Sixty-seven CCC Camps were established in West Virginia and over 55,000 West Virginia youth served in them during the period of 1933 to 1942. Most of the camps were located in remote areas of the state along the Appalachian Mountain chain.
Orlando Boys in the CCCsThe railroad and oil and gas field jobs which had been plentiful during the 1910’s and 1920’s had for the most part dried up. Farming was not an alternative because its income producing potential was marginal at best as a sole source of income for the family farmer. Many Orlando boys were desperate to find work and welcomed the advent of the CCC and the opportunity to make a financial contribution to their struggling families. So, with an eagerness to have a job, a little trepidation about leaving home, a desire to see what was on the other side of the mountain, and the best wishes of their families, many Oil Creek valley boys went to the county seats at Weston and Sutton to sign up as CCC boys.
Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we would like for them to; and so it was with Blaine Riffle, the son of James Lloyd and Mary Alice (Blake) Riffle. Blaine had just turned eighteen when he decided he would like to be in the CCC In Weston, Blaine met another Lewis County youth, Bert Norman of Duffy, and the two of them decided to go to Lewisburg to take the test to enroll into the CCC. The two boys made it to Lewisburg and took the test, but both were rejected. Hopping freights to return to their Lewis County homes, the two boys made it as far as Clendenin where they took refuge under a freight car to avoid a heavy rainfall and fell asleep. Failing to awaken when the rail car started moving, Blaine was decapitated by the wheels of the freight. Norman was lucky because the box car passed over his thin frame without touching him. Blaine’s father, Lloyd, was called to Clendenin to identify his remains. There had been some confusion initially with identifying Blaine because Norman thought his traveling companion’s name was Leonard Maxwell, instead of Blaine Riffle. The identity question was straightened out and Blaine was buried in the Peterson Cemetery on Oil Creek. It seems this family was crossed with tragedy. Blaine’s sixteen year old cousin, James Riffle, died about two weeks following Blaine’s death as the result of an accidental shooting while hunting on Red Lick. Blaine’s younger brother, Randall, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1939 when he was seventeen years of age.
Jim was the oldest son of Vincent and Clara (Posey) Blake and grandson of John Jackson and Ella Mae (Foster) Blake of Orlando. Joining the CCC when he was eighteen in 1938, Jim served his enlistment with Company 1506 at the Preston, Idaho CCC Camp which was located on the Bear River, near Utah ’s northeastern border. After service in the United States Army during World War II, he married a Burnsville girl, the former Mary Virginia Gillespie Chenoweth, in 1947. Jim retired from the Ford Motor Company in Ohio after thirty years service. Actively involved in the Canton Baptist Temple, Jim was a Sunday school teacher and usher at the church. He died in 2005 and is buried in Canton, Ohio.Left above: Jim Blake with the camp cook.
Right: Jim Blake
The son of Marion and Ethel (Skinner) Blake, Wayne grew up on Three Lick Run in a musical farm family. As did many Orlando boys, Wayne joined the CCC when he was eighteen years of age. He enrolled in the CCC with Leo Riffle who was Wayne ’s Three Lick neighbor and classmate at the Orlando School.
Wayne was first sent to Camp Woodbine on the Cranberry River near Richwood. A former logging camp, this camp consisted of approximately eight barracks, a dining hall and various other residences and camp structures. After serving a short time at Camp Woodbine, Wayne was transferred to Camp Cranberry, a new camp built further up the Cranberry River. Wayne received training in mechanics during his tenure with the CCC.
A significant achievement of Wayne’s company was the building of a road from Red Oak Mountain in Webster County to Black Oak Mountain in Pocahontas County.
Also stationed at Camp Cranberry with Wayne was Hugh Brown from Burnsville. According to Ercelyn Parmer Brown, Hugh enrolled for six months and received training on heavy dozers at Camp Cranberry. Hugh put his training to good use and operated heavy construction equipment thereafter during his career in the construction trades.
Left: Hugh Brown
Wayne was fortunate that Hugh Brown had a Model A Ford at Camp Cranberry because he and his friend Leo Riffle rode home with Hugh to Orlando whenever Hugh visited his Burnsville family.
Wayne also recalls that as part of the recreational activity to let the young men “blow off steam,” the Camp Cranberry played baseball with other nearby camps. Wayne recalls going to Camp Caesar in southern Webster County to play a team from Camp Nicholas located at Cowen. Boxing was another activity at Camp Cranberry which was a popular event with the men of the camp.
Wayne enjoys the annual CCC reunions in West Virginia held to commemorate the service of the CCC boys and the good works that they performed.
Leo T. Riffle
Leo was the son of Arch Alonzo and Minnie Jane (Blake) Riffle. Leo, like his friend Wayne Blake, had a similar upbringing on Three Lick Run and was used to hard work. Leo, not at all apprehensive about going away to the mountains of Nicholas County, enjoyed the CCC experience and was also paid a dollar a day for work a lot less difficult than life on the Three Lick farm. Joining the CCC on the cusp of World War II, Leo found himself in the United States Army shortly after his stint with the CCC. During the period of his CCC service and his Army service, Leo’s family moved from Orlando to the Parkersburg area. After his service, Leo followed his family to Williamstown, near Parkersburg, where he found a career with the Wood County Board of Education. Leo frequently visited his family and friends who remained in Orlando. Leo died in 2007.
Leisure at Camp Cranberry: local music, boxing, the barracks, baseball.
Ovie Merlin ‘Mut’ Stutler, Jr.
The son of Ovie and Ennie (Riffle) Stutler of Orlando, ‘Mut’ joined the CCC, according to his widow, around 1934 amd was first located in Greenbrier County at Camp Wood, near Alvon but was later transferred to Camp Anthony on the Anthony River in northern Greenbrier County. Camp Anthony had formerly been a logging camp operated by Huntling Lumber Company and provided a ready-made camp for the CCC enrollees. Besides several forestry-related tasks performed by his Company 2590, ‘Mut’ was also involved in the construction of the Blue Bend Recreation Area on Anthony Creek. While billeted at Camp Anthony, ‘Mut’ met his future bride, Anita Boswell, a daughter of a security guard at Camp Anthony, whom he would marry seven years later. After his CCC enlistment was up, ‘Mut’ worked at the silk mill at nearby Covington, Virginia and the Baltimore shipyards until December 25, 1941 when he received his notice to report for service by telegram when he was visiting his Orlando family. After his service in World War II, ‘Mut’ worked for Life of Virginia, an insurance company. ‘Mut’ died in 1992, a resident of Greenbrier County.
Above right: Anita Bosely and O.M. Stutler Jr.
Burlen, the son of Coy Clarence "Frank" and Audra (Reip) Henline, joined the CCC from Doddridge County in February 1941. A frequent visitor to his family home place on Oil Creek in Orlando, Burlen was the grandson of Beham and Samantha (Skinner) Henline. While in the CCC, he was first stationed at Camp Morgan in Berkeley Springs and was involved in the construction of Cacapon State Park. During his stay at Camp Morgan, Burlen and two other CCC enrollees were sent on temporary duty to pick apples at the American Fruit company orchard in nearby Berkeley County. Paid five cents per bushel picked, Burlen said he could earn up to $4.50 per day, which was a considerable amount of money in those days.
Above left: Burlen Henline
Right: Burlin and friends on the bridge they built in Cacpon State Park.
Below right: Burlen Henline in Wyoming
After returning to Camp Morgan from his apple picking experience, volunteers were asked to transfer to a CCC Camp near Kemmerer, Wyoming to work on soil conservation projects. “To see what was on the other side of the mountain,” Burlen volunteered for the transfer. One of the chosen volunteers, Burlen soon found himself in the still untamed West where he worked as a surveyor’s assistant locating and plotting small ponds which had been built by CCC workers to serve as a water source for sheep. Burlen has many tales to tell about the severity of the Wyoming winters. Cases of frostbite were common. Boots, which had frozen to the floor in the night, had to be kicked loose from the barracks floor in the morning. Work details did not cease work because of the weather. Burlen reminisced that he had never experienced a West Virginia winter that even approached the intense cold of a Wyoming winter.
After the CCC Camps were disbanded in 1942 when federal funds were re-directed to the war effort, Burlen attended a drafting school in Huntsville, Utah, near Ogden. After earning 750 hours of drafting experience, Burlen took, and passed, an examination to become a cadet and attend the Army Air Force Flight School in Santa Anna, California. After his service in the United States Army Air Force during World War II and thanks to his CCC experience, Burlen graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in Civil Engineering and retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation as a bridge designer and from a similar position with the State of Texas. He now resides in Canton, Ohio.
After his CCC days were over and he had reached the ripe old age of twenty eight years, ‘Rim’ married Viola Davisson. Interestingly, ‘Rim’ and his bride-to-be were transported by Glen Skinner and Virginia (McCoy) Skinner to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the wedding ceremony. They returned to Clover Fork to set up housekeeping.
‘Rim’ never talked much about his CCC days and his descendants today know little of his experiences at Camp Keith. Tragically, ‘Rim’ was struck by a vehicle as he walked along the road near Cowen in 1969 and died as the result of his injuries at the age of fifty-six. His memories of his days in the CCC camp went with him to the grave.
When eighteen year old Hollis Henline graduated from Burnsville High School in 1936, employment prospects were slim. The son of Newt and Dora (Posey) Henline, Hollis lived at home and did farm work for a few months until he decided to join the CCC. Joining up with ‘Rim’ Riffle, they both were sent to Camp Keith in Boone County.
After his term of enlistment in the CCC was concluded, Hollis obtained work with the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company where he remained until he received his notification of an all-expense paid trip to England for the duration, courtesy of the United States Army. After his military time was over, Hollis worked for Brockway Glass in Clarksburg for thirty-four years until his retirement. He died in 2004 and the age of eighty-seven.
Oke entered one of these CCC programs in 1937 when he was forty one years of age and was sent to a veterans’ camp at Camp Roane in Spencer. Oke’s daughter, Madge Brown of Burnsville, recalls that her father helped build walks and set out trees during his time at Camp Roane. He usually would come home on weekends to see his family.
After his enlistment with the CCC was concluded, Oke and his family moved to Baltimore where he worked in the shipyards refitting navy warships. After his wartime employment in Baltimore, he returned to Burnsville and lived the remainder of his life with his daughter Madge. He died in 1977 of pneumonia and lung trouble.
When he died in 2000 at the age of eighty five, Arden Thomas, an Orlando native, son of Mike and Estella (Henline) Thomas, and grandson of Beham and Samantha Henline, had devoted most of his working life as a locomotive engineer for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Before his employment with the railroad, Arden had a memorable service with the CCC beginning in 1936 at Camp Webster, Camp P-74 in Webster Springs. A few months after arriving at Camp Webster, Arden was transferred to Camp Waddington near Wheeling. Arden, along with Company 3529, played a hand in creating Oglebay Park, one of the premier state parks in West Virginia. The fine craftsmanship of the buildings of this park was created by the men of the CCC who were quite proud of their accomplishment. Arden passed away in 2000.
Elmer PumphreyAs with many Orlando families during the Depression, times were extremely tough for the Pumphrey family of Three Lick. Elmer Pumphrey, the son of Thad and Lettie (Sprouse) Pumphrey, was desperate to make a contribution to his family’s well-being. Misrepresenting his youthful age, he enrolled into the CCC because the pay of a dollar a day seemed beyond comprehension, and the thought of twenty five dollars a month being sent to his family was a dream come true. Elmer requested assignment far away from the worries of home and was accommodated with a trip to Ruby Lake in Wells, Nevada.
While serving two terms in the CCC, Elmer built bridges, cut brush, built roads and trails in the Rocky Mountain West. One unique task carried out by the enrollees at Ruby Lake was to pick conifer cones for the seeds to re-plant. Elmer’s widow reports that he thoroughly enjoyed his service in the CCC.
Above right: Elmer is front left with his his fellow "seed pickers"
Above left and right: Certification of Elmer's hard work.
Below left: Elmer's seed picking crew is in the truck.
Elmer traded his CCC uniform for the draftee uniform of the United States Army in late 1941. After World War II service, Elmer married Wilma Conrad and took up residence on Rag Run and later on Bear Run. Elmer was a long-time employee of the Moran Brothers in the gas well drilling business and later as an attendant at a car wash owned by the Morans in Weston. He died in 2003.
After a severe case of homesickness, Kenneth Spinks of Three Lick gradually became adjusted to life in a CCC camp nearly three thousand miles from home. With nine siblings back in West Virginia, Ruby Lake, Nevada seemed a world away. Entering into CCC service with Elmer Pumphrey, who also went to Nevada, he at least had someone from home to lean on. The son of Lloyd Spinks and Venia Ware Spinks, Kenneth became accustomed to the alien brown, drought ridden mountains, the towering snow-capped peaks, and the vast unpopulated spaces of Nevada. Being a CCC worker meant a lot of hard work from daybreak until dark and there was little time to think about the checker games with his sisters and brothers back home. After his term in the CCC and in the United States Army during World War II, Kenneth spent the rest of his working life as a timber cutter in and around Lewis County. He died in 2007.
See the Feb '07 entry Alta Mae Blake for more about Kenneth Spinks.
Nineteen year old Lawrence Sands found the rural character of Camp Black Mountain in Marlinton not that much different than his Flesher Run home on Route 2, Orlando. The son of George and Mamie (Dennison) Sands, Lawrence joined the CCC and was sent to hilly Pocahontas County in early 1938. This camp had its own string orchestra and a newspaper called “The Skillethead.” In addition to the reforestation work done by enrollees, the camp offered extensive training and educational courses which were taken at night. Good health was an important goal of the camp. A dentist made twice monthly visits to Camp Black Mountain. Lawrence’s enlistment period was up at the end of September 1938. Lawrence died in 1967 at age 49 in Akron.
It would be seven years after he served in the CCC that Charles heard of Orlando. Entering the CCC as cadre from Preston County, he was sent first to Camp Morgan in Berkeley Springs and then was transferred in July 1935 to newly opened Camp Tygart at Valley Head in Randolph County. This camp was in the shadow of Point Mountain and was later re-named Camp Bowers. Charles was initially assigned as a guard at Camp Bowers but later became the pump man and was responsible for maintaining the pump and pumping water from Tygart’s River to the camp. To underscore the remoteness of the camp, while Charles was employed there, a three hundred thirty pound, eight foot long black bear was killed on the camp property. The bear steaks on the menu that night led to growling cases of indigestion. Some seven years later in 1942, Charles met Opal Jeffries of Orlando and decided Orlando was the place for him.
Gene Riffle was the son of Joe and Betty (Skinner) Riffle. In 1936, Gene found himself at CCC Camp Laurel Fork at Glady in Randolph County. This camp was located southeast of Elkins in the Monongahela National Forest in a true wilderness area. With Shavers Mountain to the west and Middle Mountain and Rich Mountain to the east, this camp was among the most isolated of all CCC camps in West Virginia. Much of the hilly terrain had been cut over by decades-old timbering operations and the CCC boys spent a great deal of time in planting seedlings to rejuvenate the forest growth. Working in this scenic area, the boys from Camp Laurel Fork built many trails and campgrounds in this Laurel Fork wilderness on the northern flank of Spruce Knob. After his CCC service, Gene served in an Engineer battalion during World War II. After his war-time service, Gene worked for Western Union as a telegraph operator. He married Delta Mick, daughter of Toney and Minnie Mick in 1948. He died at the young age of 42 in 1958.
Born in Orlando in 1906 to O. P. McCord and Della McCord, Frank was very involved in the restaurant business that his parents operated in Orlando and later operated by his mother in Gassaway. As the Depression deepened, Frank joined the boys in green and was assigned to the CCC Camp Harrison near Clarksburg. After his CCC term, Frank entered the service and died during the Battle of the Bulge in 1945.
Right: Frank McCord
Lloyd Jack SkinnerJack Skinner was the son of W. O. Skinner and Clara Skinner of Clover Fork. Born in 1913, Jack was seventeen years younger than his oldest brother Austin Skinner who had earned admiration for his interesting service in Siberia during the First World War. Jack was twenty years old when Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated and the Civilian Conservation Corps was created. We know that Jack was first stationed at Camp Harrison at Quiet Dell near Clarksburg and from there was transferred to Camp Black Mountain in Pocahontas County in January 1937. Jack participated in the construction of the fifty two mile road from Camp Black Mountain through wilderness to Cranberry. This road was vital to control of the chronic forest fires which laid waste to what forest remained after the extensive logging which took place in this area in the early 1900’s. After his CCC experience and his service in World War II, Jack settled in Baltimore and worked for Railway Express along with his brother Pete.
Charles HenlineThe oldest son of Polar and Vada Henline, Charles was born in 1914. While his parents were operating the wagon restaurant business in Orlando which had formerly been the domain of Dick Skinner, Charles was one of the “boys in green” with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Although we know Charles served in the CCC, the writer was unable to determine the details of his service because he died in 1978 without children and no records no family left to provide information.
Cousins Fred and Lydle Ocheltree
Two Ocheltree cousins, Lydle and Fred, were also members of the CCC. Fred lived in Orlando and Lydle lived on Clover Fork. Lydle was the son of Samuel and Mary Frances (Posey) Ocheltree. Fred’s parents were Oley H. Ocheltree and Ellenora King Ocheltree. Oley clerked in Charley Knight’s store and also during the early 1900’s operated a store at Blake on upper Clover Fork. Both Fred Ocheltree and Lydle Ocheltree were killed during World War II. Lydle was a crew member of B-29 “Flying Fortress” shot down over Germany in 1943. Among other medals, Lydle was awarded an Air Medal for gallantry in action. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Fred was a member of the 301st Infantry Regiment of the 94th Infantry Division when he was killed in action in Luxembourg in February 1945. He is buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Both Fred and Lydle were Orlando musicians and frequently participated in music-making for square dancing at the home of Vaden "Jake" Blake in Orlando during the 1930’s. Fred and Lydle were both single when they died and there are no relatives left to tell their stories about their days in the CCC.
Salute to the Tree Boys
From the darkest days of the Depression in 1933 to the eve of World War II, young men of Orlando and the rest of the nation, served their country well, restoring environmental health to the vast rugged mountains and building a foundation for the recreational areas now so well used in this country. For a dollar a day the young men from Orlando toiled in boiling heat of the Nevada deserts, the freezing cold of the Wyoming plains, and the isolated slopes of the Monongahela National Forest. Their legacies are everywhere we look in this state. Each trip we take to Holly River State Park, Oglebay Park, Kumbrabow State Park, or to Cacapon and use the facilities, we can thank the “Tree Army” of the 1930’s, the boys in green, for their tireless work. In the words of Charlie Maquire:
We were down
But never down and out
We were lost
But never lost in doubt
We were broke
But we were never broken
Got on the March
In March and April ‘33
Bent our backs
Back from poverty
And became a generation
That led a Nation to believe.
My Land, I’ve held you in my hands
In ways, you still can see
Your mountains to the shore
Civilian Conservation Corps
My Land, and the C.C.C.
We were bronzed
Under a golden morning sun
We were rich
Three square meals instead of none
We were three-million strong and more
Sending strength to our families
On and on
To a conservation melody
On and on
Starting with Army “Reveille”
On and on
Proving “We can take it”
Into a new century
Camps Cranberry, Ruby Lake, Woodington, Woodbine and Glady Fork.
. . . . .
My name is Tom Pumphrey and I now live in Tennessee. During the 1930’s, my family lived in Orlando.
In 1940, I joined the CCC. I took a physical in Weston and then was sent for a short while to Camp Scott at Whitmer to what was called a summer camp. I was then sent to a CCC camp in Mineral County. The closest town was Keyser, but our mail was addressed to Cabins, West Virginia.
When we were in base camp, we were under the authority of the military but when we were planting trees or building roads we were under the authority of the forest service.
The clothing we were issued was military clothing which appeared to have been previously used, but it was serviceable.
I was in the CCC for one year and planted thousands of pine trees which must be very large trees by this time.
I went into the CCC at the same time as a Henline boy from Orlando whose first name I don’t recall, and also my brother, Jim Pumphrey. My brother Jim was in the CCC for six months and was stationed at a camp near Durbin in Pocahontas County. During his time in the CCC, Jim stocked trout in streams and also checked the streams to see how the trout were surviving and kept track of how many were caught.
After my CCC enlistment, I entered the Army and served in the South Pacific in a tank outfit and was in the Philippines, Marshall Islands, and Saipan. My brother Jim was in the Army Air Force after his stint in the CCC and was on active duty when World War II broke out.
For more about Tom & his family see Bill Pumphrey: Blacksmith & Jack of all Trades
comment 2 by Pat Rickhart
My step father Ivan Arron Morrison and his brother William Edward Morrison (better known as Barney) and my Uncle Edward Godfrey were all in the C.C.Cs at the same time, about 1933. Ivan and Barney were the sons of Lee and Ethel (Scarff) Morrison. Ivan was born 1905 and died 1944. He was married to Ruth (Nellie) Godfrey. His brother Barney was born 1913 and died 1968 and he was married to Ruth Peck. She was the daughter of the famous Dr. Peck of Burnsville. M y Uncle Edward was the son of Tom and Bridgett Godfrey. He was born 1913 and died about 1990 and I might add he was one of the nicest people you'd ever know. He was married to Ruth Morrison, the sister of Ivan and Barney and the daughter of Lee and Ethel Morrison. I find it is amazing that all three women had the name of Ruth.
Left: Ivan Aron Morrison at Valley Head in 1933.
comment 3 by David Parmer
Boys who lived on Route 1, Orlando listed as Gilmer County CCC enrollees included Russell Bonnett, Indian Fork, Verle G. Moore, Upper Sand Fork (Orlando), Hugh Bonnett, Orlando, Harley M. Workman, Orlando, Aubra Workman, Orlando, Arden M. Moore, Orlando, Awkland Stalnaker, Orlando, Nelson Workman, Orlando, Euston Sherwood Barker, Orlando, Everett Clarence Pumphrey, Orlando. This information was compiled from the Glenville Democrat.
[Russell and Hugh Bonnett were brothers, sons of James and Lessie (Graynolds) Bonnett. Verle and Arden Moore were the sons of Randolph and Emma (Boilon) Moore. Nelson and Aubra Workman were brothers. Their prents were and Marion Harley and Lela (Heater) Workman, so perhaps Harley M, Workman was their father. -ed]
comment 4 by David Parmer
The Emergency Conservation Work Act
In 1933, the United States Congress passed legislation titled the Emergency Conservation Work Act which established the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, as it became known. This act was designed to put to work American youth from ages eighteen to twenty five whose fathers were unemployed or deceased. Camps were also created for World War I veterans who were out of work. The act provided that eligible youth could enroll for six month terms which could be renewed in six month increments for up to two years. For their labor enrollees would receive the sum of thirty dollars per month, twenty five dollars of which had to be sent home to help support the family left behind. The work involved varied from state to state but in West Virginia, the work generally consisted of reforesting cut over tracts of land, controlling erosion, fighting forest fires, building fire trails, bridges and roads in state and national forests, and building cabins and lodges for public use. While such activity appealed but very little to city boys, rural youth of West Virginia who were used to hard outside work, found it desirable both from the standpoint of being satisfying work but also because it helped feed hungry brothers and sisters. Although organized labor vehemently protested the creation of the CCC because of its competition for scarce jobs, Franklin Roosevelt appointed a labor leader, Robert Fechner, to appease the American Federation of Labor and stifle organized labor opposition to the program.