Sunday, November 10, 2013

The CCC in the Coronado National Forest of Southern Arizona: Forestry Work

"Spirit of CCC" showing the 
USFS logo and stylized image 
of CCC firefighters.
Courtesy CCC Legacy.
The CCC had several nicknames, including "Roosevelt's Tree Army" and "Tree Troopers." These nicknames are apt, as the men in this program worked hard and long in the nation's forests--fighting fires, thinning the forest, planting trees, and fighting tree diseases.

The men of the CCC worked for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in forestry camps designated by the letters "DF" (Department of Forestry) or "F" or "NF" (National Forest). The USFS was established in 1905 as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. During the CCC era, each national forest had at least one CCC camp.

Across the county, the CCC boys spent an estimated 4.2 million man-days fighting forest fires. This was extremely difficult and dangerous work, requiring tremendous physical and emotional strength. My friend and colleague Mike Smith gathers information on the accidents and fatalities suffered by the CCC boys in their firefighting efforts. The boys also constructed fire lookouts and guard stations. They built trails and roads to allow firefighter access to forest areas; an estimated 97,000 miles of fire roads were built by the boys. 

Clearing trees in Rucker Canyon, Camp F-12.
Courtesy National Archives, Maryland.
The boys developed tree nurseries and planted an estimated nearly 3 billion trees.  In areas where it was needed, they cleared the forest of underbrush and dead wood to improve the health of the forest and reduce the chance of fires. 

Among the tree diseases they fought was twig blight, or matsucoccus vexillorum. The boys would climb into the trees to trim the branches infected by this disease. This was hard and perilous work, and many injuries resulted. By 1938, most eradication work ended. 

Camp F-63 in Patagonia. 
Courtesy Ernie Bruss. 
Here in Southern Arizona, the CCC boys labored in what is now the Coronado National Forest. (See the November 5, 2013, blog post for background information on the Coronado.) They thinned the forest, planted trees, built fire roads and trails, and erected fire lookouts.
Despite the fact that southern Arizona is in the Sonoran Desert, and that desert plays a large role in our ecosystem, our forests are a vital and large part of our environment. We owe a tremendous debt to these CCC boys for their efforts in improving and protecting the forests we enjoy today, and we have an obligation to continue their efforts to protect these fragile ecosystems.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The CCC Legacy Annual Gathering was held in Tucson the last weekend in October 2013. I gave a presentation at this event, but it was truncated because of time constraints, and I wasn’t able to show all the photos and tell all the stories I’d like. So, I'm going to post some of my info and photos on this blog instead.

I’m also going to rework the presentation a bit and eventually post it to I’ll post a notice when I do that.

As always, if you want more information or have information to share, please contact me!

A heartfelt thanks to Bill Gillespie of the Coronado National Forest who added to the information and photos I have collected on this topic.

Some background on the Coronado: The Coronado is huge—an area of about 1.78 million acres in five non-contiguous ranger districts in southern Arizona and New Mexico. The current composition of the Coronado results from the addition of formerly separate forests. The Coronado National Forest website has a good history of the evolution and development of the forest.

Map is from the USFS booklet, The Civilian Conservation Corps: Coronado National Forest, 1933-1942.

What Did the CCC Do in the Coronado?
The work projects of the CCC in the Coronado revolved around recreation, forests, rangeland, and water.

Recreational AreasThe CCC constructed recreational facilities throughout the Coronado. There’s a good chance that the picnic table you’ve eaten on, the road you’ve driven on, and the trail you’ve hiked in the Coronado was built or improved by the CCC.

They built and improved campgrounds, cabins, picnic areas, ranger stations, trails, roads, and bridges. They also strung telephone lines and stocked fish.

Forests: The CCC worked to improve the health of the forests. They thinned the timber stand, built roads for firefighting, constructed fire trails, and built guard stations and fire lookouts.

Rangeland: The CCC worked to improve the rangeland by building cattle guards and fences, revegetating the land, erecting stock tanks, building roads and truck trails, and eradicating poisonous plants.

WaterWater is a precious commodity, particularly in the desert of Arizona. The CCC worked to control and harness the water we get. They built dams, battled soil erosion, boxed in springs, and installed pipelines.

The Five Ranger Districts

The Santa Catalina Ranger District is near the city of Tucson and includes the Santa Catalina (including Sabino Canyon) and Rincon Mountains. This area was host to Camp F-42, Tanque Verde.

Camp F-42, Tanque Verde, enrollees working on the Redington Road. Courtesy National Archives.

The Safford Ranger District is situated near the city of Safford. It includes five mountain ranges: Pinaleño (including Mount Graham), Galiuro, Santa Teresa, Winchester, and Greasewood Mountains. The area was host to Camps F-14,   Treasure Park; F-15, Tripp Canyon; F-41, Noon Creek; F-46, Stockton Pass; and F-74, Columbine.

Picnic table built by Camp F-41, Noon Creek. Courtesy National Archives.

The Douglas Ranger District consists of 3 mountain ranges north and east of Douglas, AZ: Chiricahua (Chiricahua National Monument), Dragoon, and Peloncillo (which extend into New Mexico) Mountains. This area was host to Camps F-10, Cave Crerek; F-12, Rucker Canyon, F-47, Turkey Creek, and NM-2, Bonita Canyon.

Camp F-12, Rucker Canyon, working in the forests. Courtesy National Archives.

The Sierra Vista Ranger District includes three mountain ranges west of Sierra Vista, AZ: Huachuca, Patagonia, and Whetstone Mountains. This area was host to Camps F-13, Sunnyside; F-53, Ash Canyon; and F-63, Flux Canyon.

Camp F-13, Sunnyside, worked on the Canelo Ranger Station. Courtesy National Archives.

The Nogales Ranger District includes four mountain ranges north and west of Nogales, AZ: Santa Rita, Pajarito, Tumacacori, and San Luis Mountains. This area was host to Camps F-11, Box Canyon; F-30, Madera Canyon, and F-64, Peña Blanca.

Camp F-64, Peña Blanca, fence crew. Courtesy Merle Timblin (CCC enrollee and a friend!).

Fifth Annual CCC Recognition Day
March 29, 2014

The Fifth Annual CCC Recognition Day will be held Saturday, March 29, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Saguaro National Park West's Red Hills Visitor Center in west Tucson. The event will feature information tables, videos, photo displays, booksignings, presentations, and tours of the nearby CCC campsite.

The tentative presentation schedule includes talks on the CCC at what is now Saguaro National Park, the CCC in the Coronado National Forest, accidents and fatalities in the CCC, letters home from a CCC enrollee, the CCC camp newspapers, and stories of CCC enrollees as told by their children. The schedule of speakers and tablers will be available in January.

Contact me at with any questions or comments.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The CCC and Recreational Areas in the Tucson Area

I recently wrote an article for the CCC Legacy newspaper, available to all members of this national organization dedicated to preserving and furthering the story of the CCC. Since the newspaper is only available to CCC Legacy members, I decided to excerpt parts of it on this blog. My article deals with all the recreational areas the CCC developed in the Tucson area. I'll post entries on each of the sites highlighted in the article. This week, it's the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum, and botanical gardens surrounded by the Sonoran Desert about 14 miles west of downtown Tucson. This indoor and outdoor museum has geologic collections, more than 300 species of native wildlife, 1,300 varieties of native plants, and the recently completed Warden Aquarium. 

Personnel from nearby CCC Camp SP-6-A in the 1930s built the Mountain House—two large adobe buildings with fireplaces and beam ceilings connected by a breezeway—at the site of the planned Tucson Mountain Park headquarters. They also built an electrical building and stable at the site. The CCC-built Mountain House structure was first used as a guest ranch and restaurant and later as an overnight retreat for church, scout, and other local groups.  In 1952, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was founded by William H. Carr with the support of his friend and the museum’s initial benefactor, Arthur Pack, a conservationist and editor of Nature Magazine. The Mountain House is now the entrance complex to the museum and houses a gift shop and exhibits; the stable is now used by the museum’s maintenance department.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Public Relations Move Gone Awry

I was talking with my dear CCC friend Merle last night, and he told me a funny story about Thanksgiving Day 1939 at the camp in Nogales. The CCC camps strived to keep good relations with the people in the surrounding areas, and it was not unusual for the CCC to invite locals to camp for special dinners. Some of the boys from the Nogales camp marched in the Thanksgiving Day parade in Nogales, and the local dignitaries, including the mayor and his wife, were invited back to camp to share a Thanksgiving feast with the boys. The highlight of the meal was the ice cream served as dessert. Unfortunately, the ice cream had melted earlier that day and the cooks decided to refreeze it without telling anyone. The end result? Everyone in the camp, and the guests of honor from Nogales, came down with food poisoning!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jack and Joe Kennedy in Arizona

I went to see my lovely, dear friend Elson on Saturday (a former CCC enrollee and LEM), and we got to talking about how he met Jack and Joe Kennedy at the J-6 Ranch near Benson in 1936 when his CCC crew was working there. I've heard the story before, but it's a fun one, so I wanted to share it. Joe Kennedy (the father) sent his sons Joe and Jack to the J-6 Ranch, owned by Jack Speiden, in the summer of 1936 to toughen them up.  According to Elson, they were "as white as a sheet" when they arrived in Arizona, but when they left they were "as brown as a nut." Speiden worked them really hard, apparently not giving them a soft ride due to who they were. Elson and his CCC buddies were making fun of their accents one day when Joe said to them, "Y'aaaaall are the ones who talk funny!"

Elson gave me a great article on the Kennedys in Arizona, "John F. Kennedy: His Days as an Arizona Cowboy," by Bob Thomas. I'm not sure where the article was published and haven't yet been able to track it down. I hope to be able to locate the publication information and give the publication, along with Mr. Thomas, their well-deserved credit.

I’ve been very busy with CCC work the past two months—so much so that I haven’t had time to write about my adventures! So, this lengthy blog entry will talk about a number of events, past and upcoming.

Fourth Annual Civilian Conservation Corps Recognition Day (CCCRD)

The Fourth Annual Civilian Conservation Corps Recognition Day (CCCRD) was held on April 13, 2013, at Saguaro National Park West, Tucson. The event was attended by more than 300 individuals.

We were extremely honored by the presence of six former enrollees. Plus, the son of a CCC camp commander, who spent some of his early years in a CCC camp, was there. He met up with one of the enrollees from his dad’s camp who used to cut his hair 75 years ago! Several families of former CCC personnel were there as well, including members of the Castillo and Griffin families.

I spoke about the CCC camp newspapers; Bob Audretsch talked about the work of the CCC in northern Arizona; Mike Smith talked about accidents and fatalities in the CCC; Phil Brown talked about the CCC in the Tucson Mountains; and Mary Nichols, USDA, talked about her research project to locate and map CCC erosion work sites.

Bob Audrestch had a table featuring his books on the history of the CCC at Grand Canyon and in northern Arizona; I had a table featuring my publications on the CCC in southern Arizona and on the CCC camp newspapers; William Ascarza had tables on his books dealing with the history of southern Arizona; Mary Nichols demonstrated her computer database of CCC soil erosion projects; and Saguaro National Park featured information on the CCC camp in their area.  

We showed videos on the CCC, including a video taken at the St. David camp in 1939 by an enrollee and one of the living history presentation the students from Centennial School will be presenting at the national competition for National History Day in Washington, D.C. in June.

I had a photo display on Company 3840, St. David and Patagonia; Phil Brown had a map of the CCC sites in all of Arizona; and the Murphy from the Patagonia Museum brought a photo display of CCC sites in Patagonia.

Here's a press release the park did on the event:

Civilian Conservation Corps Recognition Day, Flagstaff, AZ

On April 6, a Flagstaff CCCRD was held in Flagstaff, AZ, at the Coconino Public Library. I gave a talk, "The Boys Tell Their Stories: The Camp Newspapers of the CCC Enrollees," and Bob Audretsch gave a talk “We Still Walk in Their Footprint.” Over 50 people were in attendance.

Arizona-New Mexico Joint History Convention

The 2013 Arizona-New Mexico Joint History Convention was held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, April 18-21. One of the sessions was “The CCC in Arizona and New Mexico.” I gave a talk on the CCC camp newspapers, “In Their Own Words: The Camp Newspapers of the Civilian Conservation Corps Enrollees.” Here is the abstract from the program:  Each Civilian Conservation Corp camp published its own camp newspaper as part of their educational program. This paper will illustrate the importance of the camp newspapers in the Arizona camps by exploring jokes, illustrations, poetry, and stories found there. Sharon Hunt is a freelance editor and author from Tucson. She has written numerous books and articles on the CCC.

The session was ably moderated by Jim Steely. Bob Audretsch gave a talk on and
Richard Melzer, professor of history at the University of New Mexico, Valencia, talked about the impact of the CCC, both then and afterwards, on the boys who served in it and on the country as a whole: “The Personal Impact of the Civilian Conservation Corps on New Mexicans, 1942 to the Present.” Bob Audretsch gave a talk on the CCC in northern Arizona, “We Still Walk in Their Footprint: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Northern Arizona, 1933-1942.”

 Mary Nichols

Dr. Mary Nichols, USDA, Tucson, AZ, is working on a research project to locate and map soil erosion work projects of the CCC. If you know of a CCC soil erosion work project (a dam, stock tank, rock spreader, etc.), you can visit the website she has set up and identify the site on the map found there. She will then investigate any information she receives and add to her database of soil erosion projects. I’m excited about her project, as the location of many CCC work projects are unknown and should be identified. The work of the CCC lives on in the landscape of southern Arizona, influencing our environment and our lives today. Her website is and the specific page for marking points on the map is

CCC Legacy Annual Gathering

The CCC Legacy Annual Gathering will be held in Tucson, Arizona, October 24 - 27, 2013, “Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the CCC.”  The event is co-hosted by the Southwest Conservation Corps, “Celebrating 15 years of service.” More information is available at

I’m part of the planning group for the event; please feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts.

National History Day

The students from Centennial Elementary School are off to Washington, D.C., to give their living history presentation in the finals of National History Day! They secured a place in the nationals by succeeding in the state competitions on April 13. The girls gave a “Friends and Family” presentation on April 11, which I attended, and they did a truly outstanding job! One of the enrollees they interviewed for the presentation was present at the event, and he was filled with joy at their good work and at the knowledge that recognition and appreciation for the CCC will go on into the future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Arizona Highways Article on the CCC

My lovely friend Elson Alvarez, former CCC enrollee and LEM, was interviewed by Arizona Highways for an article on the CCC, just out in the March 2013 issue. I was fortunate enough to be able to set up the interview and then be there to hear his stories--I've heard them many times but never tire of hearing them and spending time with him. He speaks very highly of his CCC days, and based on the wonderful person he is, it's reasonable to assume that he derived a lot of good from his time in the CCC. The Table of Contents for the magazine is at
Along with Elson's stories, the article has an overview of the history of the CCC and some lovely photos.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Boys Tell Their Stories

I'm preparing a paper and a presentation for the 2013 Arizona History Convention, to be held in April in Las Cruces, NM, on the camp newspapers entitled "The Boys Tell Their Stories." As we lose the CCC enrollees and their voices are silenced, these newspapers and the stories the CCC boys tell in these publications become even more important. Some of the common features of the newspapers are jokes are the enrollees' love lives (real or imagined), poems (many of the enrollees obviously saw themselves as poets), and words of wisdom. Here are some tidbits I've enjoyed "listening" to:

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can!
(Oasis, St. David, AZ)

"From a Longer Term to a Rookie," by Chester Watkins. 
What’s the matter bud? You’ve been griping a lot these last few days. Don’t let this place get you down. You are a man now. So why not take things as they are handed to you—do that to the best of your ability. Here if you take advantage of the educational o9pportuniteis offered you, the practical experience and the opportunities of making many friends, you will profit in the end. It is a good old world after all. (The Live Oak, Nogales, AZ)

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I praise the Lord my clothes to keep.
They were issued me to keep warm,
I know they take them but mean no harm.
So, if my clothes from me they take,
I hope I die before I awake. (Basil Brand, 3840 News, Patagonia, AZ)

“Tommie Gavagen says he is going to take his bed with him next time he goes to Phoenix. When he came home the other day, the boys in barracks four had removed the springs that held the mattress, and put strings instead.”  (The Veteran, Madera Canyon, AZ)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The 2013 CCC Recognition Day flyer is available here

Please share with anyone who's interested!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I've been researching the CCC camp newspapers for a presentation I'm giving at the Arizona History Convention in April. These newspapers were an important part of the CCC program, helping teach literacy to the enrollees and building camp spirit. Best of all, they were written by the CCC boys themselves, so they offer a valuable glimpse into their lives as told from their point of view. I'm having fun seeing some of the names they choose for their newspapers:

Arizona nightingale (San Simon)
Bonita Canyon echoes (Douglas)
Graham kracker (Willcox)
Sandblast Echo (Bowie)
You Name It (Fort Huachuca)
Cactizonian (Tucson)
Cactus Bites (Safford)
Desert Dreamer (Fort Thomas)
Rocklayers Herald (Duncan)
Lone Beaver (Flagstaff)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

National History Day and the CCC

I spent the day last Monday with my delightful CCC enrollee friend, Elson Alvarez. I was contacted a few months ago by some middle school students who were working on a presentation about the CCC for National History Day, a nationwide contest where students conduct research on a historical topic and then present their work in regional and, ultimately, a national competition (see for more details). The students who contacted me were doing a performance about the CCC. I was able to arrange a meeting with Elson, thanks to his lovely children, and the girls and Elson spent several hours talking to each other about the CCC. It was a wonderful thing to see the legacy of the CCC continued, and I believe that the girls were thrilled to meet Elson, who is a living history treasure. The girls will be giving their presentation on the CCC at CCC Recognition Day at Saguaro National Park West on April 13, 2013 (