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Official Website of Lookout Mountain Alabama

The Dekalb County Tourist Association welcomes you to Lookout Mountain Alabama


         


Suggested travels plans to Lookout Mountain 

History of DeKalb County Alabama -  The Civilian Conservation Corps

March 4, 1929, when Republican Herbert Hoover was inaugurated President of the United States, the jazz age economic boom of the 1920’s was in full force. The jazz age of the automobile, of radio, of prohibition and speakeasies, and of flappers who danced the Charleston, cut their hair, shortened their skirts, and smoked cigarettes in public.

Fueled by new industries and new products, the American economy roared along with little hint that success and prosperity were not permanent. Only the South and the debt-blanketed farm belt which suffered from the fall of farm prices after World War I, marred the ambience of well-being, and only a few voices dared to warn of disaster as the spiraling "Bull Market" marched upward. The crash came suddenly when the English, trying to lure European capital back to Great Britain, raised their interest rates. As foreign investors dumped their shaky American securities in the New York market, panic ensued and an overindulgence of stock selling followed.

The stock market collapse ushering in the Great Depression. In rapid succession, banks failed, taking with them the savings of millions; factories shut down, farm and home mortgages were foreclosed, real estate prices collapsed, and unemployment soup kitchens appeared all across America. President Hoover, confident in the ability of the free market capitalistic system to recover, failed to appreciate the dire conditions of the economy or the suffering of the people.

Although in Alabama the prosperity of the jazz age was uneven, and never was as abundant as in areas outside the South. The state did prosper before the 1929 stock market crash. In 1927 Alabama elected Bibb Graves as Governor and he developed a liberal program. The Alabama legislature, under Graves executive leadership, abolished the convict lease system, raised teacher’s salaries, built roads, constructed schoolhouses and lengthened the school year. Graves spending spree was ended by the depression, and he left his successor, Governor Benjamin M. Miller who became governor in 1931, with a debt of $15,000,000.00.

In 1928 the Democratic candidates caused a heavy Republican vote in Alabama. Four years later Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a land slide victory. Alabamians hoped Roosevelt’s promised New Deal would change the economic despair. The New Deal was designed to bring relief to millions of unemployed Americans and allow industry to recover and force the reform of business.

In the first week of office Roosevelt pressed for a bill incorporating his reforestation program. Later he presented a bill, which included a program for relief of the unemployed by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps. On March 28 the Senate passed the CCC by a voice vote. On the house floor, Congressman Oscar DePriest of Illinois amended the bill to prohibit discrimination "on account of race, color, or creed," and by a voice vote, the House passed the bill. The Senate accepted the House amendment and after Roosevelt signed the act on March 31, the Civilian Conservation Corps was born.

While Washington was pressing ahead to iron out the administrative details of the program, state welfare and relief agencies began to organize. Selection agents were hired to recruit young men who met the federal guidelines. Men who were interested in joining the program were required to fill out an application form and were interviewed. Those eligible had to be between the ages of 18 and 25 (although later the age was dropped to 17 and raised to 28). They had to be physically fit, unemployed, unmarried, have family dependents and willing to send an allotment home to their parents. They would be paid thirty dollars a month. Twenty-five dollars of this was sent to their families leaving them with five dollars a month.

In Fort Payne, Alabama, there was a considerable effort on the part of local government and business officials to obtain a CCC camp in DeKalb County.

In 1935 State Park No. 5 was built on the top of Lookout Mountain, just below River Park (now known as DeSoto Falls). The development of this park was a particular project of the CCC. The CCC taught valuable skills to the young men of Alabama and provided America with trained, skilled labor when they left the CCC.

State Park No. 5 is now known as DeSoto State Park. In 1935 the park was 950 acres of which some land was donated by citizens of Mentone and Fort Payne. DeSoto Park surrounded what was then known as the Valley Head Airport. Airplanes were available during the dedication of the park. Also in this area, a golf course was finished; there is no evidence that it was ever opened. You can still make out the remains of tee number one through the trees in what is now the Wilderness Camping Area.

Several cabins were built of 6x10 hewn timbers; the ceiling joist and rafters were also hewn. After the cabins were completed, they were outfitted with a living room, kitchen and dining room combined, one bedroom and bathroom equipped with hot water. The cabins had electric lights and water. The cabins were constructed to be rented by vacationers at $2.25 a night or $15.00 a week. The cabins remain a big attraction of the park today and are still available for rental through DeSoto State Park.

DeSoto State Park was dedicated on May 24, 1939 and at the time was the largest State Park. All the hard work and effort of the CCC is still visible throughout the park today. Many of the original structures are still standing and used in the park. Located off the white hiking trail is the rock quarry where many long hours were spent by the CCC removing the large stones for construction of a variety of facilities and structures. An old star drill, wedged in a rock, still remains after 60 years. This old tool can be located at the CCC rock quarry on the white hiking trail.

One of the more interesting projects is an old unfinished bridge. The magnificent bridge was to span across straight creek and be a part of the original DeSoto Parkway. It is guessed it was never finished because of the out-break of World War II. The members of the CCC dropped what they were doing and left to defend our great country. The beautiful rockwork, in the middle of the deep forest, acts as a monolithic memorial to all their hard work. You can find the unfinished bridge in DeSoto State Park. Take the paved cabin road passed the Lodge. The CCC trail is between Chalet 21 and 22. The unfinished bridge is at the end of the trail approximately 1.75 miles.

A group Lodge was planned and built in the park (now DeSoto State Park Lodge/Restaurant/Gift Shop). Many local people speak of Saturday afternoons dancing to music from an old jukebox. In the 1970’s attachments were added to the Lodge and a motel was constructed next to it. Inside the main lobby you can still see the front center stone with the word "lodge" carved into it. The back part of the Lodge was turned into the restaurant.

Many of the structures built by the CCC can be found throughout DeSoto State Park. A Shelter (Pavilion) in the Primitive Camping area has open fire places on one end, hewn cut wood beams in the ceiling and in the middle of the stone floor there is a diamond shaped stone with the state of Alabama carved in to it. The Northeast corner of the state has a small hole depicting DeKalb County. There is also a well in this area built by the CCC. The structure called The Old Entrance or Old Contact Station along with a beautiful stone wall is located on the campground road of the Park. On the floor at the front door of the entrance you will see DeSoto State Park carved into the concrete. One of the most admirable structures is still the CCC unfinished bridge located at the end of the CCC trail overlooking Straight Creek. Close to the Unfinished Bridge is a small Rock quarry where the CCC collected rock for the bridge. The Quarry is located on the 3rd access road to the left before you get to the bridge. At the bridge there are piles of large cut rocks that were to be used in finishing the bridge. On the hillside past the bridge and along the CCC trail are stone culverts and stone walls. Most of these are well hidden by beautiful trees and bushes but can be found with a just a little exploring.

In July of 1993, during the annual CCC reunion, a memorial was dedicated to the members of the CCC. It is located near the parking lot at the DeSoto State Park Lodge. Though DeSoto State Park is no longer the largest state park in Alabama, it is one of the most pristine and scenic parks, thanks in great part to the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Men of the Civilian Conservation Corps Civilian Conservation Corps camp was located in downtown Fort Payne at the present location of the DeKalb Plaza. Men of the Civilian Conservation Corps hard at work building DeSoto State Park

These photos show the men of the CCC and their camp that was located in Fort Payne. More images and history of DeSoto State Park and the CCC can be found at www.desotostatepark.com


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