Great Outdoors Month
Rabideau Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp, Beltrami County, Minnesota
|Rabideau CCC Camp
Photograph courtesy of U.S. Forest Service
The Rabideau Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp is located in the Chippewa National Forest in central Minnesota. The camp is nationally significant for its association with the CCC, arguably the most acclaimed and successful of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs. From 1933-1942, the Corps employed three million young men and virtually changed the landscape of the United States through conservation projects on millions of acres of land, the program also expanded the nation's state and national parks and forests. Long considered one of the great conservation programs in the history of the United States, recent scholarship also suggests that the CCC revived the conservation movement that had begun during the turn-of-the-century Progressive Era and popularized the concept of conservation with the American people. Furthermore, the expansive programs of the CCC influenced and facilitated the emergence of the modern environmental movement. More than any other New Deal initiative, the CCC reflected Roosevelt 's personal ideas and philosophy in which he expanded the concept of conservation to include both human and natural resources. The camps of the CCC were intended to not only restore the nation's natural resources but also the unemployed young men of America. In time, CCC projects also included disaster relief, historic restoration projects, and national defense.
The nation's 4,500 CCC camps were the key component in the success of the CCC program, creating the mechanism for executing its conservation initiatives and providing the setting for the rejuvenation and training of the young men who participated in the program. Of these thousands of camps, only a few survive, and among them, the Rabideau camp retains exceedingly high integrity. The Park and Forest Service were responsible for the actual work projects of the CCC, which would be supervised and operated by the Army, the men were recruited by the Department of Labor through a nationwide recruiting system.
The Rabideau Camp is among the most important properties in the United States in which the history of the CCC and the New Deal can be experienced and interpreted. The Chippewa National Forest, created in 1902, saw its boundaries increase due to the CCC. The establishment of the Rabideau CCC camp F-50 was announced in 1935. A picturesque site was selected six miles south of Blackduck, Minnesota between Carls Lake and Benjamin Lake amid a stand of birch trees. Construction of the Rabideau Camp was begun with civilian labor and the camp was nearly complete when its first occupants arrived, Company 3749. The CCC Company had been formed at Bennett Springs State Park near Lebannon, Missouri in July 1935 under the direction of Lt. Jefferson T. Myers of the United States Army. By late September construction of the camp was finished. The camp's next occupant was Company 708, which was to remain until the camp closed in 1941. The company had organized on May 5, 1933, at Camp Snelling, Minnesota under Captain Ernest F. Boruski of the Third Infantry, who was also referred to as the camp commander. Conservation work included fire hazard removal, roadside cleanup, planting and thinning trees, and other forest culture work. The camp day began at 6:00 am and after breakfast was served in the mess hall the men would line up at the camp's entrance at about 8:00 a.m. to wait for the day's work assignments from the Forest Service. Trucks would take the men to their work sites, and return at 4:00PM in time to shower before dinner.
Work projects by the Rabideau Camp involved nearly all aspects of forest management including tree planting, timber stand improvement, fire fighting, surveying, logging, trail building, bridge construction, and stream erosion control, as well as developing swimming beaches, recreational areas and other construction projects. After the Rabideau Camp closed in 1941, the property was left vacant for the remainder of World War II. Then in August 1945, four representatives from the Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, of the University of Illinois at Urbana visited Chippewa National Forest in the hopes of finding a suitable facility for use as a summer surveying school for university students. They concluded it would be, and the university used the ground until 1973. On June 16, 1976, the Rabideau Camp was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Forest Service subsequently developed a management plan for the camp that resulted in the restoration of the current Mess Hall, Hospital, Army Officer's Quartets, and one of the barracks. The historic district includes 12 contributing buildings, and other sites of interest including the water tower base, the hospital, and flagpole, among others. CCC architecture was not meant to be permanent, so the survival of this camp allows visitors to experience the camp as it existed.