Biography of John W. Mitchell, Sr. (Jay Mitchell)
CCCMan, Rapid City South Dakota & Clarksville-Oak, Arkansas
My grandfather, John W. Mitchell, Sr., worked in the CCC as a young man. The information below is taken from a newspaper article written about my grandfather's time in the CCC. Unfortunately, I do not know the author or newspaper in which it was first published ( I suspect it is from the Pocahontas, AR, newspaper, but cannot confirm that). He is 85 now.
John "Jay" Mitchell of the Water Valley-Valley Chapel community spent a year in the Northwest. Mitchell, a retiree from the Arkansas Forestry Commission remembers, "For three months we built a range fence to separate sheep country from cattle country. That was in the Black Hills around Deadwood, South Dakota, and Sun Dance, Wyoming."
"In Idaho, we culled trees in a forestry camp. The snow was six or seven feet deep. In the spring we found stumps that were about that tall," he laughed. "We worked around Rapid City, South Dakota, making small dams to keep water in the badlands. We'd find marked spots where Custer had camped," Mitchell said.
"I wanted to travel so I decided that when I signed up to work I might as well go someplace I hadn't been. It was a good experience. It was different country all the time. A lot of us went to Seattle to see the ocean," he remembered and chuckled, "We spent all the money we had to get there that weekend and a year or two later all of us saw both sides of the ocean doing duty." Mitchell was a Marine Raider in World War II.
"When we were in the northwest, there was something different all the time. We learned to ski--could check out sleds and skis on our time off. Then I was shipped to western Arkansas. I spent three months in the Clarksville-Oark area building roads. That's when I checked out," Mitchell recalled.
Reference sources report two million men served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the United States before it was abolished by Congress in 1942. I found no way of determining just how many Randolph County men were enrolled in CCC camps around the nation or to what extent Randolph County was benefitted. This recovery program as others in President Roosevelt's "New Deal" plan did not end the Depression. But it alleviated the economic hardship of many families during the 1930's as well as giving many a renewed faith in America and conserving natural resources that we Americans are enjoying today.
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