Thursday, January 16, 2020

Civilian Conservation Corps: Roosevelt's New Deal

Several months ago, My Cowboy and I were riding around on the backroads of Mississippi one Sunday afternoon. We meandered down one road and crossed the “canal”, then later we crossed it again on a different road.

Something niggled at my brain and I asked if he thought the canal was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). A research trip (online) was in order! While I have yet to discover if the canal was built by the CCC, I did find tons of amazing things that were constructed in my neck of the woods.

But first, a bit about the CCC.

The CCC was a voluntary public work relief program to create jobs, education and skills for young unmarried men in the 1930s during the Great Depression. It was the brainchild of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided manual labor where needed in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.

In operation for nine years, the CCC saw 3 million young men pass through its ranks. The outbreak of World War II brought a halt to the program as young men were drafted into the armed forces.

Here are just a few of the projects completed in and around where I live…

Union High School, Union, MS: The National Youth Administration constructed the 1938 1-story vocational building at the Union High School. Superintendent of construction was Simon Brown. The building remains in use by the school system.

Leake County Courthouse, Carthage, MS
Photo: Susan C. Allen © Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 10/03/2015 
Leake County Courthouse, Carthage, MS. The three-story, brick and cast stone Art Deco courthouse was constructed 1935-36 as Public Works Administration (PWA) Project Miss. 1042. It was remodeled in 1976.

Neshoba County Library, Philadelphia, MS
Photo: Susan Allen © Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2013 

Neshoba County Library, Philadelphia, MS. The rustic log cabin was the first library built in Philadelphia, Mississippi, although the library had been established several years earlier in space in two other buildings. It was a community effort spearheaded by the Twentieth Century Club. The WPA also provided the first paid librarians.

The building, relocated to a park when a new and modern library was constructed, was almost totally destroyed by a tornado in 2011. Only the flooring, chimney, and fireplace remained. It was reconstructed in 2013 in a joint effort of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and City of Philadelphia.

Shockaloe Trail, Bienville National Forest
, Source © 2016 Trail And Ultra Running
Bienville National Forest Improvements, Forest MS. The CCC workers built roads, cleared trails and took on the task of reforestation, but they also reeducated locals with the idea that “public land was to be appreciated and was not simply a place to log, trespass and burn.”

This is just a sample of the many projects the CCC completed in the nine years it was in existence, not to mention the lives it changed in the young men who got to be a part of it. It was a fascinating period of history and I can’t help but think that many young men and women would benefit from being involved in a similar program in this day and age.

Do you know of a CCC project where you live? If not, check out this resource on the Living New Deal CCC Projects in your stomping grounds. You might be surprised!


  1. My husband's uncle served in the CCC. And when I was in high school (n the '70s) there was a Youth Conservation Corp sponsored by the forestry service that gave summer jobs to teens. Another one of the jobs that FDR had as part of the New Deal were for writers to create history books of each state. They would travel their state collectings stories from residents and visiting lesser known historical sites.

    1. That's cool! I just think the whole thing had the mark of brilliance. :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. There was a CCC camp building in a town near where I grew up. I don't know what projects they worked on, but my history-loving husband is going to check it out!!! Thanks for the post.

    2. Oh, he'll have a blast! When I started looking at the projects just within 50 miles of me, I was really surprised. Even some in tiny little communities that aren't even on most maps!