A few weeks ago Molly and I spent the weekend up at her parents’ place in Oconto County, Wisconsin. My folks even made the long trek from the farm up to the Northwoods. It was a fun-filled weekend spent with our family playing games, grilling, boating, and exploring some of the waterfalls nearby. My father-in-law, Dan, always manages to sneak some sort of history into our trips. That weekend we took a drive out to Strong Falls at Goodman Park in Marinette County, Wisconsin. The park area was constructed by Company 1696 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) based in Dunbar, Wisconsin, during depths of the Great Depression.
The CCC was one of the first relief programs of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to pull America out of the Great Depression. The program tackled two problems at once–land degradation and unemployment. Years of exploiting the land had taken its toll on America’s natural resources, so FDR assembled one of the largest peacetime armies to reverse the destruction. Young men were recruited into the CCC camps and worked on various conservation jobs. They built trails and roads, planted trees, restocked lakes with fish, built parks, fought fires, and many other outdoor jobs. In return, camp life provided structure, shelter, food, and income.
The program lasted from 1933 to 1942 and in that time nearly 3 million young men enlisted in CCC camps across the United States. A number of these CCC camps were located right here in Wisconsin. A few of the lasting impacts of the CCC include:
- Nearly three billion trees planted
- Forest fire fighting techniques
- Soil conservation practices
- State Parks, National Forests, National Parks systems
- Helped prepare America men for WWII through military style camp life
Goodman Park is a great place to visit if you’re in Northeast Wisconsin! It is located on the Peshtigo River and named in honor of Robert B. Goodman who was a lumberman and conservationist in Marinette. The county has some hiking trails and bridges that go over the river for better viewing of the falls. We took a look inside of the buildings at the park and were really impressed. They all have hardwood floors and stone fireplaces–it reminds me of a lumber camp cabin. It’s neat to think that a bunch of young guys my age built these back in the late 1930s. I am happy that their work has been well maintained.
I did a search on the State Cartographers Office and found this historic aerial photograph from the 1930s of the Dunbar area. I added the arrow to show the area I believe to be Camp Dunbar. I also found a booklet from the Wisconsin Historical Society that tells the history of Wisconsin CCC Camps including the camp in Dunbar.
The history I found of Company 1696 (Camp Dunbar) says it was formed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in June 1933. Shortly after forming they made their way to Morgan Lake near Athelstane, Wisconsin. In November that year, the company moved to Dunbar. From 1933 to 1941 recruits at Camp Dunbar mapped thousands of acres of timber, constructed buildings, cleaned roads, planted trees, completed lake surveys, and built parks– including Goodman Park.
Images from Camp Dunbar
“Sparta CCC District, Sixth Corp Area Annual” – Wisconsin Historical Society
The Wisconsin Historical Society has a great collection of CCC photos and documents for people to learn more about the CCC in Wisconsin. It’s awesome that we can still enjoy and benefit from the work these guys did back then. The program provided hope for millions of young men and gave them the opportunity to make a living during the hard times. The program’s military style structure prepared many of these young men for military life. When WWII broke out several years later many of these guys went from the CCC camps into the service and helped America win the war.
Were you or someone you know enlisted in the CCC? What kind of CCC projects were done in the area you live? Share your stories and photos below!