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The CCC and the NPS
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    Brief History of the CCC

    National Park Service Role

    NPS Camps


    Overall Accomplishments



The Civilian Conservation Corps and
the National Park Service, 1933-1942:

An Administrative History
Chapter Four:
National Park Service Arrowhead


The CCC not only had an impact on conservation programs in natural areas, but also played an important role in the development of historical and archeological work. When the ECW began, NPS officials thought primarily of using the enrollees on park development and nature conservation projects. However, in the summer of 1933 the War Department transferred 11 national military parks, 11 national cemeteries, 10 national battlefields, 10 national monuments, three memorials, and two national parks to the Park Service, and this increased the magnitude of work to be accomplished. To staff, maintain, and develop these new areas, the NPS used the various emergency relief programs and funds. [29]

Some park officials were concerned about the ability of ECW workers to accomplish archeological and historical projects, as was the War Department. In a letter to CCC Director Fechner, General Douglas MacArthur commented:

It must be borne in mind that the development of these parks has for its purpose the restoration of the battle fields and preserving historic locations, monuments and sites of battle. Consequently, such work as is done must be performed with this in view, in order that the trench system and other historic points may not be destroyed but retained in their present condition or restored to the condition they were in at the time of the battle. In other words, the Emergency Conservation Work to be performed must be in accordance with the plan of restoration already determined by the Commissions and approved by the Secretary of War. [30]

Despite these concerns, the Park Service embarked on a bold experiment using ECW funds to hire students with backgrounds in history and archeology to act as technical supervisors and researchers in the park and monument areas. At Morristown National Historical Park, the ECW enrollees began their 1933 work by clearing underbrush and doing fire protection work; then they did historical research to determine chain of ownership and archeological investigation to uncover data for planning historic restoration. Historical technicians were also used as interpretive guides. [31]

In 1934 ECW enrollees were given training in archeology and lectures on history before being put to work on cultural resource projects. In an address to a conference of park superintendents, NPS Chief Historian Verne Chatelain requested that before beginning work in historical areas superintendents consult with the historical technicians and the Washington Office to assure the best protection for the historical/cultural resources. Starting that year the historical technicians also wrote interpretive materials for the parks and planned park development. [32]

Historical and archeological projects were initiated in 1934 in many parks, including Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Colonial National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, Petersburg National Battlefield, Shiloh National Military Park, Vicksburg National Military Park, and Morristown National Historical Park. At Grand Canyon National Park the ECW enrollees were trained to do archeological excavations for Indian artifacts. After excavation, these relics were cleaned, restored, and placed on display. In military parks, the enrollees restored rifle-pits, rebuilt earthworks, excavated for relics, and readied these artifacts for display. Battlefields were also restored, and portions of ammunition dumps, soldiers' huts, dummy gun emplacements, and other items of military interest were reconstructed. The NPS policy was that restoration work would be limited to only those structures necessary to show the significance of the park. For example, the reconstruction of an entire fort would not be permitted, whereas portions might be reconstructed . At Colonial National Monument a major archeological excavation project was undertaken to conduct research on Jamestown. So much restoration and reconstruction work was undertaken at Colonial National Monument that a shop was established to make reproductions of colonial furniture and military equipment. Later, this shop constructed replica furnishings for other national and state park areas. It was hoped that this work would prepare the enrollees for carpentry jobs outside the ECW. [33]

In 1935 ECW Director Fechner praised the archeological work being done by enrollees at Morristown National Historical Park and the underwater archeological work at Colonial National Monument (salvaging two sunken British Revolutionary War frigates in the waters off Yorktown). He further commended the ECW for outstanding erosion control work at Vicksburg National Military Park, which helped preserve the site of Fort Nogales (Fort Hill), many monuments, and the historic battlefield topography. During that year enrollees undertook the reconstruction of historic siege lines at Colonial National Monument. To reduce the cost of maintenance for the reconstruction work, enrollees experimented with concrete made to resemble wood for wooden members of gun platforms and other features. [34]

The increasing historical and archeological program brought on by the transfer of War Department areas to the National Park Service and the need to better administer the cultural resources programs resulted in the formation of the Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings on July 1, 1935. The new branch relied on ECW funds to hire staff and carry out administrative responsibilities. A major concern of the Park Service director was that, with the rapid expansion of the cultural resources program, historical and archeological projects would be undertaken without adequate professional supervision. This situation was partially alleviated the next year when only people who passed civil service examinations were given permanent field positions in history and archeology. [35]

In 1937 the CCC was used for numerous reconstruction projects. At Ocmulgee National Monument, the enrollees reconstructed an Indian council chamber in a hollow earthen mound. The "Sunken Road" and "Blood Pond" at Shiloh National Military Park were restored. In July a Navajo Indian CCC mobile unit under the supervision of an archeologist was formed under a joint program by the Park Service and the Indian Service. The unit performed stabilization work on pre-Columbian ruins in Chaco Canyon, Navajo, Tonto, Wupatki, Aztec Ruins, Montezuma Castle, and Gran Quivira national monuments. Also, archeological work was completed at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Hopewell Village National Historic Site during that year. The CCC restored historic structures at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fort Donelson National Military Park. At Gettysburg National Military Park the enrollees tore down 500 miles of modern fencing and replaced it with that more appropriate to the Civil War period. They also reconstructed some of the battle fortifications and 25 miles of stone wall. This work was accomplished in conjunction with the 75th anniversary celebrations of the battle in 1938. Approximately 50 CCC youths were employed to help the historian guides accommodate the crowds expected for the celebration. [36]

CCC Director Fechner, in a speech to the American Planning and Civic Association in 1938, commented on the cultural resource program in the National Park Service in the following manner:

Great impetus has also been given to national interest in the preservation and restoration of archeologic monuments and historic areas under the control of the National Park Service by the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Heretofore practically all archeological work was left to private interest and initiative but now some of the most valuable work that is being carried on is being supervised by the National Park Service and the work done by the camps. [37]

During 1938 the CCC camps continued to work on archeological and historical projects in national park areas. With the acquisition of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the Park Service placed two CCC camps to work excavating and cleaning the canal, restoring some of the historical features along the canal, and developing it for public recreation. Park Service officials felt responsible not only for restoration work within park areas, but also for work done outside of their jurisdiction. In 1939 Acting Director Demaray telegraphed the Forest Service that a qualified ethnologist should be provided to supervise work on their totem pole repair and restoration project in Alaska; at a minimum, said Demaray, a photographic record should be made before and after the restoration on each totem pole. And in 1940 the predominantly black camp at Colonial National Historical Park received praise from the Park Service director for its archeological and historical reconstruction at that park. [38]

The next two years saw a reduction in the number of CCC camps and an increasing amount of enrollees' time was devoted to national defense training and work. By 1940 the Navajo mobile unit had been reduced to 10 men, and some thought was given to replacing the Indians with white enrollees. But Park Service officials decided that only Indians could satisfactorily do the stabilization work. Nonetheless, the unit was shortly disbanded. Other archeological and historical projects were continued and new projects were undertaken at Saratoga National Historical Park and Hopewell Village National Historic Site. CCC participation in these archeological and historical projects came to an end shortly after the United States' entry into World War II. The loss of CCC funding made it difficult for many parks to adequately preserve and protect the cultural resources under their care. [39]

During the existence of the CCC the enrollees were used for research, restoration, reconstruction, and interpretation at many park areas. The National Park Service, using ECW/CCC funds, hired technicians to help plan and supervise the cultural resource work. Some of these people ultimately made a career of the National Park Service, thus creating a legacy beyond the material accomplishments of the program. Portions of the historical and archeological work of the CCC within the national parks and state parks have recently come under criticism for being harmful to the park's resources and producing inaccurate reconstructions. Still, the program often produced exemplary work and set precedents for future archeological and historical work.

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Last Modified: Fri, May 12 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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