Civilian Conservation Corps, South Dakota, CCC, Black Hills, history Civilian Conservation Corps

Sigrid Gustav (Swede) Johnson


In the early years, one of the prerequisites for qualifying to join the CCCs was one's family had to be on welfare. His father had died in 1927 and his mother and eight children went back to Sweden in 1933. In 1935, Gus returned to the US and Hitchcock, SD. He wanted to get into the Cs and he mentioned the fact to Billy Mahr, an old cowboy from Hitchcock. Billy took a piece of paper and wrote on it, "Tom, take care of this boy," and handed it to Gus.


The next day Billy took Gus to Pierre and dropped him off at the state capitol. The note was to Tom Berry, the governor of South Dakota, who was a friend of Billy; they were both old cowboys. Gus wasn't able to get in to see the governor, but one of his aides told Gus, "You go on back to Hitchcock, and you'll hear from us."


Three days later a letter came giving Gus instructions to report at Aberdeen for his physical and he would be going into the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was sure then, it is not what you know, but who you know, that gets you places.

Gus was in Company 2757, SP-3, at Blue Bell, SD. It was also called Camp Narrows and Robbers' Roost. He became a catskinner and worked his way from enrollee to leader during the years he served, 1935-1939. He was the only CCC worker who was ever given a superior rating by lst Lt. Carl G. Paulsen, Company Commander. Apparently his work ethic was his ticket to staying in longer than most.

Swede Johnson

Swede lives in Colorado now and when he attended the National Association of CCC Alumni in Rapid City, SD in October 2005 he said he is a South Dakota boy at heart and that he as glad to be home, if only for a visit.

Melvin Hermanson and the camp mascot

Camp mascots came in all types and sizes though a woodchuck was somewhat unusual.

Mel served at Mystic, F-1 during part of his six years in the Cs. Because he was a mess steward and in food service, he was exempt from the standard six month hitch rule.

CCC Worker Bronze Statue and Mel

Melvin Hermanson donated the funds to procure this bronze statue. For now the statue is situated inside the Hill City Chamber of Commerce building and it will be placed outside the new South Dakota CCC Museum at Hill City. (Details further down on blog.) The plaque mentions his nickname of "Sarge" Melvin Hermanson.

Gabriel J. Raba


Gabe Raba served wtih Company 789 at Camp Este, F-3 in 1934. He grew up on the farm near Selby and was no stranger to hard work.
As with so many of the CCC boys, Gabe has a penchant for creativity. He makes wall clocks out of dried cow pies! He gathers them after they are dry, puts a shellac finish on them, and adds the clock hardware. He has no shortage of "raw" materials on the ranch.
Gabe came up with an idea that got him onto the David Letterman Show on January 4, 1990 and he appeared on Bill Cosby's "You Bet Your Life" program May 20, 1993. His invention? A 28 day calendar...and it makes perfect sense. It is called the Month and Moon calendar. As he puts it, "On my calendar pay day would be the same day every month."

Gabriel Raba in 2004

Gabe turned 97 on July 19, 2008.

New South Dakota CCC Musuem


This recently vacated Forest Service building near Hill City, SD will be the home of a new CCC museum, plus the Hill City Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, a Pennington County sheriff's office, and the Art Center which will house: the Hill City Arts Council, the office of the Black Hills Playhouse director, South Dakota Artisans Connections, and the Art of the Hills Magazine.
The plan is to have the statue and the museum in place by the spring of 2009, the year of 76th anniversary of the founding of the CCCs.

Details on the new CCC Museum




The CCC museum will be housed in the top floor of the split-level area. An elevator will be installed to access the 728 square feet room.

There will be a computer where visitors can search names of all men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in South Dakota. A grant to create the database was given by the Mary Chilton Foundation of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Sioux Falls, SD.

CCC Cabins on the property



Located on the property behind the Chamber of Commerce/CCC Musuem building, and across Spring Creek are these two cabins which we are told were CCC-built. They are part of the real estate package.

The cabins are vacant and in good repair. Their use in this endeavor hasn't been determined.

Picnic tables available beside museum






Picnic tables and a good-sized area for running around and playing is just outside the door.

Spring Creek runs at the base of the hill, just behind the main building.

CCC Boy Bronze Statue

A 6-foot tall bronze statue of a CCC worker will stand sentry and bid welcome at the entrance to the CCC museum. Across the country 42 other statues have been put into place and soon it will be South Dakota's turn. The original statue, as well as a manufacture mold, were created at Elliot Ganz Foundry in New York. The first statue was placed in North Higgins State Park, Roscommon, MI on June 3, 1995.

Each statue has a unique base usually made from stone native to the area. In other respects the statues are identical.

Origin of the CCCs


Three generations have been born since one of the most popular New Deal Programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps, was passed into law under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who was inaugurated March 4, 1933; Congress passed and FDR signed the legislation to establish the agency on March 31, 1933.

The agency was created to solve two of the nation's biggest problems--unemployment and the need to improve the country's natural resources.

In 1932 just twenty-five percent of men aged 15-24 had even a part-time job. The balance of the nation's young men and a majority of older men were on the streets with no jobs to be had. No jobs, no money, no food. The men lined up for free food in soup lines.

It was the Great Depression.

April 7, 1933--just 37 days after his inauguration, the first man was enrolled in the CCCs.

Typical CCC Enrollee


Criterion for acceptance into the CCCs varied over the years due to the government's perception of family and work needs. During the nine years the CCCs existed, from 1933-1942, There were three major changes for enrollees. In 1933-1935, single males from 18 to 25 years of age were accepted. The age range changed in 1935 when those aged 17-28 were allowed to apply. After July 1, 1935 the final age bracket became 17-25.

All boys were given board, room, clothing, medical attention and $30.00 per month. They kept five dollars--which went a long way in those days--and the rest was mandated to go to their families back home. In 1939 the family allotment was reduced to $22.00 and the boys got to use the eight dollar balance.

Camp Designations


Initially called the Emergency Work Act (E.C.W.), the agency was commonly called the Civilian Conservation Corps. The name was officially changed in 1937.

Martin Farrell was enrolled in Camp F-4, Pactola, within the time frame of June 1933 and October 1935.

Each camp had a designated number which signified which agency was in charge of the project. F-4 signified it was under the jurisdiction of the National Forest.

F National Forest
FS Forest Service

S State Forest
SP State Park

P Private Forest

MC Private Land (Mosquito Control)

A Agriculture (Bureau of Animal Industry)

BF Bureau of Fisheries and Wildlife, Federal Game Refuge

BS(Biological Survey)

NA National Arboretum (Bureau of Plant Industry)

TVA Tennessee Valley Authority

BR Federal Reclamation Project

DG Public Domain (Grazing)

G (Department of Grazing)

GF Oregon and California Land Grant (Grazing)

GLO (Grazing Service/Land Grant)

GNP (Grazing Service/National Park)

MP Military Park

PE Private Land Erosion

D Drought

P Private

E Erosion Control Service

SCS Soil Conservation Service

MA Municipal Area

TVA-P Tennessee Valley Authority (State Park Division)

A Army Military Reservations

C of E State Land (Corps of Engineers)

Navy Naval Military Reservation