As we begin this new year, it is always good to reflect back on our history.

There is a lot of history that we have in Missouri, especially around our beautiful rivers. For example, the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

CCC crew on a truck driving across the Eleven Point River.

This was a program established on March 31, 1933. The CCC had a two-fold purpose: to reduce unemployment and preserve the country’s natural resources.

The CCC put to work a total of 500,000 rural, unmarried, young men between the ages of 18-25, whose families were on government relief. Not only did this program put to work these young men, but it also performed many useful tasks, such as construction, restoration, and conservation projects across the country.

The Great Stock Market Crash in 1929 would be the beginnings of the Great Depression, holding the nation captive. This was a real and difficult struggle for all Americans. The economy went “downhill” fast, resulting to the depths of depression, until the winter of 1932-1933 when it appeared to be stuck.

The desperate citizens of America turned to President Hoover for help. Hoover tried to lift the American spirit. He said, “Prosperity is just around the corner,” but the nation was also psychologically depressed.

He also enacted small measures, such as lowering taxes in hopes of increasing demand on goods and creating jobs. Unfortunately, these small-scale measures did little to help the economy.

CCC crew working on a CCC building that was built in a camp.

Many people lost everything during this time. Their businesses were lost, investments, homes and self-respect. Many more were starving and out of work. In 1932, about 14-16 million workers were unemployed.

On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt took his presidential oath of office in the middle of a terrifying bank panic. In his inaugural address, he affirmed the nation that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

He also called congress into immediate action in a special session which would unintentionally last 100 days, and leave a legacy that remains unparalleled. During this time, President Roosevelt set a record of 15 bills passed on to Congress, which went into enactment.

The next day President Roosevelt announced a bank holiday, and Congress passed his Emergency Banking Bill with little debate. The bill was successful and reopened a lot of solvent banks. He also introduced his New Deal. The New Deal had three major steps: Relief, Recovery, and Reform.

One of these programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps. This CCC program was so successful that by July 1933, there were 300,000 corpsmen at work in 1,300 camps nationwide.  

Part of the accomplishments by these corpsmen, along with many more that were added to program, included:

• 46,854 bridges were constructed;

• 800 state parks were created;

• 4,622 fish rearing ponds established;

• 3,980 historic sites were restored, including Gettysburg Battlefield;

• 5,000 miles of water lines were laid;

• 3,462 beaches were improved;

• 3 billion trees were planted;

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