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Civilian Conservation Corps built Woodson State Fishing Lake in Kansas

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, May 21, 2012, at 6:30 a.m.

Ad Astra

This is one in a series of vignettes celebrating Kansas history. The series’ name comes from the state motto, Ad astra per aspera: To the stars through difficulties.

A memorial and dedication for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) is June 9 at the Woodson State Fishing Lake. A picnic for the first 300 visitors that day starts at 12:30 p.m.; the program begins at 1 p.m. Those attending are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Donations are encouraged.

For more information on the memorial, contact Linda Call at 620-433-1213 or rcall1@cox.net.

Call is working to record the names of all 620 men who worked on the Lake Fegan project. So far, only 350 have been identified.

To help celebrate the memorial, industrial arts students at Yates Center High School have made a permanent display case with a model of the CCC campgrounds. The display will be housed in the office building of the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism office building at Woodson State Fishing Lake.

The old-timers call it Lake Fegan.

Most Kansans know it as the Woodson State Fishing Lake, located in the Chautauqua Hills in what is one of the most beautiful parts of Kansas. The region is known for its huge boulders and trees, some dating back more than 300 years.

But in the 1930s, Lake Fegan was one of the focal points in Kansas for the CCC – the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program designed to provide jobs for young men and veterans.

Residents in Woodson County are honoring those CCC workers on June 9 at the dedication of a new Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism office building. The office building will also house the archives of the CCC that built Lake Fegan and a memorial statue to the CCC enrollees.

In the 1930s, the huge, unrelenting clouds of black dust on the plains affected not only crops but morale. The statewide unemployment rate reached 26 percent in 1932.

It was that year that Franklin D. Roosevelt, running for president, announced his New Deal. The idea was to bring work and people together, and after Roosevelt took office, many agencies were set up to achieve that goal.

From 1933 to 1942, one of those agencies, the Civilian Conservation Corps, brought workers together throughout the nation to build conservation and environmental projects.

The first three Kansas CCC projects were in Kingman, Lyon and Woodson Counties.

Dirt was dug and carried in mule-drawn wagons; later, bulldozers did the earthmoving. An average of 200 men worked each day on the project through its completion. All told, there were 620 men who worked on the 2 ½-year project. . The lake was named after Ben Fegan, who owned the land the lake was located on.

According to the Kansas State Historical Society, the number of camp locations in the state varied from 21 during the height of the projects in 1936 to 2 in 1942 when the CCC was disbanded.

Camps were located throughout the state. The majority of the men were in their late teens and 20s. Veterans groups were also created to put unemployed veterans to work. For example, Marion County Lake was built by 250 black veterans of the Spanish-American War and World War I.

On June 15, 1933, the Toronto Republican celebrated the news:

“The streets here were the scene of some celebration this noon when the word came through that all was well, and rightly there should have been for this project is a big one and one that has been worked for very hard by local men and sportsmen.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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