The featured image above depicts the men of Company 361-C shortly after the camp was established in mid-1933. The military tents described in the newspaper article below can be observed in the background.
(Courtesy of the Pennsylvania CCC Online Archive)

By early 1933, Americans had felt the brunt of economic distress caused by the Great Depression. In an attempt to provide work to unemployed Americans, Congress proposed the creation of “an orderly program of useful public works,” directed specifically at natural resource conservation and development.[1] On March 31, 1933, the Unemployment Relief Act was signed into law. This laid the groundwork for Executive Order 6101 which President Franklin Roosevelt signed on April 5, 1933, formally creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

From its outset, this program barred discrimination on the basis of “race, color or creed.”[2] However, while this was written into the law, it was never fully recognized in practice. One of the principles that drove enrollment discrimination was the establishment of a quota system based on state population.[3] Additionally, the construct of race was applied to this system which further constricted the number of African Americans that could be enrolled in the CCC due to the fact that they made up only a small percentage of Pennsylvania’s population. Moreover, up until 1937, quotas were to be filled by individuals receiving government relief. This further complicated black enrollment as it was estimated that the percentage of African Americans receiving relief was “at least double the rate in the overall population” in Pennsylvania.[4] An effort was made to expand Pennsylvania’s enrollment quota for African Americans due to the overwhelming number of applications. However, these efforts were to no avail.[5] The compounding effects of race stipulation in enrollment quotas and a large number of African Americans on government assistance, caused many men and their families to be deprived of the benefits that the CCC had to offer.

The formation of Company 361-C (“C” was used as an indication for a “colored” company) which would eventually inhabit Camp S-62 began at Fort George G. Meade in the spring of 1933. Here the enrollees went through a period of conditioning to acclimate their bodies for the laborious conservation work that lay ahead of them. On June 4, 1933, Company 361-C was released from Fort Meade to establish Camp S-62 near Milroy, Pennsylvania under the command of First Lieutenant Frank M. Albrecht. For the first two months of the camp’s existence, 1st Lt. Albrecht maintained command of the company until being taken over by Captain Arthur T. Eaker. It should be noted that Camp S-62 was segregated throughout its existence and the only African American to hold a supervisory role was Clarence J. Grinnell, who will be discussed in a later blog post.

a photo of fireplace remains at Penn Roosevelt State Park

This is one of two fireplaces remaining at Penn-Roosevelt State Park. It is believed that this fireplace was connected to the recreation hall. (Photo taken by the author).

Once the enrollees reached the “mountain wilderness” of central Pennsylvania, they were tasked with creating their home. The appearance of the camp when these enrollees arrived was little more than “a cleared place off an old forest road.”[6] Immediately, the men set up old military squad tents they were issued and began work in the forests. The hardships of these early days were recounted as “sleeping in floorless tents and bathing in a creek” along with “finding snakes under one’s bed.'[7]

The boys in the CCC across the country quickly became accustomed to a strict military routine due to the fact that the U.S. Army directed the camps. For the men at S-62, a typical work day at the camp can be found in a Philadelphia Tribune article published in March of 1934:

“When “Sarge” Holmes toots that whistle at 6:30 in the morning we crawl sleepily out of bed and are soon brought to life by the crisp mountain air. If you were to watch you would see a few minutes of snappy action­ ─ in about fifteen minutes we are dressed, bed made, floor swept, shelves dusted and standing in line to answer roll call (reveille). If you can imagine about fifty boys going through this procedure every morning in one big dormitory (barrack) you can see why I call it snappy action ─ then breakfast ─ an oh! boy, what appetites some of these boys have ─ I would rather pay their board than feed them.

Back to the barracks until 8 o’clock ─ then work whistle. Everybody goes happily to work (O! yeah) Well, anyhow, we go to work. At twelve o’clock we are back in camp with another appetite ─ justified this time. Once on the job there is very little shirking ─ perhaps that is the reason we are ahead in our work ─ back to the job at one o’clock until four. Another day, another dollar. Tired but happy we return to camp. A shower, perhaps, then “chow.” After chow we read or play games of cards or checkers, boxing or anything we like ─ the “tweet, tweet” the whistle, lights out at 9:30 and bed. So ends the day at Camp 62. It’s a great life.”[8]

As Camp S-62 became more established, larger projects were taken up by the men including the construction of roads, structures, and recreational areas. Perhaps the most significant of the projects performed at Camp S-62 was the construction of the recreation hall and the log-cribbed dam. Remnants of these projects can still be seen at Penn-Roosevelt State Park today. The log dam has since been refaced in stone to provide more structural integrity and a large fireplace distinctly marks the location of the recreation hall. Additional relics of the camp include a second fire place and a bake oven that was located behind the dining hall.

photo of the original log cribbed dam constructed by Company 361 C

Shown above is the original log-cribbed dam that was constructed by the men of Company 361-C. (Courtesy of Paul Fagley, DCNR)

Alongside performing conservation work, the men at Camp S-62 were able to develop a rich social community. Through the organization of different sports teams and musical groups, the men of the camp were able to have a profound influence on the local community. These areas, along with the educational opportunities available to enrollees, will be covered in upcoming blog posts shared throughout February in honor of African American History Month.

This article was written by Jacob Hockenberry based off information compiled through a summer research opportunity. Jacob is a senior at Shippensburg University where he is studying history, political science, and geographic information systems (GIS). He intends on furthering his education by pursuing a master’s degree in historic preservation.

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[1] Unemployment Relief Act, Public Law 5, 73rd Cong., 1d sess. (March 31, 1933), 22.
[2] Joseph M. Speakman, At Work in Penn’s Woods: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 132.
[3] Joseph M. Speakman, “The New Deal Arrives in Penn’s Woods: The Beginnings of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 130, no. 2 (April 2006): 220.
[4] Speakman, At Work, 135.
[5] Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr., “The Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania: A Case Study of a New Deal Relief Agency in Operation,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 100, no. 1 (January 1976): 83.
[6] Cheyney H. Thomas, “Camp Milroy,” Philadelphia Tribune, April 12, 1934.
[7] “Spike” Spady, “Camp Milroy,” Philadelphia Tribune, February 15, 1934.
[8] Cheyney Thomas, “Camp Milroy,” Philadelphia Tribune, March 29, 1934.

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“Ramblings” at Penn-Roosevelt: A Look at African American CCC Camp S-62