Mackletree Road Bridge & the CCC Stone Memorial

Memorializing the Men Who Built Shawnee State Park and Forest

In 1934, a segregated, all-black Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) unit of enrollees, known as Company 1545, dammed the waters of Mackletree Run and Turkey Creek, creating Roosevelt Lake, the centerpiece of a new state park in southern Ohio’s Scioto County.

During the life of the Depression Era conservation jobs program, the Three-Cs provided employment to over three million men, including some 250,000 African-Americans, who were placed in one of the nation’s 150 segregated, all-black companies. The work on Roosevelt Lake and the new park was done with CCC labor and supervised by the Ohio Department of Conservation, the predecessor of today’s Department of Natural Resources. 

Charles L. Wible, an artist employed by the CCC to document the work of the corps, spent the fall of 1934 embedded with Company 1545. That September he reported to officials in Washington that Roosevelt Lake, which was then under construction, would soon "act as a source of water supply in times of drought and as a protection for the deer when attacked by dogs. It will be an earth fill dam with a masonry corewall 530 feet in length. This lake will lie in the center of a 300 acre State Park and recreational center now under development." 

According to Wible, the new park, when completed, would be "one of the most beautiful parks in these United States. Mountains outlined by fresh blue of the sky, are touched by soft color, splashed here and there with a deep and brilliant red, or yellow, causing striking contrasts." The young artist noted in his report, "I, especially, enjoy the wonderful hikes through the wooded trails, a slight breeze bringing the delightful mellow twang of the pine, hemlock, and wild flowers. It makes one forget troubles and strife, living only for the minute at hand, yet dreaming of the future beautiful park area."

Eighty-plus years later, the future “park area” imagined by Wible is now the Shawnee State Park, located in the heart of the Shawnee State Forest. Thanks to the Three-Cs, generations of area residents have benefited from the roads and park improvements constructed by this Depression era jobs and conservation program. The story of how Ohioans saved the Shawnee Forest, conserving and preserving it for future enjoyment and wise use, cannot be told without an appreciation for the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Thanks to the continued investment of the State of Ohio, many of the dams built in the 1930s by the CCC have been repaired, helping preserve the historic infrastructure of the forest and park. Large sections of the CCC-built forest roads are now paved with asphalt and their original stone culverts have been replaced with precast concrete, allowing area residents, tourists, school buses, forestry and park vehicles, and commercial logging trucks to gain easy access to the residences and various natural and cultural resources of the area.

In 2016, when Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman finalized plans for the replacement of the original CCC-built bridge across Turkey Creek, designs were included for the construction of a new memorial to the Civilian Conservation Corps and the men who built the original infrastructure of Shawnee State Park and Forest. Made with stones salvaged from the demolished bridge, the stone memorial at Roosevelt Lake will long commemorate the role that the African-American enrollees of CCC Company 1545 played in the history of southern Ohio and the larger United States.

Interest in preserving the wild nature of the forest while, at the same time, promoting its use for recreational activity may date back to the beginnings of the conservation movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but interest continues today as the region remains a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts — from hikers to horseback riders, from fishermen and photographers to deer and morel mushroom hunters.

The dedication of the CCC Stone Memorial advances the original vision of Shawnee, a vision that was shared by local and state planners in the 1930s who called for developing the park and forest as a tourist destination. Christened “Ohio’s Little Smokies,” with the nearby City of Portsmouth, Ohio, at its center (its heart), the original creators of Shawnee envisioned visitors from across the state and nation coming to the park and forest, attracted by its reputation for beauty and natural wonders.

The CCC Memorial includes two large panel displays, illustrated with photographs and details from the original bridge blueprints. The inscription reads:

“The centerpiece of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) improvement of Shawnee State Forest involved the creation of a new 400-acre state park located on the grounds of the Theodore Roosevelt Game Preserve. Originally known as the Roosevelt State Park, in time the name would be changed to Shawnee State Park in the early 1970s.

“The Southern Ohio Fish and Game Association first proposed the park improvement project in 1933, calling for an artificial lake on Turkey Creek. The Scioto County Democratic Party Executive Committee, the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, the Scioto County Engineer’s Office, and Frank A. Farley, Chief Engineer of the Ohio Department of Conservation, supported the plans. Gov. George White endorsed the plan, proposing Roosevelt Lake as the state’s first project under the new Federal CCC jobs program. As part of the park and lake improvement, plans included a bridge to carry traffic across Turkey Creek on Mackletree Road.

“Operating out of nearby Camp Roosevelt, Co. 1545, a segregated, all-black, all World War I veteran unit of CCC enrollees built the bridge in the fall of 1934. Ernest L. Gill from the State Architect's Office in the Ohio Department of Public Works designed the bridge with locally sourced hand-cut sandstone piers and parapets. The bridge’s deck and railings were constructed from recently blighted American Chestnut trees that were taken from the lake site, creating a structure inspired by the National Park Service’s influential “parkitecture” style.”

But most importantly, on the CCC Memorial itself, there is a carved “signature stone” — saved from one of the piers of the old bridge — that reads: "Built by Co. 1545, AD 1934."

Company 1545 was rarely mentioned in the local press at the time and its official records ended up in a box in Maryland, at the National Archives.  The camp officers, supervisors, engineers, and other local and state officials regularly got their names in print, but the CCC enrollees who cut the stone and moved the earth, landscaped, and built the bridge, dam, and shelter houses remained unnamed.

A year into its construction, the Portsmouth Daily Times reported: "The job works about 185 enrollees of Camp Roosevelt, a colored veterans unit, eight hours a day and five days a week. The men receive $30 a month and board. The Times noted that "beside Mr. C. A. Hermann, [work superintendent of CCC Camp Roosevelt], other officers include: Phillip Wickerham and Ray E. Watson, engineers, T. A. Keely and J. A. Weber, construction foremen, and Richard Hair, landscaping engineer. Camp officers are Captain Harry Sobel, commander and Kenneth Mitchell, adjutant. Mr. Weber is a former superintendent of the [Roosevelt] game preserve."

Buried within the records at the National Archives in their file on Camp Roosevelt, there exists an incomplete list of twenty-six men of Company 1545, the closest thing to a roster of its enrollee leadership, as recorded in May 1935:


Robert Anderson, Leader (Technical Service)
Matt Clements, Leader (Senior Foreman)
Walter Erwin, Leader (Cook)
Berkeley Harrison, Leader (Storekeeper)
Garland Jackson, Leader (Mess Steward)
Dave Miree, Leader (Technical Service)
Douglas Perkins, Leader (Technical Service)
Worthy W. Smith, Leader (Cook)
Leonard Sorrell, Leader (Technical Service)
Carl Winburn, Leader (Technical Service)
Riley Worley, Leader (Technical Service)
Shep Brown, Asst Leader (Technical Service)
Ivan Davis,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
Roland Williams,  Asst Leader (Cook)
Crawford Warren,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
James Sudduth,  Asst Leader (Company Clerk)
Eddie Rice,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
Thomas Owens,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
Glenn Mitchell,  Asst Leader (Truck Driver)
Emmett McDowell,  Asst Leader (Dispensary Attendant)
James Garfield,  Asst Leader (Cook)
James Cavanaugh,  Asst Leader (Cook)
Capers Dawson,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
Pierson Cordell,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
John Florence,  Asst Leader (Technical Service)
Oscar Rhine,  Asst Leader (Asst. to Educ. Advisor)

Some 170 or so men remain unnamed, as no full roster is known to exist of the company’s enrollees.

When all seven camps were in operation, "
there were over 1,500 men at work in Shawnee building 100-plus miles of all-weather roads, culverts and bridges, lakes and reservoirs, fire towers, and park shelters." The CCC Stone Memorial notes that these men "worked to improve the forest by fighting forest fires, removing blighted chestnut trees, and planting hundreds of thousands of others. The improvements were meant to transform Shawnee into a tourist and outdoor recreation destination, while helping suppress forest fires that had long plagued the region."

For local residents, such as those who lived up Mackletree Run, the new roads and the bridge across Turkey Creek meant many things, from better access to the Nile Township school bus that traveled up and down State Route 125 to increased timber sales. CCC-constructed bridges and roads opened up areas of the Shawnee Forest where one could still find old growth stands of valuable hardwoods.

Meanwhile, some residents who had long made a little extra cash off their homemade corn whiskey discovered new customers among the CCC enrollees down in the forest camps. Local lore is that the camps helped keep demand for area moonshine high, just as Prohibition had come to an end.

The original bridge may now be gone, its salvaged stones reincorporated into today's Shawnee State Park, but its significance will not be forgotten, nor the African American veterans of CCC Company 1545, whose history has now been recovered and memorialized in stone for decades to come.

 

Sources: 

Jean Backs, "Unsung Heroes of the Tree Army," Ohio State Parks Vol. 14:1 (Spring/Summer 2008): 2-6. 

Olen Cole, Jr., The African American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1999).

"Formation of a Lake on Roosevelt Game Preserve, Turkey Creek, West Side, Will Be Recommended as the First Project of President Roosevelt's Reforestation Program," Portsmouth Times (18 April 1933).

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, "African Americans in the Civilian Conservation Corps," New Deal Network, http://newdeal.feri.org/aaccc/.

“Lake to Mean 586 Foot Dam,” Portsmouth Times (19 April 1933).

T. J. McVey, "Camp Report, Co. No. 1545," Camp Roosevelt, Friendship, Ohio (20 May 1935), Division of Investigations, Camp Inspection Reports, 1933-1942, Box 162, Records of the Civil Conservation Corps, NARAII, College Park, Maryland.

“Prospects Look Bright for Game Preserve Work,” Portsmouth Times (9 April 1933).

Charles L. Wible to Edward B. Rowan (24 September 1934), Records of the Civil Conservation Corps, NARAII, College Park, Maryland.

Images

"Built by Co. 1545, AD 1934," Mackletree Road Signature Stone, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (2012).

"Built by Co. 1545, AD 1934," Mackletree Road Signature Stone, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (2012).

In 1934, when the men of CCC Co. 1545 completed the Mackletree Road Bridge, they inscribed a stone, leaving their "signature" on what was an excellent architectural example of the National Park Service's influential “parkitecture” style." | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Lee Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Mackletree Road Bridge, Shawnee State Park (c 1934).

Mackletree Road Bridge, Shawnee State Park (c 1934).

Pictured soon after its construction in 1934, this image captures the Mackletree Road Bridge, which was designed by Ernest L. Gill and built by a segregated, all-black Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) unit of enrollees, known as Company 1545. | Source: Photo courtesy the Ohio Department of Transportation. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Mackletree Road Bridge Design Plans, Detail (1934).<br /><br />

Mackletree Road Bridge Design Plans, Detail (1934).

Ernest L. Gill from the State Architect's Office in the Ohio Department of Public Works designed the bridge with locally sourced hand-cut sandstone piers and parapets. The bridge™s deck and railings were constructed from recently blighted American Chestnut trees that were taken from the lake site, creating a structure inspired by the National Park Service™s influential “parkitecture” style.” | Source: Image courtesy of the Ohio Department of Transportation. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Mackletree Road Bridge Design Plans, Detail (1934).

Mackletree Road Bridge Design Plans, Detail (1934).

The construction of the CCC-built Mackletree Road Bridge was funded through the US Department of the Interior™s “State Park Emergency Conservation Work” program. Officially it was known as Project No. 47c. The designs were drawn up by E. L. Gill and inked on July 14, 1934. | Source: Image courtesy of the Ohio Department of Transportation. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

View of the Old Mackletree Road Bridge, Shawnee State Park, constructed in 1934 by Co. 1545 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (April 2016).

View of the Old Mackletree Road Bridge, Shawnee State Park, constructed in 1934 by Co. 1545 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (April 2016).

In 2016, the historic stone bridge across Turkey Creek was replaced with a modern single-span structure. This photograph captures the old bridge just before its demolition. Stones from the original structure were incorporated into a new CCC Stone Memorial in Shawnee State Park. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Stone Pier of the Original Mackletree Road Bridge (2016)

Stone Pier of the Original Mackletree Road Bridge (2016)

Photographed soon before its demolition, this illustrates the hand cut radial stones, which were created by the men of CCC Co. 1545. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

View of Turkey Creek from beneath the old stone Mackletree Road Bridge (2012)

View of Turkey Creek from beneath the old stone Mackletree Road Bridge (2012)

Constructed in 1934 by Co. 1545 of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the original bridge was made of hand cut sandstone, quarried from Turkey Creek and the site of Roosevelt Lake. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Saving the "Signature Stone" of the original Mackletree Road Bridge (2016)

Saving the "Signature Stone" of the original Mackletree Road Bridge (2016)

Workers saved the original "signature stone," which was inscribed "Built by Co. 1545, AD 1934." This stone was then prominently incorporated into the new CCC Stone Memorial which is located at Roosevelt Lake in the Shawnee State Park. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

CCC Stone Memorial at Roosevelt Lake, Under Construction (Fall 2016)

CCC Stone Memorial at Roosevelt Lake, Under Construction (Fall 2016)

Made with stones salvaged from the original CCC-built Mackletree Road Bridge, the stone memorial at Roosevelt Lake will long commemorate the role that the African-American enrollees of CCC Company 1545 played in the history of southern Ohio and the larger United States. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Relief model of Roosevelt Spillway Bridge &amp; Dam (1934)

Relief model of Roosevelt Spillway Bridge & Dam (1934)

Charles L. Wible, an artist employed by the CCC to document the work of the corps, spent the fall of 1934 embedded with Company 1545. As part of his duties, Wible and enrollees from Co. 1545 of the CCC constructed this scale relief model of what would become known as Shawnee State Park. | Source: Image courtesy Kathleen Duxbury, "CCC Researcher," who has photographed many of the Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps, as found in the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. Duxbury's research appears on her website, http://www.newdealstories.com/. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

African American CCC enrollees at work in Shawnee State Forest

African American CCC enrollees at work in Shawnee State Forest

One of the rare photographs of African American CCC enrollees. These young men were members of one of the four segregated, all black camps that were established for CCC projects in the Shawnee State Forest. | Source: Image courtesy of The Ohio State University. Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center. Wooster OH. Forestry Images Collection. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Construction of Roosevelt Lake Dam, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (1934)

Construction of Roosevelt Lake Dam, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (1934)

In 1934, a segregated, all-black Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) unit of enrollees, known as Company 1545, dammed the waters of Mackletree Run and Turkey Creek, creating Roosevelt Lake, the centerpiece of a new state park in southern Ohio™s Scioto County. | Source: Image courtesy of The Ohio State University. Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center. Wooster OH. Forestry Images Collection. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Construction of Roosevelt Lake Dam &amp; Spillway, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (c. 1934)

Construction of Roosevelt Lake Dam & Spillway, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (c. 1934)

Construction of the Roosevelt Lake Dam and Spillway was part of a CCC-funded state park initiative of the US Department of Interior during the Great Depression. The lake became the centerpiece of what is today known as Shawnee State Park. | Source: Image courtesy of Shawnee State Park Nature Center™s Historic Photo Gallery, currently located next to the Nature Center in the Park™s restored CCC Log Cabin. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Roosevelt Lake Dam and Spillway, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (2012).

Roosevelt Lake Dam and Spillway, Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio (2012).

Roosevelt Lake Dam and Spillway were part of the original infrastructure of Shawnee State Park, constructed in 1934 by Co. 1545 of the Civilian Conservation Corps. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

The New Mackletree Road Bridge, under construction (Fall 2016)

The New Mackletree Road Bridge, under construction (Fall 2016)

Designed by Jones Stuckey, a Division of Pennoni, an engineering, science, and design consulting firm headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Scioto County Engineer's Office selected Sunesis Construction of West Chester, Ohio, to build the bridge, which opened the public in the winter of 2016. | Source: Image courtesy of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., from the Scioto Historical Series, private collection, Friendship, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Mackletree Road Bridge Design Plans by Jones Stucky (2016)

Mackletree Road Bridge Design Plans by Jones Stucky (2016)

The design plans for the new Mackletree Bridge were prepared by Jones Stuckey, a Division of Pennoni, an engineering, science, and design consulting firm headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Scioto County Engineer™s Office selected Sunesis Construction of West Chester, Ohio, to build the bridge, which opened the public in the winter of 2016. | Source: Image courtesy of the Scioto Historical Collection, Digital History Lab, Clark Memorial Library, Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio. | Creator: Andrew Feight, Ph.D. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Andrew Feight, Ph.D., “Mackletree Road Bridge & the CCC Stone Memorial,” Scioto Historical, accessed June 24, 2017, http://sciotohistorical.org/items/show/20.
Tour navigation:  Previous | Tour Info | Next

Share this Story