Early plantings, about 1940, by Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) crews in Monument.
The tree nursery near Monument Rock was well-established by 1945.
Tree farming idea sprouted in the shadow of Monument Rock
If you wander the hills out near Monument Rock, you are just about guaranteed to to run into evidence of this area’s involvement of treeing the West. Either odd rows of trees, or small stone structures and walls, and maybe a foundation or a still-existing structure.
When looking for information about the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Camp in Monument a few years ago, I ran into Mike Smith’s extremely valuable work about the CCC titled “Forest Army.”
Not only did Smith know about the Monument camp, but his grandfather had spent time there.
“In a 1970s newspaper interview, my grandfather William Rutherford stated he went into USFS service with the third CCC camp in Colorado and left the service while at the last CCC camp in Colorado - the last of his USFS letters are from the Monument camp, so I presume that was the last camp. It may have been the last USFS CCC camp in Colorado. Smith wrote to me in an email.
“My Monument file is rather thin, but it does include excerpts from a 1938 district annual. The excerpt covers the Woodland Park, Colorado Springs and Monument Camps.”
Some of the information in the district annual is as follows.
In May 1938, 1st Lieut. Alvin C. Jenkins, then commanding Company 3810, CCC, Monument, Colorado, was advised that his Company was to be disbanded, and that the camp was to be reoccupied by a new company from the First Corps Area. Meanwhile, at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, many CCC enrollees were gathering. On July 18, 1938, Company 2124 was organized.
“The trip west was begun on July 20, 1938. Of course, all the members were eager to start for the new location because it meant travel, new sights, and perhaps a little adventure. Their enthusiasm dimmed somewhat, however, as the train rolled forward, and the monotonous scenery failed to fulfill expectations. Once their destination was reached, a different feeling took place – a feeling hard to describe. The lasting beauty of the mountains, the magnificence of the vari-colored rocks, and gorgeous panorama of far-reaching plains studded with tableland made an impression that was to last a lifetime. Yes, their new home at the foot of rugged Mt. Herman was indeed a welcome sight,” according to the CCC annual.
“The New Englanders found a well-maintained camp – one that had been built from the ground floor by Company 3810. This Company was formed in July 1935 and established in Dublin, Texas, as a soil conservation project. When the work in that vicinity was fulfilled, the company moved to Monument, Colorado.”
“The site for the now well developed camp was overgrown with brush and covered with rocks. As the only permanent building completed at this time was the mess hall, tents were set up until more permanent buildings could be established. Within three months, the portable barracks had arrived, and their erection gave the camp an appearance of permanency. The buildings were arranged circularly so as to allow convenience in passing from one barrack to another,” said the CCC annual.
“They were told that the primary function of the Camp’s work program was to furnish the necessary labor for raising and shipping of seedlings from the Monument Nursery to the various United State Forests throughout this region. It was pointed out that this process of raising trees consisted of a series of operations that varied with the seasons. Cone collecting, seed extracting, seeding, weeding, cultivating, watering, shading, protecting, transplanting, and stock distributing were given the major divisions for each year’s work. In addition to these regular Nursery operations incidental to the raising of trees, considerable construction work was completed by Company 3810. The blacksmith shop, seed extractory, implement shed, seed storage building, tree packing shed, garage, barn and two pump houses will long remain as a tribute to the superior workmanship of these enrollees. Interest in the project ran high for the members realized that they had an excellent opportunity to learn the nursery business as a career.
Sports were extremely popular with the Texans, and their teams were consistently among the best in the District. The baseball team proved its worth by winning by winning all but one of its games in a difficult schedule. An enthusiastic basketball team, not to be outdone, ran up a score of victories with only two defeats. Swimming, boxing, and tumbling teams also created records of which the Company was justly proud.
Classes of study were organized, and the educational program was functioning smoothly. Mr. Vern C. Howard was sent to take his place as teacher with the disbandment of Camp SP-12-C which was located in Colorado Springs. He brought with him radio equipment, woodworking tools, and wide assortment of books to strengthen the educational set-up. Recognizing the fact that more adequate teaching space was necessary, Mr. Howard constructed a schoolhouse entirely built from scrap lumber.
Assistant Educational Adviser James Leasure, who had learned radio while a member of the Civilian Conservation Corp, established his own station using the call letters W9ZCX. He sent and received messages to and from every part of the world.
“At the present time well-balanced educational program is being maintained. Planned courses in academic, vocational and job training subjects are conducted regularly, with determining factors being the needs and desires of members. Unusual interest has been taken in the informal groups of photography, woodwork, dancing, and the various arts and crafts. Week-end trips to the Royal Gorge, the State Penitentiary, the coal mines, the Garden of the Gods, and Pikes Peak have already been taken with other scenic spots remaining on the “must see list.”
Dr. Samuel Lilienthol, one of the first Camp Surgeons to go on duty in the district, was assigned to Company 2124 in August,1938. Since his arrival, many significant improvements have been made in the Mess Hall and the Infirmary,” the annual said.
“The work of the 2124th Company is far from complete. Its actual history still lies in the future. Mr. Donald J. Hodges, present Project Superintendent, has intensive plans for the present and the future. Several new buildings will be erected, a large amount of fence will be installed, roads will be built, and new areas will be developed to further expand the Nursery. Two side camps are in operation this summer. One to locate at Devil’s Head is developing a new camp ground, and the other situated at Indian Creek is constructing a road which will make it possible to thin a large area of the forest land to market Christmas trees,” said the forward-thinking crew, about their upcoming work.