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Did a loved one go off to a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp?
Published: 19 September 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Shirley G. Hodges
Did your grandmother or mother send a loved one off to a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp?

Many women across America did send their sons to these camps. The Corp was established during the Depression as a means of providing employment to young men who could not find work during that period. By the time that the CCC program ended in 1942 over three million men in the U. S. were enrolled in the camps.

Young men all across American left their homes and went to CCC camps located around the country. The majority of these men were between the ages of 18-21 years of age. They had to be healthy, from families in need and not attending school. They were single men who joined the CCC, so that they could have employment and help their families. They earned a salary of $30 a month and they had to agree to have about $25 of that amount sent directly to their families. Each company would have about 200 men in the camp. They would sign up for a six-month period. There was a two-year limit for employment. In the early months of the program the men lived in tents. They helped to build wooden barracks which would house the men during the later enrollments.

There were also some men in the CCC who were older. They were World War I veterans who had not been able to find work. Most of them would have been between 30-40. Historians believe that about 10% of the enrollees were in this category.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worker statue

One of the greatest advantages of living in the camps was the opportunity to get an education. After dinner the men could attend classes if they wished. More than 100,000 men learned to read and write. Many got 8th grade diplomas with others earning their high school degrees. A small percentage of the camps even offered correspondence study centers with supervisors. Many got their high school diplomas in this way and some even took college courses. It was believed that about 90% of the men took some kind of classes. They even had ballroom dancing at the camps because most of the men had never learned to dance. One of their few entertainments was going into the local town on Saturday night to attend the dances.

During their years of existence CCC workers helped to reforest America in addition to many other types of jobs they performed. It is believed that they planted about 3 billion trees. Many of our state parks came into existence during this program.

There were many young men who worked in the CCC camps who went on to leave their mark in history and America: Chuck Yeager; Walter Matthau; Robert Mitchum; Hyman G. Rickover and Stan Musial just to name a few.

Many of these young men left the CCC camps and joined the military. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor men were recruited from the CCC camps. Many soldiers, sailors and marines found adjustment to military life much easier because they had lived in the camps.

One of my friends and colleagues, Cynthia Theusch, has graciously provided examples of records of one of her husband's ancestors so that we can see the types of information that we can learn from these records.

Click here for a series of CCC documents

Michigan had over 100,000 participants in the CCC and there were 77 camps in the state. In fact, Michigan ranked eighth highest of all the states. Some of the contributions to the development of Michigan by the CCC were:
  • the planting of 485 million trees
  • fought forest fires; built 275 miles of fire breaks; and assembled 8 lookout towers.
  • constructed 7,000 of truck trails
  • built 504 bridges
  • constructed 222 buildings
  • turned 95,000 acres of wetlands and marshes into the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Peninsula
  • built at bathhouse at Ludington State Park
  • built a picnic shelter at Indian Lake State Park
  • built a caretaker's residence at Wilson State Park
  • conducted groundwater surveys on several million acres of Michigan land
As a child I can remember going many times to a fish hatchery that was established during this period.

In the beginning there were not enough axes, hoes and shovels to supply the men. The camps borrowed tools from Michigan State College and the University of Michigan to get the camps started.

If you have diaries or letters that survived from this period, make sure that you are using these when you tell the stories of your ancestor's lives.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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