Days Gone By - stories from the past

Alabama was the 1st home for two programs that helped married men during the depression

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. Originally for young men ages 18–23, it was eventually expanded to young men ages 17–28. There were many CCC camps in Alabama (Click this link to see locations of CCC camps in Alabama)


A common sight in Coffee County, Alabama. Rundown, burned and deserted farms (by Marion Post Walcott 1939, Library of Congress)

A common sight in Coffee County, Alabama. Rundown, burned and deserted farms (by Marion Post Walcott 1939, Library of Congress)

Need for Married Men

Evidently, there was a need for young married men as well so at the request of Alabama Govenor Bibb Graves and Thad Holt, a new program for married men was started in Alabama. This program was the start of the Rural Resettlement program in the United States which had many names over time, such as Relief Administration Program, and in Farm Administration Program in 1941.

New project house. Coffee County, Alabama April 1939 (by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)

New project house. Coffee County, Alabama April 1939 (by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)

According to the news article below, the 1st two programs of this kind were in Alabama; one at Elba and another in North Alabama named the Cumberland Farms Project. The Cumberland project’s name was later changed to Skyline Farms to avoid confusion with Cumberland Homesteads, a similar Resettlement Administration development in Tennessee. (Click to see more images, film and the story of Skyline Farms in Jackson County, Alabama and Gee’s Bend in Wilcox County, Alabama)

Lewis family home, R.R. (Rural Rehabilitation). Coffee County, Alabama, April 1939 (Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

Lewis family home, R.R. (Rural Rehabilitation). Coffee County, Alabama, April 1939 (Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

From the Herald-Journal – October 25, 1935, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Elba, Ala., October 24, 1935 One of the two “married CCC: camps in the country is proving to the world that the government can aid distressed young married persons and at the same time provide modern farm units for young couples who have been married only a few years.

When the CCC camps were launched on a national scale complaints were received from throughout the United States that because only single boys were eligible an injustice had been done to the young married men, out of work and despondent.

Washington Consents

With complaints ringing in their ears from all sections of Alabama, Gov. Bibb Graves and Thad Holt, relief administrator for Alabama, went to Washington to plead for funds to do something for young married people. Washington consented, and two campes were established in Alabama – the only two in the United State – where young men not only have a place to stay, but a chance eventually to own a home and a farm.

The usual old chicken house of Lewis family, R.R. (Rural Rehabilitation). Coffee County, Alabama 1939 (by Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

The usual old chicken house of Lewis family, R.R. (Rural Rehabilitation). Coffee County, Alabama 1939 (by Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

One camp is situated near Elba, the other is situated in the Cumberland mountains in northeast Alabama. They are units of the Rural Resettlement administration and are rapidly becoming known as “married CCC camps.” They have, however, no connection with the federal CCC.

Land which was foreclosed by the Federal Land bank has been turned over to the Rural Resettlement administration and on this land, over a widely scattered area, modern farm houses are being constructed by members of the camp here in Elba and in northeastern Alabama.

One of many bank farms. Coffee County, Alabama 1939 (by Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

One of many “bank” farms. Coffee County, Alabama 1939 (by Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

Young Men Recruited

Approximately 300 young men ranging in age from 18 to 25 years were recruited and sent to the camp here.

Recently a representative of the Rural Resettlement administration visited Elba from Washington and inspected the beautiful little farm houses being erected for young people. He was enthused over the project.

Camelback house near Elba, just vacated. Coffee County, Alabama April 1939 (Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

“Camelback” house near Elba, just vacated. Coffee County, Alabama April 1939 (Marion Post Walcott, Library of Congress)

New home of family who formerly lived in camelback house near Elba. Coffee County, Alabama (Marion Post Walcott 1939, Library of Congress)

New home of family who formerly lived in “camelback” house near Elba. Coffee County, Alabama (Marion Post Walcott 1939, Library of Congress)

Under the direction of L. E. Ford, a contractor formerly of Birmingham, small farms are being set up by members of the camp on a factory basis. Following completion, they are sold on a plan which, according to Ford, assures the government of getting back the money put into the project.

Twenty Dollars a Month

While the young husbands are attending the camp their wives remain at home or else move near the camp. During the enlistment of the men for a period of six months they receive $20 a month, $15 of it going to the wives and five to the boys for spending money.

Gladys Smith, 13-year old girl, who cooks and cares for a family of 6 Coffee County, Alabama(1939, Marion Postt Walcott, Library of congress)

Gladys Smith, 13-year old girl, who cooks and cares for a family of six Coffee County, Alabama(1939, Marion Postt Walcott, Library of Congress)

Ford explains:

“With virtually only green labor, boys straight from the farms, we are building these little farm homesteads, made up of a house, a barn, a smokehouse, a chicken house and an outhouse. The project is self-liquidating and the government will get back every penny spent on it.

New house, Skyline farms 1935 by Arthur Rothstein (Library of Congress)

New house, Skyline farms formerly Cumberland Farms. 1935 by Arthur Rothstein (Library of Congress)

“The boys go into the forests, and, incidentally, we cut only the trees where we can get the most lumber. In other words, a check is made at the mill to see what we need. If we need ceiling, we cut for ceiling. Only lumber that will provied the most ceiling is felled. This is to save our forests. I figure we are using 90 per cent of each treee cut.”

Efficiently Handler

Each house is cut prior to being sent to the site. Each joist or door is made at the mill with the use of patterns These patterns have made it possible to use green labor.

Cutting wood for shingles, Jackson County, Alabama 1935 by Arthur Rothstein (Library of Congress)

Cutting wood for shingles, Jackson County, Alabama 1935 by Arthur Rothstein (Library of Congress)

Instead of building the farm units in a colony as is done in a number of other government units, the farms are scattered over an area 29 miles long and 24 miles wide. Maybe one will see two units within a mile of each other and then again it may be five to ten miles between units.

Ford explains:

“We did this because we desired to build homes where the land was suitable for farming. In other words, we did not want to set up a family in a place where it would be impossible to produce a crop. The sizes of the farms vary, according to the the fertility of the soil. For instance, if a farm isn’t rich we build just a plain home with a bedroom and kitchen. It isn’t our intention of building a nice layout on poor soil, where a family will be unable to make a living and therefore be unable to pay us for our labors.”

Wife and child of resettled farmer Jackson county, Alabama Sept. 1935 by Arthur Rothstein (Library of Congress)

Wife and child of resettled farmer Jackson county, Alabama Sept. 1935 by Arthur Rothstein (Library of Congress)

One of the happiest couples in Elba today is Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Mills, who have taken possession of a unit. Mills, the husband, was a former sawmill worker. But the sawmills closed down and he found himself out of work. That was yesterday. Today he is farming and has a home that is the envy of farmers in all the surrounding territory.

Youngest of the Clark children says he wants to be a truck driver when he grows up. Coffee County, Alabama (1941 by John Collier, Library of Congress)

Youngest of the Clark children says he wants to be a truck driver when he grows up. Coffee County, Alabama (1941 by John Collier, Library of Congress)

Farmers could reestablish themselves

By July 29, 1935, there were 12 districts in Alabama under the new resettlement program. Each district had from 1,100 to 1,300 active cases at the time. Families who had lost their holdings due to debts, illness, bad crops or other causes, could secure loans and supervisory aid in reestablishing themselves on a self-supporting basis.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Statehood: Lost & Forgotten Stories presents the times and conditions they faced in lost & forgotten stories which include:

  • Who Controlled And Organized The New State of Alabama?
  • Tuscaloosa Had Three Other Names
  • Chandelier Falls & Capitol Burns
  • Alabama Throws Parties For General LaFayette
  • Francis Scott Key Was Sent to Alabama To Solve Problems

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Statehood: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 6)


Features: Alabama Footprints Statehood Lost Forgotten Stories
By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price: $11.77 USD
New From: $11.45 USD In Stock

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .
For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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6 comments

  1. Patricia LeMay Clements

    My dad worked for the WPA during the depression. The WPA and CCCs built bridges, state park facilities, etc. The CCCs built the rock wall on the road to Waterloo. They learned how to do things and had self esteem. Part of the Greatest Generation. Young people were given an opportunity to work to sustain themselves. Now the government provides for them and nothing is required. They can watch tv all day or whatever. They learn no skills bBefore someone gets upset, I am not talking about people who are suffering hardship and need temporary help until they can do better; or people who are physically or mentally unable to work.

  2. Joey West

    My Grandfather was in it!

  3. June Persons

    Camp Grist, near Selma, was built by the CCC

  4. Lisa Berryhill Davis

    My dad and mother lived in a camp near Heflin where my brother was born! It is wonderful to learn about how the CCC came to be.

  5. Michael Stallings

    my dad also worked for the 3c’s….

  6. My grandmother’s family was poor even before the Depression hit, so it hit them especially hard. She told me that she, as the oldest, quit school because she had younger brothers and sisters who might have starved otherwise. She was the only one to get a job, and she was hired by an Anniston cotton mill. Her brothers went to work for the CCC, and they built the fire tower on top of Cheaha Mountain as well as the roads and other buildings that are still in use today.

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