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By Toni C. Collins
Levy County Historian
In March of 1933, as many as 15 million people - a quarter of the nation’s workers - had no job and no hope of finding one. Factories lay idle, storefronts vacant, fields plowed under. State governments, cities and towns had exhausted their meager relief funds.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office, he struggled to provide emergency measures to fill basic necessities but wanted to focus on the vital human need to maintain dignity. First and foremost, FDR looked for ways to provide jobs. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) filled this need and was approved by Congress so swiftly that it was signed into law only 10 days after FDR took office.
The CCC enlisted the departments of Agriculture, Labor, War and Interior to coordinate a greater range of jobs. The workers lived in military-style camps administered by the Army and worked on federal lands. For $30 a month, workers would upgrade national parks and forests, improve flood control and fight soil erosion.
At first, the program was limited to unmarried men between 18 and 25 from families on relief, and $25 of the monthly pay earned had to be sent home.
The first enrollee, Henry Rich, was inducted on 07 April 1933, a week after the program was approved and the first camp opened ten days later in the George Washington National Forest near Luray, Virginia. By June more than 100,000 CCC boys were in the woods in 1,500 camps and upward of 300,000 enrollees were established by August.
Although the CCC was one of the first programs formed, a number of new deal agencies also were created. The AAA, Agricultural Adjustment Administration which regulated crop and livestock production. The PWA, Public Works Administration was established to build major public works. The TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority went on to build hydroelectric dams to bring electricity and development to the large part of the rural South.
Two CCC camps were established in Levy County. During the month of April, 1933, J.P. Kimble ran advertisements in the local newspapers encouraging applicants to apply to the Emergency Relief Office in Williston. One of the camps was located at Otter Creek and provided workers to the private timber companies. The second camp was established 28 June 1933 at Bronson.
When the United States entered World War II, the CCC program was gradually disbanded and the workers directed to military service. Although the Board of County Commissioners worked hard to keep the local camp open, their efforts failed.