People who spend time in the Side Lake area will casually refer to the “CCC Camp.” People who are not familiar with the Side Lake area will often be very confused by that reference. As our population gets older, there’s always the danger that parts of an area’s history are forgotten when the ones who saw something firsthand pass away. That’s one of the reasons behind museums, well-researched books, and even a page like Years of Yore – so we don’t forget.
So, there once was a CCC camp in the Side Lake neighborhood, one of the 104 active CCC camps in Minnesota by 1935. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the name CCC.
In the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the American Congress passed the ECW Act; the Emergency Conservation Work Act, part of the New Deal. The horrid dustbowl in those years was sweeping the rich topsoil of the Midwest away. Many more of America’s most treasured natural areas were in decay from misuse. A brainchild of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was to put out-of-work men into programs which would improve and preserve the natural areas, while providing meaningful jobs and job training for the unemployed. The Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, was a park of this Act.
The CCC Camps provided work for young unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 25. In Minnesota alone, nearly 87,000 men served in this program over the nine years of its existence. They worked in forestry and conservation. The men received room and board in the camps, plus $30.00 a month which was sent directly home to aid their families. Eventually, older, experienced men with the needed skills were also recruited into the program to lead work teams.
Men who had worked in the CCC would report in later years that the program taught them self-discipline and leadership, instilled confidence and self-respect, and helped them to develop career skills. The program’s accomplishments in terms of conservation were also extremely impressive, often credited with preserving and improving thousands of areas across the country.
The program ended on June 30, 1943, when men were needed in the Armed Forces and civilian unemployment was no longer an issue.
Minnesota’s legacy of the CCC includes Scenic State Park in Itasca County, which was the first State Park developed by the CCC. The first Minnesota camp, Company 701, was located near Isabella. Most of the camps were similar to that first one. The camps usually had barracks to house 200 men, a kitchen, mess hall, and a canteen that sold personal items. Other buildings were usually a tool barn, an infirmary, a reading room/library, and a recreation hall.
The typical day included eight hours of work. Throughout the day there were breaks for meals, exercise, and personal time for letter writing, reading, and games.
Much of the previous information came from an article by Linda Cameron, published by the Minnesota Historical Society.
The following articles are from the Hibbing Daily Tribune during the mid- to late- 1930s. The articles contain a great deal of information, and so this topic will continue next Sunday here on the Years of Yore page.
April 5, 1937, marks the fourth anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-53, CCC Company 717, at Side Lake. The majority of the boys enrolled in this camp come from homes in the vicinity of the Mesaba Range. Considered one of the most exemplary of Companies, this little colony, located in one of the most picturesque spots in the Arrowhead, has progressed until it has gained its national reputation.
(The Side Lake camp was located on property south of McCarthy Beach State Park. Most of the original camp property is now privately owned. For example, since 1941, the Catholic Side Lake Chapel has been located on a small portion, two and a half acres, of what was once the CCC camp. One of the camp buildings was transformed into the chapel.)
There is also a forty-man portable side camp which has operated during the past two years at Island Lake, 20 miles south of Hibbing.
The nearly 180,000 man days between these camps have been expended in protection and improvement projects such as construction of truck trails, Forest Service buildings, telephone lines, dams, bridges, fire hazard reduction, fire fighting, tree planting, nursery work, wildlife work, recreational developments, and numerous other types of work. This variety of work is designed to improve and protect natural resources and establish conditions for the increase of forest production, conservation of water and wildlife.
Ralph Snyder, superintendent, with the assistance of a technical staff, is in charge of all work. Captain W. Wipf, with the assistance of a junior officer, is in command of the Company.
Among the important work done by the young men in Camp is firefighting. Fires have been reduced in size and damages due to the availability of the CCC firefighters and the protection systems of trails and fire breaks, lookout towers, and telephone lines have been constructed and improved by CCC workers. Roadsides have been cleaned of dead and downed timber, a fire hazard which, removed, lessens the starting and spreading of fire along roads. Water loading docks have been built on several of the forest lakes to convenience the loading of water for fire-fighting purposes.
During the dangerous fire season, a fire brigade is kept in readiness with fire equipment mounted on trucks to be quickly dispatched to all fires sighted from the lookout towers. This arrangement has greatly reduced the size and damages of fires in the past four years. This fire brigade has been instrumental in saving three local homes from burning in the Sturgeon Lake country. Besides, over 50 forest fires have been suppressed.
Other important work is done by the Camp Company. Crews from S-53 have at times been called out to search for lost persons. The CCC responds to all such emergency calls and are very valuable to the communities for such services.
In line with water conservation, Camp S-53 has constructed dams in the Sturgeon River and in Big Bear Lake. Both of these dams control and maintain water levels over large areas of water. Lake surveys have also been made for the purpose of determining present conditions for fish and wildlife and what might be done to improve the lakes. Depth soundings and soil samples were taken at every 100 feet.
On representative lakes, water analysis was made, insect life, water temperatures, and fish food was studied. Data was obtained on the species and relative number of fish in these lakes. Surveys were made on Beatrice, Bower, Little Bear, Big Bear, Side, Perch, South Sturgeon, Little Sturgeon, Big Sturgeon, West Sturgeon, Sherry, O’Leary, and Buck.
Tree planting is another significant job of the CCC men. To date, 1,500 acres of state land has been planted to white pine, Norway pine, jack pine, and white spruce. In other terms, this amounts to around two million trees planted. To improve certain stands of timber in unhealthy condition, work has been done to remove diseased and decayed trees, thin stands too heavy for good growth thus giving more desirable species a chance to grow.
Forest surveys have been completed by Camp S-53 over six townships in the George Washington State Forest. The survey covers an inventory of all stands and types of timber, young reproduction timber, and all soil types. The data secured by this survey is concentrated into records and maps which will be used for a forest management plan for the George Washington State Forest. More than 140,000 acres have been mapped to date.
Surveys have been carried out to locate section corners and renewing lost and obliterated markers. This surveying work has covered over 125,000 acres.
To be continued next Sunday…
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The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.
December 7, 1918
The Health Department is checking up with the local newspapers for the number of deaths from influenza. There is said to be a slight variation in the total number and the official record and names of those passing away. Any corrections will be made public.
January 5, 1933
The pageant of the “Holly Grail” to be presented Friday night by the young people of St. James Church has been postponed indefinitely because of illness of members of the cast.
August 7, 1953
At least four Hibbing High School class reunions will be held Saturday during the 60th Anniversary celebration. The Classes of 1900 through 1917 will meet in the Androy Hotel Georgean Room on Saturday at noon. Classes of 1921 and 1922 will meet in the Androy Hotel grand lobby. The Class of 1923 will meet at the Hibbing Municipal Golf Course clubhouse, afternoon and evening. Class of 1928 will meet at the Mesaba Country Club Saturday evening.
August 10, 1968
Hibbing’s Grace Lutheran Church is celebrating its golden anniversary: “50 Years of Grace.” Rev. Eyrich E. Hansen, pastor of the church from 1956-1961, and now living in Crookston, will conduct the two morning services. Keith Grafing, former organist for the church and now instructor of music at Concordia College, Milwaukee, wrote both the words and the music for an anniversary hymn and it will be sung at the services.