FROM 1988 TO 2008 I worked as a park ranger at Grand Canyon National Park. Ever fascinated with history and looking for new ideas for my ranger programs, I attended the January 2002 Grand Canyon History Symposium Program. Little did I know how many new ideas I would receive. Midway through the symposium was a segment on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a program that had made considerable improvements at the park. Two elderly men, former CCC enrollees at the canyon, gave presentations. Louis Purvis, always with a twinkle in his eye, talked of trail work. Roy Lemons, then in his eighties, took a more serious approach. “My father was a cable tool driller in the oil fields, but during the Great Depression there were no jobs. My whole family did any kind of work we could find. We were … in despair. We often went hungry for three or four days at a time. Many nights during this period, I would listen as my younger siblings cried themselves to sleep because of the hunger in their bellies.” The audience was utterly spellbound. Some, myself included, were wiping tears from our faces. Roy continued: “Then on the morning after the election in November 1932, we were all working in a cotton field in north-central Texas when the owner of the farm came driving through the field in a Model T touring car … with the throttle wide open. The car was bouncing and throwing up dust, and the driver was standing up in the car, calling out: ‘Roosevelt’s been elected! Roosevelt’s been elected!’ Over and over again. We just stood there watching him go by. I was only 13 years old, but I’ll never forget that moment. There were tears in our eyes because it meant that at last there was hope.” When Roy finished, a half dozen of us park rangers vowed to him we would retell his story. Sadly, just a few months later Roy died of cancer.
Once I began to dig into archival records and photographs, I realized the scope and depth of CCC work was daunting. Their work was everywhere. But, not to be held back, I dug deeper. First I wrote articles about the CCC for the park. The articles grew into my first book on the CCC at Grand Canyon. Two books followed on the CCC in Arizona. During this time I realized why there were only five books dealing with the CCC covering a whole state—the CCC program did an extraordinary amount of work. The challenge was to get one’s arms around all their accomplishments. As I finished each book about the CCC in parts of Arizona, I learned where the records were (and were not) and how to use them. I moved to Colorado in 2013 with the main object of working full time on a complete record of Colorado CCC work. Every part of Colorado was affected. Only eight of Colorado’s Depression era sixtythree counties did not have CCC work.
As the CCC was a federally funded and administered program, logically the most important places for information were federal archives. However, I learned early on that some agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs, no longer had the relevant records. So I turned to sifting through many local newspapers looking for what the CCC accomplished. This search has been incredibly time consuming but frequently netted detailed results. Although a very few newspapers all but ignored New Deal programs, most were excellent sources of information. Sometimes they supplied details of a particular work project not found in archival records.
A note about terminology and names is in order. The program we know as the Civilian Conservation Corps was, during its early years, called the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW). But soon the more popular term CCC was substituted for ECW. So I have taken the liberty of using CCC throughout to lessen confusion. Colorado national forest names and boundaries have changed significantly since the New Deal era. For example the Holy Cross National Forest is today part of the White River National Forest. It is the policy of this book to use the present-day Forest Service boundaries and forest names. Whenever possible, when a personal name was not complete in the records and first names or initials were available elsewhere, they have been supplied. Generally I have recorded names, such as project superintendents and foremen, associated with the work done whenever possible. When other camp leader names, such as the military officers and educational advisors, are not critical to the story of the work, their names have not been recorded here.
When I began this study I assumed that I could fit all the material into a single monograph. But there is simply too much material for one book. So this volume covers Forest Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs camps while the second volume—covering Soil Conservation Service, Grazing, state park, and National Park Service (NPS) camps—will follow shortly.
November 9, 2016