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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Harrison CCC Camp rocked

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times, May 28, 2020

On the morning of Oct. 16, 1935, about 100 men gathered at the H. C. Hester farm north of Harrison and started harvesting one of the Ozarks’ leading crops – rocks.

No, the men weren’t really harvesting the rocks. They were simply removing the rocks from the pasture land and placing them in gulleys. The rocks would be used to construct permanent check dams. It was part of a soil erosion prevention program.

The men were from the Harrison Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp 4748.

The CCC was the brainchild of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. It had two purposes. It provided outdoor employment to young men who were idled by the Great Depression, and it provided protection, improvement and development of the country’s natural resources.

Camps housing about 200 men each were established in every state. By September 1935, there were 2,635 camps in the United States. During the CCC’s heyday, 77 camps in Arkansas undertook 106 projects.

Camp 4748 was located on Highway 65 a mile southeast of Harrison. According to a description from the time, enrollees of Camp 4748 “breathe the invigorating ozone of the Ozarks, and a snappier group is not to be found anywhere else in the country.”

Enrollees at Camp Harrison worked on both soil erosion projects and forestry projects. The men built rock dams, brush dams and wire dams for gulley control. According to reports, there was a lot of land around Harrison that bordered on sub-marginal classification, land that was being slowly washed away by heavy rains, and its general use impaired.

Most of the soil erosion work was done on cut-over timber land. However, there was still much excellent timber land, and in order to protect it from damage by fire, Camp 4748 men constructed fire trails.

In a story appearing in the Harrison Daily Times, Camp 4748 project manager Claude Woolsey said that stone, brush and other materials would be used to make the check dams. Some of the land would be terraced, and permanent grass sown.

Agronomist H.C. Pettit said that all farms in the demonstration area would have the opportunity to benefit from the same work.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, crews from the Harrison CCC camp worked on the Lake Leatherwood Park project near Eureka Springs. The park was composed of 1,600 acres, a 100-acre lake and a large limestone dam. It was said to be one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.

The CCC camps made sure to mix in a little fun along with the work. Camp 4748 had baseball and basketball teams. Volleyball, wrestling and boxing also had its devotees.

A number of dances were held at the camp “with girls from Harrison serving as excellent and attractive dancing partners.” Every night, a group from the camp attended movies in town.

The camp even had its own newspaper. The Dirt Dauber was started in January 1936, and ran monthly.