ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED CONSERVATION SERVICE EMPLOYEES (ARCSE)

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THE BEGINNING OF THE SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE IN MISSOURI

By Otto Griessel in 1997

 

In early 1933, one of President Roosevelt New Deal programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).   Under this program, camps were set up for about 160 young men (enrollees) 16 to 20 years old who came from depressed families.   These enrollees were under the supervision of three U.S. Army Officers who were responsible for housing, feeding, clothing, and doctoring them.   Tents (and later barracks) provided shelter, dining, bathing, and other necessary facilities.

 

From 8:00 to 4:00 o'clock on week days about 120 of the enrollees were turned over to Federal and State agencies to assist in carrying out the programs of these agencies.   The agencies included Forest Service, Soil Erosion Service, National Parks, State Parks, and Fish and Wildlife.

 

The Soil Erosion Service (SES), U.S. Department of Interior, had about 60 employees carrying out a program of soil and water conservation on the farming area in northern Missouri.   Twenty five of these employees were located in the Regional Office in Bethany, Missouri.   The other 35 planned and supervised the installation of conservation measures in three watersheds located near Bethany, Tarkio, and Kahoka.   CCC camps were located in these areas and the enrolless were available to assist in installing these measures.

 

The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, had a program of soil and water conservation similar to that of the SES in 25 locations in Missouri.   CCC camps were located in these 25 locations and the enrollees were available to assist in the installation of these conservation measures.

 

In April 1933, these two agencies were combined to form the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), U.S. Department of Agriculture.   All employees of the two agencies were transferred to the new agency and continued to carry on the conservation work.

 

 

 

SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE, U.S.D.A.

AND ASSOCIATES

CALIFORNIA, MISSOURI

1935-1939

 

During the month of June 1935, a company of about 160 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees, under the supervision of three Army officers, and a staff of nine Soil Conservation Service (SCS) employees moved into a camp in the west part of California, Missouri for the purpose of working as a unit in carrying out the soil and water conservation program on the farms in Moniteau County.   The Army staff (one a doctor) was responsible for the housing, feeding, clothing and discipline of the enrollees.   The SCS staff with the help of enrollees was responsible for planning and installing the soil and water conservation measures on the farms.   Most of the enrollees were 17 to 20 years old and from depressed homes.

 

The titles and annual salaries of the SCS personnel were as follows: superintendent, $2,600; agronomist and two engineers, $2,000 each; and four foremen and auto mechanic, $1,600 each.   The superintendent was responsible for the SCS personnel in their association with the Army staff, enrollees, and general public.   While at work the SCS personnel were required to wear uniforms of green pants, jackets, hats, ties and tan shirts.   Insignias about the size of a quarter with the letters SCS on them were worn on the lapels of the collars on the shirts and jackets.   Each SCS employee paid for his own uniform.

 

The Army provided the following: five barracks for the enrollees, smaller ones for each of the Army and SCS staffs, kitchen and mess hall, infirmary, bath and latrine, recreation hall and a unit for the SCS office and Army office and storeroom.   The SCS office was large enough for four desks, drafting table and chairs, all of which were built from scrap lumber left from build­ing the barracks.   An enrollee experienced in typing was assigned as a SCS clerk.   The Soil Conservation Service address was Camp SCS-21, California, MO.

 

The SCS barracks included nine small rooms, a complete bathroom, a common room for visiting, reading, letter writing, and radio.   For each small room, the Army provided a steel cot with mattress, sheets, pillow and blankets.   Scrap lumber was used in making chairs and a table for the common room.   An orderly (enrollee) was assigned for making the beds, keeping the barracks clean and maintaining a fire in the hot water heater in the bathroom and, during cold weather, a fire in the heating stove in the common room.   All of this was provided at no cost to the SCS personnel.   It was optional whether they stayed in the barracks or not.   Some chose to live in town with their wives or families.

 

The Army provided all personnel three hot meals each day cooked in the kitchen by experienced enrollee cooks and served in the mess hall by enrollees.   The Army and SCS personnel ate at one end of the mess hall.   Exception to this was when the crews were working on the farms; hot meals were delivered, by Army trucks, to each crew during the noon-hour break period from work.   The cost of the meals for the SCS personnel was fifty-seven cents per day.   They had the option of eating the Army food or eating at home with their wives and families.

 

The SCS staff was provided with office supplies, surveying equipment, hand tools, five stake trucks with tool boxes, two pickups, two dump trucks, a 40 horsepower tractor, a 22 horsepower tractor with a blade, two small terracers, and a half-bag concrete mixer.   The auto mechanic was responsible for maintenance of minor repairs of all of this equipment.

 

Twenty-five to thirty enrollees were assigned to each barracks.   Each enrollee was provided with a cot and complete bedding.   A leader and assistant leader were assigned to each barracks for the purpose of keeping order in the barracks, around the camp and at work.   Enrollees with experience were assigned special jobs such as cooks, office clerks, truck drivers, and survey crews.   Most of the enrollees were turned over to the SCS staff from 8:00 A.M to 4:00 P.M. Mondays through Fridays to assist in planning and installing the soil and water conservation practices.   Each foreman was assigned a crew of 25 to 30 enrollees including a leader, assistant leader and a stake truck with an enrollee driver.

 

A farm owner interested in having the SCS plan and install soil and water conservation practices on his farm would make an application to the County Agent.   The application would be turned over to the SCS staff.   The agronomist and the engineer would visit with the owner in order to look over his farm and discuss a conservation plan with him.

 

There were no aerial photos or similar maps available at that time.   One of the engineers, along with enrollees on the survey party would make a base map of the farm by measuring the boundaries of all fields and location of all drainage channels.   The agronomist and the engineer used the base map in making a soil map of the farm showing soil type, land slope and degree of erosion.   The agronomist took soil samples from the fields in order to determine the acidity of the soil and how much limestone was needed.

 

Using the base map the engineer and the agronomist made a land use map which showed the location of the proposed grass waterways, terraces, diversions, ponds, and stabilization structures.   A listing of land use and crop rotation for the fields was recorded.   The conservation plan was reviewed with the farm owner, and if necessary, changes were made.   The cooperative agreement was completed between the SCS and the landowner.   The engineer made designs of ponds and stabilization structures such as drop spillways and chutes built out of concrete and masonry.   Some designs had to be sent to the Area Office for approval.

 

The engineer, with the help of the survey crew, laid out, and supervised the building of the terraces and diversions.   They also laid out the ponds, structures, and grassed waterways and supervised the building of them, which was done by the foreman and their enrollee crews.   Some terraces were built by trained enrollees using the 22 horsepower tractor and blade.   Other terraces were built by trained enrollees using the small SCS terracers pulled by the farmer's team.   The County Road District made a tractor and blade available for building terraces at a nominal cost to the farm owner.

 

A small crew of enrollees worked in the rock quarry for the purpose of producing rock aggregate for concrete structures and agricultural limestone.   The enrollees drilled holes in the rock in the quarry by hand using drills and sledgehammers.   A trained SCS foreman did the blasting of the rock.   The 40 horsepower tractor was used as power for a rock crusher, which was provided by the Moniteau County Commission.   The SCS dump trucks were used to transport the rock and limestone.   The limestone was delivered to the cooperator's farm at a nominal cost to him.

 

The doctor took care of all minor injuries and illnesses of the enrollees.   Those confined to bed were kept in the infirmary.   The doctor also provided care of minor injuries and illnesses of the SCS personnel without cost.   In accordance with Army regulations each enrollee was immunized for smallpox, typhoid fever, and meningitis.   Since the SCS personnel worked closely with the enrollees, Army regulations required that they also be immunized.   This was done at no cost to the SCS personnel.

 

In October 1939 the SCS staff, the Army staff; and the company of CCC enrollees as a unit moved to Marshall, Missouri to provide the same type of conservation program in Saline County that they had provided in Moniteau County.

 

Otto E, Griessel

Former SCS Engineer

Columbia, Missouri

 

   Assembled by Owen Lee August 26, 2005