Army) did a lot of landscaping, and planting of trees.   The picture below, looking out a window of a CCC built shelter at Cranny Crow, shows the success of this reforestation.

 

Forest fires were a distinct hazard in the area so this tower was built along with rural phone lines.   Phone lines were necessary to alert the camp when a fire was spotted.

 

The Incinerator

   Assembled by Owen Lee April 7, 2004 - last updated July 17, 2011