A picture of the Camp Kilkenny Barracks in 1934
(click for larger version)
September 05, 2012AREA - Eighty years ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a race for the presidency. He won and he left as his legacy many different programs. For the North Country one of those having a large impact was a bill he signed less than six months after being elected, only a couple of months after inauguration.
He had promised it would be one of the first in the war on the Depression. It put thousands of men to work and helped thousands more because most of their pay had to be sent home to their families.
The bill establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps was signed on March 31, 1933 and in just it's first 18 months it had done $291 million in work value and employed 250,000 men and boys. Many of the features hikers and nature lovers take for granted in the White Mountains is a legacy of the CCC. There were at least four different camps in the area over the span of about six years. The CCC disbanded in 1942, local camps were all closed by 1939. The last camp to close in N.H. was Bear Brook, which became a 4-H camp for many years.
The Berlin Historical Society has amongst its collection several different pieces of information on this topic.
Initially only men age 18 to 25 were eligible. Later that expanded to 17 to 28 year old.
The camps were set up loosely like Army camps. There was usually an Army officer on site that ran the camps and the men were housed in barracks. Each camp hired teachers and doctors and offered religious services and entertainment. Each man was paid $30 per month, $25 of which had to go back to his family. Later this pay went up a little bit.
Participants actually had to sign a contract for a length of service. When their term of enrollment was up they received an honorable discharge certificate from the CCC. On the back was their service record, giving dates and place(s) of service.
Part of the requirement to participate was an education requirement. According to records, one-quarter of a million men learned to read and write at the camps. Thousands earned a high school diploma, others college degrees.
One of the first camps established in this area was the Camp Kilkenny Company 155, established on May 29, 1933. The camp put out a regular publication called The Kilkenny Pioneer, which, like many regular newspapers, included items about the people there and what was going on.
The Berlin Historical Society has a copy on one of these, dated July 1, 1935. It reported that the Kilkenny Glee Club had sung many times at camp and in Berlin. They were going to be singing over radio WCSH in Portland Maine.
It also reported that an ideal spot for a fish hatchery had been found on York Pond. They went on to establish that fish hatchery, which, of course, is the site of the present fish hatchery and Barry Conservation Camp on York Pond Road today.
The Pioneer included news about several sports residents were participating in, including boxing, wrestling, volleyball, basketball and football.
The men at the Kilkenny Camp apparently had a tight relationship with Berlin. In addition to the Glee Club performing there, records show arrangements were made with the Berlin school district to use the high school and equipment there for classes.
Most of the men at the camp were from the North Country. A 1937 Kilkenny roster shows six from Berlin: Joseph Croteau, William Baillargeon, Louis Belangter, Vernon Burlock, Charles Corrigan and Henry Charest.
The first project the camp did was the building of fire trails and work on the Dolly Copp Campground. That campground had started, primatively, in 1915. In those days they were known as forest camps (anyone wanting to know more about this camp should check out www.dollycopp.com). Later they did road construction, forest improvement, maintenance at the York Pond Fish Hatchery, fought forest fires, worked on flood relief for Berlin and searched for missing persons.
Construction on a second camp in the immediate area, Camp Peabody, took place over the summer of 1935. The camp was located at the site of the present Pinkham Notch AMC facility.
The men at this camp worked on many things familiar to area residents and visitors today, including continued expansion and development of the Dolly Copp Campground, shelters and trails at Glenn Ellis, and Tuckerman Ravine rescues. They also worked on the maintenance of trails, roads, shelters, telephone lines and the care and maintenance of the Carter Dome Lookout Tower.
On March 13, 1936 the entire camp was called out to open up the Glen Road (Route 16) below the camp, which had been flooded over during the night.
It appears from records in the Berlin Historical Society that both Kilkenny and Peabody closed in 1937. A third camp in the area, the Moose Brook Camp, which had opened in 1935, stayed open until 1939.
There seems to be some controversy about just how the land was acquired and who made what improvements. Recently an article in another paper included some information about the CCC camp, now Moose Brook State Park, that a Gorham resident, whose family had once owned the land, contested.
He said the land was taken by eminent domain (not purchased as claimed in the other article) and that some of the features of the park today were remnants of improvements his family had made.
In any case, there doesn't seem to any argument that the current park is made up of land once owned by the Berry and Perkins families and that the park headquarters, built in the 1930's, probably by the CCC, is on the site of the original Perkins farmhouse.
The CCC also did develop several trails and a campground. They also constructed a two pond system at the junction of Moose Brook and Perkins Brook. The two ponds were created with dams. The upper pond is a warming pool, mitigating the cold water that comes down from Ice Gulch. It then drains into the lower pool, a deep swimming pool with bathhouse.
A trail system was also created with historical names like Perkins Path, the CCC Link and the CCC Perimeter Trail.
A CCC camp also existed in Stark. But that site is better known as the camp for German prisoners of War. According to the book "Stark Decency," by Allen V. Koop, the CCC camp had five wooden barracks, a recreation hall and mess hall. and by the late 1930's was sitting empty. I n the mid 1940's it became a prisoner of war camp. Later the buildings were dismantled and lumber sold. Most was used to build the C&S Bowladrome in Berlin, which burned. A few boards became the awning for the Stark General Store, now closed for many years, and some Stark residents kept some pieces as mementoes, Koop's book states.
A book called "Builders of Men, Life in the CCC Camps in New Hampshire," written by David D. Draves, includes the following Thanksgiving menu from Camp Peabody: fresh cocktail, stuffed olives, celery, roast turkey, giblet gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, buttered peas, hot buns with butter, lettuce and tomato salad, pumpkin pie, mince pie, candy, nuts, grapes, coffee, cider and .....cigarettes.
It also includes another interesting item from Camp Kilkenny in 1934. They were looking for truck drivers. One man was approached. He said he had only driven a car before, but after apparently relaying his driving experience was told "If you can drive in Massachusetts, you can drive anywhere."
Apparently some things never change.