Mutiny at West Orange

Company 1281, Camp SP-7, South Mountain Reservation, West Orange, New Jersey

    On January 8th, 1935, 125 of the men of Company 1281, working in the South Mountain Reservation, went out on Strike, refusing to work due to a prior food complaint and dissatisfaction with the 11 o'clock bedtime. What happened next was best told by the New York Times which had two articles on the incident on January 9th and 10th. These articles are set forth below.

125 at CCC Camp Rebel at Curfew

From the New York Times January 9 and 10, 1935

Police Called to Escort them from West Orange Quarters When they Refuse to Work

Court Martial Expells 14

Others Fined, Agree to Obey 11 P.M. Bedtime Rule They Said Curbed Social Life

Special to the New York Times

West Orange, Jan 8. - Rebellion stirred the ranks of CCC camp 1281 up on South Mountain Reservation today and 125 of the 200 youths there were expelled by Captain James Tobin. They had told the captain, "No 11 o'clock bedtime hour or we won't work." So the captain turned them out.

   The youths made a sortie into West Orange and Orange, conducted by Essex County Park and local police. They met Mayor William P. Morse, emmissary dispatched from Army Headquarters at Governor's Island. The major told them to "go back to school" and back they marched.

   Summary court-martial proceedings were held on their return. Fourteen "ringleaders" were definitelt expelled. The other mutineers, fined from $1 to $3, returned to work. The mutiny was over and 11 o'clock remained as the bed-time hour.

Interfered With Social Life

   Virtually all the recruits in the camp are from Essex County and they have found the 11 o'clock retiring hour, which is a general rule in all CCC camps, an unreasonable interference with their evening social activities. So when they returned Sunday night, after being away since Friday, they protested to Captain Tobin at midnight. They were told they needed eight hours sleep to do eight hours' work.

   Bright and early this morning, however, Captain Tobin was met by a delegation who delivered the ultimatum. The captain delivered his, and when the 125 refused to work he called in the park and West Orange police. Without disturbance the mutineers were escorted two and a half miles down the mountain. At the Orange line they were met by police of that community. In front of the Central School on Main Street they decided to sent a committee to the local newspapers with their story.

   The committee of three declared protests against the food were made early last week and then the 11 o'clock rule was protested. Captain Tobin, they said, threatened to discipline them by sending them to bed at 10.

   The group went on to the Orange armory and there Major Morse showed up. They asked to use the armory for shelter, but the Major said it was a State building and he had no jurisdiction. Then he left.

Advised to Return to Camp.

   Straggling back to West Orange, they again encountered Major Morse, who addressed them from the curb. He told them to regard the camp not as a place to earn money but as a school, and to keep the regulations. He advised them to go back, but warned them they would be court-martialed and the leaders expelled.

   Back to camp they trudged. The court-martial was snappy. Twelve were expelled as leaders. The others were fined $3, or three days pay. Later two more were expelled, and the fine was changed to $1 for youths in the camp a month or less and $3 for those who had been there longer.

   Those turned out as ringleaders were William J. Crosby, Patrick D'Allessio and Joseph Leone of West Orange, Sigmund D'Allessandro, John Porelli, Anthony Pice and Francis Clark of Belleville, George B. Pasopone, Joseph Squilacioti, Robert Tulloch and Albert Brennan of East Orange, Paul Dely and William Nemith of Roseland and Patrick Fritez of Orange.

   Not far from Camp 1281 is Camp 234. The 200 workers there continued at their tasks of reforestation and building new roads and bridle paths undisturbed.

   At Governor's Island Colonel Albert S. Williams, commanding officer at Fort Jay and district commander of the CCC, said: "They're all good boys - they're like school boys."

27 More CCC Men Dropped In Strike

11 to lose Back Pay, 16 Will Get Wages on Release and Rest of 125 Are Fined.

Special to the New York Times.

WEST ORANGE, N.J., Jan. 9 - The final chapter of the short-lived rebellion at Civilian Conservation Camp 1,281 was written here today when Captain James Tobin, in charge of the camp, signed an order that added eleven members of the camp to the list of thise dismissed and gave sixteen others administrative discharges.

   One hundred and twenty-five members of the 200 in the camp, on the South Mountain Reservation here, participated yesterday in the rebellion when Captain Tobin refused to accede to their demands to lift the 11 o'clock curfew rule. On the advice of Major William P. Morse, sent here from Second Corps Headquarters on Governor's Island, the strikers returned to the camp, from which they had been ordered by Captain Tobin, to stand trial at a court-martial.

   As a result of the proceedings, fourteen men were discharged yesterday. An investigation continued last night by Captain Tobin added the eleven others today and the sixteen who received administrative discharges.

   Captain Tobin explained that the men discharged outright were compelled to forfeit all back pay. Those who received administrative discharges will get their back pay when released from camp. The rest of the participants in the strike were fined from $1 to $3 and allowed to go back to work.