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Civilian Conservation Corps in Southern Illinois, 1933-1942

Civilian Conservation Corps in Southern Illinois, 1933-1942

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Kay Rippelmeyer


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
368 pages, 8 x 10, 269 illustrations

Shawnee Books


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About the Book

Drawing on more than thirty years of meticulous research, Kay Rippelmeyer details the Depression-era history of the simultaneous creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. Through the stories of the men who worked in CCC camps devoted to soil and forest conservation projects, she offers a fascinating look into an era of utmost significance to the identity, citizens, wildlife, and natural landscape of the region.

Rippelmeyer outlines the geologic and geographic history of southern Illinois, from Native American uses of the land to the timber industry’s decimation of the forest by the 1920s. Detailing both the economic hardships and agricultural land abuse plaguing the region during the Depression, she reveals how the creation of the CCC under Franklin Delano Roosevelt coincided with the regional campaign for a national forest and how locals first became aware of and involved with the program.

Rippelmeyer mined CCC camp records from the National Archives, newspaper accounts and other correspondence and conducted dozens of oral interviews with workers and their families to re-create life in the camps. An extensive camp compendium augments the volume, featuring numerous photographs, camp locations and dates of operation, work history, and company rosters. Satisfying public curiosity and the need for factual information about the camps in southern Illinois, this is an essential contribution to regional history and a window to the national impact of the CCC.


Kay Rippelmeyer, a southern Illinois native, is a former lecturer, researcher, and academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the author of Giant City State Park and the Civilian Conservation Corps: A History in Words and Pictures. A program liaison for the Illinois Humanities Council, she has researched southern Illinois history for more than thirty years and has lectured widely on the Civilian Conservation Corps and river work in the region.


“Anyone who has camped or hiked in southern Illinois will savor this history of what the CCC built here—a lasting impact on both the land and the people. It’s a lesson in how to build opportunity from the ground up.”—Sheila Simon, former lieutenant governor of Illinois

“As the Great Depression seemingly refuses to slip quietly into our historic past, understanding how a generation of Americans survived that economic disaster remains critically important. The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the more successful programs of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the accomplishments of the CCC are still enjoyed by many people today. Ms. Rippelmeyer’s account of the CCC in southern Illinois and the establishment of the Shawnee National Forest is a timely contribution to understanding the history of the area at a time of one of America’s greatest national challenges.”—Robert Pasquill Jr., author of The Civilian Conservation Corps in Alabama, 1933–1943, A Great and Lasting Good

“Kay Rippelmeyer has written a compelling account of the New Deal’s CCC program and its impact on the development of both the Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park in southern Illinois.  But this is not just an institutional history of those federal and state programs. It is also the story of the people of the land and the terrible deprivations of the Great Depression and what the New Deal programs did to address their plight. Rippelmeyer is a native of southern Illinois with deep family roots there, and the narrative cogently captures the voice of the people she knows so well.”—John S. Jackson, author of The Essential Paul Simon

"For those interested in the history of the CCC in southern Illinois there is no better book than Rippelmeyer’s. Giving her book a chance will no doubt reward readers." —Journal of Illinois History