This Place in History: Civilian Conservation Corps in Groton State Forest

Vermont Historical Society

GROTON STATE FOREST, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘, we’re in the Groton State Forest, on top of Owl’s Head Mountain, with the Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re going to be talking about the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of the Works Progress Administration that helped turn this from a blasted landscape of no trees, if you can imagine, into the park we know today,” began Perkins.

“You can see lots of [trails], huts and lean-tos. They built those. But, we feel it’s part of the landscape now. They’re not. Those are constructed and they were built by people just working with their hands. We’re on the side of a mountain right now. They didn’t get any equipment up here. So it was all done with hand tools; moving those stones, moving those trails. A really important project both for Vermont and for our country. It put thousands of young men to work during the Great Depression and gave us an infrastructure for this state we really needed,” said Perkins.

“Probably at the end of the 19th Century, so we’re talking the 1890s, folks started to take more leisure time. They could get on the lumber train and have what’s called a whistle-stop. They could get off at the foot of Lake Groton and then they could walk through what was essentially a swamp, but fairly flat, to docks there and spend summers on this lake.”

“They didn’t have camps in the way we think of as cabins we have today. Often they were tents built on tent platforms. And people would spend the summer fishing or boating on these remote ponds. Usually, the men would come back later in the fall and hunt. But still, it was hard to get to. You had to take the train. You had to hike in. You had to carry everything. The work of the CCC really opened it up to a lot more people,” added Perkins.

“Another thing that the CCC did right here in Groton was to build the road. The State Forest Road goes from Route 2 to Route 302 right through the middle of the forest. There was no road here. The CCC built that.”

“I think if you want to see, in one tight spot, evidence of the CCC, Groton State Forest is a great place to come. You can even go down to Osmore Pond, which was part of the forest, and see the remnants of the camp. These folks lived on-site where they worked for a couple of years. So, they built barracks or tent cities that they lived in,” explained Perkins.

“I would encourage [everyone] to go to our website VermontHistory.org and we have a page called ‘History Outdoors‘. So during this summer, when you want to be outside, it’s got tours all over the state and there’s a link to the history guide to Groton State Forest so you can pick it up right there,” concluded Perkins.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic site markers, click here.

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