Civilian Conservation Corps
The CCC program, under the direction of the U.S. Army, was first initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the spring of 1933. Major Evan W. Kelley, then Regional Forester, was called to Washington, D.C., and was instrumental in setting up the program.
The first camp in the Flathead was set up in 1933 on the Desert Mountain road just east of the checking station. Ranger Tom Wiles, of the Coram District, was the first camp superintendent. This camp, like all others in the Flathead, had a consignment of 200 men, exclusive of the administrative force. One of their accomplishments of the first summer was to locate and build a 12-mile road to Desert Mountain Lookout. Crews, often sent out in spike camps, did many jobs: trail maintenance, construction of buildings, water systems, fences, and telephone lines. After receiving training, these crews became dependable and efficient at fighting forest fires. They saved the day in many instances.
There were a few local boys in these camps, but most of them were from the eastern states. The establishment of the CCC program often saw young boys riding the Great Northern freight trains and drifting aimlessly over the country in search of something to do and something to eat. The CCC program ended much of this; at last, they had found a place to sleep and eat and a chance to become useful citizens. Many of these young men stayed in the Forest Service. Many present-day Forest officers were first initiated into the Forest Service as CCC enrollees.
In 1935, the camp on the Desert Mountain road was moved to Elk Park where they built the first west side road on the South Fork, the Spotted Bear landing field, and numerous other projects. In 1939, the Elk Park Camp was moved to the North Fork just north of Junkins Corner.
During the summer of 1936, the Flathead and surrounding area were plagued with many forest fires. I had these men on several fires that summer, and I really believed they developed into one of the most efficient crews I ever had. They were well-organized, ready to go, and knew how to fight fire when they got there.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was discontinued in 1943.