The Great Depression and the Civilian Conservation Corps
Erosion during the Great Depression, Cherokee County, Georgia

Photo courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Society.

The Dust Bowl​ in Georgia
While the Dust Bowl was partially caused by cyclical drought, it was largely caused by unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices. Stewart Udall, the Secretary of the Interior in the 1960s, would later write, "In a sense, the great depression was a bill collector sent by nature, and the darkest tidings were borne on every silt-laden stream and every dust cloud that darkened the horizon."
 
President Roosevelt himself noted the environmental origins of the Great Depression in his 1938 State of the Union address: “The first great force, agriculture--and with it the production of timber, minerals, and other natural resources--went forward feverishly without restraint and we saw deserts encroach, floods destroy, trees disappear, and soil exhausted.”
 
Roosevelt could have been describing the situation right here in North Georgia. The mountains and the farms were eroded, gullied, deforested and largely barren in the 1930s. Pine Log Mountain was not only extremely deforested from mining and timbering, but it was also ravaged by fire. North Georgia Tribune editor Tom Arnold wrote in 1938 of Pine Log Mountain: "Before timber protection was organized that noble mountain was burned over from base to tip every year.”
 
When the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived at Pine Log in 1938, its main task was to build the fire tower.
The Men of the CCC: Camp Rieley
During the Great Depression, there was 50% unemployment among young men. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a New Deal Program designed by the Roosevelt administration to give young men work as well as job training and literacy.
 
CCC workers were paid $30 a month and required to send $25 of it home to their families.
 
At the base of Pine Log Mountain in Beasley Gap was a CCC camp called Camp Rieley. The men of Camp Rieley, pictured here, ranged in age from 15 to 27 and came primarily from rural areas where farms had been devastated by drought and boll weevils.

Photo courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Society.

Pine Log CCC Camp Rieley workers.
CCC Camp Rieley (P-93) Progress Map
This map shows the location of the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp at the foot of Pine Log Mountain in Beasley Gap. The camp, in operation from 1938 to 1942, was alternately called Camp Rieley and Camp Robert Fechner. It housed 193 men who built the fire tower and roads on Pine Log Mountain and neighboring areas.
 
The red medallion on the map marks the location of the camp. Red lines indicate roads built by the camp (some by the Cartersville CCC camp) and numbered circles indicate projects such as bridges and culverts. The black triangle in the center is the fire tower they built at the summit of Pine Log Mountain. 
Photo courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Society.
Camp Rieley Ruins
Foundations from camp buildings are still visible in the woods off of Greeley Road and Route 140 in this 2006 photograph. Many of the buildings used in CCC camps were portable military-style buildings, but the stone foundations still remain.
 
The CCC camp included barracks for 193 men, as well as buildings for dining, recreation, and training. The men in CCC camps took vocational classes like woodworking as well as academic classes for those who lacked literacy skills.
Charles Shackelford, CCC Enlistee at Camp Rieley
Charles “Dub” Shackelford is pictured standing in front of the CCC barracks at Camp Rieley.
 
Dub, like most of the men at the Pine Log camp, was originally from South Georgia. 
 
From 1935 to 1939, the men in CCC company 93 had been stationed at the Lakeland CCC Camp in Lanier County. For men who were accustomed to Lakeland’s cypress swamp and alligators, North Georgia’s Pine Log Mountain must have been a shock.
Charles Shackleford, Rydal CCC

Photo courtesy of the Shackelford Family.

© 2023 by Marian Dean. Proudly created with Wix.com