Tidbits of Shelby County History
Civilian Conservation Corps
This week’s article is taken from a report written by Evelyn Biggar. It is about the CCC Camp in Shelby County, Texas.The CCC, which at its largest employed 500,000 men, provided work for a total of 3,000,000 during its existence. The CCC planted more than three billion trees and constructed trails and shelters in more than 800 parks nationwide during its nine years of existence. The CCC helped to shape the modern national and state park systems we enjoy today.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was an agency authorized by the government in 1933 as a part of the “New Deal.” Its purpose was to employ young, single men for public work. Called the “Tree Army” or C.C.C. some three million were involved before it was abolished in 1942. Willie Lout and George McLendon of Center were both enrolled. A boy had to be eighteen years old or his parents’ sign for him. Lout said he believed there were some as young as fifteen, but not many as old as twenty-five. The man had to be unemployed and family need was a big consideration. Young African American enrollees lived and worked in separate camps. There were no blacks in the Shelby County Camp.
McLendon and Lout said the camp was first in San Augustine and the men slept in tents. When the camp moved to Center, McLendon hired on as a carpenter to build the barracks and enlisted in the program April 11, 1934. Lout came in later. (Note: By July 1, 1933, 1,433 working camps had been established and more than 300,000 men put to work. It was the most rapid peacetime mobilization in American history.) The starting pay was $30 a month --$5 to the enrollee and $25 sent home to the family. The enrollees received sheets, cover, underwear, clothing, a “slicker” and two pairs of shoes (more than most had before.) There were three meals a day. Sheets were sent to the laundry, but the men washed their own clothing. No cars were allowed on the campgrounds.
The camp in Center was located on the future fair grounds, which would be located behind the Junior High School on Malone Drive. There were five barracks and a recreation hall. When the camp moved to Patroon in 1935, there were forty, six-men cabins. No shades graced the windows; wood from the trees furnished fuel for the heaters, and a dynamo provided electricity for lights. Flowers were planted to make the place look nice. For the younger ones there was night school – for a while Mack Cole taught at this school. The rule of no drinking, no swearing and no gambling was enforced. Discipline took the form of extra duty; a stronger measure was the dishonorable discharge from the C.C.C.
Mrs. Haden, from Timpson, wrote Lout about her husband, C.D. Haden, who was in the C.C.C. “He told me a funny story about a small group of C.C.C. boys shooting dice when the captain walked in. My husband was holding the dice, so he let them slip down the cuff of his pants. After much searching, the captain decided one of them had swallowed them. You guessed it, they all got a big dose of castor oil, but the dice never showed up.” Said Mrs. Haden.
The officers included Captain C.B. Wales, Lt. Danley, Lt. Prossen, Lt Hagins, Sgt. Pudrie, Sgt. Oris Holt, and Dr. Laried Oates was the medical officer.
The workday started with reveille; there was a flag ceremony before breakfast. After they ate, they were taken to work assignments. There was tree planting, forest clearing, bridge building, timber road construction, and firefighting. Two lookout towers were constructed, and the Milam camp dammed up Red Hill Lake and built a pavilion. The Patroon camp cut cedar for the original Boles Field building. Each week the men spread out and picked up every matchstick, cigarette butt and bits of trash on the compound.
In 1936, the Patroon camp dug up pine trees – big ones – boxed them up and sent them to Dallas for the Texas centennial on the fairgrounds. Someone said they remembered going to dances, but Lout said he didn’t remember many – just Fourth of July or something like that. Lout was a barber for the unit. He bought out the previous man, Murvel Adams, for $12 and cut hair for 15 cents. When the Patroon camp closed in 1936, McLendon didn’t go with them, but Lout made the move to Austwell. The time came when such work programs were no longer need and in 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps were abolished.
Note: An article in The Champion dated January 16, 1936, stated: New Commander to Take Charge of Patroon CCC Camp
Lieutenant Hagius Completes Tour of Duty; Returns to Oklahoma
Lieutenant H.H. Hagius, commander of CCC Camp F-13-T, has completed his tour of duty and will leave within the next ten days for Norman, Okla. He will be succeeded by Lt. Ensign J.E. Wagstaff, of the U.S. Navy, who has already arrived. Lt. Hagius has served as commander of the Shelby camp for the past nine months. He had been in service three months prior to that time making his period of service over a year, which is the legal limit for positions of this kind.
Men from Patroon Co. 880 sit in front of pine trees ready to ship to Dallas and be planted on the fair grounds for the Texas Centennial.
From left – 1 - - Jack Spann, #4 with sprayer –- Bill Schull, #7 bareheaded man in white – Willie Lout, in front middleman with hat James Kendricks