As a baby boomer, I thought the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) first came into appearance in the United State as a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. A national project that provided unskilled manual labor job related to conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. Boy, I was ever wrong!
One of the CCC’s local projects is the two sets of cabins at Palo Duro Canyon, only a short distance south of Amarillo, Texas. The canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas. It’s absolutely beautiful. In this blog, I’m sharing many of my own pictures, especially of the three stone cabins deep into the canyon built by the CCC. I’ve spent more than one night at the old “cow camp cabins”, as they are known, with a number of writers and friends. We’ve actually filled up all three of the cow camp cabins, just like the workers who lived there while building the roads and bridges in the 1930’s.
But here comes my surprise. The future CCC was originated on June 16, 1775, nearly two and a half centuries ago, by General George Washington, who appointed Col. Richard Gridley as the first chief engineer of the Continental army. In 1779, The Corps of Engineers was established by congress as part of the Continental army. The engineers’ fortifications played an important role in many Revolutionary War battles, including the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battles of Saratoga.
In 1802, Congress, supported by President Thomas Jefferson, established the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. This was after recognizing the need for a national engineering capability. For more than a quarter century, West Point remained the only engineering school in the U.S. Congress also established the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which dates its continuous origin from 1802, and was started at West Point. Until 1866, the academy superintendent was a military engineer.
Our nation repeatedly called upon the Army Engineers to perform civil works as well as engineering projects. During the 1800’s, the Corps supervised construction of extensive coastal fortifications and built lighthouses, piers, and jetties, as well as mapping navigation channels. A Corp of Topographical Engineers, a separate unit in 1838-63, helped explore, survey, and map many regions of the new frontier.
During the Mexican War and Civil War, in addition to supplying many important commanders such as Robert E. Lee and George McClellan, the Corps of Engineers played important roles in mapping, road and bridge construction, fortifications, and siege craft. The 2,170 foot pontoon bridge built across the James River in June 1864 was the longest floating bridge erected before WWII. One of the army engineers, George W. Goethals, supervised the construction of the Panama Canal.
Now for the biggest surprise I found … The Corp of Engineers, thru their military role, shifted their attention away from the footprints of the United States to a military role, as seen in its construction of army and air force facilities in the buildup of the 1980’s Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as peacekeeping operations in other parts of the world.
Please tell us two things. First, did you realize the CCC, as we know it today, was founded so many years ago? And, secondly, where is your favorite place to go, relax, and enjoy the wonders of nature? My answer … is spending time with friends in the cow camp cabins in Palo Duro Canyon.
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