The New Deal in the Verde Valley

VERDE VALLEY-- In the heart of Cottonwood is a structure that an outgrowth of a “Newest Deal,” an effort to spur the slogging economy through the late-2000s recession spawned by a high-risk mortgage market. It is the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is the key player behind such capital projects throughout the country. Commonly called “stimulus” dollars, the ARRA funding paid one-third of the $1,750,000 cost to build the new Yavapai County Community Health Center in Garrison Park near the county annex building. The other thirds were funded by Yavapai County and the Community Health Center of Yavapai.

The Cottonwood project and many similar building, road and infrastructure public works worth billions of dollars across the country and Arizona are said to be credited with returning thousands to employment.

It’s not so different from work programs after the 1929 stock market crash forced the country into the Great Depression. Those projects also had impacts on the Verde Valley.

First, Herbert Hoover and then Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the country back on track with work programs.

The original New Deal relief programs had their beginning in the Hoover administration. The Emergency Relief and Construction Act (ERA) gave loans to the states to operate relief programs starting in 1931. Roosevelt asked Congress to set up The Federal Emergency Act (FERA)—which gave grants to the states in the same fashion, beginning May 1933. Along with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it was the first relief operation under the New Deal.

Many will remember parents’ or grandparents’ tales of service in the CCC and WPA.

FERA’s main goal was alleviating household unemployment by creating new unskilled jobs in local and state government.

In 1932, one quarter of men between 15 and 24 could not find work. Another third were under employed.

Only about 10 percent were out of work at the worst period of the current recession.

In the ‘30s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a relief program for unemployed, unmarried men, between ages 18 and 25. The CCC, begun in 1933 was not discontinued until 1942, when the United States was headed to war.

The manual labor jobs were focused on conservation and development of natural resources owned by federal, state and local governments rural lands, many in the West.

In the Verde Valley CCC Company #311 was based in Clarkdale on Oct. 20, 1939. Company 822 was also based in Clarkdale Jan 4, 1942. There were also CCC camps in Mayer in 1936 and 1939. Frequent camps were based in Flagstaff, Prescott, Williams, Holbrook and Kingman.

Flagstaff researcher Pat Stein, who has studied Arizona CCC camps, says crews would move between Flagstaff and lower elevations depending upon the season. A Flagstaff crew would also work in Clarkdale, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Beaver Creek or Camp Verde.

A crew was hired to rebuild Schnebley Hill Road to Flagstaff, before the current SR 89A was established. The CCC also built forest look-out towers and other forest amenities.

The Powell Springs Campground is near Cherry in the Black Hills above Camp Verde. The campground was constructed by the CCC in the early 1930s. There is legend about the chains that can be seen at the ground level of some of the ponderosa pines. Rumor has it that the CCC planted the chains to introduce iron nourishment into the soil. Others say the chains were attached to treasure. You can still see the classic picnic tables there.

Another Prescott Forest Campground, the Lower Wolf Creek campground off the Senator Highway in the Bradshaws, was also constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. CCC stonework is obvious in the retaining walls and picnic tables.

One of the most significant and heralded CCC projects took place at Walnut Canyon National Monument Some of the major construction at the park is represented by rustic architecture constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1938 and 1940, including two ranger residences and associated outbuildings, visitor center, and rest rooms. The Island Trail was also constructed during this time. Each of the buildings was constructed from material quarried on-site, typical of rustic architecture of the forest service at the time. A split rail fence was also constructed by the CCC to prevent cattle from straying into the park along FR303.

The Conservation Corps constructed roads, trails, fences, phones lines, and even a golf course clubhouse in Flagstaff.

They are also credited with much of the construction at Arizona’s Colossal Cave

Fifty-four life-sized statues attest to the work of the CCC around the U.S. There are two such statues in Arizona, one at South Mountain, the site of a former camp.

The CCC was designed to provide employment for young men who had difficulty finding jobs during the Depression while at the same time implementing a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory. Maximum enrollment reached 300,000, and in nine years 2.5 million young men participated. The U.S. Army was in charge of the operation, but they had no military training or uniforms.

The CCC was the most popular of all the New Deal programs because the jobs improved physical condition, boosted morale, and improved work skills. Twenty-five dollars went to their parents of their pay of $30 a month. The CCC is also said to have boosted appreciation of the outdoors and the nation’s natural resources.

The Second New Deal, spawned the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was authorized under the Emergency Relief Authorization Act of April 1935.

It allocated $5 billion and also included funds for the Federal Arts Project, the Federal Writer Project, and the Federal Theater Project.

Two significant local structures and many smaller one were produced in that era.

The Tuzigoot Monument Visitors Center was constructed by a WPA program. Grace Sparkes of Prescott, the onetime secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, was always looking for ways to improve tourism and jobs and helped to found the Smoki group of Indian admirers. Sparkes raised the funds for the excavation of Tuzigoot beginning in 1933 on land owned by the copper company. In 1935, Sparkes found more money for a grant to build a museum at Tuzigoot, and the WPA began construction. The museum eventually became the visitors center at Tuzigoot.

Ownership of the land passed from the United Verde Copper Company to the Clarkdale School District and Yavapai County and did not become a national monument until several years after it was opened to the public.

After the UVX smelter closed in 1936, The Cottonwood Women’s Club organized to feed those in need. The club raised money to build the Cottonwood Civic Center in 1939. Once again, labor was provided through the Works Progress Administration.

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