During the dark economic times of the Great Depression in the 1930s, young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps helped make Devil's Lake State Park what it is.

Using only the most basic of tools, workers raising buildings and cleared boulders from trails, says the author of a new book on the subject.

Verona-based history scholar Robert J. Moore will present his newest work, "Devil's Lake, Wisconsin, and the Civilian Conservation Corps" during a Baraboo book signing from 10 a.m. to noon June 18.

The signing will be held at the Village Booksmith store on the Courthouse Square downtown.

Moore said he is a former history teacher whose last book was a study of the CCC's work projects in Arizona.

After moving here, he said he was surprised to learn the Depression-era federal work program had camps in an agricultural state such as Wisconsin. That research sparked his second book.

"What was unique about the work at the state parks in Wisconsin was the building projects they engaged in," Moore said. "There were many more camps in far north Wisconsin that did a lot of re-foresting and tree-planting."

Among the buildings constructed by the Conservation Corps are the park administration building, a bathhouse at the North Shore beach and two bathhouses at the Northern Lights Campground.

CCC crews at Devil's Lake did a lot of work on park roads and trails, said former park naturalist Ken Lange.

"They renovated picnic areas and they worked on campgrounds," he said. "They renovated roads and crossings; they worked on trails."

A picture provided by Moore shows a crew of young men clearing boulders from a section of Balanced Rock Trail in about 1937. They were equipped only with pry bars, chains and their own muscle power.

Because park supervisors wouldn't allow crews to use explosives or heavy machinery, Moore said most work was done with elbow grease and simple tools.

Moore said the work of the CCC crews made the park much more accessible to the public, adding or improving amenities at a time of economic slowdown in the nation.

"Even back in the 20s and 30s, even when people didn't have a lot of money, it was a popular park," he said. "What the CCC boys did is to put in buildings and trails and things that made it more comfortable, if you want to call it that, or more accessible to visitors.

"My contention has always been those kind of things would have come over time," Moore said. "Because of the CCC work, it accelerated those things and it could be enjoyed by more people sooner."

Moore's new book is published by The History Press of Charleston, S.C. Information is available online at www.historypress.net.

Send e-mail to bbridgeford@capitalnewspapers.com.

 

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