History of 650th Civilian Conservation Corps Company

 

CCC Company 650 aka CCC Co 650-C, Gilmaton, Wisconsin & Camp Star Lake, Star Lake, Wisconsin

 

From Sparta Civilian Conservation Corps District, Sixth Corps Area, 1937 Annual

 

History 650th Company
Camp Star Lake
Star Lake
, Wisconsin

          The Star Lake CCC Camp originated at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on June 8, 1933, with a strength of 185 men. Three men, Joseph Perlberg, Tom Patton and Albert Hendricks, who were a part of this first company, are still with Star Lake.

          During those exciting days at Fort Sheridan, the company was known as 650-C. Capt. O’Conner was the first commanding officer. At first, orders came through to get ready to leave for Marengo, Wisconsin. Everything was packed and ready to go when the orders were changed. On June 22, they finally left for Gilmanton, Wisconsin.

          From the depot to the camp at Gilmanton, the men were transported in rented cattle trucks. This was a new experience especially for the boys from the city. The camp was located in a beautiful grove of pines. Here, under the direction of First Lieut. McCartney, a tent home was quickly established. The men worked steadily for a week picking up pine cones. First Lieut. Judd followed as commanding officer in the late summer. At this time, a junior officer, First Lieut. T.A. Rathje, joined the company for what proved to be nearly a two-year stay.

          The work at Gilmantown was important soil conservation work, building dams and filling in gulleys. The location was in one of the worst eroded areas of Wisconsin. The men were proud to hear, a year later, that in spite of severe storms, high water and floods, that only one dam was washed out.

          They lived in tents up until two weeks before Thanksgiving. The temperature averaged ten degrees above zero. Finally, it became so cold that the company was moved into a vacant canning factory at the nearby town of Mondovi. Several days before Thanksgiving, orders came through transferring them to Star Lake, Wisconsin.

          Thanksgiving Day, 1933, will long be remembered by the Star Lake men. They worked hard all day digging up frozen ground and putting in part of the water works. But they had an enjoyable dinner prepared by the faithful cooks, who wouldn’t let a 200-mile trip interfere with their plans for a good Thanksgiving dinner.

          During the winter, First Lieut. T.A. Rathje became commanding officer, a position which he held until the spring of 1935.

          During the year of 1934, Star Lake men built up a splendid reputation for work accomplishment in the field. They were one of the outstanding camps of the state. The camp itself received honorable mention as one of the neatest and cleanest of the Sixth Corps Area. It was the one camp of Northern Wisconsin that competed in the final inspection by Sixth Corps officials.

          In the spring of 1935, Capt. Albert C. Wolfe assumed command. By this time, only twenty of the original men were left in the company. During this year, the men maintained the same high standard of work in the field and kept the camp in excellent condition. First Lieut. R.A. Blakeney assumed command for a short time in the fall of 1935, followed by First Lieut. N.J. Bakke, who took over the company and held it up to the present time, May, 1937.

          The year of 1936 was one of the most progressive ones. Under the direction of First Lieut. N.J. Bakke, commanding officer, the camp received many improvements in the mess hall, dispensary, educational building, supply, and in other parts of the camp. The forestry department, under the direction of Superintendent Paul R. Smith, cooperated by landscaping and improving the grounds, making the camp a comfortable home.

          The first part of 1937 was a busy one for all. With a smaller enrollment, the men were busy in the field and they were very busy improving all departments of the camp. Star Lake was now listed as an excellent camp.

          In May of 1937, orders were received to disband the company by June first.

          During the last week of May, two enrollees were driving truck number eleven. One remarked to the other that, “Good old truck number eleven started with the company at Gilmanton in 1933, but it looks as if she will soon end her connection with Star Lake, after four years of faithful service. One truck and three enrollees is all that is left of old Company 650-C that left Fort Sheridan in June of 1933.

----- Submitted by Curator

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