Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy
"Passing the Legacy to Future Generations"  

Forest History Center, Oregon

Forest History Center:
Preserving the Legacy and History of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Oregon

Contributed by Alan Maul, Forest Hisotry Center, Oregon Department of Forestry
CCC Legacy Journal Article, Vol 42, Issue 1 - Jan-Mar, 2018

The mission of the Forest History Center is: “To preserve and make available to the public the history of forestry in Oregon, and to provide a place and opportunity to research and publish information about Oregon’s forest history.”  An integral part of Oregon’s forest history is the role the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played in both the overall state along with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The Civilian Conservation Corps is probably one of the best known and most fondly remembered of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that came about during the Great Depression.  During its nine-year existence, the CCC in Oregon fought many fires, planted trees, constructed buildings, fire lookout towers, bridges, dams, canals, rock walls and built many miles of telephone lines, roads and trails.  One of the focal points of the Forest History Center (FHC) is to preserve this legacy left by the CCC in Oregon and present this legacy to the public.

The following describes the brief history of the FHC and its museum, and how it is preserving the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Oregon.

Background of the Forest History Center Building 

The building that houses the Forest History Center and it museum was constructed in 1936 by the CCC as their headquarters building for the camps administered by the Oregon Department of Forestry.  The building was originally located on the east side of Mill Creek which runs through the Department of Forestry campus.  In 2000, during the campus reconstruction project, the building was moved across Mill Creek to its current location on the west side of the campus and adjacent to the State Forester’s office building.  The State Forester’s office was built in 1938 as a WPA project with assistance from the CCC.  In 1988 the State Forester’s office building was placed on the national Register of Historic Places.

Once the building was moved and in place, it was remodeled, brought up to ADA standards on the museum floor, and became the Forest History Center and museum.  In 2002, the CCC worker statue was located adjacent to the building.  There is an interesting story about how the statue’s base and walkway are connected to the flag stones used in their construction.  During the campus reconstruction, these flag stones were salvaged from some of the original sidewalks located on the forestry campus that were constructed in 1938 by the CCC.  After removing the stones from the sidewalks, they were then stored for a future project.  It turned out that the CCC worker statue and walkway became that future project.   

The statue was formally dedicated by the Oregon CCC alumni organizations on September 3, 2002. 

Upon completion of building upgrades and installation of its forestry and CCC exhibits, the Forest History Center was formally dedicated on May 2, 2008 by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

There are a number of ways in which the FHC is preserving the legacy of the CCC in Oregon.   Some of these are as follows:

Collecting photos, documents, and memorabilia relating to the CCC in Oregon.

These items are collected from around the country.  In fact, a majority of the items come from the east coast and southern states.  When the CCC program was operating, many of the companies were formed in the east and were then shipped out to Oregon by train.  When the enrollee’s enlistments were up they took their photos and memorabilia back home.  Now, many of the children and grandchildren of the CCC alumni are discovering these items and wondering what to do with them.  In some instances, they are contacting the FHC to see if we would be interested in displaying and/or preserving the items.  The answer is almost always “yes”. 

One of the things that makes working at the Forest History Center interesting, and at times exciting, is that you never know what items will come through the door or arrive in the mail.

Placing items on exhibit at the FHC

A number of the artifacts and scanned copies of the photographs are placed on display in the museum.  The original photographs are preserved and stored in a vault.

Making documents and items available for both museum staff and persons conducting research about the CCC.

Collecting names of enrollees, military, and civilian personnel who were in the CCC in Oregon.

This is one of our primary and ongoing projects relating to the CCC in Oregon.  Currently we have over 16,000 names in our listing with estimated 65,000 to 75,000 names to go.  Our primary sources of names are from the district annual reports, camp pictorial reviews and histories, monthly camp newspapers, special Thanksgiving and Christmas menus, enrollee memory books and personal papers such as discharge papers.  We receive numerous requests from people around the country asking if we can assist them in identifying where their father or grandfather had been stationed in Oregon and what company he was in.  At times we can help, and sometime not.  Documents and information that would add to our personnel listing are always welcome. 

Identifying and mapping the camps in Oregon.

Another key project is locating and mapping the location of the CCC camps in Oregon.  This project is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle with very limited information.  We know the exact location of some camps that have been named, identified and may even have a memorial plaque on the site dedicated to the CCC.  In other cases, all we know is a general location.  In some instances, the former camp locations are kept hidden so they will not be overrun and desecrated by artifact hunters.   A number of camps have now been identified and their general location established on a map displayed at the Forest History Center.  Just like the center’s work on its listing of Oregon CCC personnel, there is still much research to do on mapping the camp locations.

Taking the story of Oregon’s CCC on the road.

The FHC installs displays at libraries, parks and heritage centers in the local area.  In January, the FHC installed a CCC exhibit at the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon that will run through April of this year.  It shows the arrival of the CCC in Oregon, their projects, and some of the impacts the camps made on the local communities.  This exhibit will also be on display in the in the Department of Forestry’s main conference room where the CCC Legacy Gathering will be holding its meetings while visiting the Forest History Center in September of this year.  In addition to static displays, the FHC has developed Power Point presentations of the work of the CCC in Oregon.  These presentations are made to various groups and organizations in the area.

The Forest History Center is located on the Oregon Department of Forestry headquarters campus in Salem, Oregon.  It is part of the Department of Forestry and is staffed and operated primarily by volunteers.

The Oregon Department of Forestry and Forest History Center welcomes the CCC Legacy Gathering to its campus in September of this year.

Alan Maul
Coordinator, Forest History Center
Oregon Department of Forestry

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