IV. THE PEOPLE RESOURCE
The Civilian Conservation Corps played an important role in helping establish the Nicolet National Forest as a viable and productive area. Created on March 31, 1933, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC was a peace time army made up of unemployed men who were fighting to get the Nation's natural resources back into good shape through restoration and protection projects.
To be eligible for CCC, men had to be 18 to 25 years of age, single and with some member of their family receiving public relief. Enrollees received $30 per month, $24 of which had to be sent home to help support their families. In addition, enrollees received clothing, food, housing, and needed medical care.
The enrollees slept in barracks that were heated by large barrel type wood heaters. Army and Forest Service personnel had their own quarters, with orderlies to clean them and keep them heated.
CCC enrollees working on the Nicolet Forest performed many duties, including forest fire control, tree planting, road construction, recreation area construction and maintenance, installation of telephone lines, fish and wildlife habitat improvement, timber stand improvement and surveying. Much of the work done by the CCC is still evident today. Many roads, recreation areas, ranger stations, the Trees for Tomorrow training center and countless timber plantations exist because of the corpsmen's hard work.
At the peak of the CCC program, the Nicolet Forest had 22 camps, with about 200 enrollees per camp. The Army was responsible for the enrollees' housing, clothing, feeding, and medical care. The Forest Service, in turn, was in charge of the work program and furnishing supervision, materials and the necessary equipment for carrying out the projects. The Forest Service's camp organization consisted of a camp superintendent, three to six foresters, three to four construction foremen and two to three sub-foremen. The Army also had an educational advisor on their staff who set up evening classes. Forest Service personnel would teach classes several evenings a week.
After the CCC program had been in operation for awhile, Congress authorized the establishment of camps for World War I veterans. Phelps Camp on the Nicolet Forest was a veteran's camp.
CCC CAMPS ON THE NICOLET NATIONAL FOREST
Whenever the CCC days on the Nicolet National Forest are being discussed, it leads to the telling of Roy Nettleton's fate.
Roy Nettleton came to work on the Nicolet Forest in 1933, as a junior forester at the Scott Lake CCC Camp. He worked his way up the ladder, and was appointed camp superintendent.
Nettleton later transferred to Long Lake CCC Camp on the Florence District to serve as superintendent there. On November 24, 1937, while working at the Long Lake Camp, Nettleton went out to do some area mapping. He had climbed a tree to orient himself and get a better view when two shots rang out. Both bullets hit Nettleton; the second one hit him in the groin and knocked him out of the tree. Nettleton was left to crawl to the road, where he was picked up by a passing lumberjack and taken to the Iron River Hospital. Nettleton died 3 days later of gangrene.
An investigation was conducted by the Forest Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A man by the name of Cox, from Crandon, Wisconsin, was charged with the shooting. Cox testified that he mistook Nettleton for a bear. Cox was acquitted on the murder charge, but found guilty of hunting out of season. He had to pay a fine and serve time in jail. This incident encouraged passage of legislation that led to similar offenses being tried in Federal Court.
The Nettleton Fire Tower on the Argonne District was named after Roy Nettleton, and the research station put in several experimental hardwood plots that were named after him.
Although the CCC was the largest, and hence the most often remembered resource-oriented work program of the Depression years, other conservation programs did exist. For example, the National Industry Recovery Act program.
The Nicolet Forest had one NIRA Camp that was constructed in 1934 near the historical site of the Jones Logging Company Camp of the late 1800's, which had also constructed the dam on the Pine River to hold back spring waters for the floating of pine logs down the river in the spring. The Jones Company employed more than 200 men at the Camp, and the towns competed for the Camp's business. The village of North Crandon (now Argonne) constructed a tote road from the town to the camp that was called the Old North Road. Evidence of this old road is still visible. The village of Three Lakes also constructed a trail to the camp site with a halfway station at McKinley Hill.
This NIRA Camp operated for about only one year before closing down. Approximately 50 men, plus a staff, lived and worked at the camp. Timber stand improvement projects, road clearings and campground construction were the major tasks handled by camp residents. The Jones Dam Campground was constructed by these NIRA crews, and is named after the logging company.
Camp Imogene is another of the unique work camps located on the Nicolet Forest. The property was owned by the State of Wisconsin. The camp site was that of an old C. M. Christiansen Company logging camp on Lake Imogene. Facilities at Camp Kentuck, a former boys' camp on Kentuck Lake, were also utilized as part of the Camp Imogene operation.
Originally, Camp Imogene was a State honor prison farm. However, when the transient camp located at Hiles became overcrowded, the prisoners were sent back to the formal jail and transients took over the facilities. In the fall of 1934, the Forest Service began providing work projects. At the end of the year, the State of Wisconsin turned over all management to the Forest Service.
Camp residents came from the State's transient population. The men ranged in age from 30 to 70 years of age, and represented all walks of life cooks, bakers, barbers, construction workers, lumberjacks, book keepers, circus performers, etc.
Among the projects completed on the Nicolet National Forest by Camp Imogene crews were the Anvil Lake Campground, Franklin Lake Campground, and clearing the right-of-way for State Highway 70. In addition, camp residents raised all their own vegetables, along with some hogs.
Approximately 250 men lived at Camp Imogene. Camp costs averaged 32 cents per man per day. The camp closed in July 1937, when the monies ran out.
The Trees for Tomorrow Environmental Center near the town of Eagle River was also constructed during the Civilian Conservation Corps era. The Center was originally used as a training base for forest managers working in the Eastern Region of the Forest Service.
In 1942, the Center was closed as a training facility. Four years later, the property was placed under a special use permit to Trees for Tomorrow, Inc. The corporation represents a unique example of cooperation between Federal and State Government and private industry. During World War II, a team of resource managers worked out of the Trees for Tomorrow Center advising small landowners on proper resource management and tree growing procedures, as well as conducting special training for Federal and State land managers. Eventually, a center program evolved reflecting a wide range of outdoor and natural resource subjects.
Today, the Trees for Tomorrow Center operates year round, offering seminars and programs on such subjects as winter ecology, outdoor sports, safety, environmental education training, orienteering and survival skills.
The Nicolet National Forest is used extensively for field tours by Center groups. For many who visit the Trees for Tomorrow Center, it is an introduction to the world of natural resource management.