On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Memorial to honor CCC camp

June 25, 2013 

Eighty years ago this month, a camp opened between Monument and Orviston in Curtin Township.

It wasn’t for hunting or fishing. It put men to work.

Salt Lick Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-121, like other CCC camps, provided needed employment during the Depression. For two years, about 200 camp residents built fire towers, planted trees, cleaned up streams, made trails and fixed roads in the area.

A memorial now will honor their public service.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, a stone historic marker with a bronze plaque will be dedicated at the camp site along Orviston Road, where entrance pillar bases have stood in the forest for decades as the only trace left of the place.

“A lot of these camps have just been forgotten,” said John Eastlake, a retired forester in South Williamsport and CCC historian who assisted the S-121 project. “It’s good to see them get a little limelight.”

The marker has been at least five years in the making. Sue Hannegan, assistant director of the Centre County Planning and Community Development Office, said an earlier plan called for rebuilding the entrance pillars, but funding fell through.

Then the goal changed to an interpretive historic marker. Once the state Department of Community and Economic Development gave a $5,000 grant, the Centre County commissioners approved the marker’s construction last fall.

Many volunteers have contributed to the marker. Curtin Township supervisors donated materials and labor, locating native stone near the site and transporting it. Local Boy Scouts landscaped the grounds around the marker.

“It has been a great community project,” Hannegan said.

At the point has been Jim Davy, a township resident, local historian and author of a book about Monument, his childhood hometown. He researched the camp’s heritage and coordinated the marker’s construction.

“He has been a tremendous asset,” Hannegan said. “He deserves a lot of credit.”

According to the marker’s plaque, Camp S-121 consisted of 12 large buildings that included sleeping quarters for unmarried men ages 18 to 25, a dining hall, garages, workshops and other structures.

One of the CCC workers’ accomplishments during the two years was building eight miles of road from Orviston to the mining village of Kato. The road increased access to the remote region, helping extinguish forest fires more easily.

Paid $30 per month, the men also attended classes at night to learn trades, according to the marker’s plaque.

“The CCC sought to improve the character and the spirit of the next generation through discipline, organization and education,” the plaque reads.

Most of the original men came from a CCC camp near Renovo, Eastlake said, with many marrying local women and settling in the area after S-121 closed. He expects two descendants, Mike Rosko and Alex Day, both of whom live in Easton, to attend the dedication and speak about their fathers’ experiences.

Eastlake, who has visited all 152 CCC camp sites in the state, said some are identified with wooden signs. But formal stone markers like the one preserving S-121’s history forever are uncommon.

“This one is pretty grand,” he said. “It’s pretty neat.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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