Heritage, 2009, Volume 3 Page: 21
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Unidentified man atop huge logs, Bastrop
i Cl o0se0 cvatc 0kState Park, circa 1934. Courtesy of Texas
S i Parks and Wildlife.
Legacy in Cherokee County
In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed the
Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was created for young
men between the age of 17 and 25 whose family were on relief.
Most of the inductees were malnourished, poorly clothed, had
few job skills, and less than one year of high school education.
About a dozen camps were established in East Texas, and two
were located in Cherokee County. One was built 14.5 miles
west of Rusk on the site of the former Meshaw prison-labor saw-
mill camp, established in the early 1900s and closed in 1917.
The other CCC camp in Cherokee County was established circa
1935 and was situated in west Jacksonville.
In 2008, three former Texas CCC members, brothers Ru-
ben and Forest Barrington, and James Metcalf were interviewed
by Jane Purtle of the Cherokee County Historical Commission,
and their oral testimonies about life in the Corps are part of that
group's archives. Although they were inducted two years apart, the
brothers both remembered walking the ten miles from their home
in Mixon to join. After passing their physicals, each recalled being
issued work clothes and wool army clothes-probably government
issue from World War I. While Floyd was assigned to the Meshaw
camp, his brother served at the Jacksonville unit.
Life at the two camps was similar. A quasi-military daily rou-
tine was followed that included six a.m. reveille, roll call and cal-
isthenics before breakfast, then marching and drills, with "Taps"
and lights out at 10 p.m. The men lived in barracks or large dor-
mitories with rows of cots. There was a mess hall and a separate
bathroom building; however, most of the men at the Meshaw
camp used the Neches River for their bathing and swimming.
Recreation consisted of playing basketball and baseball and trav-
eling to Jacksonville for a movie on Saturdays.
Men who had been promoted to the ranks of corporal or ser-
geant served as overseers. Each camp had an infirmary and a
doctor. The jobs at this CCC site were basically forest-related:
planting trees, cutting out the scrub brush, building flood bar-
riers, fighting forest fires, erosion control and land reclamation,
pest control, building fences, and digging drainage ditches.
Numerous roads and trails were built, and there was a creosote
plant where posts and telephone poles were treated.
Forest Barrington recalled that the work at the Jacksonville camp,
which housed 300 to 400 men, was farming-related. Most of the
responsibilities involved building ponds, clearing brush, cutting
grass, erosion control, and building roads. Barrington worked as a
surveyor and after spending three years at the Jacksonville camp, he
was transferred to the Sand Flat Camp in Smith County.
For all their hard work, both men received $30 a month, of
which $25 went directly to their family and the remaining $5
was their "play money." Both men stated that their family was
able to survive because of the CCC money.
In Purtle's third 2008 interview, she spoke with CCC enlist-
ee, James Ralph Metcalf, who, although he lived in Cherokee
County, did not serve in either of the county's CCC camps.
Instead, when he joined in 1940, Metcalf was assigned to the
Tyler CCC camp at Sand Flat near Tyler State Park. Like the
Cherokee County CCC sites, the Tyler camp also had barracks,
a mess hall, latrines, and other buildings; Metcalf reported the
same military-type routine as well. His company worked on Ty-
ler State Park building park structures, rock walkways and steps,
and digging a fire lane.
By 1940, the pay had improved, and Metcalf received $36 a
month, $30 of which was sent directly to his family. He remem-
bered that his father was able to cultivate a crop that year with
the CCC money that Metcalf sent home. Amenities at the camp
had also improved; there was a PX where candy, cigarettes, and
other items were sold. In May of 1941, Metcalf's company was
moved to Possum Kingdom Lake State Park; he was promoted
to corporal and supervised the building of roads in that park.
All three men who were interviewed entered the United States
Army after their time with the CCC. The training and experi-
ences in the CCC helped them adjust to Army life, but perhaps
the statement by Forest Barrington sums up the experiences of
many CCC men, "It taught me how to make a living."-Mary
Taylor, Cherokee County Historical Commission
HERITAGE Volume 3 2009
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 3, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254214/m1/21/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.